By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
ORMOND BEACH -- The city continues to plan an "environmental learning center" for Central Park, but a new cost estimate made city leaders a little uncomfortable.
The city budgeted $400,000 for the project with $200,000 expected from a Volusia County ECHO grant, $125,000 from the city and public/private donations of $75,000. But the engineer on the project, Mark Dowst, said during a recent city commission workshop that most of the cost estimates are in the $700,000 range.
City Manager Joyce Shanahan said site preparation and utilities drove the cost up.
Mayor Ed Kelley said, "I was surprised at the additional cost."
But Mr. Dowst said the only way to reduce the cost would be to choose a site with the majority of utilities already available. "It's hard to find a better place to integrate an environmental learning center than Central Park," he said.
The Environmental Learning Center has been before the city in some form for the past eight years. It would be used to help educate citizens, especially students, about the environment.
"The city of Ormond Beach Environmental Learning Center is to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural environment while stimulating environmental programs that inspire participants to be acting stewards of the natural resources," Dowst said.
The city wants to put the center in Central Park, a 149-acre preserve owned by the city with several scenic lake views. It lies between Granada Boulevard and Hand Avenue, Yonge Street and Nova Road.
The main building would have a large area for displays, a classroom and office as well as an observation deck out over one of the lakes.
An initial ECHO grant proposal was submitted on Oct. 11. "We have until Dec. 6 to submit the final ECHO application," Mr. Dowst said.
The grant probably wouldn't be decided until February 2014.
The commissioners generally agreed on a building design, but no formal action can be taken in a workshop.
While the Learning Center was the main focus of the workshop, a large crowd was there to hear the commissioners talk about "Doggie Dining."
The commission is considering whether to allow dogs in restaurants as long as they are restrained or an outdoor section is provided.
A restaurant would still have to go through an approval process before it could allow dogs on the premises.
City staff reported there are 15 restaurants in the city that could meet requirements and eight of them have expressed interest.
The commission will consider action on "Doggie Dining" in a future regular meeting.