Avon Park annexes again
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - It seems that during the past year the city council has voted on an annexation agreement at every council meeting.
Published: October 10, 2012
Published: October 10, 2012
The annexation push continued Monday with council approving the final reading of an ordinance to annex the city's public works facility on U.S. 27 South.
The city's own public works department has been outside the city limits for more than two decades, said City Manager Julian Deleon. "It's kind of ironic that you have your own public works outside the city, but we have corrected that."
The city doesn't receive a tax or other financial benefit from the latest annexation, but Administrative Services Director Maria Sutherland pointed out it provides the connectivity to annex further south.
At Monday's council meeting, former city manager Sarah Adelt noted that the city has approved 14 annexation agreements in the past fiscal year. Adelt was at the meeting to recognize City Clerk Cheryl Tietjen's recent certification as a city clerk.
Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray supports the recent flurry of annexations, and like most of the council members, it was one of her top priorities she discussed with City Manager Julian Deleon when he was interim city manger in May 2011.
The city needs more revenue and annexation is a way to increase that revenue, she said.
The annexations have been a mixture of businesses and some residences, and that's a good thing, she said.
The annexations along U.S. 27 South included: South Florida State College, Chaney's Used Cars, Wells Motor Co., the RaceTrac convenience/gas store, a 42-unit apartment complex behind RaceTrac and Saxon Groves Inc.
Annexation also increases the pool of people who are eligible to run for city council or serve on city boards, which is a good thing, Gray said.
Mike Colbert, owner of 64 West Collision Repair, said overall being annexed is a good thing, though now he pays city taxes.
Also, one of the benefits of annexation the city touted, its now-disbanded police department, is no more so for Colbert as he has law enforcement coverage once again from the Highlands County Sheriff's Department, he said.
He is now paying for city water, but the quality is much better than his well water, which is almost undrinkable, Colbert said.
Councilman Terry Heston believes annexations give the city the opportunity to continue to grow.
"I think we need to keep going south," he said. "I think that is where the growth of Avon Park is going to be in the next 20 to 30 years."
The city needs to keep taxes as low as possible to give businesses a chance, Heston said.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said she has never seen the city grow this fast.
"Since we are moving down toward the south and we are becoming contiguous with our areas, I think it is a good move to continue annexing because it helps all citizens have a lower rate for water and sewer (services) and helps the city with the ad valorem (property taxes)," she said.
When he proposed a large decrease in property taxes in July, Deleon cited "growth through annexations" as one of the factors that would allow the city to reduce property taxes from $5.8745 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to $3.95 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
He proposed in July, and council later approved, a property tax rate of 3.6 mils.
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