Oakland history center nearing completion

The town is conducting interviews for the coordinator’s position this week.

  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • News
  • Share

The finishing touches are being made to the long-awaited history center in downtown Oakland, but residents still will have to wait a while longer before stepping inside.

The town has been working on getting signage for the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center building and surrounding property, including ones representing Orange County Parks & Recreation, Healthy West Orange and Orange County’s Arts & Cultural Affairs program, Town Manager Steve Koontz reported at the Oct. 13 Oakland Town Commission meeting. A bronze dedication plaque is being made for the facility as well. It will be placed on the exterior of the building and will recognize donors, partners, the mayor and commissioners, town leadership and those who were integral in the concept, mission, design and construction of the center.

A statue of Westly, the mascot for the Healthy West Orange movement, should be delivered this week and placed in the reflecting pond. A contractor was building a frame around a stained-glass window that once hung in the old Oakland Presbyterian Church.

The final display case was being filled this week. Four cases will be themed around town founder Peter Demens, the Oakland Hotel archaeological dig, Lake Apopka’s fishing history, and the Oakland Nature Preserve and native flora and fauna. The fifth will serve as a merchandise case.

Interviews are being conducted this week for a public arts and heritage coordinator. This person will coordinate history and art exhibits; provide information about center-related events, amenities and the history of the town to visitors; and lead programming initiatives.

Koontz asked for direction on opening the facility to the public and told the commission any grand-opening celebration the town wanted to hold would have to be held at a later date, probably in the spring.

Looking to follow the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation’s opening plan, the commission agreed to start with minimal hours one day a week and expand from there. Residents will be able to make a visitor’s appointment. Visitation likely will be limited to five to 10 guests at a time to maintain social distancing.

“I would like to see it completely ready (excluding the food and beverage concessions) before we open up, especially for the people who have donated so graciously,” Mayor Kathy Stark said.

Commissioner Mike Satterfield suggested opening just one day a week until the first of the year.

The public rest rooms at the heritage center opened last month and are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. They were made possible through a $182,000 donation by Orange County Government.



• The town passed a resolution that pauses for one year a previous town vote calling for annual water rate changes.

“Due to the economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in the town of Oakland, it is an inappropriate time to increase water rates in the town,” the resolution read. “It is in the best interest of the town and its citizens to pause the water rate indexing set for October 2020 … for a period of one year.”

“This resolution pauses the increase for one year; it doesn’t compound,” town Manager Steve Koontz said. “It just will revert to whatever the increase is.”

“We can give residents a break,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “I think that’s a very responsible thing to do.”

• The commission directed town staff to erect parking limitation signs in front of the Oakland Post Office. Several residents had complained to Town Manager Steve Koontz that they had trouble finding a place to park when they visited the post office because bicyclists and pedestrians were parking there to access the West Orange Trail. Reserved parking signs for post office users have since been added around the building.

• The commission passed a resolution to vacate a 20-foot-by-85-foot right of way on Lot 32 in Pulte Home Company’s Longleaf at Oakland subdivision. Commissioner Sal Ramos recused himself from the vote because of a conflict of interest. This replat was necessary to accommodate a design requirement for the home being built there.

• Commissioner Rick Polland reminded the commission about the Pumpkin Glow event at the Oakland Nature Preserve from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. Folks can dress in costume, take a flashlight and follow a wooded trail of decorated and hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns. Children will receive candy bags and get to meet critters. Admission is a donation to ONP.

• Mayor Kathy Stark read two proclamation declaring Oct. 15, 2020, Blind Americans Equality Day and Oct. 19 through 25, 2020, Florida City Government Week in the town of Oakland.

• The holiday meeting schedule was released, and the Town Commission will meet only once in November and December: Nov. 10 and Dec. 8.

• The commission approved the starting pay for reserve police officers from $18 to $20 per hour.




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.