County Recycling Survey Coming

If you live in unincorporated Polk County—that’s the area outside the city limits where the majority of county residents live—Polk County Waste & Recycling wants to know about your recycling preferences.

The survey will come in post cards that are being mailed to county garbage customers.

Here’s the background.

Beginning Oct. 1 Polk County will have new garbage companies, new garbage rates (probably an increase, but that has yet to be determined) and recycling carts instead of recycling bins.

However, the recycling carts—you can pick the size you want—will go only to people who ask for them. This is a financial decision as well as a customer service decision.

That is, it will eliminate unnecessary spending on unneeded recycling carts and will not generate complaints about unwanted carts. Additionally, that should reduce if not eliminate the problem that has occurred in other counties. That problem is that some residents were filling their recycling carts with household garbage instead of recyclables.

There will also have to be some education to make sure the new system goes smoothly.

One major change is the elimination of glass recycling.


The reason glass is being banned is because it has no market value and the broken glass contaminates other materials, particularly paper products, lowering their market value.

Also, here’s an early reminder of other materials that don’t go in the recycling carts or bins. The main ones are plastic bags and polystyrene (often incorrectly referred to as Styrofoam, which is another material).

Scott Looking For New Parks Head

Gov. Rick Scott is looking for a new person to head the state park system after Lisa Edgar, who was named to the position in December, has resigned.

Her resignation was because of a “family emergency,” SaintPetersBlog reported today.

Edgar was hired after long-time career parks director Don Forgione was abruptly reassigned to oversee just one state park in December.

The still unanswered question is what kind of policy changes, if any, will whoever takes over as head of Florida’s park system will make, at least in the remaining two years of the Scott administration.

Scott has attempted to commercialize operations in some parks and also proposed selling off as surplus conservation lands outside the park system.

Lake Kissimmee SP bridge topic of meeting

If you have visited Lake Kissimmee State Park recently, you may have noticed some construction along the Zipprer Canal.

There are two things going on. One is construction of a new water control structure on this canal between Lake Rosalie and Lake Kissimmee. Next will be construction of a new bridge across the canal.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. March 14 in the pavilion near the park’s marina to explain the project.

The current bridge is substandard, according to an evaluation of local bridges FDOT conducted a few years ago. It, for instance, cannot be used by heavy vehicles, such as fire trucks. (Interestingly, I was at the park one day and saw a Polk County fire truck parked near the bridge while the crew walked over the park’s cow camp.)

The old bridge will remain because it is considered historic, according to park officials. The new bridge will span the canal nearby.

For additional information, contact project manager Andra Diggs at .


Another Green Swamp Intense Recreation Foray

It never ends.

Polk County Code Enforcement has taken action to deal with violations of the Green Swamp regulations on a group of parcels near the intersection of Deen Stilll Road and Sweet Hill Road north of Lake Alfred.

The violations involved bringing in fill to establish a dirt bike course of some sort on property owned by Anthony and Wendy Greedy, who live in the United Kingdom, according to Polk County property records.

I visited the site. The property appears to be up for sale, according to signs posted at the entrance.

This is the latest in a series of attempts to introduce this kind of intense activity into the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern.

In 2007 some ATV enthusiasts attempted to launch something called the Sweet Hill Thrill in a section of Groveland Acres, one of a large number of platted, but undevelopable subdivisions that were carved out of swampland and marketed and remarketed to investors from abroad and out of state using the lure of proximity to Disney.

More recently Polk code enforcement officials have taken action to deal with this Deen Stilll Road facility and another off Old Polk City Road south of Interstate 4.

This is not only an environmental offense, it is also an offense to taxpayers.

Three of the parcels involved in the Deen Still Road case were given agricultural classifications for alleged “hayfields” on parts of the parcels, which resulted in the exemption of real estate assessed at $45,642 on the county tax roll, despite the seeming absence of any haying operation on a site destined for motocross.

The effect of this classification, which is common in Polk County on the flimsiest of standards, meant that about $650 didn’t’ go to support county government, parks, libraries or schools.

Polk Commissioners May OK Road Tax Hike To Make Up For Impact Fee Moratorium, Sales Tax Defeat

You can’t say you weren’t warned.

In 2014 County Manager Jim Freeman said he would recommend a property tax increase if the sales tax referendum, whose proceeds would have been used to pay for road projects, didn’t’ pass.

Voters overwhelmingly defeated the tax measure.

The first tax increase occurred in 2015 when the County Commission took half of the .2 of a mill taxing authority allocated to purchasing environmental lands, which had expired that year, and diverted it to the road program.

The second tax increase, which could be as much as an additional 1 mill, could be in next year’s budget.

The decision came out of the commission’s annual retreat, The Ledger reports.

Here’s the rest of the story.

One of the reasons voters were unexcited about increasing the sales tax for roads is that the County Commission had a source of income to pay for growth-related road projects, but wasn’t using it.

That was the road impact fee.

Commissioners suspended charging road impact fees for five years , which meant $30.6 million that would have gone to fix road problems went uncollected. However, even at that rate Polk was charging half of what the county’s impact fee consultant study said was necessary in 2009, the year before the impact fee moratorium began.

And, even after the impact fee moratorium was lifted, commissioners charged a discounted rate for the first year, which increased the deficit.

The County Commission began imposing impact fees in 1989, but the charges were minimal until 2004 because of the influence of the Polk County Builders Association. PCBA was also behind the moratorium.

The fees finally increased along with property taxes in 2004 and 2005 respectively after a business group called Polk Vision held a series of skillfully choreographed meetings that led to the issuance of report stating Polk had a $581.7 million infrastructure gap involving needed but unfunded road, parks and other public facility projects. That report was used to justify a major property tax increase and Polk’s first-ever park impact fees.

Now, thanks at least in part to the impact fee moratorium, Polk County is in a similar situation as it was nearly 15 years ago as a result of subsidizing development. And, as in 2005, the general public is being asked to pay for the bailout.

Some of the projects mentioned in The Ledger’s story from the retreat are carryovers from the 2014 sales tax referendum wish list.

They include widening Spirit Lake Road from Winter Lake Road to U.S. 17, which was priced at $63 million, and Marigold Avenue from Cypress Parkway to Coyote Road, which was priced at $18 million. They also include some neglected growth-related road projects such as Lake Wilson Road from Ronald Reagan Parkway to the Osceola County line, Cypress Parkway in Poinciana and County Road 557 between Lake Alfred and Interstate 4. There are no cost estimates on those projects. There may be more projects.

If this additional road tax increase is to be included in next year’s budget, the figures will have to come together no later than April or so. Commissioners get an early estimate of property tax values from Property Appraiser Marsha Faux’s office by late May and probably have a good idea sooner than that. Freeman has to present a balanced budget in early July. Estimated tax notices go out in August and budget hearings are in September.

Sierra has not taken a position on this proposal, but it’s definitely an issue to watch.

New Tiger Creek Trail Impressive

A new trail at The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve east of Lake Wales debuted today to an appreciative crowd.

For the first time, the preserve has a trail that offers views of the creek from bluffs 10 to 20 feet above the stream.

The 2.5-mile trail is accessible from the recently reopened Wakeford Road trailhead, which had been closed since 2004.

The new trail connects to other trails in the preserve. If you have the energy, there’s plenty to explore.

Check it out.

Everglades Headwaters NWR Slowly Taking Shape

The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, which was begun with a token 10-acre tract at The Nature Conservancy’s Hatchineha Ranch property in 2012, is slowing taking shape.

The refuge boundary covers 745,000 acres in Polk, Osceola, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. The plan was to acquire at least 150,000 acres—a substantial amount of land is already in public or private conservation ownership—through purchase of the land or purchase of conservation easements. Some land will not be considered because landowners have said they are not interested.

Today at the Lake Wales Ridge Environmental Working Group, Oliver van den Ende, the refuge’s new manager, reported that 6,170 acres has been acquired though land or easement purchases. The purchases include land adjacent to Lake Wales Ridge State Forest’s Arbuckle Tract and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park in Polk County.

The purchases occurred in 2015 and 2016, van den Ende said.

Some public access is being planned for the site on Old Avon Park Road adjacent to the state forest, he said.

Meanwhile, additional land is being protected in the area under a separate effort to buffer the Avon Park Air Force Range from incompatible development. That effort is ongoing as well.

For more information on the refuge, go to