AVON PARK - Just three days after celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day around the state and the nation, the effort to rename a city street for the civil rights leader is becoming more focused.
In what Avon Park City Manger Julian Deleon called the "hottest ticket" at the Jan. 27 city council meeting, during the citizens-outside agencies portion of the meeting, council members will be presented with four options for possibly renaming a street.
Maria Sutherland, Avon Park director of administrative services, said the streets were selected based on public comments at council and Community Redevelopment Agency meetings. The options are: the intersection of south Lake Avenue and Hal McRae Boulevard, through South Lake, Tulane Drive, south Verona Avenue and ending a Main Street; the intersection of south Delaney Avenue and Main Street, south to Ernest E. Sims Street; changing Memorial Boulevard from Main Street and Memorial ending south at Cornell Street; and the intersection of south Lake Boulevard and Hal McRae through south Lake Boulevard, through Tulane Drive and east Hal McRae Avenue, ending at Memorial Avenue.
Sutherland said the chosen streets are subjected to change and there would be a lot more discourse before any name change - if at all - occurs.
"It's (the streets) just a base to start from. You have to start somewhere; they're talking points for the council to start with," she said.
In 2008 during the 911 Duplicate Street Name Project, when nearby cities were asked to rename streets with the same name to avoid confusion in emergency situations, renaming a street for King was dropped by the city council at that time.
Avon Park City Manger Julian Deleon said Wednesday he didn't think named roadways should be stripped of their local heritage names, such as W. L. Kirkland, Joe Hilton, Fred Conner, Booker, Ed Carter and Ernest E. Sims streets and Fogle and Cummins avenues.
Deleon said city staff has gotten "strong opposition from relatives" of the late Avon Park Mayor Edgar A. Delaney Sr., mayor of Avon Park for 28 years. When asked outside of city hall about the proposed changes Wednesday, Delaney's grandson, Kris Delaney, didn't want to comment until he spoke with his family, but did cite a few of his grandfather's accomplishments while serving.
Edgar Delaney was born 1891 and died in 1979; he served from 1943 to 1947 and again during the years of civil unrest, from 1953 to 1967. During that time he helped establish the former Walker Memorial Hospital, the Florida Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center, South Florida Community College, and was named Highlands County "Man of the Year" in 1952 - the same year the Montgomery Bus Boycott protest actions in Birmingham. Ala., began.
When told Wednesday afternoon about the proposed options for renaming, Highlands County NAACP President Aljoe Hinson said most of the Southside community has always been behind renaming Delaney Avenue. He said the issue should have been settled in 2008. That year, the name change was voted on during the 911 Duplicate Street Name Project, when nearby cities were asked to rename streets with the same name to avoid confusion in emergency situations.
"I'm with the community; the option we have is Delaney. The Southside community is who needs to be heard. The concerns of the citizens say Delaney," said Hinson, who's served as NAACP president since 2009. "It was a business avenue and a main street for the black residents from downtown into the community during MLK. That's the route we took."
Deleon said to help resolve the situation, city staff is asking city council to rank the four options.
"The changing of Delaney Avenue will be an option, along with changing Hal McRae would be another option," he said. "The other two options will not involve changing the name of a road which was named after a local community leader."
Currently, Avon Park has no established protocol for the renaming of streets, said Sutherland, 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.