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If you want to cause a Facebook riot in a Wilton Manors group, all you must do is ask “When are the trees coming to Wilton Drive?”

Few questions will cause more heartache and hate trolling than a landscaping status update request in our city.  It’s a completely legitimate question with a very complex answer.

The quest for trees has been a long and arduous one. Literally dozens of volunteers and city staff have worked tirelessly to bring trees to the drive including folks like Doug Blevins, Tony LoGrande, Tom Green and many more.

Since Wilton Drive is a state road, city staff and engineers had the very arduous project of identifying tree species and potential locations that the Florida Department of Transportation would allow. FDOT, which owns Wilton Drive, follows very specific rules about traffic sightlines that make it incredibly hard to create the type of tree canopy we want. It’s been nearly a year since that hurdle was crossed.

While we originally planned to pay for the project out of our city funds, we were presented with an opportunity to have Broward County’s surtax funds cover the expense. Surtax funds are from the 1 cent tax for transportation that was approved by Broward County residents. We applied for and were selected to receive that surtax funding.

As a result, Broward Surtax funds are covering the estimated $245k in costs for the trees, landscaping, and irrigation for Wilton Drive as well as wayfinding signage citywide. As a city of only 12,000 residents, having the opportunity to save $245k in our budget is a big deal, especially having just dealt with a pandemic that slashed revenue and increased expenses.

One downside, however, of Broward County funding the project is the requirement that we not proceed with the project without following Broward County’s process. As a condition of funding, we agreed to have Broward County review all grant contracts and bid documents before putting the project out to bid and beginning work. Cue the government bureaucracy and red tape.

We have been waiting for Broward County to provide the grant contracts and approval of our bid documents so we can move these projects forward. After MANY months of waiting, we have finally received draft agreements from the county. These items will be presented to the commission at an upcoming meeting and, barring any changes, we can put these and other surtax-funded projects out to bid in the coming months.

What’s all this mean? We’re one step closer to beautifying Wilton Drive and “trees on Wilton Drive” no longer being a Firestarter on Facebook threads!

- Chris Caputo, Wilton Manors City Commissioner