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Get ready for Parkway Phase 2

SEBRING — If you didn’t notice the work already starting on Phase 2 of the Sebring Parkway, you soon will.

It will take a while to complete. The contract to do the work runs into 2023, although County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. has said he doesn’t think the contractor will need that long.

Crews will widen the road to four lanes south from Youth Care Lane to U.S. 27, improve intersections at U.S. 27 and DeSoto Road, install drainage improvements and relocate utilities and power lines.

Also, this final phase of Sebring Parkway will have its own roundabout, the third in the parkway system and the ninth in the county, including the Circle in downtown Sebring, two on Sun ‘N Lake Boulevard in Sebring and Park Drive around Devane Park in Lake Placid.

Work has begun to reroute utilities in the area and clear the right of way on the east side to build the road base.

County Administrator Randy Vosburg has told county commissioners that all those involved — which includes Bergeron Land Development Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Highlands County Road and Bridge Department and the City of Sebring — must work out a traffic rerouting plan.

Work will start at and around the Parkway intersection at DeSoto Road, which routes traffic from Highlands Regional Medical Center, Fred Wild Elementary School and local businesses and medical practices.

At times, the intersection may have to close, but Vosburg has indicated in statements to commissioners that a plan will be in place to ensure smooth traffic flow through and around that point.

Howerton has also confirmed Vosburg’s statement that work will start on utility relocation, reconfiguration of the hospital parking and access driveways, retention ponds around the hospital and “non-DOT funded items.”

The Florida Department of Transportation is a partner on the project, which will include improvements to the U.S. 27 intersection.

In the meantime, however, motorists who use the area will want to stay alert to lane closures and detours.

Motorists also may want to explore alternative routes during the construction.

One the DeSoto intersection is done, Phase 2B will start, to include improvements to the intersection with U.S. 27 and culminating in a new roundabout at the northwest corner of the Highlands Regional Medical Center campus.

J.D. Langford, assistant county engineer and project manager for Sebring Parkway Phases 2A/2B, said that the latest traffic volume on Sebring Parkway, from U.S. 27 to DeSoto Road, is approximately 7,000 average daily trips. The 20-year projected traffic volume for that same short stretch of road is an estimate of 20,000 average daily trips, Langford said.

The Engineering Department’s signal consultant for the U.S. 27/Parkway intersection has worked with FDOT to work out the signal green time for Parkway traffic so it won’t back up to the roundabout, he said. In order for the roundabout to work, it must remain a free-flowing intersection.

Langford also said that by doubling the number of travel lanes — currently it’s a two-lane road — there should be enough capacity to keep that traffic flowing.

The number of spokes at local roundabouts varied from three, like the one at Lake June Park or at the south end of Panther Parkway; four, like those on Sun ‘N Lake Boulevard or Memorial Drive; six, like The Circle in downtown Sebring, or several, like Park Drive around Devane Park. It has four connecting streets and five driveways.

The one planned for Parkway Phase 2 will have three main spokes with physicians’ office driveways just beyond the roundabout on the south side.

Like other roundabouts in the county, drivers from all directions must stop on the edge of the roundabout. Whether entering the roundabout or the roadway, yield to traffic already there. Motorists entering the roundabout then proceed with caution to their right, using the outside lane to exit the roundabout and the inside lane to circle it.

Those turning onto the Parkway from a driveway near the roundabout will want to yield to that traffic, too, entering the roadway when no one is likely to come their way.

Drivers would also need to use caution on the finished road, as there will be left-turn lanes in the medians beyond the roundabout, on both sides. This will include a median cut-through for motorists pulling out of Medical Way to turn left and head north.

Tropical Storm Eta heads to Gulf

SEBRING — A former major hurricane, now a tropical storm, Eta is the one that just won’t die. After devastating Central America, Eta crossed Cuba and made landfall in South Florida on Sunday causing flooding.

Eta is on the move again. This time, it is headed west, away from the west coast of Florida.

Most of Florida will get a pause until about Wednesday when Eta’s impacts will be felt once more, according to Meteorologist Keily Delerme with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She said there will be increased rain showers and breezy on Wednesday and Thursday.

As of Monday morning, Delerme said the storm was moving westward at 15 mph and was forecast to linger in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf waters are still warm enough to cause some intensification. There is a chance Eta could turn into a minimal hurricane.

Unfortunately, there is a chance Eta could make landfall again in Florida but Delerme said the forecast is uncertain after Thursday. Where Eta makes landfall and the impacts to the west coast will depend on its path. Tampa and the Panhandle are potential targets.

The good news for Highlands is that showers and winds should be the only effects felt in the county. All tropical storm warnings have been canceled for now, except in the Dry Tortugas, in the Keys. Delerme said to keep an eye on the skies and an umbrella handy.

The Highlands County Emergency Operations Center is at a Level II and is monitoring the weather with experts. Sandbags and sand are available but unstaffed. Bring your own shovel and muscle. Bags are limited to 10 each. When picking up the empty sand bags, stay in your vehicle and they will be brought out to you.

Sandbags are available at:

- Sebring: Road and Bridge office at 4344 George Blvd.

- Avon Park: Road and Bridge office on East Winthrop Street

- Lake Placid: Road and Bridge office on County Road 621

Sand for sandbags is available at:

- Sebring: South George Boulevard just north of the Emergency Operations Center

- Avon Park: Intersection of County Road 17 East, Old Bombing Range Road and Isabelle Lake Road

- Lake Placid: Intersection of County Road 619, County Road 621 and Highlands Lake Drive.

Veterans Day parade to be held in Avon Park
  • Updated

AVON PARK — This year’s Veterans Day will feature a parade in Avon Park and several ceremonies across the county. On Veterans Day, we honor those who have served the United States in times of war and peace — dead or alive — and thank our living veterans for all their sacrifices.

The annual Veterans Day Parade and Observance Ceremony will take place on Main Street Avon Park Wednesday. The parade begins at 10 a.m. with viewers asked to bring their own chairs for viewing and to keep social distance guidelines in mind. The parade is scheduled to begin on Museum Avenue, move east down Main Street, turn at Donaldson Park before coming to an end at the War Dog Memorial in front of the Avon Park Community Center, 300 W. Main St. (in front of the library).

The lead floats of this year’s parade will be 1:25 replicas of the USS Samuel B. Roberts DE-413 and USS Enterprise CV-6, which are currently on display at the Military Sea Services Museum in Sebring.

There will be a Veterans Day Parade Ceremony at noon, or immediately after the parade, at the Avon Park Community Center.

After the ceremony, from 12:30-4 p.m., will be “You Served Us, Now We Serve You” where veterans will be served lunch for free and everyone else can eat for $5 per plate. All money collected from the meal will go towards the Michael J. Feeney Veterans of Tomorrow Grant. Lunch will also be served at the Community Center. The parade, ceremony and meal are presented by The Veterans Council of Highlands County and The Battle of the Bands, Inc. For more information, call 863-440-4554.

Scheduled for 11 a.m. the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1097 will have a Veterans Day and flag retirement ceremony at 33565 Grand Prix Drive in Sebring. They will start with a short ceremony explaining what Veterans Day means before going into a Flag Retirement Ceremony. The organization has several barrels of unusable flags that need to be retired.

The AMVETS Post 21 will conduct a flag raising at noon followed by a memorial service for veterans who have passed away since the Post was closed down due to COVID-19 this year. There will also be a luncheon following the memorial service. This event is for AMVETS members only. For more information on the AMVETS event, call the Post at 863-385-0234.

The Lake Placid VFW Post 3880 will serve a Veterans Day Dinner at 1 p.m., until it is gone, for $6 each plate. The menu will consist of pulled pork, baked beans and macaroni salad. Dinner is free for all veterans and first responders, including EMS, fire and police/sheriff. All meals are to-go. For more information, contact the Post at 863-699-5444.

Residents hopeful for future presidency

SEBRING — Americans ran to the polls to cast their votes early and on Election Day to ensure their votes counted. Months of campaigning is finally over and Joe Biden has been named president-elect with Kamala Harris as the vice president-elect.

The country was divided down party lines before the election, and COVID-19 concerns did nothing to quell anxieties. A week after the elections and local residents seem prepared to move forward, no matter who they voted for.

Chad DuBose of Sebring said there were many challenges that voters and candidates faced in 2020 but they overcame them.

“First, I would have to say that I’m impressed with the campaigns of both candidates,” DuBose said. “They both had the misfortune of the devastating events 2020 brought into everyone’s lives that surely weighed heavily upon voters’ choices. I think the events of the year may have caused what I would describe as a large number of ‘panic votes.’ However, this was our American procedure operating under terribly difficult conditions, and the winner of an emotional race was finally declared victor.”

Sharon Pearson, a registered Republican and an elementary school teacher for 26 years, said she voted for Trump, “but I think his mouth is what got him in trouble.

“I think he needs to be in timeout,” Pearson joked.

Pearson went on to say that she thought Trump has been “very, very good for the country, economically.”

She also said that while it’s right to have a recount of the votes, she doesn’t think any of them were miscounted nor that the election was “rigged” in any way.

“I think the people have spoken,” Pearson said. “I’m disappointed. I also believe in total respect for the people in charge.”

She also thought Trump didn’t do that, including such comments as “Rocket Man” for the leader of North Korea.

“You don’t do that,” Pearson said.

Adam Martin proudly calls himself a patriot and served this country in the military. Martin was pleased to see people waving the American flags and being in love with the country again, or perhaps for the first time.

“Patriotism should not revolve around one person,” Martin said.

“The American process worked,” he said. “Presidents come and presidents go but from a patriotic standpoint, it shouldn’t matter.”

He said he it was about time a woman was a vice president and potentially a president.

“I may disagree with some of their policies, but that’s the beauty of America. I believe in the American people. In four years, if something is not working, they will rally to change it.”

Martin is hoping to see some politicians reach out across the aisle.

“It will be an interesting four years,” he said.

“I think now is the time for us to move forward,” said Chantel Gilmore of Sebring. “The decision has been made and the people have spoken.”

What needs to happen now, she said, is for each person to do their part for the betterment of all people.

Gilmore said she was not worried about the outcome of the election, but the sense of relief is not there yet.

“I’m worried about what’s coming after,” Gilmore said. “I feel the tension is high. Change is at hand, and sometimes people don’t do well with change.”

The results are not being embraced by everyone, she said, and until they are, it will be hard to move forward.

“I believe it will be better. It will take a while to get there,” Gilmore said. “We will get there together.”

Meanwhile, Gilmore said she is praying not only for all national leaders, but also all local ones, Republican or Democrat.

Thanksgiving edition

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Highlands News-Sun will be printed on Thanksgiving Day.

We hope your Thanksgiving is a peaceful and wonderful time with family and friends.