Local News

New AP city charter will go to the voters

AVON PARK - After nearly two years in the making, the new Avon Park City Charter will go before the voters for approval on Nov. 5. The city charter specifies the powers of the city and the city council, mayor and city manager and covers city elections, charter amendments and the adoption of the city budget. At Monday's city council meeting, Charter Committee Member Joe Wright said the process to create a new charter started in November 2011 with the committee's only purpose being to clean up the charter. Even in the most recent conversations, the committee focused on situations such as what does it take to remove a city manager and what happens if there is a midterm vacancy on the city council, he said.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said she did not attend the July 11 special council meeting, but heard that there was a comment that council did not follow the old charter so it rewrote the new charter for its own purpose. "That's just the most bald-faced lie that I have heard so far today," she said. As Wright has just explained, the old charter was multiple pages of repeals, which had to be included in the charter forever. Many items were from the 1930s and 1940s and were no longer applicable to the city. That's why the task force of citizens was set up to rewrite the city's charter to make it "modern day" and workable for the city and its citizens, she said. "Hopefully the citizens will approve, on the ballot, the new charter, which will make the city run smoother," Schuler said. "If there is ever a question or if something needs to be answered, it will be as it states in our charter." Charter Committee Member Jim Barnard said the committee's main focus was not only to make the charter shorter, but easier to read so that everybody could understand it. City Attorney Gerald Buhr noted that he was the one who suggested creating a new charter instead of revising the old one because a lot of its language was archaic and "some of it was nonsensical; some of it was downright unlawful." The City Council voted 4-1 to place the charter on the Nov. 5 ballot. Councilman Garrett Anderson voted "no." After the meeting Highlands Today asked Anderson about his no. Anderson said he really did not disapprove of the charter, but it had a few "discrepancies." He did not have his notes with him and could not specify on his area of disagreement with the document, Anderson said. "It is one of those things that if I don't fully agree with it, I don't want to put my name on it," he said. Also, Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray is now Brenda Giles after being married on July 3. "I married a gentleman from St. Stephen, S.C., named Franklin Giles," she said. "We are going to stay here." mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826