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Despite Confusion, Council's Rec Center Vote Will Stand

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Palm Beach Daily News

 

Mayor Gail Coniglio said it was a "failure to communicate."

Town Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay said a mistake was made.

Councilwoman Julie Araskog said, however, that Town Manager Tom Bradford overstepped his authority and acted contrary to a council directive.

And the other council members all said at a tense meeting on Thursday that they understood what they were voting on when the council on Feb. 14 unanimously approved a $33,088 contract for preconstruction work for a new Seaview Park recreation center.

However interpreted, Bradford's decision to commit the town to pay one-third of the $33,088 -- if and when the center gets built -- will stand, even though council members were told by town staff members before voting that Hedrick Brothers Construction would be paid with a "100 percent donation" from the Friends of Recreation fundraising group.

Council President Richard Kleid said Thursday that under Robert's Rules of Order, the opportunity to reconsider the vote has passed. The council could set aside Robert's Rules for a motion to reconsider, he said. But all council members and Coniglio agreed it would be unwise to set that precedent.

Araskog had requested the matter be placed on Thursday's agenda after she and the other officials learned, in a March 17 email from Bradford, that he interpreted the town to be responsible for one-third of the $33,088 contract cost. Bradford explained that under a previously established agreement between the town and the Mandel Foundation, which has agreed to help pay for the new center, each of three parties pay one-third of all costs that fall within the project budget.

Bradford said Thursday that, after the Feb. 14 vote, he received a letter from Michael Ainslie, representing Friends of Recreation, asking him to sign a letter acknowledging that the group's donation would be counted toward the project budget, meaning Friends of Recreation would be obligated for one-third of the $33,088 if the center is built. The town and Mandel would each be responsible for one-third as well.

Araskog said she would never have voted to authorize Bradford to sign the contract if she had been told the town was obligated to share in the cost.

Araskog said that under the Town Charter, "contracts are to be made according to the guidance of the Town Council."

"Tom's email said it was 'the fair thing to do,' not what the council voted," Araskog said. "I don't believe he has this authority ... what was most important was our intention up here, and what was stated to the public."

Lindsay said she too voted for the resolution with the understanding that Friends of Recreation was responsible for the $33,088.

"I did not have the understanding of the rest of my colleagues," Lindsay said, referring to Kleid, Danielle Moore and Margaret Zeidman. "I assumed, erroneously I believe now, that it was a donation."

Araskog said Ainslie, Deputy Town Manager Jay Boodheshwar and Recreation Director Beth Zickar all assured her at a Feb. 16 meeting that the $33,088 payment to Hedrick was being covered in full by the Friends of Recreation donation.

The town received a check from Friends of Recreation for $33,088 on Feb. 17; Ainslie said in an interview Thursday that Friends of Recreation covered the entire preconstruction contract amount.

The council has not made its final vote on the center. If it decides not to build it, Friends of Recreation will absorb the entire $33,088 expense and the town will have paid nothing, Ainslie said.

But if the council decides to build the center, the town, the Mandel Foundation and Friends of Recreation will each be obligated to pay one-third of the total $11.1 million project cost, including $33,088 for preconstruction services, Ainslie said. In that case, Friends of Recreation's $33,088 check will be treated as an advance payment toward its $3.7 million share, he said.

Ainslie said he and Boodheshwar explained all of that to Araskog at the Feb. 16 meeting.

-- wkelly@ pbdailynews.com

Credit: William Kelly Daily News Staff Writer

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