- May 10, 2016
WINDERMERE Although Windermere residents at Town Hall meetings hosted by Town Manager Robert Smith generally agreed the town’s police, administrative and public works facilities needed upgrades, opinions on permitting Windermere Town Council to approve a town loan up to $4.2 million varied.
That variance proved decisive in Windermere’s referendum vote March 15, when 639 (49.92%) voted against allowing town officials to approve such a loan, as opposed to 597 (46.64%) voting in favor, per unofficial Orange County Elections results.
“I think there was confusion despite our efforts and workshops,” said Mayor Gary Bruhn -- who ran unopposed to clinch a seventh two-year term as mayor. "Many told me at the polls that they wanted to see a plan of what would be built before approving the funding."
Smith had assured residents funding the project would not affect taxes. Also included in possibilities were added parking, increased space for the 1887 schoolhouse, improvements to streets and adding basketball courts.
This vote was based on Section 49 of the Windermere Charter, which states only by a vote of town citizens may the town incur non-emergency debt exceeding 12.5% of the general operating budget. Smith said this would mean the need for town approval on any loan greater than $600,000, and the Charter Review Committee has examined this policy.
The loan would have been spread through 30 years with a figure in the low six digits part of each year’s budget, Smith said. The public would have had input at each step via charettes, committees and public hearings at which the Town Council ultimately would have decided.
Deficiencies, code violations and critters abound in current police, administrative and public works facilities.
Although John Armstrong held his seat on the Town Council to begin a third term, Richard Gonzalez did not win a third term from Windermere voters.
Al Pichon garnered 613 votes (36.77%) as the only challenger to incumbents Armstrong and Gonzalez. Armstrong received 663 votes (39.77%), whereas just 391 (23.46%) voted for Gonzalez.
“I would like to be a part of the Town Council that promotes decisions that make all of our citizens feel like they and their opinions matter,” Pichon said. “I think it is critically important that we all feel like we belong to this community and our opinion matters – actions speak louder than words.”
Pichon will formally swear in for a two-year term at the April 12 Town Council meeting.
Turnout for this election was 54.35%, versus 12.65% last year; 1,280 voted among 2,355 eligible voters.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo regarding Armstrong's vote total. It also included percentages Orange County Elections calculated erroneously. OMG regrets the errors.