Johnson honored by LaBelle City Commission

John J. Watkins asks the board to rezone the land from Miller to Suwanee Avenue to commercial at the May 11 City Commission Meeting. (Submitted photo Megan Nicole Narehood)

Consent Agenda
Mayor David Lyons proposed that May be declared Community Action Month to honor the hard work and dedication of the community action agencies in LaBelle.

The City of LaBelle honored Rayfield Johnson a lifelong resident of the city of LaBelle. Johnson passed away in April. The city presented a proclamation honoring him to his good friend and neighbor Nora Ned. The city recognized Johnson’s service as President of the Sunset Park Community Association and a member of the Citizens of LaBelle Advisory Task Force.

“The city of LaBelle and the city commission hereby express our gratitude and appreciation for the dedicated time and service of Rayfield Johnson in recognition of his achievements toward the betterment of the entire community,” said Mayor Dave Lyons.

Public Hearings, Resolutions, Ordinances, and Citizens Concerns
The American Legion Post One in Paris, France asked Linda Corbitt to go to their post for their 98th Anniversary. Founded in 1919, the American Legion Post One in Paris honors American soldiers who died during the first and second World Wars. The City Commissioners passed a motion 5-0 to pay for an acrylic statue of a flame for Corbitt to take to the post as a gift from the city of LaBelle.

“The statue will say thank you for keeping the flame of freedom alive for American soldiers,” said Corbitt.

Nora Ned accepts the proclamation of Rayfield Johnson at the May 11 City Commission Meeting. (Submitted photo/Megan Nicole Narehood)

Linda Corbitt represented the Arts of the Inland and Barron Park House Gallery and sought for the food truck event to continue the first Thursday of every month for the next 6 months. Arts of the Inland corrected the issues the commission addressed at the city commission meeting on April 13 to include a first responder route for fire trucks and ambulances, porta potties, hand washing stations, trash cans, volunteers to pick up trash, and a VIP patrol.

“The patrol will make sure no one parks at the corner of Lee Street and Park Avenue,” said Corbitt, addressing the concerns of one of the residents in the Barron Park area.

“The money raised from the food truck event will go toward building a handicap accessible ramp and picnic tables,” said Corbitt.

Corbitt asked for future food truck events to include alcohol sales to help cover the cost of having the food truck event since the donation from the food truck event is currently not enough to cover the cost of holding the event.

The commissioners passed a food truck event without alcohol sales for six months 5-0.

Keitha Daniels from LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation explained the details of the Fourth of July event to the city commissioners.

“It is going to be more like a downtown sprawl,” said Daniels, “events will be held at Barron Park, Barron Library, and the First Baptist Church.”

The LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation once again asked to include the sales of alcohol at the event.

From left to right commissioner Tommy Smith, commissioner Hilda Zimmerly, Mayor Dave Lyons, commissioner Julie Wilkins, and comissioner Daniel Akin at the May 11 City Commission Meeting. (Submitted photo/Megan Nicole Narehood)

“A portion of the money raised from the alcohol sales will be donated to the city to help pay for the fireworks display,” said Daniels.

Commissioner Julie Wilkins read the incidents involving alcohol in the past six months.

“There were 33 reports of drunk drivers, one drunk pedestrian, 312 accidents, one hit and run, and four marchmen acts,” said Commissioner Wilkins.

“Do we want to get in the business of promoting alcohol at every event,” asked Commissioner Daniel Akin.

The decision to sell alcohol in Barron Park at the fourth of July event Red, White, and Tunes remains in place as it passed at the city commission meeting on April 13.

City Planner Shellie Johnson read proposed ordinance 2017-15 and highlighted issues due to a discrepancy between the land use map and the zoning map for Miller Avenue to Suwanee Avenue, the Sunset Park neighborhood. The land use map showed the land zoned residential, but the zoning map showed the land zoned as commercial. The commission proposed a mixed land use designation for the area. John J. Watkins, owner of some of the land in the area in question, disagreed with the proposal.

“You should fix the problem created years ago,” said Watkins, “A mixed use category is not the thing to do. You are just kicking the can down the road. You will strangle yourselves if you’re aren’t focused on expanding businesses.”

The motion to recommend making the area mixed use passed 4-1.

The Proposal ordinance 2017-09 for voluntary Annexation for O’Reilly Auto Parts passed 4-0. The land in question is at the corner of highway 80 and Fort Denaud Road. Two more ordinances concerning O’Reilly Auto Parts, No.2017-10 and 2017-11, also passed 4-0.

Ordinance 2017-12 to change the property located at 80 Oklahoma Avenue between College Street and Hall Street from residential to city comprehensive plan designated for outlying mixed use passed 4-1.

“I would like to build town homes costing between $165,000 – $200,000,” said Derek Beck, “I want to provide affordable housing to teachers, police, and nursing staff.”

The commission passed ordinance 2017-13 to amend the property located at 90 North Main Street from a public designation to a city designation 5-0. They also passed ordinance 2017-14 to make the property 90 North Main Street zoned downtown business district.

Staff Reports
Shawn Reed from Hendry Sheriff’s Office reported there were 6 person crimes, 18 property crimes, 5 vehicle burglaries, 6,054 service calls, 200 traffic stops, 81 arrests, 675 residential checks, 433 business checks, and 571 security checks in the month of April. The car burglaries happened at shopping centers in the city when people left their car doors unlocked with valuables inside. Those responsible for the car burglaries were caught.

Reed also told the commission the plans for repair of the drawbridge on Bridge Street.
“The weight and speed of the trucks are damaging the depth of the bridge,” said Reed, “the bridge will be closed down for up to 20 weekends after the Swamp Cabbage Festival for the repairs to be done. The speed limit needs to be enforced.”

The reason to repair the bridge now is because no one knows when the new bridges will be constructed.

Superintendent of Public Works Michael Boyle informed the commission the United States Department of Agriculture will be inspecting the lime stay and CO2 on June 1 at the water plant. The inspection is to review issues that were fixed last June. He said the manhole rehab on Howe Avenue was done. He also told them the street paving was approved for Lincoln, Seminole, Riverview and Missouri Streets.

City Planner Shellie Johnson told the commission the information on the land use website is not accurate and needs to be fixed. Realtors should be made aware of the incorrect map.

Finance Director Ron Zimmerly told the commission about the plans to renovate the Lee Civic Center and applying for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for the project. The plans for the Lee Civic Center renovation passed 5-0.

Correspondence Requesting Actions
Mayor David Lyons requested for the commission to approve $1,000 be donated to LaBelle High School to help cover the cost of diplomas this year. The motion passed 5-0.

Matt Hudson with Hope Connections explained the city received 91,000 extra slots for their food program based on age and income through the United States Department of Agriculture to provide seniors with meals who would otherwise not receive food. He requested the city to provide money so he could hire someone to help with the extra workload. The commission agreed to give Hope Connections $500 now and an additional 500 per quarter in the next fiscal year. The motion passed 5-0.

Business By Commissioners
Commissioner Julie Wilkins requested speed bumps be installed on Martin Street, the road Ace Hardware is on, to deter people from drag racing on the street and prevent children from getting hurt. The motion passed 5-0. Commissioner Wilkins also asked for Children at Play signs to be installed.

Megan can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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