- May 3, 2023
The Johns Lake Outfall Canal continues to be the main topic of conversation at Oakland Town Commission meetings. More discussion took place Tuesday, March 14, when Assistant Town Manager Jack Butler recommended the commission accept a bid from Solitude Lake Management for a contract price of $103,500 to reconstruct the canal.
The town is committing up to $85,000 to reconstruct the canal and dredge a portion of the south side of Lake Apopka where the canal drains and where sediment has built up. The town’s financial contribution is contingent upon contributions received from other entities to complete the work, including Landeavor, the developer of Oakland Park, and the Southern Oaks Homeowners Association.
Landeavor representatives said the company would contribute monetarily if it benefited from the project, such as being allowed to use the removed sediment as fill dirt.
Landeavor solicited bids for the work, and Solitude was the lowest bidder. The initial work will be done on the northern end of the canal, based on guidance from engineers and the St. Johns River Water Management District — and then future projects will make their way south along the canal as other solutions are found and financial negotiations take place.
Butler provided the latest information on the unmaintained canal at last week’s meeting. He said in researching the canal he found an official map of Orange County dated 1890 that includes the outfall channel as a body of water.
“It may predate that,” Butler said. “It may be natural in nature, too.”
He said a United States Geological Survey map of the area in the 1950s indicated the southern portion of the canal had been straightened out and the northern part was naturally occurring.
“It may have been enhanced by man but not completely created by man,” Butler said.
The town met with Landeavor and representatives from the Southern Oaks HOA and presented both with easement agreements that would allow the town to go onto their property to access the site.
One resident of Southern Oaks said he was against his neighborhood HOA committing funds when there are 42 total property owners along the canal who should be contributing.
“We have not asked the homeowners for money,” Commissioner Mike Satterfield said. “They came to us and offered to help.”
Town Manager Steve Koontz said Orange County has agreed to update its most recent study.
“We can sit here for I don’t know how many more meetings,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “There’s already been a study done. … Sometimes you have to move forward, whether it’s fair or not. We’re committing to this one-time (cost), and we’re asking Oakland Park to help. It’s got to be done. … This is a good bid, and this will take care of our residents.”
“We’re not asking the homeowners to spend anything; we’re not asking the HOA to spend anything,” Commissioner Sal Ramos added.
“In the beginning we said, ‘Forget yesterday,’” Satterfield said. “Let’s try to get it fixed and move on.”
When one resident questioned what happens if this construction project doesn’t hold up during hurricane season, the commission said the town is committed to seeing this issue through to a solution.
“We’re not done when this (initial project) gets done,” Satterfield said. “We promise you we’re not going to walk away.”
Another resident questioned why the town is investing this money when other parties should share responsibility.
Koontz responded: “Oakland Park isn’t off the hook by any means. They own property on this canal. … They are going to have to find a way to slow the water down, to keep it from eroding anymore within their development … they are going to invest a large amount of money to fix this canal.”
Butler said the town is meeting twice a month with representatives from the St. Johns River Water Management District to discuss solutions.
IN OTHER NEWS
• The Oakland Town Commission voted to donate a .09-acre parcel of land at 532 W. Sadler Ave. to West Orange Habitat for Humanity. The land, near Pollard Park, was acquired by the town through a tax-lien process in 2022 and, through the donation, must be used for building an affordable single-family home.
• Commissioners approved the consent agenda, which included two action items. The first is to contract with Cathcart to complete various projects outlined in the 2022-23 budget: paving and drainage improvements of West Sadler Avenue, the reconstruction of a section of South Walker Street, water main and fire hydrant installations, and paved "turnouts" at various intersections where dirt roads meet paved roads. The second item is an interlocal agreement for police dispatching services with the city of Winter Garden.
• New Oakland police Officer Justin Gau was introduced to the commission.
• The town received a request from former Oakland resident Ronnie Cothern. His father, Red Cothern, in the 1940s owned the property occupied by the Oakland Post Office before he deeded it to the town. Ronnie Cothern asked for a plaque or other type of recognition for his father. The commission agreed to look into the request.