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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 3 years ago

Winter Park to host State of the City

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary will give his State of the City Address Friday, Feb. 23.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Another year has come and gone in the city of Winter Park, and it’s time once again for the State of the City Address.

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary will give an update on what’s happening in the city at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23 at The Alfond Inn, 300 E. New England Ave., Winter Park.

“The State of the City Address is one of the most important speeches the mayor delivers annually,” Director of Communications Clarissa Howard said. “It offers the community and residents his assessment of the city during the past year and showcases the city’s accomplishments.”

Much has happened in the city in the past year. Winter Park moved its new library/event center project forward with the hiring of renowned architect Sir David Adjaye. 

The initial conceptual designs for the buildings were presented to the community at a public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Renderings showcased the new facility in three separate structures: a drop-off pavilion, a library and a civic center.

The three structures, slated for the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Park, would be clustered together in a unified “village” layout in close proximity to the lake within the park.

Conceptual designs depict the buildings with large archway windows that stretch across all four sides of each building, framing views of the park, the city and between the two buildings.

The new library/event center is expected to open in the spring or summer of 2020, Winter Park Public Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer said.

The Winter Park City Commission also was faced with an exciting opportunity last year — the chance to buy 55.6 acres of wetland area surrounding Howell Creek.

The land was made of seven parcels just north of Howell Branch Road, with 12.2 acres located in Maitland and the rest located within Winter Park city limits.

That mass of wetland currently belonged to two property owners. About 32 acres belonged to JBC Land, while the remaining land was owned two-thirds by JBC Land and one-third by resident Jerry Banks.

City commissioners jumped at the opportunity, approving the purchase of the land for $304,500 and giving residents a new path to kayak up to Lake Waumpi.

Winter Park also partnered with Orange County Public Schools, Rollins College and the Winter Park High School Foundation to renovate Showalter Field last year, giving it a state of the art multi-surface playing field, a rubberized track and a new and improved scoreboard.

In 2017, the city also funded the city’s first fiberoptic network, which will allow Winter Park to utilize Intelligent Traffic Signalization systems to help us smooth traffic through the city.

After Hurricane Irma, the City Commission authorized an additional $1 million to go toward Winter Park’s electric utility to address issues that arose during the storm. That is in addition to the $3.5 million the city already spends annually to complete the electric undergrounding efforts. Winter Park is 11 years into a 20-year plan and has about 60% of the distribution lines underground.


But the State of the City event isn’t just a chance to reflect on what’s happening in Winter Park. It’s also a chance to highlight city employees with awards.

“At this event, we also recognize the city’s employees of the year,” Howard said. “Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — you will always find city of Winter Park employees working behind the scenes to provide the high quality services we all have come to appreciate, enjoy and expect. This is our opportunity to reward three of those devoted employees with the Employee of the Year awards for their extraordinary efforts during the year.”

The 2017 Employee of the Year award will be presented to Field Supervisor George Richardson of the Water and Wastewater Utilities Department. Richardson planned and directed the completion of water main replacement in conjunction with the I-4 Ultimate project, resulting in a savings of nearly $1.7 million by keeping major portions of the project in-house. His division completed the installation of the new wet well for the lift station on Lee Road as well, completing the project ahead of schedule and with an estimated $85,000 in cost savings.

The Firefighter of the Year award will go to Engineer Eric Wheaton for his leadership and the example he sets.

“He routinely leads training programs, not only within the WPFD but serves as a well-respected instructor on the national stage,” city officials wrote in a prepared statement. “He represents the city, WPFD, his family and the fire-service industry with pride and honor. As a leader, Eric takes it upon himself to set an example for new firefighters.”

Police officer Ryan Wing of the patrol division will be given the honor of Officer of the Year.

“Officer Wing’s excellent work ethic motivates his colleagues to give it their all in keeping the city safe,” city officials wrote in a prepared statement. “Along with his exemplary work ethic, he is exceptionally thorough and diligent with his reports. On many occasions, he continues investigating a case all the way through to completion, rather than forwarding it directly to the detective unit.”

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.


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