Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Project Updates

Last week in this space we reviewed a progress report on a number of high-profile projects, both public and private. There are other public projects underway as well, so let’s take a look at a few more!

Hardman Hall (the 1919 building)
Work continues on this project. The contractor has finished the masonry work on a section of the south exterior wall that was failing, and the wall was taken down and put back up using the same exterior bricks. The remodeling work funded by the Phase 4 historic preservation grant is now complete, and work on the Phase 5 grant should be completed by the end of June. The phase 6 grant is scheduled to start in July and will focus on the installation of drywall and other improvements on the first floor.

This $4.6 million project is being funded with a combination of grants, CRA funds, and donations, and work has progressed as grant funds have become available. As discussed at the public meetings held in the building last March, $907,236 has been secured toward the remaining $2,373,875 in project costs, leaving $1,466,639 yet to be raised. Dr. Gabe Statom has been hired to assist in the fund-raising efforts and to prepare the programming for the building.

Planning is underway for this building to become:
  • The home auditorium of the Lake Wales Chorale and the Youth Chorale;

  • A venue for concerts by a variety of artists;

  • A music education center, reflecting the long tradition of musical excellence in school band performance.
You are cordially invited to join in these efforts that will have far reaching benefits for our community!

Rails to Trails
Funding for the second phase of the Rails to Trails project has been awarded by the Office of Greenways and Trails. The grant award of $200,000 is matched with $133,000 from City recreation impact fees, which are restricted funds that can only be spent on the expansion of recreation facilities. This section of the trail will be built from Kiwanis Park to an area west of Buck Moore Road. It is anticipated that the City will hire the contractor for this work with the contract forbidding the use of vibratory compactors. Again, per the ordinance adopted by the City Commission, contractors with unresolved complaints from City residents will not be eligible to compete for this work.

City staff is checking on the possibility of extending the contract with the asphalt company that is doing the City’s resurfacing work for the construction of the trail. A schedule for the project will be released at that time.

The design of this section of the trail will include the construction of a fence for a portion of the north side of the trail, as well as posts at certain points, to discourage motorized vehicle riders.

CSX Building
The former high school agriculture building on Scenic Highway near Kissimmee Ave is undergoing a facelift. The exterior of the building is being restored to its original look, and inside the restrooms have been renovated. A visitor welcome center room has also been created, to be staffed by volunteers, for area visitors and persons using the trail. The remainder of the building will continue to be used by the City’s parks and streets divisions for offices and equipment storage. Funding for this project is provided by a historic preservation grant which was matched with insurance proceeds that were used to repair hurricane damage.

Re-development activities on Lincoln Avenue
The Community Re-Development Agency has acquired several properties on Lincoln Ave over the past few years. One of these properties is referred to as the Walker Building at the corner of Lincoln Ave and C Street. The CRA’s re-development contractor, Kimbrough and Associates, is exploring the feasibility of using the building for apartments and offices. Recently the interior furnishings on the first floor were removed. In addition, both the Walker building and the barber shop building (under private ownership) were painted using colors from a palette provided by the architect hired to assist in this project. In addition, across the street from the Walker building, a new meat store has opened.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Project Updates

Our town is buzzing with activity these days! A number of high-profile City projects and private developments are already underway, or on the drawing boards. Let’s get an update on some of the projects that have great citizen interest:
  • Street Resurfacing: This project is set to be completed by the end of June. Streets yet to be done include Polk Ave. and First Street.

  • Lake Wales Boat Ramp Renovation: The contractor has poured the concrete for the section of the ramp that will be almost entirely under water. The concrete in that section must cure for 28 days to ensure durability. Once that section is pushed into position, the second section will be poured in place. The seawall and walkway/dock will then be constructed.

  • Skatepark at Kiwanis Park: The equipment for the skatepark has been ordered and is scheduled to arrive on-site in the latter part of June. It is anticipated that the equipment will be installed no later than mid-July.

  • City Swimming Pool: When the City’s property across from the Longleaf Business Park on US 27 was sold, the City Commission took $1 million out of the sale proceeds and put it in a special account for the building of the pool. While the $1 million is adequate to build the pool, additional funds may have to be found for the locker facilities. But the most disturbing expense is the annual cost of operating and maintaining the pool. Other cities with pools report spending from $50,000 to $100.000 and more per year. With revenues shrinking, this project is now on hold.

  • Lake Belle Pumping Station: It is anticipated that this County project will be constructed in the next fiscal year, with funds contributed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the County, and the City. It is anticipated that the pump station will be located on an easement provided by the City. The station would be owned and operated by the County. The station would keep the lake pumped down at a relatively low level, to allow it to fill-up during periods of heavy rain. The high water would then be pumped down again, with the water flowing westward, eventually reaching the Peace Creek. The City’s contribution is budgeted in the current fiscal year and will have to be carried forward to next year’s budget.

  • Grand Hotel: The second round of proposals will soon begin for a period of 120 days. In this second round, potential proposers will receive a copy of recent studies of downtown and will meet with the Chamber of Commerce’s CRA Steering Committee.

  • Airport: The Fixed Base Operator building is now under construction, and the renovations to the north hanger building to provide housing for slightly larger aircraft are now complete.

  • Sidewalks: A portion of the recent CRA bond proceeds has been allocated for new sidewalks in several areas. Planning has just started for these sidewalks - including sections around the library, along North Wailes Drive, and on Fourth St. from Spook Hill Elementary School to the Boys and Girls Club.
Private Developments
  • New businesses around the Eagle Ridge Mall: This is a hot area for commercial development! The Hampton Inn and Suites has opened to brisk business, and another hotel is planned next to Home Depot along with two gas stations nearby. A pharmacy and a commercial center are being constructed across US 27 from the Publix center at the corner of Thompson Nursery Road.

  • SR 60: New commercial development includes a new Pizza Hut/Wing House nearing completion at the corner of SR 60 and 2nd Street; and a medical office under construction on SR 60 and 13th Street.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Do you know that the City has its own web site on the Internet? If so, have you visited it lately?

The City’s web site at http://www.cityoflakewales.com/ is nothing short of amazing. It offers a vast amount of useful and interesting information on a variety of topics, as well as on-line services. Our town’s web site also offers maps and photographs in an aesthetically pleasing and easy to use format. The web site is an open invitation to conduct business with the City, get answers to questions on services and programs, or just to visit… a fantastic resource!

If you do not have Internet service at your home, you can visit the City’s web site by using one of the free public access computers at the City library. You can use the address printed above or you can simply type in the words ‘city of lake wales’ into a search engine and the link to the City’s site will pop up.

Let’s explore some of the information and services that are available to everyone on our town’s web site:
  • Commission agenda packets: In the past these packets were done on paper, which involved copying hundreds of pages for each meeting. Now, each Commissioner has been provided a laptop computer, and the agendas are provided on a ‘flash drive’. The agenda is also installed on the City’s web site so that citizens can view the same information that Commissioners receive for each meeting.

  • Utility bill payment/account information: You can pay your City utility bill on-line, or check your utility account.

  • Lifeline program: The City Commission approved this program to help our residents with low incomes pay their water and sewer bills. Customers approved for this program receive a credit on their monthly bills in the amount of the base charge for water and sewer. The Lifeline Application Packet is available on-line.

  • Limited income senior exemption: The City Commission approved this program, as described in state law, for City residents. Homeowners who qualify for the regular homestead exemption are eligible for up to $25,000 additional exemption from City ad valorum taxes if they are 65 years of age or older and if they have a total household adjusted gross income that does not exceed the limit set by the state during the previous tax year.

  • Do you wish to do business with the City? All City bid invitations, requests for proposals, and requests for qualifications are provided.

  • Check a City calendar: There are calendars of City events posted.

  • Do you wish to work for the City? Current job openings are listed.

  • Would you like to take an active role in City government? Information about all of our citizen boards and committees is available on the web site with a printable application for appointment.

  • Report a pothole, streetlight out, or code enforcement violation: Forms are available on-line for reporting directly to the department head responsible for resolving the problem.

  • Information on items being considered by the City Commission, and current City projects: For example, the historic preservation ordinance and the designation of a section of downtown as the City’s first historic district (under the ordinance) are posted.

  • Information on the City’s financial status: Preliminary current fiscal year financial statements, the budget, and prior year audits are available.

  • Contacts: you can e-mail a City Commissioner or the City Manager.
This site is the work of Assistant City Manager Judy Delmar. It is well worth your time to check it out!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Believe in the Future

The other day I read about a man who was unhappy with his salary. At the time he was making $25,000 a year, and he decided he wanted to make $100,000. He did not know how he was going to do this, but he decided to make this his goal and really focus on achieving it.

The first thing he did was to write a short paragraph stating that making $100,000 a year was his goal, and to copy this paragraph down on index cards that he distributed around his house and workplace. He would read this paragraph several times to himself each day. He even prepared a mock check for $100,000 that he made out to himself, and taped it to the ceiling in the bedroom, so that at both the beginning and end of everyday he would see the check, which would remind him to read his paragraph. (His wife observed this behavior with a mixture of support and silent wonder.)

Can you guess the end of this story? Within two years he did not make $100,000 a year – but he did make $92,000, by writing a book. In reflecting on his experience, what he found most interesting was that his paragraph did not seem to work at first – it did not generate any ideas for making $100,000. He then revised it so that it read as if he had already achieved his goal – that he was enjoying his new salary of $100,000 and all the things it could purchase for him and his wife. He felt that by convincing himself and believing that he had already achieved his goal, it inspired him. He started to get ideas for ways to actually achieve his goal – which, by the way, took a tremendous amount of creativity and hard work. But the belief came first; then ideas; then implementation. Then came his new salary.

He goes on to comment that we all have built in inhibitors – people and experiences that sub-consciously tell us that our goal is impossible for us to achieve. He cites that many lottery winners go through their new found wealth very quickly, because sub-consciously they are uncomfortable with their new standard of living and wish to return to their former standards. By imagining that you have already achieved your goal, these inhibitors evaporate and enable you to move forward.

After reading this, it occurred to me that this scenario also applies to the Lake Wales community. There are some individuals who criticize and find fault, more often than not using faulty information; and there are some who see a goal for our town and work for it – the ”true believers”, working for “our best future”.
In recent memory, there have been a number of important accomplishments - including the sale of the hospital, the adoption of the new land development code, the charter school system, and now the planning for downtown - that indicate that we are beginning to believe that we have already achieved the goals we seek. If we believe, the ideas will come… and generate the excitement, which fuels the hard work to get there.

The City Commission has adopted a strategic plan, which lays out goals for our town expressed in six foundation statements. These goals that can be viewed on the city's website. I recommend that we review these goals and believe – despite the naysayers, the budget crunches, and the “we’ve never done that before” syndrome - believe that we are already enjoying their fruition. The next steps for us to take will then appear – just as they did for the man who didn’t like his salary.

The future belongs to us. We need to believe it.