HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) met on Aug. 24 to address an update of the CRA’s Façade Grant Program and consider hiring a lobbying group to work with the City.

City Manager Ashley Stathatos discussed the new application for the Façade Grant program and requested an increase in the amount of matching grant funds from $5,000 to up to $10,000.

Stathatos said staff believed that the increase in construction costs and materials over the past couple of years merits an increase in the funding amount to allow property owners to consider larger projects. She reviewed the eligibility requirements and the reimbursement process in her presentation and also suggested that the CRA announce a “call for projects” initiative in October to stimulate project consideration.

Following discussion, Board members voted unanimously to approve the new façade grant package, the increase from $5,000 to up to $10,000 in matching funds and to conduct a call for projects initiative in October.

Board members also approved a request to act on Sun Rise Consulting Groups agreements for the purpose of using them to help the City locate funding for a new police station building. Stathatos said that Sun Rise has helped the City identify legislation that would impact smaller towns like High Springs. She suggested that their company would be looking at appropriation opportunities to fund the police station.

The cost for their services would be approximately $2,800 per month. Board member Ross Ambrose asked that the County be consulted to determine definitively if the City can use CRA funds for this purpose.

In other discussions, High Springs Public Works Director Thomas Henry said that the lighting in the downtown area will soon be brighter as his department will be replacing the current bulbs with 150-watt bulbs. Another option was considered, but the cost would be prohibitive. This alternative would improve lighting at night and cost the City less.

Also discussed was the removal of trees in the downtown area between Railroad Avenue and old First Street. The existing trees have increased in size to the point where the roots are undermining sidewalks. The sidewalks in that area are the responsibility of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and they come by periodically to regrind the sidewalks to level them after tree roots have raised sections making the sidewalks dangerous for pedestrians. “The Florida Department of Transportation has been consulted and they have approved the removal of those trees,” said Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham.

Henry also explained that FDOT will be redoing the sidewalks and roadways in 2026 and would have to remove the trees anyway to complete their project. Planters will be installed in that area as part of the revitalization of the downtown area. Gillingham said the planters have already been planted.

Although the Board could have voted at this meeting to remove the trees, they opted to put the issue on their next CRA agenda. Gillingham and Henry said they would provide photos of how the planters will look in the downtown area at the next meeting.

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