Fraser rec center opponents threaten recall election
August 14, 2008
On the day its building permit was approved and a tentative ground-breaking date was set, the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District’s recreation center is still at the center of a controversy as opponents are now threatening to mount a recall election.
At the Fraser Rec District’s special meeting at the Winter Park Town Hall on Wednesday, it was announced the Fraser Planning Department approved the district’s building permit for the recreation center, which has a total budget of $14,942,378.
District voters approved a bond to pay for it last November.
Toward the end of the meeting, the board members agreed to tentatively set noon on Wednesday, Aug. 20, as the time for a “soft” ground-breaking ceremony for the project.
“We need to move forward if it’s nothing more than sticking a spade into the ground,” said Rec District Director Beth Sands. “We need to be proud of what we’ve done.”
Threats of a recall
While the Rec District directors want to get construction of the recreation center immediately under way, the Concerned Citizens group is threatening to file a lawsuit for the recall of four of the board’s directors if they do not reconsider another location for it. That group opposed the district’s contract with the Grand Park development to build the center on its land.
“We do not believe the election results reflect the wishes of the majority,” said Lee Echoff of the Concerned Citizens committee. “The previous election lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality, not because the election was held properly. The board made mistakes.
“Although we do not believe these mistakes were made maliciously or even knowingly, they still exist and we intend to exploit them until the bond and the election are reversed.”
Concerned Citizens member Viki Bale said the group had prepared petitions for district residents to sign to begin the recall process of Beth Sands, Dan O’Connell and Pete Strohecker. Bale said the committee also wanted John Kacik removed but could not do so because he has not yet served six months in office, which is necessary to legally make him eligible for recall.
Bale cited the board’s rejection of an alternative building site offered by the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District at the board’s July 29 meeting as one of the reasons for the recall election.
“Certain board members have shown disregard to their constituency,” she said. “They have abused the thin voter mandate from last November’s questionable referendum.”
A recall is not being sought for board member Greg Gallavan because he voted against the contract with Grand Park. O’Connell, Kacik and Strohecker approved the contract at the board’s July 29 meeting.
Sands abstained from that vote because she was an employee of Cornerstone Holdings LLC, the developer of Grand Park. In recent weeks, that fact has brought accusations of “conflict of interest” by the Concerned Citizens group, who has demanded her resignation.
Sands has consistently refused to resign, saying she is innocent of having voted for or influenced any decisions by the board regarding Grand Park.
In addition, at the start of Wednesday’s meeting, Sands announced that she is “no longer working for Grand Park. Therefore, a conflict of interest no longer exists.”
Defense of the rec center
While the Concerned Citizens called for a halt to any construction of the recreation center at the Grand Park site, many others at Wednesday’s meeting argued that stopping now would waste a large amount of public funds already spent.
Austin Watson of ARC Integrated Program Management, who is the construction manager/owner representative for the district on the project, said that $1.5 million had already been spent “designing and engineering” the recreation center at the Grand Park site.
Watson said that moving it to an alternate site would delay the start of work at least six months and cost $2 million to $3 million in redesigning the recreation center to fit the new location. That time delay would also cause bond penalties to kick in, resulting in loss of funds for the project.
Also speaking in defense of the project was David Michael, a local real estate attorney, who said that moving the recreation center’s location would “cost of ton of money” and a redesign would be “wasteful for spending to do it twice.”
He asked opponents to reconsider their position, saying the election results should be final because it was the “vote of the majority.”