At a March 22 meeting to discuss Deltona’s parks, leaders agreed more parks are needed, but first the city needs to figure out how to take care of what it already has.
Photos of junk storage at park facilities, leaking roofs and moldy ceilings elicited disappointment and outrage from Deltona city commissioners.
“I’m sorry, and I’m embarrassed,” Vice Mayor Anita Bradford said. “It’s our responsibility to maintain facilities. … We’ve got to get our house in order.”
Photos presented by Acting City Manager John Peters showed neglect of Deltona’s parks is not a recent or sudden problem.
“This has been a problem for many years, because the can was kicked down the road,” City Commissioner David Sosa said. “We need to make maintenance a top priority.”
Among the photos were images of a building at Campbell Park formerly used by a boxing club. To the dismay of the boxers and their supporters, Peters closed the building last month.
“The city had to condemn that building,” he said, noting the roof and ceiling are damaged and rain “is coming through the trusses.”
“The building is in deplorable condition,” Peters added. “What I’m showing you is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Mayor Heidi Herzberg voiced concern about the condition of the former EVAC ambulance station at Dewey O. Boster Sports Complex, a building Volusia County turned over to the city a few years ago.
“That furniture in there, I wouldn’t put a feral cat on,” Herzberg said. “For all the money we’ve put into parks … money rolling over and not spent. … I’m not going to vote for one additional quarter, one additional dime, … [until we] begin a maintaining process and get rid of this junk.”
In addition to maintenance, there’s a question of quantity, with Deltona soon to top the 100,000 population mark and far removed from its infancy as a quiet retirement village.
The biggest city in Volusia County boasts a vibrant parks and recreation program, with 23 developed parks, ranging from spacious sports fields to quiet places for a picnic or a stroll in a natural setting.
But the city needs to plan for growth, commissioners were advised.
“We’re very behind the eightball,” Acting City Manager Peters said.
Planning for future parks, however, was eclipsed by commissioners’ reaction to current conditions. Among the problems:
— Park buildings being used for storage of municipal property, such as tools and seasonal decorations.
— The old Deltona Civic Center has a leaking roof, which has allowed rainwater to undermine the building. “We have a foundation failure,” Peters, a professional engineer, told the commission.
— There is rust on the exterior of a storage barn and trailer at Festival Park. Stacked on the outside of the building are several lengths of PVC pipe that have been ruined by exposure to the elements.
Fixing the problems and planning for the future will require money. A proposal to begin charging groups to use the parks prompted a response from those attending.
“Everybody’s hurting. Businesses are hurting,” one speaker told the City Commission. “We’re not out there making any money. … We have so many children that play on scholarships. … It teaches them so much. We don’t want to take that away from them.”
“We need your help to continue that club,” Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Joe Sullivan said. “Please help us out.”
The Boys & Girls Club uses the building in Harris M. Saxon Park for after-school activities, and city officials indicated they support keeping the organization there at no cost.
The City Commission directed City Attorney Marsha Segal-George to revise the facilities-use agreement for Deltona’s parks. Revenue raised by renting the facilities would be used to maintain parks.
Peters and commissioners said the city will continue to waive charges for groups providing “a significant community benefit.”
Further, the City Commission agreed to Peters’ recommendation to allow him to conduct an inventory of the items stored in city parks, with the idea of getting rid of unneeded things, perhaps via a public auction. Peters could not say how long such an inventory may take.
Also, the City Commission agreed to hire ABM Consultants Inc., of West Palm Beach, to make a study of what Deltona must do to comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. Deltona will pay the firm $49,250 for the study, which is a piggyback add-on to the firm’s similar services for Boynton Beach.
As for planning for new parks, the city hired RRC Associates, a Boulder, Colorado, consulting firm, to aid in developing future parks and gauging public sentiment about what the existing and proposed recreational facilities should feature.
RRC’s report calls for public meetings to help guide park development, including improvements of current parks and the new amenities for future ones.
“We need to take care of what we have now before we have new buildings,” Sosa said.