The City Commission approved a recreation project and a name change during Monday night’s meeting.

WINTER HAVEN — The City Commission approved a recreation project and a name change during Monday night’s meeting.

The City Commission voted 5-0 to accept Mulligan Constructors’ bid for Phase I of construction at the Lake Maude Complex. The $4.4 million bid from the Orlando-based company was the lowest among seven submitted to the city.

“You guys have a chance to be part of a historic decision,” former City Commission candidate James Hogan told commissioners Monday. “The northeast section needs to be improved.”

The bid was still more than the $3.04 million budgeted, but the city was able to use about $750,000 in impact fees to make up some of the difference. About $622,000 will be taken from funds for Sertoma Park. Commissioner Pete Chichetto inquired as to how the city would pay for Sertoma Park, which received a low bid of $1.19 million.

“What I’d like to do is revisit with our staff,” City Manager Mike Herr said. “I’d like to present you with a financing plan. I think we’ll probably have to rebid it. We can probably be back with a plan on Dec. 11.”

As for the Lake Maude project, that should be complete by August 2018. The project will include a main field, two auxiliary fields, pavilions, concessions, turf parking and scoreboards.

“I’m thrilled to be voting on this tonight,” Commissioner Brad Dantzler said.

The hope originally was for the project to be completed by this past August, but the presence of sand skinks on 0.36 acres of the property delayed construction as the city was forced to obtain an Incidental Take Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We have to do a habitat conservation plan,” Parks and Recreation Director Travis Edwards said. “($25,000) would be the mitigation cost.”

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The City Commission came out in favor of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, but as a conditional use in C-1 and C-2 zones, which includes downtown and neighborhood commercial districts. According to state law, municipalities are given the option of either banning the use of medical marijuana or otherwise treat them the same as pharmacies.

There are a few caveats like the dispensaries can’t be within 500 feet of a school. Making pharmacies a conditional use in certain districts means Planning Commission approval is necessary. There are currently 17 pharmacies within the city limits.

Dantzler said he was in favor of making it a conditional use, which requires City Commission approval. Mayor Steven Hunnicutt, who said he would support a ban at last week’s workshop, agreed with Dantzler.

“I think we should have the final say,” Dantzler said. “We’re going to hear about it anyway.”

Commissioners Chichettto, William Twyford and Nat Birdsong were in favor of making it just a special use. Birdsong said making it a conditional use would be more of a hardship to small “mom and pop” pharmacies.

“The likelihood would be more (mom and pop pharmacies) than medical marijuana (dispensaries) would have to go before us,” Birdsong said. “We wouldn’t want to have every pharmacy come before us.”

NEW AIRPORT NAME

The commission also voted 5-0 Monday night to change the name of the Winter Haven Municipal Airport to the Winter Haven Regional Airport. Bruce Lyon, the executive director of the Winter Haven Economic Development Council and the chairman for the Airport Advisory Board, said of the 129 airports in Florida, 32 have regional impact.

Lyon added that according to a 2014 study from the Florida Department of Transportation, the airport had a $21 million impact to the city.

“That was 2014,” Lyon said. “We estimate that the impact now is much greater than that.”

Mike Ferguson can be reached at Mike.Ferguson@directgates.com or 863-401-6981. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.