Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The City's Water System

One key to growth and development lies in having good water and sewer systems. Over the past two years, with the appointment of Ray Creel as the City’s Utility Director, major strides have been taken to upgrade our existing systems and to plan for the future. Let’s take a look at the City water system – system basics, how water quality is assured, what is being planned for water supply, and some upcoming projects.
System Basics
The City water system includes an elevated storage tank at the Eagle Ridge Mall and four well plants at the following locations;
  • Downtown on Market Street at Sessoms Ave.

  • South of SR 60, on Marietta Ave. at Grove Ave.

  • Adjacent to the campus of Lake Wales High School, off of Burns Ave.

  • At the airport, on SR 60 West
The City system includes over 112 miles of water mains throughout the City and in some unincorporated areas beyond the city limits. This system is maintained by the 11 dedicated city employees who work both during normal business hours and on “call outs” at all hours of the night and on weekends to ensure that we have water service.
Water Quality
To ensure water quality, the City technicians take water samples monthly from points throughout the system according to the sampling plan approved by the Polk County Health Department. The samples are taken to an independent, certified laboratory for testing. The City water system must comply with strict regulations from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Every year, per state regulations, the City mails a report on water quality to each resident. The most recent report is being mailed this month and is also available for review on the City’s website, www.cityoflakewales.com.
Water Supply
Every day the City water plants pump over 3 million gallons of water from a deep groundwater aquifer called the Floridan aquifer. The amount of water pumped is regulated by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). Recently SWFWMD awarded the City a slight increase in the amount allowed, and the total available is now set at 3,821,000 gallons. The City is seeking to increase this number and is working on a permit modification.
Looking ahead, after 2013 all increases in water use must come from sources other than the aquifer. The cities and Polk County are studying what those sources could be, including the use of surface waters – lake water, and water from Kissimmee River. Any such project will involve great expense to treat the water, as well as to convey it to where it will be used.

In the meantime, the City is following other suggestions from SWFWMD to allow more water supply for growth by encouraging conservation – such as designing a water rate structure that charges more per gallon of water for high users. This rate structure has been put in place.
Another project that SWFWMD has partnered with the City on is the establishment of a re-use system. Re-use water is treated wastewater that is made available for irrigation. The water is not of drinking water quality, but it is safe to use for irrigation. The more that re-use water is used, the less drinking water pumped from the ground will be used for this purpose. Re-use water is now being used for irrigation in the city cemetery, the Longleaf Business Park, and the new sports complex on Hunt Brothers Road. It will soon be available in the Whispering Ridge subdivision, the first residential area to receive re-use. The City Commission has designated that new subdivisions south of SR 60 will have re-use water, and the developer of Whispering Ridge has installed the “purple pipes” to convey this water throughout the subdivision.
Water Projects
The City is working on a number of major water projects, including:
  • New Elevated Water Storage Tank: This tank will be constructed near the intersection of Scenic Highway and Hunt Brothers Road. It will hold 500,000 gallons of water, which is similar to the City’s elevated tank at the Eagle Ridge Mall. Funding is through the CRA bond.

  • Downtown Water Improvements: These improvements will be done in two phases: Phase 1 will bring a new water main out of the Market Street Plant to serve the west end of downtown with better water volume and pressure for fire flow. CRA funds will be used for this project. Phase 2 will serve the east side of downtown, and City staff anticipates that CDBG funding will be sought for this project.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mark Your Calendar. . .

There is an annual family event just around the corner, as well as many recreational opportunities for our young scholars who are off for the summer. Let’s take a look at what is available:

  • City July 5th celebration: yes, this year we will be celebrating July 4th on Saturday, July 5th, at the Lake Wailes park. In addition to fireworks (courtesy of some community-minded business people) in the evening, Parties by Robert will again host the day’s music and activities. In addition there will be crafts, food vendors and pony rides for children.

  • Free Children’s Movies: The City has again paid Eagle Ridge Cinemas to host free children’s movies at the mall theatre every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:00 am. The movies for June 17th and 18th are Mr. Magorium, and Firehouse Dog. For more information and listings go to http://www.regmovies.com/

  • The Lake Wales Care Center “Stay at Home Work Camp”: This long-running camp provides work opportunities for several different age groups throughout the summer. Please call 676-6678 for further information.

  • YMCA – The YMCA pool and other Y facilities are open to non-members for a charge of $5 per day for children and $8 per day for adults. Please call 676-9441 for further information.

  • Ridge Soccer League British Challenger Soccer Camps: From June 23rd to June 27th. Ages 4 to 6 years from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., cost $102. Ages 6 to 16 years from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., cost $117. Camps are held at East Central Park in Dundee on Scenic Highway. Fee includes a t-shirt and a soccer ball. Register on line at http://www.challengersports.com/ or call Robbie Shields at 676-3304.

  • Lake Wales Little League: The All Star Tournament will be from July 7th through July 14th at the little league complex on Lake Shore Blvd. For information call 676-1943.

  • Kirkland Gym: open for basketball and weight-lifting everyday: Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Located at 400 N 3rd St. Call 678-4088 for further information. Free admission.
  • Lake Wales Care Center’s Heat Retreat: Middle and High School students Monday through Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. through August 8th at the Youth Coffee House at 205 Park Ave. Free admission. Call 676-6678 for details.

  • Lake Wales Care Center’s Youth Coffee House: Activities every Friday from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for high school students. Activities include music performed by local bands, billiards, board games and video games. Free admission.

  • Lake Wales Care Center’s College Fellowship Night: every Wednesday night through July 30th from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the Youth Coffee House. Free admission.

  • Lake Wales Arts Center Camps: from July 7th through August 1st, each two week camp for $25.00, for students 6 to 12 years of age. Classes include Theatre Camp, Clay Creations, Collage, Wood Sculpture, Modern Dance Camp, Medieval Stained Glass, World Dance Camp, Optical Art, Flower Jungle Painting, 3-D Mask Making, Clay Creations, Wood Sculpture, Bookmaking, and Greek Pottery. There are a few openings available for the session starting June 16th and running through June 27th. Call the Lake Wales Arts Center at 676-8426 for information.

  • Lake Wales Arts Center’s “Artrageous”: a hands-on exhibit running until August 8th at the Lake Wales Arts Center, 1099 SR 60. Free admission.

  • Lake Wales Library: Every Monday is craft day, and special activities are held every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Story times are scheduled throughout the week, and every Saturday at 11:30 is Chess for Kids. Please call 678-4004 for further information.

  • Tuesday, June 24, two meetings:
  • The City Planning and Zoning Board will hold a public workshop on Tuesday, June 24 at 6 pm to begin the process of updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The meeting will be held at City Hall; and The City Recreation Advisory Committee will host a Recreation Summit at the Boys and Girls’ Club, corner of Seminole and 4th St, at 6pm.

  • Thursday, June 26, Budget Workshop and preliminary discussion of the fire assessment fee proposal: 5:30 pm, Lake Wales Arts Center, corner of SR 60 & 11th St.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two Important Meetings

Everyone is cordially invited to two significant City meetings coming up this month:
  • The City Commission’s first budget workshop for the preparation of the Fiscal Year 2008-2009 City budget; and

  • The City’s third Recreation Summit, hosted by the City Recreation Advisory Board.
Budget Workshop
All cities in Florida operate on a fiscal year that begins on October 1 and ends September 30. The City staff prepares the draft City budget every year and usually submits it to the City Commission in early August. The City Commission then conducts one or more special meetings to consider the draft budget and then adopts the final millage rate and budget at the regular City Commission meetings in September.

This year will be different in many ways. The City Commission has set the first budget workshop as follows:
  • DATE: Thursday, June 26, 2008

  • TIME: 6:00 P.M.

  • PLACE: The Lake Wales Arts Center, NW corner of SR 60 and 11th St.
The City Commission wanted to get a head start in the budget process, as the preparation of next year’s budget promises to be very difficult. At a time when the City needs to build cash reserves in the General Fund, fuel and materials prices are sending operational costs into the stratosphere. In addition, the legislature has passed two tax reform measures in two years. The second wave was voted in last November, which will shrink our town’s tax base.

Preliminary figures from the county Property Appraiser’s Office indicate that if our tax rate remains the same, the City will have about $140,000 less in tax revenue than last year to provide services. Coming on the heels of a very minimal increase in last year’s tax revenue due to the first wave of tax reform, preparing this budget will be a real challenge.

Some of the areas already cut back include:
  • The current year budget did not provide the normal replacement of some police vehicles;

  • One police patrol officer position was eliminated;

  • For the first time in many years the City switched from a partially self-insured health insurance plan to a plan offered by a health insurance provider, which reduced benefits;

  • A reduction in funds for the Depot Museum.
The City staff will make recommendations on where additional reductions will need to be made.
Recreation Summit
The City’s Recreation Advisory Board will hold its third “Recreation Summit” as follows:
  • DATE: Tuesday, June 24, 2008

  • TIME: 6:00 P.M.

  • PLACE: The Boys and Girls Club, located at the corner of Seminole Ave and Fourth St in the old elementary school. Seminole Ave crosses Scenic Highway less than one mile from downtown. Turn east off of Scenic Highway and go two blocks and the Boys and Girls Club is on the left.
The purpose of the Recreation Summit is to review the recreational opportunities available in our town and determine if there is an interest in offering new programs. At the last Recreation Summit one of the topics discussed was a need to provide an adult softball league. Mr. Ken Duel stepped forward and the adult league plays at Frazier Field in the Northwest Sports Complex off of Florida Ave.

It is hoped that this year there will be interest in expanding the programs available, perhaps in the areas of tennis and volleyball. The City has tennis courts available and the Kirkland Gym is equipped for volleyball courts.

This is also a great opportunity to visit one of the City’s newest recreational locations! The Boys and Girls Club has a no cost lease for this City owned building in the Hardman Recreation Complex. The building was re-habilitated to historic preservation standards with grant funding from the state, which was matched by the Boys and Girls Club.

Again, everyone is cordially invited to attend these significant meetings! If you have any questions please call Jacquie Hawkins at 678-4182 extension 225.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Citizen Boards & Committees

The regular City Commission meetings are normally held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6:00 pm in the Commission Chambers at City Hall. Some of the items that come before the City Commission for a decision are first reviewed at one of the City’s many advisory boards and committees. For these items the board or committee makes a recommendation to the Commission on what action to take.

All of the meetings of the City’s advisory boards and committees are open, public meetings, and everyone is cordially invited to attend. Some of the meetings are also televised on Comcast channel 5. Each meeting has an agenda, and minutes are taken to keep a record of decisions that are made.

Some of the boards and committees have authority that is separate from the City Commission. For example, the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Appeals hears requests for variances from the zoning code. A typical variance request is to allow a homeowner to build a screen room onto the back of his or her home that extends into the “setback” area of the lot (where no structures are allowed). A final decision is made on variances by this board - variances do not go to the City Commission.

The City Commission appoints the members of the boards and committees. Some of the member seats have specific requirements, such as categories of membership; and most seats require city residency, while some do not. Application forms for appointment are available at the City Clerk’s office in City Hall, and on the City’s website. The completed application form must be submitted to the City Clerk’s office with an original signature.

Let’s look at when and where each of these important boards and committees meet:
  • Airport Authority: meets monthly on the first Monday at 5:30 pm in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall;

  • Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee: meets monthly on the first Thursday at 5:30 pm at City Hall;

  • Board of Zoning Adjustment and Appeals: meets monthly on the third Thursday at 9 am in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall;

  • Code Enforcement Board: meets monthly on the second Monday at 5:00 pm at City Hall;

  • Depot Advisory Commission: meets monthly on the last Monday at 12:30 pm at the Depot Museum;

  • Drug & Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement Board: this Board does not have a regularly scheduled meeting but meets as needed at City Hall;

  • Historic Preservation Board: This Board does not have a regularly scheduled meeting but meets as needed at the Depot Museum;

  • Historic District Regulatory Board: This board was recently created by the City Commission. Applications for appointment are now being taken;

  • Housing Authority: While this is not a City advisory board, the City Commission appoints the board. The Housing Authority meets monthly on the third Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the Housing Authority office in the Grove Manor complex on Sessoms Ave near First Street;

  • Lakes Advisory Commission: meets monthly on the second Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall;

  • Library Board: meets monthly on the first Thursday at 11 am in the Library;

  • Parks & Community Appearance Board: meets monthly on the fourth Monday at 5:30 pm in City Hall;

  • Planning and Zoning Board: meets monthly on the fourth Tuesday at 5 pm in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall. This board also meets monthly on the second Wednesday at 5:00 pm at City Hall to review the agenda for the upcoming regular meeting;

  • Recreation Commission: meets monthly on the third Monday at noon in the City Manager’s Conference Room at City Hall;

  • Police Officers’ Retirement Board: meetings are arranged quarterly at the Fire Station;

  • Firefighters’ Retirement Board: meetings are arranged quarterly at the Fire Station;

  • General Employees’ Retirement Board: meets on the third Wednesday in the months of January, April, July, and October at 8:30 am at City Hall.