GLADES COUNTY — Despite a heavy investment by the State of Florida it appears the proposed construction of a Loves Travel Center in Moore Haven is underfunded.
The Glades County Board of County Commissioners still wants to work with the state to keep the project on track, but some changes might be made to save some of the costs.
Commissioners approved an agreement with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for a $1.15 million community block grant to pay for infrastructure needed for the proposed Travel Center on U.S. 27 at State Route 78 east this week.
It would provide the entrance road, water and sewer for the project. The current project cost is $1.783 million. The county has received a $300,000 grant from the department to help with design. That leaves a slight shortfall in the budget.
County Manager Paul Carlisle said they can always cancel the agreement in the future.
He said they have done some value engineering to try and save construction costs. The county could save more funds by reduction of the roadway width and by removal of curbs and sidewalks from the plan.
Commissioner John Ahern said he’d like to see some private funds from the land owners, Lyke’s Brothers and A. Duda & Sons. He said it is uncommon for government to pay for 100 percent of the costs of a private project.
The project could create 33 new jobs with restaurant and store positions.
In other actions, the board Tuesday, Aug. 11, approved a proposal from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a trail in Glades County as part of the Florida Greenways and Trail system. Three possible maps were presented to the board.
Mr. Carlisle said it could be years before this is a reality. He said the board should prioritize the options.
Commissioner Donna Storter Long said the best route was down the Indian Prairie Canal to State Road 78 and onto the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. Another option was the route down the Harney Pond Canal that would bring hikers to a trail head with restrooms and facilities in Lakeport. Another option was following U.S. 27 throughout the county. It could also connect to a Palmdale Trail Corridor that leads to LaBelle. Harney Pond was ranked number one and Indian Prairie Canal was number two by the commission.
The county had the opportunity to purchase property available for taxes due to failure of the land owners to pay taxes. The property is the former Second Spring Lodge or Glades Inn on U.S. 27. The assessed value is $255,000.
Mr. Carlisle said the county would like to sell the property. He noted there is some interest in a purchase in the private sector. No one bought tax certificates when they became available and the taxes continued to accrue. Florida law requires the county to declare the property surplus once it is placed in their name. Commissioners approved the purchase of a Ford F-250 for $28,300 and a Ford F-150 for $23,370 from Gilbert Ford.
The F250 will be used by the Public Safety and the F150 for the Building Department.
The money was transferred from contingency funds.
County Attorney Richard Pringle asked the commissioners if they support an assessment for EMS services. He said notices must be published in the newspaper and a public hearing held in December if they want to create a new tax. Commissioner Long said she didn’t mind holding a hearing but noted the county hasn’t decided to implement the new assessment.
A status hearing is set in Glades Circuit Court during August on the dispute over two cell towers proposed in Buckhead Ridge. Mr. Pringle said it is an appellate hearing and a decision could be made at any time. Mr. Carlisle said phase one of the job training center is 90 percent completed. Pavement of the parking lot is expected next week.
The Glades County Jail has received a few more inmates from ICE. About 45 additional inmates have been housed there.
Charles M. Murphy is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News