AVON PARK — With the two incumbents, Terry Heston and Dora Smith, being defeated in their re-election bids, the new make up of the Avon Park City Council will likely impact some issues.

Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray may have been the top vote getter in her re-election bid, but she may be in the minority now on some issues having voted along with Heston and Smith on some measures such as changing from a contracted attorney to an on-staff attorney.

Mayor Garrett Anderson and Councilman Jim Barnard, who continue one more year in their terms of office, voted against hiring an on-staff attorney.

The council newcomers are Stanley Spurlock and Maria Sutherland.

Sutherland said Wednesday based on what she sees at the City Council meetings and the comments from City Attorney Glinda Pruitt, Pruitt is performing secretarial/administrative tasks of functions of lower level staff. That is a waste of taxpayer dollars when she was hired to do legal issues, which has only been preparing a couple of ordinances.

“You shouldn’t have the second-highest paid employee in the city performing lower level secretarial functions,” Sutherland said. “That is just looking for work that means she doesn’t have enough legal stuff to do.”

Sutherland and Spurlock believe the three Community Redevelopment Agency advisory boards should be combined, but with keeping the budgets of the three CRA districts separate. They also believe the CRAs should not operate under the City Council, which serves as the CRA Board.

{span}Gray favored keeping the current CRA structure with an advisory board for each of the three CRA districts — Southside, Main Street and Airport. She believes the Southside would be overlooked if the advisory boards were combined.{/span}

{span}Sutherland said Wednesday with the current CRA structure there has always been issues of having meetings without things getting done because there are so many bureaucratic steps. {/span}

“Combining them, more than anything, would allow an autonomous board and that has been my goal for a very long time,” she said. “There are individuals who don’t want to let go of their positions as advisory board members yet they are frustrated that they really don’t have a final say on decisions, they only make recommendations.”

Sutherland recommends one CRA board comprised of seven members: two from each advisory board and one member at large who is either selected by the six CRA members or appointed by the City Council. Sebring’s CRA is a good model, she said.

Gray has said she does not want to change the current CRA structure.

Gray said Wednesday that at the candidates forum both Sutherland and Spurlock said if they were elected they would vote to combine the CRA advisory boards to make one board. “I think they really need to look at that process,” she said.

It would likely be a 4-1 vote in favor of the change with herself casting the sole “no” vote, Gray said.

“They are the majority and I am a majority rule player,” she said.

Concerning the city attorney, there were several comments made in different settings from the candidates that if they were elected they were going to terminate the on-staff city attorney position, Gray said.

“If it came to a vote, I would vote against terminating the in-house attorney for the simple fact that the in-house attorney gives stabilization for the policies and procedures, which is what this council needs,” she said. “We don’t have any guidelines. With an outside contract attorney, they are only going to give us what we ask them to do.

“So how are we ever going to get our policies and procedures in order if we don’t know what to ask for?” Gray said. “It is not so much about the person, it is about the position,” as far as she is concerned.

Spurlock said Wednesday he would support combining the CRA advisory boards for one board that would have the final say on the issues without the oversight of another board, in this case, the City Council.

He believes the city does not need a full-time attorney on staff.

“We need a contracted attorney from time to time,” Spurlock said. “We do need one by the hour, not full time.”


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