Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioner Greg Seidel met early the morning of November 29 to discuss where they stand on electrical undergrounding, a connectivity plan for city greenspace, traffic management and the possibility of forming an architectural review board.
The meeting was called by Commissioner Seidel, who sought commonality and support from Mayor Leary for more systematic planning on these issues. Seidel expressed his feeling that the City needs more detailed designs against which to measure its progress.
The discussion, which lasted approximately an hour and a half, was often detailed and technical. We have included video of the meeting in its entirety to enable readers to judge for themselves where and when Leary and Seidel were able to find common ground.
UCF, Orlando Phil Present 2017 National Young Composers Challenge
Mark the date: Sunday, November 12, 1:00 to 5:00 pm, in the Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Experience an unforgettable musical afternoon as the University of Central Florida, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Young Composers Challenge (NYCC) join to present the 2017 Composium.
Bring the Family
Professional musicians from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the UCF faculty will perform classical compositions written by six young musicians aged 13 to 18. Dress is casual. Children are welcome. Admission is free. More information is available at http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org.
Part Concert, Part Seminar
The Composium is part concert, part rehearsal, part recording session and part seminar. Winning compositions, chosen from thousands submitted by teen composers from around the world, are rehearsed, discussed and recorded before a live audience.
Founded in 2005, the NYCC is a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to promote the creation of new orchestral music and foster the careers of the next generation of American composers. The purpose of the Composium is to build greater understanding of and support for symphony orchestras and the creation of new orchestral music.
‘You Will Never Again Hear an Orchestra in Quite the Same Way’
“The level of sophistication of these orchestral works is mind-blowing,” said Steve Goldman, Executive Director of the NYCC. “This is a rare chance to witness new orchestral works by America’s top young composers performed for the first time by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.”
“Once you have attended a Composium,” said Goldman, “you will never listen to an orchestra performance in quite the same way again.”
‘Central Florida’s Commitment to Classical Music’
Dean Jeff Moore, of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities, said this event is good for the young composers, but also the Orlando community. “UCF is committed to providing access for people to pursue their passions,” said Moore. “The longtime partnership between UCF, the Orlando Philharmonic and now the NYCC demonstrates Central Florida’s commitment to the past, present, and future of classical music.”
‘Support for Young Composers is Essential to the Future of Music’
“The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to partner with UCF and the National Young Composers Challenge,” said Executive Director Christopher Barton. “This opportunity to support the development of our next generation of composers is both exciting for our audiences and essential to the future of music.”
National Young Composers Challenge is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization supported by grants and in-kind donations from the University of Central Florida, Rollins College, Full Sail University, Timucua Arts Foundation and the Goldman Charitable Foundation. http://www.youngcomposerschallenge.org
A 20,000-square-foot medical office building will occupy a lot once home to bowling lanes on Fairbanks Avenue near U.S. Highway 17/92.
City commissioners accepted an offer to buy the land from ComTech Properties for $3.5 million by a 4-1 vote, Commissioner Carolyn Cooper opposed. The site at 1111 W. Fairbanks Ave. has been coveted by some in Winter Park eager to expand Martin Luther King Park.
The city put the land out for bid in June, less than a year and a half after it bought the 1.63 acres from Rollins College for $2.9 million. The college had bought the bowling lanes site in 2013 for $2.85 million as part of a planned athletic field, but sold it to the city after it found another location.
The city used community redevelopment — or CRA — funds from its special downtown taxing district to pay for about a third of the purchase price to Rollins. The intent was to create turn lanes from Fairbanks Avenue onto Hwy. 17/92. There also was discussion at the CRA and city commission level about using the parcel to expand MLK Park.
Commissioner Cooper argued Monday the city should delay the sale “for now,” so it can study what effect the new city library will have on storm water drainage in the area. Hurricane Irma raised the need for more land to offset storm water, she said. Commissioner Greg Seidel voiced similar concerns, as did two residents who spoke to delay the sale. This area “was the TV stand-up spot” reporters used to show flooding from Irma, resident Charley Williams said.
Mayor Steve Leary said the agenda item was “never about park space and water,” but about needing space for traffic lanes. Arguments about stormwater were just another tactic to delay the sale, he said, and that could scare away prospective tenants in the office building and jeopardize the bid.
Winter Park’s electric utility and law enforcement emerged as partial winners in Winter Park’s budget debates. The city’s tax rate for 2018 will stay the same.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma and complaints about outages, city commissioners figured out ways to make more money available to the electric utility fund. The biggest chunk — $1 million – will be transferred to the utility this budget year from the city’s water reserves. Another $425,000 would be freed up in the utility’s 2018 contingency funding by moving street-lighting from the utility to the general fund, where it had been in the past.
Not yet known is whether that the additional $1.425 million will speed up the city’s underground wiring or how much work could be accomplished. Although several commissioners said the money was intended to move forward with undergrounding, Mayor Steve Leary said some of the $1 million could go toward other improvements necessitated by the hurricane. City Manager Randy Knight estimated the city’s total storm-related costs at $5.5 million with much of that ultimately covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
“The City has undergrounded just over six miles with the $3.5 million provided for the FY17 fiscal year,” said Clarissa Howard, the city’s communications director Tuesday. “It is extremely difficult to determine how much could be done with additional funds as each project is different and complexity can affect the cost.”
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper voted against the $1 million transfer, saying she preferred such fund-to-fund shifts be done as loans that are paid back. Both Mayor Leary and Commissioner Pete Weldon voted against putting street lighting back in the general fund.
NO BODY CAMERAS FOR POLICE
Police Chief Michael Deal was successful in winning an $862,000 increase in his department’s budget. In earlier budget talks, Mayor Leary had asked the department to cut its request by $200,000, but on Monday commissioners decided to approve the full request. They said they wanted the department to be competitive with other Central Florida departments in hiring new officers.
Commissioners, however, declined to budget the $120,000 Deal had sought for police body cameras. In earlier budget talks, only Mayor Leary had supported that request. Commissioner Weldon didn’t want the cameras to be used to make public safety a “political football,” and Chief Deal said he had seen no complaints of excessive force or racial profiling in the year he has been chief.
On Monday, Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel noted the police department’s healthy budget and said the chief could use the money for body cameras if he saw them as a priority. If the chief “can figure out a way to do it, fine,” she said.
NO TAX RATE INCREASE
Commissioner Weldon was unsuccessful in seeking a cut in the property tax rate to 3.9942 mills. That would have removed a half million dollars from the general fund. One mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.
Weldon argued that the city’s coffers are healthy enough to sustain a lower rate. In addition, he said, the same millage will bring in more revenue because the city’s assessed property values have increased. Commissioners voted 4-1 to keep the rate at 4.0923 mills.
Tropical Storm Maria has now become Hurricane Maria and is battering residents of the Caribbean — even as they are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Too soon to tell if Maria will turn toward Central Florida, but one thing remains certain – the City of Winter Park is still not ready for a major hurricane.
This rotten utility pole at Stovin and Park Avenue fell during Hurricane Irma.
Storm Water Has No Where to Go . . .
Flooding occurs in the same areas of the City it always has – and thanks to continuing development without proper storm water management, it is getting worse. The City knowns about these areas, but continues to take a go-slow approach to addressing them.
. . . Except Into the Roads
Lake Mendsen within Martin Luther King Park – site of the proposed $30 million library-event center — is woefully inadequate to handle existing storm water drainage from the Winter Park Village, the Paseo Apartments and the CNL Heritage Center. Even a heavy afternoon thunder storm will cause flooding on Denning Drive and Harper Street. The construction of the new library, with its associated impervious surfaces, can only make things worse. Other areas of the City that routinely flood include the intersection of Kings Way and Fawsett Road and stretches of Palmer Avenue, where water rises to the curb top after an afternoon downpour.
High Rates Alone Won’t Keep the Lights On
Reliable electric power during major storms is a significant issue. Like many other customers in Winter Park, I was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma.
Let’s Bring Our Infrastructure Into the 21st Century
Winter Park purchased the electric utility from Progress Energy/Florida Power in 2005 with a promise to underground all lines within 10 years. According to the City website, that target completion date has moved out to 2026. Progress is measured in terms of how many miles of line have been undergrounded rather than the number of additional customers served. The current debate is less about how and when to underground and more about how to pay for it. For information about undergrounding in your area, go to https://gispublic.cityofwinterpark.org/ugstatus/
Editor’s Note: The City of Winter Park issued a statement that said undergrounding timeline was 20 years.
Winter Park can do better. There is no reason we should scramble every time there is a major storm. Let’s bring our infrastructure up to date so we can have some peace of mind when the next storm hits.
Peter K. Gottfried is President of Natural Systems Analysts, Inc. which provides technical and scientific support to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Land Management. He served as a City Commissioner and on the Planning and Zoning Board, Lakes and Waterways Board and, currently, on the board of Mead Botanical Garden.
Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, a new company comprised of community leaders, has purchased the assets of Sarasota-based Florida Home Media, LLC, among them the award-winning Winter Park Magazine, which circulates primarily in Winter Park and Maitland. The purchase price was not disclosed.
In addition to Winter Park Magazine, the company publishes ArtsLife, the official magazine of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Florida Homebuyer Orlando, a consumer publication focused on the new-home industry.
“I’m pretty sure that an effort like this is unprecedented in this business,” said long-time editor and publisher Randy Noles, who is a shareholder and CEO of the new company. “People have come to regard Winter Park Magazine as a community asset and were very excited about the opportunity to be involved in this purchase.”
Florida Home Media was originally a spinoff of Sarasota Magazine and Gulfshore Life in Naples, both of which were owned by Dan Denton of Sarasota. Denton recently sold both highly successful magazines to national media companies.
Noles and Denton worked together for 18 years. Noles opened the Orlando division in 2004, and served as a consultant to the magazines in Sarasota and Naples.
“We could have gone the same route in the Orlando market and sought a national buyer,” said Denton, a member of the Florida Magazine Association Hall of Fame. “But given the character of Winter Park Magazine and its standing in the community, we thought it should be owned locally.”
Investors Stand In Line
Noles approached Allan E. Keen, CEO of The Keewin Real Property Company, and Richard J. Walsh, president of Knob Hill Group, requesting help in assembling an investor group to buy the company. Walsh was a co-founder of Winter Park Magazine and published it for three years until it was bought by Florida Home Media in 2012. Keen and Walsh agreed to lend their support and within weeks 44 local investors agreed to get involved.
Editorial Independence Intact
Noles emphasized that the Winter Park Magazine’s editorial independence would not be compromised. He noted the investor group includes people who hold a variety of opinions about local issues, but who are united in their belief that Winter Park is a special place.
“I have no experience in media assets, but my love for Winter Park and the amazing quality of Winter Park Magazine under Randy’s leadership made this an easy decision for Linda and me to invest, and to ask others to join,” said Allan Keen.
Local Ownership Is Key
Walsh added, “This investment not only ensures that a community asset remains under local ownership, but it’s also going to be enjoyable for our shareholders. All of them are proud of their community and view the magazine as the embodiment of that pride.”
In addition to Noles, Keen and Walsh, Theresa Swanson, publisher of Florida Homebuyer Orlando and a leader in the region’s new-home industry, will also be actively involved in the company’s management.
Larry and Joanne Adams; The Albertson Company, Ltd.; Richard O. Baldwin Jr.; Jim and Diana Barnes; Brad Blum; Ken and Ruth Bradley; John Caron; Bruce Douglas; Steve Goldman; Hal George; Michael Gonick; Micky Grindstaff; Marc Hagle; Larry and Jane Hames; Eric and Diane Holm; Garry and Isis Jones; Allan E. and Linda S. Keen; Knob Hill Group (Rick and Trish Walsh, Jim and Beth DeSimone, Chris Schmidt); Mitch Lasky; Drew and Paula Madsen; Kevin and Jacquelin Maddron; Kenneth J. Meister; Jack Myers; Ann Hicks Murrah; Jack Myers; Michael P. O’Donnell; Nicole and Mike OKaty; Bill and Jody Orosz; Martin and Ellen Prague; Serge and Kerri Rivera; Theresa Swanson; Sam Stark; Theresa Swanson; Randall J. Robertson; George Sprinkel; Philip Tiedtke; Roger Thompson; Ed Timberlake; Harold and Libby Ward; Warren “Chip” Weston; Thomas H. Yochum; and Victor and Jackie A. Zollo.