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Port Orange Observer Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 2 years ago

'The secret of Port Orange is out,' Mayor Don Burnette says at State of the City

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"We can't just say we are the best kept secret anymore," Burnette said. "[People] are coming. They want to be with us."
by: Tanya Russo Staff Writer

The 2019 State of the City address began with a video in which Mayor Don Burnette had a figurine of Mickey Mouse on the desk in front of him. He said it represented the "most family-friendly business in the world."

Disney focuses on the individual, the family, joy and quality, he said. 

"Those are all things I like about Disney and Port Orange, and that’s why Mickey Mouse sits on my desk," Burnette said.

Burnette delivered the State of the City address to 125 people at Riverwalk Pavilion on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Each council member talked about the projects and developments in his District.

District 4 Councilman Scott Stiltner talked about the Dorothy L. Hukill Annex renovation project. The building is the former police department and was built in 1985. Stiltner remembered working in it for 22 years before his retirement from law enforcement in 2011. The entire 17,000 square-foot building has been renovated and will house the records department, utilities department, and parks and recreation. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled from 5:30-7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, and the public is invited to join.

Stiltner said Port Orange was recently ranked by SmartAsset as the seventh healthiest housing market in Florida, out of the 420 cities in the state. He said it is the first city in Volusia and Flagler County to rank in the top 10.

"The housing market is very strong in the city of Port Orange," Stiltner said. "That means great value and great return on your investment for being a resident of Port Orange."

Other developments within District 4 include:

  • Phase II of Pinnacle, a development by Paytas Homes, along the Williamson Boulevard corridor across from Cypress Creek Elementary school.
  • ICI Homes is building 170 single family homes in the first phase of Woodhaven.
  • Benton House, a senior care center on Airport Road, will house 80 residents.

District 3 Councilman Drew Bastian spoke about Coraci Park, the sports complex that houses the Port Orange Hawks football field. It will be adding soccer and Lacrosse to its fields. As the population increases, there is also a need for more parking.

Other developments in District 3 include:

  • Sanctuary at West Port Apartments and single family homes. Over 360 apartments have been built, and 160 single family homes will be completed soon.
  • The Victoria Gardens sidewalk project, meant to make it safer for children going to and from Sweetwater Elementary and Spruce Creek High School
  • The ongoing Wellfields and timber clearing project off Shunz Road, mandated by the state to thin the forest. 
  • Plans are being made for the Yorktown Boulevard extension to help divert traffic from Dunlawton Avenue.
  • Fire and safety are more efficient with the new fire rescue truck and the ambulance obtained by the city.

In District 2, Councilman Chase Tramont spoke about the St. Johns River to Sea Loop bike and pedestrian trails which will give families the ability to travel from Madeline Avenue to Charles Street.

Other developments in District 2 include:

  • Completed renovations at the City Center Complex, like the gym's new wooden floor and bleachers.
  • Various groups have planted 160 new trees and shrubs around city center.
  • Colored lights have been added to the fountains for a festive appearance, especially during holidays.
  • Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza is building their new restaurant.

Regarding District 1 Burnette talked about the Riverwalk Park and its features, including a splash pad, an entertainment facility, and a kayak launch. Phase II of the park is currently in the works, and will tie the walkway into Dunlawton Avenue and into the county trail system.

“They are working on the trail head,” Burnette said. “When that opens, we’re going to name it the Robert E. Ford Trail Head.”

The crowd erupted with applause. The late Bob Ford served the council for eight years.

Jimmy Hulas is also coming to the River District and the fishing pier and docks under the causeways have been rebuilt after the hurricanes. Last summer, Burnette said he walked the bridge at 11:00 p.m., "and there'd be people down there fishing.

"I absolutely loved it," Burnette said. “The secret of Port Orange is out. We can’t just say we’re the best kept secret anymore. [People] are coming. They want to be with us." 

Some of the other projects which have been completed include:

  • The replacement of 36,000 water meters throughout the city. The meter replacement project began in 2012 and cost $6.9 million.
  • There were 7,000 building permits granted with 30,000 building inspections.
  • Police and fire rescue responded to 20,000 calls.

The mayor encouraged everyone to download the “Civic Mobile” App to their phones. It allows one to gain information about the city quickly and allows residents to pay their utility bills. In addition, the second class graduated from Port Orange University, a program designed to educate the public about the workings of city government.

The city is waiting for FEMA reimbursement funds for hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Burnette said Gov. Ron DeSantis is helping to get those monies back to cities hit by the storms.

Transportation and infrastructure also continues to be an important issue.

“Yes, we hear you,” Burnette said. “Loud and clear!”

A new adaptive traffic light system is coming to the city soon which will allow the lights to communicate with one another and be better able to regulate traffic. That will happen from Atlantic Avenue and expand west. The city identified needs to expand and widen several roads, including Nova Road between Madeline Avenue and Beville Road, Williamson Boulevard from Dunlawton Avenue to Beville Road, and Taylor Road to Tomoka Farms Road.

The state of the city address also mentioned the Yorktowne Boulevard extension, meant to take some traffic off Dunlawton Avenue.

The city is also hoping to respond to emergency calls faster with its new ambulance. Port Orange is working on its septic to sewer project, which has 97% of the residents onboard. The city is working to get Ponce Inlet on the system. The goal is 100% by 2026.

Transparency in government is “vital to public trust,” said Burnette. The city is over hauling its computer software system to bring it more up to date with the hope residents will be able to get data easier and have more help with interpreting information.

At the city center, the recreation building will become a multicultural and arts center as well.

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