Monday, September 23, 2013

Eastern Florida State College Withdraws Wickham Park Purchase Proposal

MELBOURNE, Florida – Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) has withdrawn its proposal to purchase about 77 acres of land located at the northeast corner of Wickham Park to expand its Melbourne campus and help grow its new academic programs. 

Instead, the college will move to construct new buildings on Melbourne campus property it already owns. College officials said in a release that they made the decision following a September 17 meeting before the Brevard County Commission where some commissioners and members of the public raised environmental concerns about developing the parcel. 

At the September 17th meeting, Brevard County Commissioners Andy Anderson and Mary Bolin-Lewis said that they were for the sale of the Wickham Park parcel to EFSC.   Commissioner Robin Fisher hinted that he would support the sale if a half-million dollars of the sale proceeds would go to his "Field of Dreams" project.  "Field of Dreams" created public controversy when Waste Management committed to donating $20,000 annually to the project as part of its proposal during the Brevard County garbage contract award process earlier this year.  

Bolin-Lewis disagreed with Fisher's proposal, saying that she wanted the "deal to be clean" and not contingent on giving a half-million dollars to the Field of Dreams.

"I feel like we are all standing around the hospital bed and grandpa is not dead yet," said Commissioner Chuck Nelson about the discussion between Fisher and Bolin-Lewis.

Commissioner Trudie Infantini proposed that the issue be tabled for two weeks so that the public would have more notice about the proposed sale, which Commissioner Nelson, citing environmental concerns, also voiced in favor of doing.  The Board then voted 4-1 to table the issue for two weeks with Bolin-Lewis being the only no vote.  The Commission was then scheduled to discuss the issue again on October 8, 2013.

“We’ve listened closely to the concerns expressed by some commissioners and others in our community and respect their views. As a result, we have decided to withdraw our proposal to purchase the park land,” said college president, Dr. Jim Richey. “In the coming months, we’ll work to design a new plan to construct additional buildings on the existing Melbourne campus. Our goal remains the same: To best serve our students with new academic programs, including Bachelor’s Degrees in fast-growth job fields, in the years ahead."

“I want to thank county officials and their staffs for considering the proposal and look forward to a productive partnership to ensure the success of the college and, with it, the community we serve."