Friday, April 2, 2010

Our Town's first major milestone since formation

Dear Southwest Ranches Friends and Neighbors:

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and if I do not see you later … well then … Good Night!

Our young Town has just achieved its first major milestone since formation. At last night’s council meeting (4/1/10), your Town council voted unanimously to buy the New Hope campus at 13400 Griffin Rd. for $1.9 million. The building is approximately ten thousand five hundred square feet on about two acres. The facility has a main sanctuary that seats about three hundred people and an additional meeting room that could seat about 70 comfortably. The meeting room would become council chambers for most meeting however, the sanctuary will be used for council meetings that draw more community participation, such as budget meeting. Additionally the building contains ample administration area and about 10 preschool classrooms. This space would be configured into offices for Town officials, staff and BSO public safety.

Several residents have asked “What is wrong with the present Town hall; why buy this property; and why now”.

First, the present Town hall facility is constructed from modular office trailers that were 15 years old when Arvida Corporation (developers of Weston) donated them to the Town about ten years ago. There are roof problems, the floor has a lot of give and the A/C units are beginning to fail. The structure is on property owned by South Broward Drainage District. The Town has had continuing problems that started when John Canada and Associates, (the now defuncted Town administration company that used to “manage” our Town) created a significant amount of bad will and animosity that the District has never recovered from. Things got so bad the District put a clause in the current lease that stipulates that the Town cannot publicly make any negative comments about the District. Therefore, as the Water District keeps the areas from Rolling Oaks westward flooded year round to satisfy the needs of its Pembroke Pines constituents, the Town is effectively gagged. The reasons to end this marriage are manifold.

Now on the question of “why this property?” As most know, church property is tax exempted and church commercial activities do not need an occupational license, now called a local business tax receipt. This land is zoned community facility so it has limited use and can only be used for similar uses. For these reasons, there is little opportunity for the Town to collect any taxes on this facility to cover the services it provides. When the property is used as Town Hall, the Town’s cost for police protection are reduced to zero costs, the need for EMS calls to Town Hall will be significantly lower when compare to a pre-school, and trash generated by Town hall will be significantly lower that for the current usage. Thus, this purchase makes long-term financial sense to purchase. Furthermore, the agreed price is very good. The listing price was $2,950,000 and the Town has a contract for $1.9 million. The contract is here on page 32. When is the last time anyone has heard of a facility of this size coming down by one-third. In this case, it was not the economy; it was the keen negotiating skills of Council member Doug McKay, a long-time real estate investor. Council member McKay saw this property come on the market but before it was listed, he informally approached the Church and laid down some basic ground rules such as no real-estate brokers in the transaction with the Town. When the Church agreed, he brought the concept to the Town Administrator and several local residents. All had questions but in the end felt that it was worth formally moving forward. That was less than three months ago. The credit for finding and bringing the idea to fruition goes to Council member Doug McKay!

Finally the question, “why buy this now?” As recently as late last year, the Town was considering build a $7.5 million Town Hall/Fire Safety complex at Southwest Meadows Sanctuary on Dykes and Griffin Road. Obviously $1.9 million is far less and easier on the Town’s budget. The compelling reason over and above the others mentioned previously is the current market. With the real estate market depressed, government interest rates extraordinarily low, the opportunity for grants to make existing facilities more green and efficient, and the lack of low cost alternatives available in our Town, this opportunity could not have come about at a better time!

For ten years, our little Town has languished though unproductive and likely corrupt management, weak mayoral leadership, and Councils with “other” agendas. The Town has seen blueprints, models, carpet samples, artist renditions, been subjected to “dream teams”, architects, engineers, and lobbyists and while paying a fortune for the professional “services” has nothing to show but shelves of reports and broken promises. Yes, the Town has more than it share of parks that the former administration and ex-mayor like to take credit but the Town has barely the funds to maintain those parks let alone develop them as per the hokey plans Canada, Richard Rubin and their friends laid out.

Several council members were concerned about funding the financing for this new facility. They were assured by the Finance Director and Administrative Consultant that by refinancing some of the current debt, using some reserves set aside to pay down debt on the books, and by borrowing about $1 million dollars this can be done with little impact to the Town’s finances and budgets. It was also stated that this would not be funded by a tax increase.

Kudos for this grand achievement also goes to the staff working under the leadership of Town Administrator Charles Lyn, Finance Director Jean Watson, and Administrative Consultant Bill Looney. This accomplishment also confirms that Southwest Ranches has a Mayor and Council that can work together, do not have personal agendas and can do what is best for the Town. Many members of our community should be thanked for their involvement. They were instrumental in supporting much of the decision-making by volunteering their expertise in areas necessary to make an informed evaluation of the complete package.

The transaction may close sometime in June. To all involved, thank you for giving the Town its best birthday present to date.

That’s All Folks!!!

Wanch Waggler

1 comment:

Buford T. Justice said...

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Doug McKay regarding his involvement and his efforts in securing the New Hope Church soon to be the Town of Southwest Ranches’ Town Hall.

I’d also like to convey my sincere gratitude to Wanch Waggler. You fought very hard to get Doug McKay elected. I truly believe to this day, if it were not for Wanch Waggler who fought the “good fight” to help Doug McKay win his seat in November 2008, we may still well be stuck with his predecessor.

Now don’t get me wrong, Doug worked damn hard to win his seat. He busted his butt at grocery stores, community meetings, town meetings getting his name and message out there. But he had a little blue Gnome named Wanch Waggler helping him fight the fight whether he liked it or not.

I know for a fact that Doug McKay sometimes cringed at the straightforward messages that you, Wanch Waggler, published regarding his opponent’s shortcomings and indiscretions during the campaign of 2008, but there is no doubt in my mind that Wanch Waggler and even Nikki the dog helped to open the eyes of the residents of the Town of Southwest Ranches and FINALLY, we have a hardworking, honest and credible Town Councilman in Doug McKay.

PS Wanch, when Doug McKay runs for Mayor (and I truly hope he does one day), help him out of course but bring it down a couple of notches for that fight. I’m sure whomever Mr. McKay would be running against would not require the same heavy hand that you brought upon his predecessor!

Great Job Doug. Great Job Council. Great Job November 2008 election!