Town of Palm Beach News

Business Plan Approved for Town of Palm Beach Recreation Center

The Town Council of Palm Beach has approved the business plan for the recreation center project that continues to fuel heated discussions in the community.

On Tuesday, Town of Palm Beach Council Members voted to support the business plan (with 4 votes to support and one vote against). The business plan in question shows the new center is likely to improve the financial situation of the town: the new center is conservatively projected to cost $958,000 to operate and will generate around $612,000 in revenue. When compared to the current center which costs around $671,000 to operate and generates $332,000 in revenue, it becomes clear that the new center will recover a higher percent of its cost. The old center has a 50% cost recovery, while the new center is projected to have 64% cost recovery.

The original estimate for projected revenue was $632,000, but the Town Council asked the staff to remove $20,000 that were projected to come from selling “corporate passes” for the fitness center. This was supposed to be an important way of generating money for the center, but the members thought the plan should be kept resident-focused as opposed to relying on income from non-residents.

The discussion on the new recreation center lasted for two hours, and there were so many concerned comments that Mayor Gail Coniglio expressed frustration with some of them. According to her, the question of this center is not whether it is going to get a 100% cost recovery or even make money at all, but whether it is going to be “state-of-the-art”.

Councilwoman Julie Araskog was the one who voted against the business plan, saying that she believes the projections are off and that the center will cost more to build and maintain, as well as generate less revenue. She stated that a large number of residents do not want or need a new center, and asked whether building one is in the best interest of the community if residents do not want it, also raising concerns about fiscal responsibility.

Business Plan Approved for Town of Palm Beach Recreation Center

Some residents raised their voices in agreement, but there were also those who agreed with Mayor Coniglio. Different arguments and claims could be heard, from this project being driven by a matching grant offer of up to $5 million from the Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation, to concerns that the council is getting stuck in the weeds considering numbers while all residents want is to have a new recreation center.

In the meanwhile, vice chairman of Friends of Recreation, Michael Ainslie, claims that naysayers are delaying the project and making them lose potential donations. Friends of Recreation is a group that is raising donations for the center, and, according to Ainslie, they have lost a major donor prospect recently due to the organized campaign to delay the recreation center construction or turn local donor prospects against it.

Friends of Recreation agreed to pay a third of $11 million projected cost to build the new center. The town and the Mandel Foundation agreed to pay the other two thirds of the cost, but the foundation offered a matching grant, which means that if Friends of Recreation fail to raise enough money, the project is likely to fail.

Mayor Coniglio has stated that Town of Palm Beach does not intend to start the construction before money is in the bank, so the future of the project remains uncertain.

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Jeanette has written for online magazines run by some of the biggest regional newspapers, college newspapers, and for various companies. She is most interested in local politics, music, and the 'foodie' scene of Palm Beach.

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