During budget discussions Wednesday, the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors decided that ITID could pursue both the delayed expansion of Acreage Community Park, which had been put on hold in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac, and improvement to its drainage system in Fiscal Year 2014.
Supervisor Gary Dunkley was the sole dissenter, who asked, “What good is a community center if you don’t have a home?”
ITID Administrator Tanya Quickel pointed out that the top priority in 2013 had been roads, with almost half the $12 million budget going for road maintenance and improvements. The second priority was the Acreage Community Park south expansion.
“Welcome to The Acreage” signage was also a priority, she said, pointing out that design and cost estimates have been prepared and are currently being reviewed for permit requirements.
Priority was also given to lowering assessments, if possible, while continuing to maintain the current level of service.
The 2013 budget assessments were the lowest since 2007, about 2.5 percent lower than 2012, and 20 percent lower than the average 2007 assessment, Quickel said.
“The budget focus areas for 2014 that we’re aware of, we feel that drainage is the top focus,” she said, pointing out that a workshop has been set for April 15 to discuss a comprehensive drainage plan. “We’ve advertised and are receiving comments from the public. We also believe South Florida Water Management District will be coming to give an update on the new Corbett levee design.”
ITID staff members are also focusing on canal improvements, and ITID Director of Maintenance & Operations Mike Guinaugh and ITID Engineer Keith Jackson are assessing the system for bank clearing and dredging.
The district is continuing the upgrading of the system with telemetry of existing structures as part of its comprehensive drainage plan. Quickel noted that the board voted to stop the outsourcing of mowing rights of way, details of which will be included in the new budget.
Quickel also submitted a list of proposed road paving projects, some of which were from residents and others suggested by board members. Park improvements as well as the replacement of two graders will be included in the five-year capital plan, she added.
Supervisor Michelle Damone said paving projects should include the link on 110th Avenue North between Sunset Blvd. and 60th Street North in the area where the county plans to connect the State Road 7 extension. “If we don’t plan for it now, it’s going to come back later in a different manner,” she said.
During public comment, resident Patricia Curry said she felt money allocated for the planned community center at Acreage Community Park should be reallocated to other uses, including a comprehensive drainage plan.
“You are a water control district,” she said. “You need to focus on drainage issues instead of parks. As for paving, I don’t want any more roads paved.”
Resident Molly Harding with the Acreage Athletic League said she wanted the community center put back in the budget. “I’m coming to you as a mother,” she said. “A community center is something the children out here really need.”
Harding explained that her older girls are athletes, and one trains for indoor volleyball in Deerfield Beach because there are no programs available locally, and her youngest daughter is studying drama. “You don’t have those opportunities in The Acreage,” she said.
Harding added that her in-laws are coming to live with them in a few years, and they will need senior programs to keep them active. “I understand about drainage, but I would rather be flooded once every 10 years and have a community center,” she said.
Supervisor Carol Jacobs said she came on the board with a goal for Acreage Community Park to be finished.
“We live in a community where a lot of people have children,” she said. “They moved out here to have a lot of space and keep their kids out of crime and drugs, and we need to finish that park right now. We have utility money that’s sitting there. We already voted on a community center. I wanted the park expansion first, but we voted on the community center. We need to move ahead because if we hadn’t stopped it, it would be almost done now.”
Jacobs also pointed out that the district had already hired architects and contractors for the project and had already spent about $400,000. “To let that go would be a waste of money,” she said. “We’re getting $1.7 in FEMA money that can all be put toward drainage, and we do need to work on drainage.”
Further, Jacobs said that a community center would help boost property values in The Acreage. “We were elected by the people to make the decisions out here,” she said. “I listen to the residents, but I listen to all of them. I think we need to continue forward, and this board needs to get back on track with getting along, and we need to get some stuff done, because in the last four months, we’ve been kind of like standing here doing nothing.”
Supervisor Ralph Bair agreed with the park improvements, both for the community center and other amenities. “I believe we have enough money to do the community center and the rest of the park,” Bair said. “I don’t want it to be piecemealed.”
Bair also favored an aggressive canal clearing program and replacing equipment, possibly buying another heavy roller and grader rather than two graders.
Dunkley said he liked the idea of a community center and the park expansion, but felt their priority should be as a water control district, with emphasis on clearing canals and developing a drainage plan that would avert another Isaac-style flood. “We have to be realistic about the future and get back to primary thinking that we are a water control district,” he said. “I think we as a board have to look at our future, especially with unsure economic times.
But Damone noted that in the mid-1990s, ITID was upgraded from a water control district to an improvement district, with expanded powers and responsibilities to include roads and recreation. “We do have an obligation to all of those responsibilities,” she said.