County, AP money may fix airport flooding
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING One of Avon Park's oldest unsolved problems may have found a solution.
Published: February 6, 2013
Published: February 6, 2013
On Tuesday, Highlands County commissioners voted 5-0 to contribute $250,000 to drain the 350-acre field around Executive Airport where storm water saturates the ground and doesn't drain. Since 1998, the field has flooded with as little as two inches of rain, said Avon Park Administrative Services Director Maria Sutherland.
"A rainfall of 1.5 inches will result in the flooding of Bell Street Water Treatment Plant," Sutherland reported to the commissioners. "A rainfall of three inches will result in flooding at the Bonnie Brae Mobile Estates."
Highlands Aviation Inc., which in 1998 employed 16 workers and reported $2 million in annual revenues, received $275,000 in flood damages, Sutherland said, and the airport road was also damaged.
In a $1.1 million project that also uses Southwest Florida Water Management and FEMA funds, the city plans to construct a series of ditches to divert the water to a catch basin on Monts-De-Oca Road and Lake Anoka, Sutherland reported.
"This has been going on for seven years," Chairman Jack Richie said. "This needs to be done before we have a major disaster up there."
Over the objection of Commissioner Jim Brooks, the commissioners also vacated a portion of 9th Street south of the Red Beach Lake bluffs.
"There is already a precedent for the closing," said attorney Pam Karlson, representing Anthony Cardinale.
"I'm looking at that plat," County Attorney Ross Macbeth said. "I'm kind of wondering if your client will get any benefit from that closing?"
"This is not being done to benefit his property," Karlson said. He owns a narrow lot on the north side of the easement.
"The home needs to be located in a diagonal way so it will fit on the property," Karlson said. It is unclear who will own the easement. However, she said, the vacation will give Cardinale the opportunity to buy it.
"Historically," Brooks noted, commissioners "have not closed access to the lakes. I am disturbed by this. What do we tell the others when they come in?"
"That's a great question," Richie said. "Are we opening another can of worms here?"
"We have looked at vacating access to lakes as something we do not want to do," County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete agreed.
"You've got to be fair," Bill Youngman rose from the audience. "If you give one person access, for one reason or another, you have to do the same for the others."
"This is a 50-foot wide strip," Karlson restated. If the commission plans to build a road there, the standard is 60-feet wide. Plus, she added, the beach is actually a 20-foot deep dropoff. "There are many circumstances for you to hang your hat on."
"You have to realize that these weren't intended for boat ramps," Macbeth countered. "They are public right of ways. They are really walking easements. In other parts of Florida, they may only be five feet wide. It's just a way to get to the lake."
Four of the five commissioners voted for the request.
Commissioners approved a $32,015 request from Avon Park to partially fund remodeling the Memorial Field locker room. Partners in the joint project include the city, Avon Park Youth Football and Champions Club.
"The old football field is in hideous condition," said Sutherland. The field is owned but not maintained by the city.
"Who uses it?" Chairman Jack Richie asked.
"It's used by the people – anyone who needs it. The cheerleaders use it for a staging area and training," Sutherland said. "We don't lock the gates."
A squabble between the Avon Park City Council and the county's planning department ended when Community Services Director Mark Hill recommended the commissioners allow the city to cancel the contract. Without discussion, the commissioners unanimously agreed.
Commissioner Ron Handley said the veterinarian's study committee is getting close to issuing a report on possible dog and cat regulations.
Commissioners appointed Rebecca Sroda to serve the remainder of an unexpired term on the Highlands County Hospital District Board, and Bette Tiernan to serve a four-year term. Rick Ingler was reappointed to a four-year term.
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