AVON PARK - The undertaking to revitalize and economically invigorate Avon Park's southside has been a bit bumpy but began a process of smoothing out Wednesday night.
At a Special Meeting of the Southside Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Advisory Board, the Citizens Advisory Task Force listened to a presentation by an Avon Park's Cool & Cobb Engineering Co. on options for improving drainage and lighting in the area.
The area being considered for a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant is roughly from the intersection of Green Street and Delaney Avenue, south to Fred Conner Street to the intersection of south Verona Avenue and Hal McRae Boulevard, then east to South Carolina Avenue and Hal McRae Boulevard. The area contains about 25 homes, two residential units/apartments and four to five business buildings along east Hal McRae.
The Special Meeting was held to see and hear Cool's company response to residents' and businesses' suggestions on what needs to be done with the project and where to spend money for infrastructure improvements. A final decision on where to use the grant money is expected to be made at the Jan. 24 Avon Park Southside CRA regular meeting.
During the hour-and-a-half meeting, the four-member Task Force focused on drainage concerns mostly around south Verona Avenue, the Southside Veterans Gardens at Tulane Drive and Verona Avenue. They also discussed flooding at the base of south Delaney Avenue and possibly making a retention pond on city-owned land due to its proximity to puddling.
One of the concerns of residents is the possibility of having an unsightly retention pond in the area and Cool, who was contracted by the city to put together plans for the grant application, said engineers would come up with other proposals. The proposed 5,625-square-foot retention pond would be located in the middle of the block on the west side of east Green Street and Hal McRae Boulevard.
Maria Sutherland, Avon Park director of administrative services and city liaison at the meeting, said residents need to "pick what they really want to do and then engineers will factor their ideas and requests into construction-proposed estimates of cost." She said often people don't realize how full of hills Avon Park is until drainage issues arise.
One of the focuses for drainage improvement is Hal McCrae Boulevard, which Cool said functions as a "water divide." He said there is already a large retention pond in the area and water flows away north and south from the road and it's to the north where drainage problem begin and if new curbs an sidewalks were put in, there would have to be somewhere for water runoff to go.
Advisory Board member Theresa Whiteside questioned the need for a retention pond in an area up for revitalization. She said it would ruin the aesthetics of the area.
"If you're going to beautify, you don't need no retention pond in the area you're going to beautify," she said.
Among suggestions from the audience for alternatives to a retention pond was to build a "sump field," a low-lying place, such as a pit, that receives drainage with a six-foot water table.
Cool reminded the board and audience that without firm plans in place as to where water will go, the permitting process would stall.
"If we don't have plans for the water...then the problems with the flooding that we have before this is gong to be worse than it was before," he said to the board.
Sutherland reminded the board that monies used from contractor-underbids could be used for "unmet" needs outside of the improvement area, a "plan B" for redevelopment.
In addition to drainage, lighting was discussed and what types of lights and transformers would be best suited for the needs of the district. One option for lighting are decorative lamp posts similar to what's on Main Street and Cool said it would cost just under $600,000 for street lighting on Hal McRae Boulevard and Delaney Avenue, of which $260,000 would go to Duke Energy to put in underground electrical lines.
"The meeting was for me to hear the reactions to the area that is proposed for improvements and hear the comments about the ideas we had on the drawings showing the individual improvement items," said Cool. "The next meeting will be a continuation of yesterday's meeting where the changes asked for are made on the plans and we can hear any comments about the revised list of improvements."
Jan. 7, the Southside CRA Advisory Board approved $48,438 paid from Southside CRA funds to pay for Cool & Cobb's engineering services.