AVON PARK — After beautification efforts of the Mile-long Mall stalled a couple of years ago with mostly discussion, the City of Avon Park will be looking at ways to fund and maintain a new effort to spruce up the downtown.
At a recent City Council meeting, Councilman Stanley Spurlock said he spoke with City Manager David Flowers and they both agree that Avon Park has a caladium factory in the city that could add some color to the Main Street Mall with some different varieties of caladiums.
Mayor Garrett Anderson said the question is what money the city has to allocate for beautification?
Flowers said the city has a little less than $3,000 in the general budget for that. Community Redevelopment Agency dollars could be used, but City Attorney Gerald Buhr has stated that CRA funds should be used primarily for bricks and mortar projects.
Buhr said beautification projects are peripheral and supportable as long as there is a positive impact on the bricks and mortar.
Beautification of The Mall is in the CRA plan so there should be no problem with it as long as it is not the primary expense, he said.
Flowers said many of the things he would like to get done on The Mall would require funding from the new budget with whatever revenue the city has to work with on that.
“We have cut so many employees, we just don’t have the people that we need to take care of those thing,” he said. “I would venture to say that irrigation system hasn’t been checked in years and I know there are some issues with it.
“I know that we have dead grass; I know we have got to replace some of that. We have got some trees that are in desperate need of some help there. All of these things are going to require some ongoing funding, be it from CRA or general fund or whatever,” he said.
He will need additional manpower because he cannot rely on five inmates working three days a week to take care of this and other things, Flowers said. “We have got to get some of our work staff back to where it used to be several years ago and that is going to require revenues to do that.
“I would love The Mall to be able to look like it did 20-30 years ago,” he said.
Buhr added, “The troubling thing about beautification is once you beautify, you have got to keep it beautified.”
Flowers said it is an ongoing maintenance issue, which unfortunately has been neglected.
Deputy Mayor Jim Barnard said about about $14,000 or $17,000 was allocated two years ago from the CRA for beautification. Then it was put on hold so that money should still be there.
At one time the city had a beautification committee, that was associated with the Main Street CRA, with more than a dozen volunteers, he said. It got put on hold due to interruptions from the previous city attorney who talked about the Sunshine Law and scared everybody away.
Councilwoman Maria Sutherland said their is a line item in the Main Street CRA for beautification.
Barnard said they need somebody to develop a professional landscaping plan for The Mall. Many plants need to be removed because there is no rhyme nor reason for what is in there.
Anderson said the first step is to determine how much money the city has to work with and then see if the city can get someone who could oversee the maintenance of The Mall, the city’s green spaces and ballfields.
Also, find out if there are grants that help and if there are local companies willing to donate product and/or services for Mall beautification, he said.