LAKE WALES – During his 2019 State of the City address Feb. 27 at Vanguard School, Lake Wales Mayor Eugene Fultz made a handful of newsworthy announcements.
Fultz said that, as a member of the Ridge League of Cities, he has been helping to lobby Citrus Connection and the Polk County Commission to fund an express bus that would loop between Frostproof and Posner Park near Davenport, up and down U.S. 27. Citrus Connection staff say the express bus for U.S. 27 is still in negotiation.
The mayor also verified that a massive upgrade to the intersection of S.R. 60 and U.S. 27 has been fully funded, and that construction may start soon.
The mayor highlighted several other topics during his speech, also.
A runway at Lake Wales Airport was recently completed and work on a taxiway is currently underway. Fultz said he is hoping the changes will bring more air traffic to the city.
Downtown Lake Wales will soon be getting a facelift thanks to Lake Wales Main Street Executive Director Karen Thompson, who recently helped the city strike a deal to hire an urban planner to bring more foot traffic to the downtown district. That, along with a series of new trails, may help the city look much different in the coming years.
Once complete, the new trails will link the downtown area to Lake Wailes Park and the Lincoln Avenue business district, in the northwest portion of town. Basketball, pickleball, a splash pad, an amphitheater and a pro shop will be built around Crystal Lake, which is in between the downtown area and Lake Wailes Park.
Thompson also helped the city initiate a $50,000 grant as an incentive to bring a new restaurant downtown. The mayor said a winner will be announced soon. The mayor also took pride in the opening of the ALDI supermarket and Wawa convenience store and gas station near the Eagle Ridge Mall, as well as construction of the new Love’s Truck Stop and Dyer Kia on U.S. 27.
The 2018 opening of the Lake Wales Medical Center Wound Treatment Center was also highlighted in the mayor’s speech. The city will be purchasing the YMCA soon, meaning the city will soon own a pool for residents to enjoy.
Every third Friday of the month, music will be played at the Tina Peak gazebo near the library. The food truck rally events and movies on Lake Wailes will continue to provide other recreational opportunities.
Students attending Warner University who volunteer for Warner Cares Day have done a particularly good job cleaning up parts of the city over the past few years, and the mayor said Lake Wales looks cleaner than it has in years.
Hurricane Irma repairs are now complete. The Lake Wales Fire Department responded to 2,939 calls, averagbe ing a 4.6 minute response time. The Lake Wales Police Department just purchased two new Harley-Davidson motorcycles to help with traffic calls and more than 14,000 area residents visited the library.
The Lake Wales Museum reopened the caboose after a few years of reconstruction and hosted seven exhibits and five speakers in 2018. New stormwater assessment fees will be used to clean Lake Wailes and pave some city streets.
The mayor said last year the city commission was worried that an amendment proposal to the Florida Constitution on Homestead Exemption would be passed. Had it passed it, would have meant less income for the commission to work with annually. As such the commission did not “roll back” to 2017 property tax rates last year.
Since that amendment did not pass, the commission instructed city staff to put the extra money in reserves. Those reserves are the healthiest in 10 years, the mayor said. This September the mayor said the commission would likely “roll back” property taxes again.
The city election is April 2. The mayor and Curtis Gibson’s seat are up for grabs. Voters will also decide whether to change commission terms from two to three years.
For now, though, it was an encouraging situation that the mayor conveyed to his constituents.
“I’m proud to report that the city of Lake Wales is in great shape, as we continue to grow in a healthy and responsible manner,” Fultz said.
Contact Charles A. Baker III at firstname.lastname@example.org.