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News
AP Council set finalize city manager list

AVON PARK — More names are in the running to be the next City Manager of Avon Park with the council member’s selection added to the list previously provided by Citizens Selection Committee.

At the City Council’s regular meeting at 6 p.m., today, Council will set a date for a special meeting to interview the city manager finalists.

In the council meeting’s agenda, the city manager candidate list with the Council’s additions shows the following names with a number of votes:

• Lyndon Bonner — 7.

• Timothy Day — 6.

• Mark Schrader — 5.

• Michael Brillhart — 5.

• Jeff Orris — 4.

• Phyllis Grover — 4.

• Robert Ratliff — 1

Schrader, who retired in 2017 from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office as chief deputy, and Ratliff are the additions to the list of candidates to be considered.

Councilman Jim Barnard said the updated list has two members who weren’t in the top five until the council members put their votes in.

“The top five list in my opinion was a great list and I thought it was a great job done by the citizens committee,” he said. “Actually three of my top five were in their top five list so I agree with that top five list.”

Barnard believes there may be one council member who has not yet turned in their selections for the city manager candidates list.

Barnard said doesn’t remember seeing Robert Ratliff among the list of applicants.

“I just saw that this morning that that name was added by one of the city council members” he said. “I can’t recall if that was in the top 34 list, but if it is, with just one vote, I don’t think it will go very far.”

The five city manager applicants who were previously picked by the citizen selection committee are:

• Bonner, who was the county administrator in Marianna through March 2018.

• Brillhart, who is a consultant for Royal Palm Beach and previously was the county administrator in Camden, North Carolina.

• Day, who was last employment as town manager of Melbourne Beach through August 2017.

• Grover, who is the director of planning and community development in Aberdeen, Maryland.

• Orris, who is the executive director of the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency.

Tonight’s agenda also includes a list of the city’s Hurricane Irma damage expenses for the Brickell Building, which totals $117,329 including $103,400 for the roof replaced in November 2017.

Council wanted to know how much money has been spent on the building as it looks to sell the two-story structure that is on Main Street.

Interim City Manager Kim Gay seeks approval of a salary range for the position of finance director.

Also on the agenda, Councilwoman Maria Sutherland suggests the City consider having an in-house building official.


News
An Artful Day - Florida Art & Heritage Festival

AVON PARK — Indoors and outdoors it was a great day for artists and art aficionados at the inaugural Florida Art & Heritage Festival Saturday on Museum Avenue in Avon Park.

The Heartland Cultural Alliance (HCA) presented the event that included the artists and their works, vendors, entertainment, juried fine art exhibit of Florida artists and much more on the outside and in the Avon Park Community Center and the Peter Powell Roberts Museum of the Arts.

HCA President Gaylin Thomas said, “We are beyond pleased the quality of the art and crafts that are here today.”

She noted the strong local participation of artists and the public’s support and artists coming from outside the area including both coasts of Florida, Polk County, Gainesville and from as far away as Cleveland, Georgia.

“This is the first festival that the Heartland Cultural Alliance has done in Avon Park,” she said. The City was very supportive and assisted with setup.

Artist Linda Shannon of Monticello, Wisconsin displayed her paintings with many featuring wildlife. She did not come directly from Wisconsin for the event, but did travel far to get to Avon Park.

Shannon explained she was staying with her grandchildren and son and daughter in-law in Brunswick, Georgia so it is still a four-hour drive. She is camping at Highlands Hammock State Park.

The retired nurse, paints watercolor paintings and uses acrylics and epoxy resins for her abstract works.

“Kind of like a fluid art,” she said of the abstracts.

She recently displayed her works at art shows in Savannah, St. Simons Island and Vero Beach and is going to Hobe Sound (near Stuart) this coming weekend.

Shannon said she has been an artist her whole life, but started her business — LS Fine Arts — in 2016.

A couple of young artist had their imaginative works on display.

Sebring High International Baccalaureate and art advanced placement students Francis Espiritu and Mariluz Guzman.

Espiritu’s works include realistic drawings of a singer, himself and dramatic characters that were done with Sharpie markers.

Many stopped by to marvel at his works.

“I am definitely encouraged by my art,” Espiritu said.

Those who have stopped by have been very supportive and have asked about his future plans and are hopeful that he will continue with his art, he said. “I appreciate that.

“I am hoping to go to art school, maybe Ringling [College of Art & Design] and pursue animation. I really want to go into the arts, because it is really enjoyable and I use my creativity.”

Sebring High senior Mariluz Guzman showed the pottery works she created.

She is in the IB visual arts class and the AP three-dimensional design class.

“I do mainly ceramic pieces,” Guzman said. “We have themes and my theme is the anthropocentric effect on the environment. Exploring different things with that like the human impact on different things in nature.”

Guzman plans on going to art school and majoring in ceramics.

Former HCA president Fred Levitt said, for the first event with a title, it is great. The whole street was lined with vendors.


Highlands_news-sun
Florida Legislature going to the dogs (and cats)

SPROWLS

TALLAHASSEE — Sometimes Florida lawmakers fight like cats and dogs. Now they are fighting for cats and dogs.

Lawmakers are entering the third week of their annual 60-day session, and the Senate is taking up an abortion bill that’s been divisive. But lawmakers are also taking up a number of measures that probably won’t get “no” votes and likely won’t get lawmakers in a lather of opposition.

Among them are animal bills. A Senate committee is considering a bill that would make shelter animals and those rescued from shelters the official Florida state pet. That would put adopted cats and dogs alongside the manatee as the official state marine mammal, the alligator as the state reptile, the Florida panther as the state animal and the zebra longwing as the state butterfly.

Another bill being considered would ban the declawing of cats unless it is medically necessary. The legislative staff analysis of the bill says people usually declaw cats to protect furniture and describes why cats should be able to hang on to their claws.

“A cat’s claws play an important role in various aspects of their lives. They use their claws to assist in climbing and maintaining balance, to help them fully stretch, to relieve stress through kneading, and to escape danger,” the analysis reads.

Another animal bill being considered would ban the practice of pet leasing. That’s essentially when a pet dealer gives a customer a loan to pay for their pet, but then repossesses the pet when the loan can’t be repaid.

Another measure that’s not expected to generate vocal opposition: A proposed Senate resolution would reject and condemn white supremacy and any other philosophy that espouses one group over another on the basis of race, gender, religion, color or national origin.

The resolution won’t become law, but rather send a strong message that the Senate doesn’t like hate.

“These philosophies are contradictory to the values, constitutional protections, and moral fiber of the United States of America and the State of Florida,” the resolution reads.

A bill that would force girls under the age of 18 to get a parent’s permission before getting an abortion will be considered by the full Senate on Wednesday. It’s an issue that’s divided Democrats who say it’s an erosion of abortion rights and Republicans who say parents should be part of the decision if their daughters have a medical procedure that could affect them the rest of their lives.

Senators will be able to ask questions about the bill — and Democrats will have a ton of them — but won’t vote on the measure until the following week. The House is also prepared to vote on a similar bill, but will likely wait to receive the Senate version. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the measure.

The full House will take up a bill that would bar insurance companies from using home genetic testing kits in making underwriting decisions. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Chris Sprowls, who is next in line to become House speaker. He calls the measure a matter of privacy.

The bill seeks to outlaw life, disability and long-term care insurers from denying policies or setting premiums based on markers that might be discovered through DNA home kits.

And the Senate is set to pass a bill that would ban local governments from banning sunscreens that contain ingredients that some researchers believe harm coral reefs. Key West is the only place in Florida set to impost a sunscreen ban — an effort to protect reefs that are important to the city’s economy and environment.


Highlands_news-sun
Oak Manor assessment enacted, paving expected soon

SEBRING — The paperwork to establish the assessment on Oak Manor Avenue residents passed the county commission Tuesday, 3-2.

Now that residents have an assessment in place to pay for their half, paving of their road is expected to start soon.

How soon depends on the work schedule for the Road and Bridge Department, according to Road and Bridge Director Kyle Green.

Via text on Friday, he told the Highlands News-sun he doesn’t anticipate starting work for a few months, but would need to check his crews’ schedules in greater detail to give a precise date.

Residents have been working on getting their road paved for a dozen years. The Board of County Commission agreed to have county crews start work right away instead of waiting until the assessment has raised all the necessary funds, in part because of that time period.

However, despite approving this measure on Tuesday, commissioners have made it clear they will not do this for anyone else.

The residents’ difficulties with bureaucracy helped sway commissioners, but not all. Commission Chair Ron Handley and Commissioner Jim Brooks both voted against the finalized assessment, as they had on all other steps in the process, in objection to starting work before collecting residents half of the funds.

Tuesday’s was the final of many votes over the last year to form a municipal services benefit unit (MSBU) to pay for reconstructing and paving almost 1,000 feet of roadway, at a cost of $90,000 total.

The county will front 100% of the cost for paving Oak Manor Avenue, then collect $45,000 from residents over the next 10 years, including principal, interest and administrative fees.

Oak Manor residents asked for a dozen years to have their road paved, and had received assurances along the way that it would get done. However, with no established assessment and residents not able to front the money themselves — not even Peace River Citrus Packing nor its affiliate, Peace River Citrus Investments, which owns the property on the last 200 feet of the road — the county had to work out an arrangement to honor those assurances.