Council envisions the future

Jan. 16, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

The discussion in the Sanford Municipal Center Wednesday morning covered a wide swath of topics as city leaders addressed their short- and long-term goals.

Sanford City Council met at the behest of newly elected Mayor Chet Mann for a “visioning workshop” to discuss which matters should take precedence for the city in the upcoming years.

“No rules here,” Mann said. “This is an idea for council to make sure their priorities are heard. I’d like to urge you to stay at a 30,000-foot level. We don’t have the time or the ability to get down to a tactical level. I am asking you to think strategic.”

All of the ideas will be placed in a metaphorical funnel, he said, where the council will be prioritize them.

“It was a great, healthy conversation,” he said. “We’re looking to get our targeted priorities addressed and see if we can get some things done.”

Short-term projects that came up in the talk included supporting community policing, creating or enhancing a public transportation system, code enforcement, updating the city’s pocket parks, increasing cultural events and opportunities in downtown Sanford and improving communication with the city residents, among others.

“I’d like to work on some ways to engage our citizenry in different ways,” said Council member Rebecca Wyhof. “I feel we are not getting as much interest [in city government] as we could be. It builds community capital.”

Residents are sometimes misinformed about what city government does or how city government works, and creating an academy or guide may help alleviate some of those types of rumors, she said.

“One of our problems is that we don’t get a lot of feedback,” said City Manager Hal Hegwer.

On the long-term side, council members said they’d like to create an arts district around Temple Theatre, acquire the Depot building in Depot Park, consolidate services, create a better parking plan, determine space for a public safety building and consider a “21st-century multi-sports complex” at O.T. Sloan Park, among other goals.

“We want to do something that will maximize our return on these bonds,” Mann said, referencing the city’s $14.5 million bond referendums, which include a $2 million bond for parks and recreation. “The use of this bond for a multi-sport complex would serve a great deal more for the city than a smaller park in a certain area of town. We have the opportunity to build something that could last 50 to 100 years for all types of people in the county. It’s the biggest return on our investment.”

The park could utilize all of the acreage now owned by Lee County at O.T. Sloan Park, located on Bragg Street, for soccer or baseball fields, Mann said.

Wyhof, among other council members, stressed the importance of keeping the public informed about this project and other items related to the bonds.

“Before we invent a whole new concept, I think we have got to get people’s participation,” she said. “This is the people’s park. This is the people’s money.”