AVON PARK - If approved, it will be the single largest increase in Avon Park population in 50 years.
The City of Avon Park will have a second reading of the ordinance and vote on annexing the Crystal Lake Golf Club, a golf community of 513 homesites for those 55 and over just southeast of Avon Park. If passed, it will mean additional access and discounts to utilities, 24-hour emergency response and a chance for residents to get involved with local governance - all firsts for the nearly 25-year-old golf community, made up of seasonal and year-round residents.
The main impact will be the addition of about 519 homesites and another 1,000 residents who would be able to take part in government positions and joining the city would mean a 25 percent discount on utility bills.
Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon said the city has worked hard to develop a financial model that facilitates annexation and growth, such as reducing property taxes from the highest in the county at $5.89 to a 30-cent reduction and garbage rates have gone from $20 a month to $16.
In addition, Deleon said a Dedicated Code Enforcement staff would address quality-of-life concerns; fire services and emergency medical technicians can respond 24 hours a day; sanitation services would have uniform carts and once-a-week stream recycling; and there would be guidance under direct local governance by the city.
Deleon said the annexation would offer an increased tax base and larger population base, resulting in establishing boards for citizen participation, with vacancies posted on the city's website. He also stressed there would be dedicated and increased level of service from Avon Park Public Safety and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
"I don't foresee how the expansion of the city limits would degrade the current level of service; it will get better," he said.
As for utilities, the city acquired the Crystal Lake Utility in 2011 and centralized operations by interconnecting the Crystal Lake Utility system to Avon Park Utilities. Since then, Avon Park has installed over 100,000 feet of water and sewer transmission lines. He said utilities have been the main catalyst in helping foster public-private partnerships and growth, saying as recent at 2009, utilities were an "albatross," losing money with substandard and neglected facilities.
Since Crystal Lake will be joining the city's sewage lines, odors from local septic and treatment systems would be eliminated.
"I'm looking forward to some of the things that will happen," said seasonal Crystal Lake resident Helmut Schankula, before putting on the community golf course. "It will improve for some people because of the sewer. The smell won't be as bad with the city sewer system."
The city council voted in December 2010 to take over the Crystal Lake's water and sewer service area with a purchase agreement that includes a covenant providing the city the right to annex the development when it becomes contiguous with the Avon Park city limits. That time is nigh and welcomed by Crystal Lake administrators.
Tammy Martin, manager, said she thinks most in the community favor the annexation. She said being able to get involved with a recycling program would also better the community for all.
"Overall, most of the residents and management are happy, especially now that we'll have 24-hour police and fire protection," she said.