Officials Want Resident Feedback on Highlands Improvements

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More sidewalks, a dog park, a kayak storage unit – these are some of the possible ways city officials could spend the $63,300 in Community Block Grant Funding they received for the Highlands Estates neighborhood.

Before officials can decide what to do with this year’s money though, they will have to hold one more public hearing to solicit ideas from residents.

In addition to more sidewalks and a dog park, resident Michael Rajner said the money might be used to buy hurricane shutters for seniors on a fixed income. The idea of more sidewalks caught the attention of at least two commissioners, Tom Green and Ted Galatis, who agreed with Rajner. Galatis suggested new sidewalks might be built near or around the Kids In Distress complex.

Green added that the possible addition of shade canopy over the playground at Island City Park Preserve. “It’s almost a crime not to provide shade over a play area,” said Green.

Also suggested by residents was a kayak storage shed and fitness equipment for Island City Park Preserve. Residents can submit suggestions on spending the funding during the next commission meeting on Aug. 12. They can also submit ideas to city hall before then.

One of the few restrictions on the money is officials are prohibited from spending it on social programs because the county has already allocated money for that purpose.

The only area in the city to qualify, the Highlands has received Community Block Grant Funding in the past for a drainage system, street resurfacing, the rebuilding of a sewage lift station and an emergency generator and floating dock at Island City Park Preserve

Recently, Community Block Grant Funding was used to buy an empty lot near Island City Park Preserve.

The new parcel, located at 811 NE 28 Street, has 14 parking spaces, a passive recreation area, estate-style fencing, solar lighting, landscaping and irrigation improvements. Commissioners held a grand opening event on July 29 to officially open the new lot.

Patrick Caan, director of the leisure services department, said it will be an additional park space for residents to enjoy but it will also serve as overflow parking for Island City Park Preserve. It will also give the city more parking for special events, including Stonewall. On July 29, city officials held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the expansion.

Recently, commissioners added more parking closer to Wilton Drive. In April, they cut the ribbon on the 42-space parking lot located on the corner of Northeast 26 Street and Northeast 8 Terrace.

At the ribbon cutting, Mayor Resnick said the new lot cost an “inordinate” amount of money but was necessary to help relieve the parking problems on Wilton Drive, especially on the north end. According to the city’s finance department, the cost of buying the land and paving it was about $788,000.

The funding came from the city’s $1.1 million parking fund. In 2011, commissioners borrowed that money specifically to pay for parking improvements along Wilton Drive.


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