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Wellness Center completion put on hold

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Plans for upgrading the Health & Wellness Center are not well financially. The architectural plans ordered last year by the board of directors of the Fallbrook Regional Health District include major remodeling of the main building into a modern multi-purpose room. Those plans have been put on hold.

The cost of about $10.7 million is prohibitive, explained Bill Leach, president of the board. He made the comment when interviewed a couple of days after a Feb. 6 special board meeting to discuss the Wellness Center.

The district purchased the Wellness Center property in April 2018 for $1.8 million. Located on 4.5 acres at 1636 E. Mission Road, the complex consists of three buildings: the original church sanctuary, a building with six classrooms, and a house that was the parsonage. The board decided on March 11, 2022, to begin a potential $7.9 million renovation with a design architect.

Since then, three of the five board members have been replaced. Leach was appointed in May and then re-elected in November. Terry Brown was also elected in November, replacing long-time board president Howard Salmon. Mike Stanicek was selected to a board vacancy in December. The incumbents are Jennifer Jeffries and Barbara Mroz.

All board members agreed that 10.28 million was not acceptable for the development of the Health and Wellness Center.

Leach said that at a special planning workshop in mid-January, the new board learned the estimated price, given by two contractors at the meeting, had jumped to $10.7 million for the completion of the project.

The district's Facilities Committee, led by Jeffries and Mroz, was directed to present a list of priorities for the district at its Jan. 18 meeting. However, Leach said the directors wanted input from the entire board, the reason for the special meeting on Feb. 6.

"The $10.7 million was just too much for the district," Leach said. "We're serious about the center being needed. We will get the parking lot done and the education building completed, but we need other options for the main building with better estimates."

Leach said the board is committed to providing health-related services for the community but is not inclined to create an event center or wedding venue. He said continuing to retain the architect, Taylor Design, is also on hold.

The preliminary design by the architect was for all-glass in the front and rear of the tall building which is 1,717 square feet. A slide show presented to the committee, which then included directors Barbara Mroz and Stephanie Ortiz, showed the multi-purpose room with seating of up to 120 for a banquet with 10 round tables, a 60-person training room, or a 150-person lecture.

The board said at the March 2022 meeting that the conference center should include state-of-the-art sound and presentation technology. The exterior should be aesthetically pleasing, and the outside should be treated as a room with inviting spaces, a walking path or par course, and a useful pavilion area.

There was a coordinated public effort to question the board about the center at the Jan. 6 special meeting, Leach said, though there apparently was also a lot of misinformation.

Rachel Mason, CEO of the district, agreed there was a lot of confusion and lack of understanding by the public. She said it was time for the district to hold public forums and explain district priorities. Mason also noted the Wellness Center is becoming a greater asset to the community with additional classes and programs.

Another version of the plan is going to be discussed at the March 8 board meeting.


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