AVON PARK - Avon Park is again close to growing its city limits and residents could soon see changes in a street-name and garbage routes and more concerted push in the Southside revitalization effort.
At the Avon Park City Council regular meeting Monday, the council unanimously approved the first reading of a proposed 11.7 acres.
The annexations included are north of Lake Byrd and amount to 90 more units annexed with an estimated population increase of 150 more residents. The annexation north of Lake Byrd would include 50 homes, a business plaza and adult daycare facility.
The latest growth in the city follows the December annexation of Crystal Lake's 513 homes and 1,000 residents.
Julian Deleon, Avon Park city manager, said the possible rapid expansion of the city is taking place because the continued growth would increase the tax base for Avon Park and its residents.
"The city council established growth through annexations as a priority. This best allows us to spread out our fixed operating costs," he said.
Prior to the first reading on annexation, a public forum was held to discuss changing a street name in Avon Park's southside - primarily six linear blocks around the intersection of east Hal McRae Boulevard and south Delaney Avenue - led by residents and activists Arnold Davis and Al Hinson. The primary discussion was what street to rename and what is the procedure for going about making the change. Davis said the sentiment of the community in the area is that whatever street would possibly be renamed should be within the business district with predominantly black-owned businesses.
Deleon said based on petitions for a road name change, the city council directed staff to obtain input from residents. He said a letter would be mailed out by Thursday to all residents who live on south Delaney Avenue and the city council would consider community input at its Jan. 27 meeting. In total, 109 letters to those residents and businesses would be sent.
The letter states if approved, the name change would span from the intersection of east Main Street through Ernest E. Sims Street.
"The council (members) took this action because they want to hear from the rest of the community," he said,
Councilwoman Brenda Giles reminded the council and audience that an effort to rename a street was made in 2008 during 911 Duplicate Street Name Project, when nearby cities were asked to rename streets with the same name to avoid confusion in emergency situations. It was dropped by the city council at that time. Councilman Parke Sutherland agreed that a public hearing would need to be held before any definitive action was held and Delaney Avenue was the best option.
"I think it's a community issue and needs community input," Parke said,
Currently, Avon Park has no established protocol for the renaming of streets, said Maria Sutherland, administrative services director. She said City Attorney Gerald Buhr would bring some guidelines to the council based on other cities in order make the change should that be decided.
"It's something we've neglected to do. Maybe it's time to make some guidelines," said Sutherland.
Addressing the council, southside east Green Street resident Alphonso Williams said he's spoken to area business owners and residents who favor south Delaney Avenue for the name change.
"I hope Avon Park doesn't go down in the history books as the only city that doesn't have an MLK street. We want south Delaney. It either is or isn't. Y'all have the power to do it," he said.
The council also approved a change in refuse collection days. Deleon said due to the annexation over the past three months of highly developed areas - Crystal Lake with more than 500 units, Banyan Woods with 50 units and Brentwood with 40 units - the addition of 600 more dwelling units or potential customers to the city's sanitation service route caused a re-examination of collection routes.
City rubbish is now collected Thursday or Friday. There would be no change to collection routes north of Main Street and no change in Wednesday recycling pick-up. But beginning Jan. 27, for residents and businesses south of Main Street, Thursday routes will now be picked up Monday and Friday routes will be picked up Tuesday.
"This proposed change will also increase fleet reliability by providing a spare garbage truck for failures and two extra employees available for absences," the City Council agenda item summary stated.
Lastly, city council approved $125,000 from the infrastructure fund for the Community Development Block Grant for the Southside district. In July, the council set aside $300,000 for Southside-area improvements and the funding comes from infrastructure funds.