Belle Glade prospects bring cheer

After a City Commission meeting brimming with good news for the city and a full agenda of routine business, those gathered Monday night, Dec. 18, in the commission chambers were treated to a serenade by Mayor Steve Wilson and his Dais Choi … er, official backup singers, doing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

First, the most exciting news. Bishop Kenny Berry, founder and pastor of Grace Fellowship Worship Church and the Grace For Life Youth Foundation in Belle Glade, showed an extensive Powerpoint presentation about a proposed new community recreation center and campus on Southeast Avenue G whose estimated budget is $26 million to $29 million that he said he’s been discussing with Mayor Steve Wilson for the past year.

“We want to bring forth here a state-of-the-art recreation center, that would be age-friendly not only just for our kids but also for our seniors. We have a design that was actually done for us by S3 Design out of (Braintree) Massachusetts. Bryan Dunkelberger (founding principal of the firm) is a good friend of mine,” Bishop Berry began.

For the next several minutes, he flipped through Powerpoint pages and listed these facilities among the plans, as of now, that the building would contain:
• Four indoor basketball courts;
• An indoor track;
• An Olympic-size swimming pool equipped with diving boards;
• A fully equipped weight room;
• A large community room;
• A teen gathering room;
• A child-care area with changing rooms;
• Areas for adult/family care with a changing room; and
• A band room.

In addition, outside the building, within view of one side of it, would be a “state-of-the-art” football field/stadium that would be convertible for use as a soccer or lacrosse field also. Bishop Berry said it would be large enough to host the annual Muck Bowl or even to bring in a college bowl game. The campus would be encircled by a track for walking or jogging.

Said Bishop Berry: “We just want to bring something to our community that’s going to help give us a little more, give us something better in the community, give our kids something to do as well, and also be able to have a facility that our elderly people can actually come in and enjoy as well. So it’s family-friendly, age-friendly.”

Mayor Wilson thanked the bishop and told commissioners: “That was just a quick summary. Let me tell you something, a project of this magnitude in a small community like Belle Glade, it speaks volumes about things to come. So thank you all for supporting this endeavor. We’re going to make it happen, I have faith in that.”

During his report near the meeting’s end, City Manager Lomax Harrelle hinted of other big things to come. “We’re coming into the new year, and we have some really great things coming up. We have a lot of great things coming to the City of Belle Glade for 2018, and I think we’re going to have a good year.”

Vice Mayor Mary Ross Wilkerson announced that the fruit of her project of working with Mr. Harrelle, other city staff and Florida Power & Light to upgrade street lighting in Belle Glade is about to come before the city commission in January for approval.

“In the not-too-distant future you will see Belle Glade glowing in new lights. So to our commission, thank you for letting me take the lead on this. And it was a great pleasure working with FPL,” Vice Mayor Wilkerson said.

With that, Mayor Wilson went around the dais and asked the commissioners to speak their thoughts; all commended city staff on their hard work in the past year and wished happy holidays to everyone.

Then he said: “And I’ll just in summary tell you all, commissioners, I really appreciate working with you. And you, Mr. Manager, and to all our staff, thank you guys for a job well done. And this is my favorite part of the season where we get to … actually, if you don’t mind, if it’s in your spirit, we’re going to stand and wish everybody a Merry Christmas by singing with me … on the count of three … ” the mayor said, his voice rising.

“Let me turn your mic off first,” City Clerk Debra Buff threw in jokingly, to a sheepish “Yeah” and guffaw from Mayor Wilson and laughter all around.

“Always, even in good spirit, one, two, three,” he led the commissioners, “‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ … ” and Mayor Wilson got them all to sing with him. They even did an encore before he adjourned the meeting.

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