AVON PARK - Crystal Lake Club residents have mixed opinions on being annexed into the City of Avon Park with some concerned about taxes and wondering about the benefits of being part of the City of Charm.
Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon said the annexation of Crystal Lake into the corporate limits of Avon Park would be a "monumental accomplishment" adding 1,000 residents to the city.
Avon Park is growing fast, he noted.
"During my tenure, the council has annexed over 1.5 square miles into the city and has grown its utility system," Deleon said. "The city council has reduced the taxable millage for two consecutive years to a negligible level, reduced garbage rates and reduced utility rates as possible."
Deleon said Crystal Lake residents will have local governance and a voice with the city council. Some may even opt to participate in city boards or run for office.
Except for the newcomers, many Crystal Lake residents have an opinion on annexation.
George Divis said he and his wife were talking about it Monday morning.
"What good does it do us? Is it going to raise our taxes?" he asked. "I don't know; I am not too thrilled with Avon Park because everything is local, if you know what I mean?
Robert M. Mann wanted to know the benefits of being in the city of Avon Park and why the city wants to annex Crystal Lake.
"Probably taxes is the big thing, I would imagine," he said. "I don't know what their selling point is, but we would love to be part of Avon Park."
Jim said annexation would mean more expenses for the residents like when Avon Park took over the Crystal Lake water system, which tripled his water bill.
A lot of people are a little "fed up" with it, he said, "but, what are you going to do? We are not the owners."
Frances Desillier said she would really "love" to be annexed if what she has heard is correct about no longer having to pay the annual $247 pass through tax.
"They just slapped that on us and I live on a very, very fixed income ... and since I moved in here the taxes and the rents have been going up," she said. "The water bill went up. I was paying $16 a month and now I am paying $51.06 so that hurts."
She heard that the water bill will go down, Desillier said.
"Most of the people like the idea that I know of and talked to," she said.
Deleon noted the following benefits of annexation for Crystal Lake residents: a 25 percent utility rate reduction, recycling, road paving, full time fire/EMT service, a dedicated and increased level of service from Avon Park Public Safety and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office and local governance to voice concerns.
The city acquired the Crystal Lake Utility in 2011 and centralized operations by interconnecting the Crystal Lake Utility system to Avon Park Utilities, he noted.
"I personally engineered and supervised all of this utility work, over 9,000 feet of pipe was constructed by Avon Park employees" Deleon said. "When we took over, we did exactly what we promised ahead of schedule and within budget.
"This system centralization was a massive undertaking where obsolete and unreliable utility equipment and facilities were either upgraded or decommissioned."
Crystal Lake residents Larry Vanderwater and Gary Minnich paused for a moment while they played a round of golf Monday morning.
Vanderwater said annexation is a great idea that will improve the park.
"I am not against it," he said. "I might be one of the only few, but I can't imagine it doing any harm in here. Hopefully, we will get a little more police protection and stuff, maybe on a regular basis."
Minnich said it's great that Avon Park is lowering its property tax rate by 90 percent.
"I am not too much in favor of their large trash cans just for where we are at and some of the old folks that may have difficulty either keeping them in their sheds or getting them out to the street," he said.
Deleon said, based on the input provided from the Crystal Lake Homeowners Association, the city has budgeted to purchase smaller (32 gallon) garbage and recycling carts.
The city council voted in December 2010 to take over the Crystal Lake 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.
Deleon said the annexation is planned for December.
The Crystal Lake management and HOA have kept in touch with his office, he said.
"I believe that there will be some future meetings for public outreach and communications," Deleon said. "Regardless, the city council will hold a minimum of two public hearings prior to the annexation. Everyone is encouraged to attend and participate."