BY JAMES HARPER AND ANDREAS BUTLER
Several Daytona Beach residents want an underground filtration system to replace a retention pond recently constructed behind the new Midtown Education and Cultural Center in Daytona Beach on Kelly Field.
Residents met with Assistant City Manager Paul McKitrick and Leisure Services Director Percy Williamson a few weeks ago to discuss the matter.
“We showed them the plans, which included a pond that was much smaller, but after engineering and construction it was determined we needed a certain amount of space with the size of the building. We assured the group that if the pond is a problem that we will develop a plan to address the problem,” commented McKitrick.
Darnell Troutman remembers playing on the Kelly Field baseball field as a child where the retention pond now exists.
“They don’t make any more land. You all took our land away from us. We have nowhere for our kids to run and play unless they go out to Derbyshire,” Troutman said, adding he knows replacing the pond will cost the taxpayers.
$500,000 to replace pond
The center, which is completed and expected to open by the end of May, cost $4.5 million to construct.
Williamson says it would take another $500,000 to replace the retention pond with the underground filtration system in addition to the expense to cover up the pond and redo the landscaping.
He addressed the concerns of several residents who spoke against the retention pond at the city commission meeting held last week.
The commissioners took no action after the residents spoke.
“It is now in the hands of our engineers. They will get back with us and we will inform residents. If we decide on an alternative, the city commission will have to decide whether we have the funds to do so. We will also have to get approval from the St. Johns River Water Management again,” explained Williamson.
Size of property a factor
In addition to the costs of getting rid of the retention pond, the reason the city didn’t use an underground filtration system was because of size of the property, which is 12.5 acres, Williamson explained.
“The standard was to use a retention pond. Underground is used when you have a very limited amount of property and also when the value of land is extremely high,” Williamson added.
Williamson noted that there have not been problems with other retention ponds located throughout Daytona Beach on other city-owned properties.
History of Kelly Field
Residents were most upset that the pond was built on a portion of Kelly Field, which means less outdoor space where children can play baseball and other sports.
Also, Kelly Field, according to the city’s website, gained considerable attention in 1946 as a spring training practice field for the Montreal Royals, a minor league team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in which baseball icon Jackie Robinson was a member of the team.
On March 17 of that year Robinson, a new member of the Royals, integrated professional baseball in a game at City Island Ballpark between the Royals and the Dodgers.
Pond part of master plan
Williamson was baffled last week after hearing complaints from residents at the meeting.
He said the retention pond, which is completed and fenced in, should not have come as a surprise to the residents because it was part of a master plan the city put together in 2005.
“Nothing that staff did was done in a vacuum. It was done specifically with input and direction of those people who spent time and came out to give their input,” Williamson explained.
He said three meetings were held at the Cypress Street Recreation Center and three at Tubman King Community Church to create the master plan which, included the retention pond.
The plan included a new swimming pool, which was completed in 2009; the cultural center, which replaces the Cypress Recreation Center; and a Phase III, which will include outdoor basketball and tennis courts, along with Kelly Field being redone.
‘Kids can walk out of it’
Resident King Mallory said he was under the impression the pond was only going to be four feet wide.
“Now it is 15 feet wide. How are kids going to avoid it? Putting a fence around it is not going to help. If a kid wants to go across that fence, they are going across that fence,” Mallory remarked
Williamson responded to Mallory’s concerns.
“Yes it is a 15-foot (wide) pond. It is designed at a level in which kids can walk out of if they get into it. We took extra measure of having a fence put up. Risk management said it wasn’t necessary.”
Williamson further noted that there have been no problems with other retention ponds located throughout Daytona Beach on other city-owned properties.
Concerns about play area, safety
Mallory also worries that children will have even less land to play on when the tennis and basketball courts are constructed.
“That is cutting out the running ground back there. When I was a kid, that is where I went when I couldn’t go anywhere else. The pond is going to hurt the community more than it is going to help it,” concluded Mallory.
Longtime resident Walter Fordham also spoke against the new retention pond calling for the commissioners to support replacing it with an underground filtration system.
“Cover over this hole of danger where frogs, snakes fish and crabs will eventually exist and, hopefully, there will be no children,” said Fordham.
Former Daytona Beach City Commissioner Bernard Smith offered praise on the new community center but was upset with it being called the Midtown Education and Cultural Center. He also was upset with the location of the retention pond.
“The retention pond is an attractive nuisance. Kids can get over any fence. We are going to have to do something a little bit more to reduce liability,” Smith added.
Explaining the name
Williamson said there was community input when the city came up with the name Midtown Educational and Cultural Center.
“In conversations with people who came out to discuss it, since the new movement was Midtown, that was suggested and that was the name that was agreed upon in those meeting,” he said.
Williamson added that residents were very clear in those meetings that the name of the gym – T.R. Faircloth – would be maintained.
The name T.R. Faircloth (a popular educator and coach) will be on the outside of new gymnasium by the first week in May.
Denise McMillon, a member of the Midtown Area Redevelopment Board, supported Williamson and said she is sad to see residents speak against the name of the center and the retention pond.
“It seems that everything that is done to enhance Midtown comes under fire from a few disgruntled residents, “McMillon said.
She added that those who are complaining didn’t attend meetings when decisions were made on the construction and name of the new center.
McMillon urged those in opposition to pledge that for the remainder of the year they “attend the city commissioner meetings, Midtown redevelopment board meetings, Planning Board meetings, CRA meetings and any other workshops to better educate yourselves instead of educating your minds via AT&T, Bell South, Facebook, Internet and the good old shade tree and barbershop line.”