The tentative budget for the upcoming fiscal year highlights several impactful projects the city hopes to soon bring to the community.
The upcoming fiscal year’s budget received its tentative approval by commissioners this week, sending it on its way to a final vote at the end of the month.
Throughout the presentation, City Manager Bill McDaniel outlined a variety of impactful projects the city intends to kick into gear over the course of the next year. Residents will soon have a rather refurbished downtown and a string of amenities are scheduled to start popping up throughout the community.
“I’m always excited when we are in a fiscal position to be able do the things we are doing, but it really comes down to the projects we are doing because they are direct benefits to the community,” McDaniel said. “We enhance quality of life with these amenities, so those are the things I get the most excited about.”
The success of the renovations to the Gilchrist Heights Dog Park, 905 North Knight Street, last fiscal year showed a desire in the community for areas for residents to coexist with their pets in public. Gilchrist Heights is a massive double gated park that has a variety of pet amenities, waste bag dispensers and receptacles, fresh water for both the pups and their owner, seating area and massive open parks for the dogs to run around in. A new bridge connects the gated area to the parking lot.
The upcoming budget proposes the city add two more — albeit smaller dog parks — to the community.
“When we finished Gilchrist Heights Dog Park you want of course to have that repeat success,” McDaniel said. “These will be smaller than that one, but what we have seen is to have a dog park beside walking trails like Brewer Pond, or in existing parks, those really are the best assets we can have. Strategically, it also spreads the dog park amenity around the community so our residents will have one located near them. These are also going on property we already own, so it financially makes a lot of sense.”
The city is proposing to allocate $85,000 from the General Fund for a dog park at Mike Sansone Park, 1702 N. Park Rd., and $45,000 from the CRA fund for a dog park at Marie B. Ellis Park, 601 E. Laura St.
Evers Street/Collins Street
For the past two years the city has been exploring some big changes to Evers Street. The street has become a flourishing hub in downtown and after Plant City Main Street partnered with the City of Plant City to develop a downtown vision plan, it became clear there was a massive amount of potential lying along Evers.
The plan includes a streetscape build out to include “street leveling, string lighting, conventional streetscaping, landscaping, and other visual and functional improvements. Undergrounding the utilities and upgrading the water and sewer will also be considered.” The city is also considering enhancements to support the area to become an event venue.
Currently the proposed timeline is to begin a study in Oct. 2021, seek community involvement in Dec. 2021, begin the design in March 2022 and begin construction in Dec. 2022.
The Evers Street project also includes the revisioning of the alley, however, as it is private property that transfiguration will only occur as long as the city reaches an agreement with the property owners.
“The brick streets there need to be re-leveled, I want to address sidewalks, I want to address the string lighting, create more of a sidewalk cafe atmosphere if you will and just take that holistic approach to that two blocks of Evers Street where we have such a thriving business district,” McDaniel said. “We are also doing something similar over on Collins Street, I’ve got a new complete street project on Collins from Baker (Street) down to Laura (Street). It won’t be exactly the same thing as Evers because you’re not dealing with brick streets there, but I also want to get in some of the similar amenities to help that particular stretch of downtown.”
The plan is to ultimately redevelop Collins Street from Baker Street down to Laura Street with amenities like landscaping and sidewalk treatment.
The Evers Street improvements are slotted for $500,000 from CRA funds and Collins Street has $100,000 designated. Utilities along Evers Street will run the city $110,000 and will come from the Water/Sewer Fund.
Toward the edge of downtown by the south depot parking lot the city is proposing to build a boardwalk and deck-style covered patio area over the retention pond currently at the site. McDaniel called the area an “underutilized space” and said that by building an elevated boardwalk the area can become a “destination” for people when the pond isn’t full due to rain.
There will be lights, tables, chairs and bench seating on the boardwalk and the idea is that with the Performance Pizzas @ Stage 201 pizza restaurant opening soon across the street, the loyal customer base from the Power Shop Fitness gym, the increased business on Evers Street and the upcoming Wheeler Street Station development, which will bring more residents and visitors to town, the addition of a boardwalk will add a much anticipated amenity to the area.
People can walk, shop, eat and sip on coffee with their friends and loved ones on the patio and then continue about their afternoon downtown.
The budget shows $250,000 will be allocated toward this project if approved.