Could The New Bay Oaks Building Be Nixed?

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The plan to build a new $5.5 million Bay Oaks Recreational Campus is receiving criticism from the community, and a former Mayor. Is there enough of a groundswell to put the project on hold? Here’s what we know.

We know that in addition to the estimated $5.5 million to build a new Bay Oaks building, there is no money in the town budget to put anything in that new building. No money for furniture, fixtures, equipment, or anything else to fill the new building. In January, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said, “It’s going to be a beautiful building without a chair to sit on.”

Last week, when discussing the project and the number of people that use the facility, Bay Oaks committee member and former town council member Bruce Butcher said, “it makes you wonder why we’re going to spend $8 million to expand Bay Oaks.

This week, former Mayor Anita Cereceda weighed in on the subject. She wrote a letter to the town council asking them to consider pausing the project and coming up with a plan to prioritize the big-ticket expensive projects on the island.

We conducted a Facebook poll yesterday, asking our readers what the top two projects on the island are to them. For the poll, we gave readers four options: Bay Oaks expansion, Estero Boulevard Lighting, Times Square renovations and Community Policing. They had to pick only two. By far the top two are community policing and the lights on Estero Boulevard.

On top of all the recent criticism about the expansion at Bay Oaks, town manager Roger Hernstadt told the Bay Oaks committee, they had to drastically increase rates at the pool and for other amenities being offered at Bay Oaks or the town might not be able to renourish the beach or light Estero Boulevard. As a result, the committee approved massive fee hikes which the council will now consider during budget hearings next month.

Perhaps sensing the community was not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling about the fee hikes, the Bay Oaks committee has scheduled a special meeting for tomorrow at 9AM. The only item on the agenda is the higher fees.

Improvements planned for the 15-acre Bay Oaks campus include: the new building, two ball fields with lighting, improved entrance and exit for pedestrians and vehicles, outdoor basketball, pickleball, tennis courts, a stage for concerts and events and a new outdoor fitness area installed not too far from Estero Boulevard.

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