ORANGE PARK | Responding to residents’ recommendations, Orange Park Town Council has included in its five-year Capital Improvement Plan several proposed projects ranging from construction of a municipal swimming pool to paving several dirt streets, and extending water and sewer lines to serve those in town currently not connected to its system.

 

The council, voting unanimously June 27, approved the plan totaling about $17.5 million from fiscal year 2017-18 through fiscal year 2021-22. It includes about $4.6 million in proposed projects in 2017-18, the plan’s first year. Funding for capital projects typically is spread out over the duration of the plan, which is updated annually.

Approving the plan is the first step. The council must next appropriate the funding for the proposed projects that also include buying a replacement fire truck, street reconstruction and resurfacing, and sewer lining and lift station reconstruction.

Town Manager Jim Hanson will build the proposed plan funding into the town’s annual budget, which then must be adopted by the council. A public hearing and council action to adopt the 2017-18 budget containing the first year capital projects will be in September.

The council earmarked seed money for the swimming pool and other add-on projects to the plan after hearing from residents and discussing the matter for nearly 90 minutes at its June 27 meeting.

Hank Racer of River Road and Eddie B. Henley of Rhodan Court, encouraged the council to build a swimming pool to replace one the town had many years ago.

“Once upon a time, we had a pool and it was well attended …,” said Racer, adding the meeting was the third time in the past 25 years he’d approached the council about reinstating a community pool.

The town’s previous pool fell into disrepair and deteriorated to the point the town closed and filled it in after determining it would be too expensive to fix, and bring into compliance with town codes, according to Racer and other residents.

Racer suggested the town use the money it’s saving on other projects and potentially utilize land near the Orange Park Athletic Association facility on Fromhart Street.

Henley said a community pool would give Orange Park kids something to do during the summer instead of getting into trouble. It also would provide jobs for life guards, he said.

Phillip Hutchens, a resident of Solomon Street North asked council to pave it.

“It is one of the few streets that I know of here in the Town of Orange Park that still isn’t paved,” said Hutchens, noting rain, such as what’s fallen recently, has made the dirt street a mess.

“We’ve got pot holes and all that. Living on a dirt road has its perks, but this isn’t one of them,” Hutchens said.

Barbara Davidson, longtime community activist, urged the council to extend town water and sewer service to about 20 homes currently without it. The service is long overdue, although there have been past intentions to do it, she said.

“When you talk about quality of life, what makes it any higher than running water and a flushing john? Not very much. And we have people in this town that are not afforded that quality of life through a publc service. They are required to maintain their own wells and septic tanks,” Davidson said.

The town’s Capital Improvement Plan includes the following:

  • $475,000 for a new fire truck replacing town’s main response fire engine.
  • $250,000 for a municipal swimming pool.
  • $75,000 to install a fire suppression sprinkler system in Town Hall.
  • $70,000 for a consultant to do a master plan for the town’s storm water system.
  • $30,000 to improve accoustics in the Town Council Chamber.
  • $20,000 for street lighting along Debarry Avenue.
  • $15,000 toward buying property adjacent to T.C. Miller Park and Community Center for future public use for recreation.
  • $20,000 annually for each of the five years for improvements at the Orange Park Athletic Association facility.

Hanson noted in his written summary of the Capital Improvement Plan that “the town is in better financial condition than it has been in recent years.”

He said increasing fund balances allowed some flexibility in discretionary projects such as the swimming pool and others. In the past, the town has struggled to find funds to repair deteriorating streets, and to maintain its water and sewer systems.

“While municipal councils never have enough funds to do everything that they would like, Orange Park is in a position where the Council can consider some long-term discretionary projects, particularly if grant revenues can be used to assist,” Hanson wrote.

He also said the Capital Improvement Plan was prepared using the strategic priorities established by the council.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075