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News Story
Updated: 04/21/2017 08:30:01AM

For seven citizens, a victory of sorts

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GARY PINNELL/Staff

Santos De La Rosa has been asking Highlands County to pave .13 miles of Oak Manor Avenue for 11 years.

By GARY PINNELL

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SEBRING — Santos De La Rosa may finally get his road paved.

The DeSoto City resident asked Highlands County to pave a .13-mile section of Oak Manor Avenue 10 years ago. Last year, the commissioners agreed to pay half the paving costs, and find a way for seven residents of the road to pay $20,000 in taxes — perhaps over the next 10 years.

We’ll call you, De La Rosa said he was told last year. “But here we are, over nine months later, and we have never been contacted,” De La Rosa said Tuesday.

Commissioner Don Elwell apologized and all five commissioners agreed to have Road and Bridge Superintendent Kyle Green come back with a plan next month.

Oak Manor Avenue connects to U.S. 27 via Lunsford Road and Pioneer Road, all of which are paved. And oddly enough, De La Rosa lives on a paved portion of Oak Manor.

But, although the county maintains the road, the entry point — where Oak Manor meets Pioneer — is white shell with a washboard effect.

Oak Manor residents contacted the neighboring citrus grove owner two years ago, and they agreed to divide half of the paving costs, De Le Rosa said. But the county has stalled on paying its half.

A 50-50 split has only been an unofficial policy, but the county still should honor it, Commissioner Jim Brooks said. “We shouldn’t make a man wait 10 years. We can make that happen, and we ought to.”

“Why don’t we just pave it?” Commissioner Greg Harris agreed. “We can get (a property tax) assessment, up front or over time.”

Commissioners did ask Green last year to develop a county-wide, road-paving policy, but he got sidetracked away from De La Rosa’s road, they admitted.

“Ten years is ridiculous,” Commissioner Jack Richie said. “We do owe this community a debt for the promises that were made.”

“Mr. De La Rosa is an unofficial poster child for getting this policy into place,” Elwell said. “Is there something we can do to get that rolling?”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners discussed a deal with Sun ’n Lake of Sebring to pave a portion of Schumacher Road, which borders the improvement district. SNL agreed to pave 25 percent.

Why is Sun ’n Lake treated differently, De La Rosa asked.

A lot more people live on or use Schumacher, Commissioner Jim Brooks said. “There is a difference.”

“Can we give direction to Kyle to get an estimate?” Elwell said.

Green agreed to report back to the commission next month with an estimate of the paving costs, and a method to tax the seven residents.

Green agreed, but reminded commissioners that others who live on paved roads will contact his office. “Everyone in the county is going to expect the same thing. They’ll call before I even get back to my office.”

“When they come to us, we should address them, and don’t make then wait 10 years,” Harris said.


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