After standing on the corner of Washington Boulevard and County Road 621 in February 2018, attempting to inform all my neighbors in Highlands Park Estates of the Highlands County board of commissioners trying to force a $300,000 clubhouse be built, and paid for out of our Highlands Park Estates Special Benefit Taxing District, they approved a minimum bid of $400,000 to a local contractor. The final cost of the building was over $508,000. This amount caused our SBD to be overdrawn by an eight-year interfund loan of almost $200,000.

All monies were paid for by all homeowners in HPE, through our SBTD, which we all pay on our real estate tax bills annually. No money from the Highlands County general fund was used to buy the property from the former, bankrupt owner in 2003, nor for the demo and construction of the "Taj Mahal" that now sits where the old, unused and vandalized building used to sit.

As a former county employee from Florida, I am very educated on county offices, procedures, property ownership, deeds, plats, statutes and legal proceedings. I attempted to stop the construction of the new clubhouse.

Fast forward two years, we now had our second vandalism in under nine months. That's right, the county forced the old building to be demolished and a new one be built, all at the request of about 20 people in HPE, who rarely used the old clubhouse from the months of April until November.

Not to mention that our subdivision is charged over $1,000 per month, for operating expenses, now that the almost 2,500-square-foot building has two air conditioners, acoustic ceiling tiles, top-of-the-line appliances, motion sensor lights indoors and outdoors, and the open checkbook by the county staff for incidentals that keep growing.

The county staff know me very well, as I attend as many public meetings as I can, to learn, be informed, and share my knowledge with anyone that cares about their county and community.

Please, either do your part by using our clubhouse for family gatherings, birthdays, reunions, etc., or just sit in the park and look at our beautiful Lake Istokpoga. The more people that are seen around the building and park, the less the vandals will try to be bad.

Remember being taught: “If you see something suspicious, report it.” Be aware of your surroundings and care about your neighbors and your neighborhood.

Beth Degnan

Highlands Park Estates Homeowner

Lake Placid