With $1.4 million in city money set to be allocated to improving Mickel Field, Mayor Gary Resnick promised the park would be the “gem” it once was. “This is going to benefit the whole city.”
Recently, commissioners agreed to spend $1.4 million to make improvements to Hagen Park, located on Powerline Road, over the next two years.
Plans include: new bathroom, walking trail, shade canopies, fitness equipment, pavilion, estate-style fencing, volleyball court and police substation. The small baseball diamond will be removed but the large one will remain. Originally, city officials discussed the possibility of spending about $2.1 million.
For months, residents have demanded improvements to the park – improvements they say will increase its use by residents and visitors and decrease its use by drug dealers and criminals. One resident said the park, which is often empty, was even used as a staging ground by burglars to break into his home more than once. Officials and residents, including Westside Association of Wilton Manors President Sal Torre, also believe Mickel’s redevelopment will help spur other improvements in the area.
Officials have also asked the Florida Department of Transportation to reduce the width of Powerline Road in order to make it more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.
The park, which may be renamed Mickel Park, was originally used by the city’s youth baseball leagues. But changing demographics and competition from baseball programs in Fort Lauderdale, including nearby Mills Pond Park, has meant fewer and fewer children using the facility.
Patrick Caan, director of the Leisure Services Department, said it’s been decades since Mickel has seen significant improvements.
“We’ve let [Mickel Field] go to hell. It’s time to fix it,” said Commissioner Ted Galatis to applause from residents in the audience.
Galatis drew applause again when he criticized his fellow commissioners for hesitating to spend money on Mickel when they approved $390,000 on two residential properties. The properties, located next to Hagen, may be used in the future to expand the park. Galatis and Commissioner Scott Newton were the only no votes against the Hagen properties. Vice Mayor Julie Carson, who supported the purchase, said the city could always sell the properties if it didn’t find any use for them.
Borrowing half the estimated cost – from a bank, such as the commission did when it borrowed to pay for parking improvements – was the chief concern amongst commissioners. Finance Director Bob Mays said the other half of the money would come from a mix of general funds, grants and impact fees.
Said Carson, “Maybe get the money a different way.” Resnick suggested more grant money, some possibly from the county’s $400 million parks bond, could be used and the amount of money borrowed could be reduced. City Manager Joseph Gallegos assured commissioners that more grants would be obtained - $55,000 has already been secured.
The interest payments over the span of the 15-year loan are about $40,000. Mays said he might be able to negotiate a better interest rate than 2.95 percent he submitted to the commission. “A $5,000-a-month loan payment is very doable for this city,” said Resnick.