LIVE OAK — It took some time and some prodding from Chairman David Burch, but the Live Oak Community Redevelopment Agency board approved its budget for 2019-20.
After discussions about the budget and various projects within it at the Aug. 27 meeting, no board member seemed eager to approve the budget of $1.13 million, an increase of nearly $90,000.
After asking multiple times for a motion and then asking for dates to meet again to further discuss the budget, Burch finally received a motion and the budget was passed unanimously.
“I think the holdup is just not having much time to look at it in advance,” said Mark Stewart, a city councilman and board member.
Bruce Tillman, a board member, expressed that sentiment at the beginning of the discussion of the budget.
“I was aggravated at the workshop that we didn’t something to work with,” he said after learning the budget had just been completed that afternoon.
“I guess my opinion hasn’t changed with that.”
Tillman and Stewart then led the discussion of the budget, both asking about multiple projects funded for next year.
One of Tillman’s concerns was a decrease in funding for contractual services and engineering at Heritage Square, now listed as miscellaneous with the Heritage Square total nearly eliminated.
Gabrielle Redfern, CRA specialist who was named executive director later in the meeting, said the money was still designated for Heritage Square but with the hopes of utilizing it as incentives for development of the CRA-owned property in the Heritage Square area.
“Honestly, in good conscience, I could not figure out a way to move forward on that project at this time,” she said. “I felt like doing any sort of dollar expenditures coming up with more plans for that property…would not be the wisest use of the CRA’s money at this time.”
Burch was also concerned about Heritage Square and wanted to make sure the board and staff still was backing the project.
“We knew that project was going to take a long time,” he said. “I don’t just want to scrap that. We all decided as a board, we all sat here and said, ‘Is this something we want to go forward with?’
“We knew it was a long-time project.”
Redfern assured him that staff was still committed to “doing something wonderful” at Heritage Square.
Don Allen, another councilman and board member, laid out his vision not only for Heritage Square but other CRA areas as well.
Allen said the city needs to start now with a push to acquire the historic post office when the United States Postal Service moves out and will use it for the county’s museum. Allen said that would allow the CRA to use the old freight depot for storefronts as part of the Heritage Square development.
Allen also said the city has identified other locations for public works and should begin moving that department out of Heritage Square to continue to prepare the site for development including the addition of a splash pad and potentially a microbrewery or art gallery.
“There’s a lot we can do,” Allen said. “We need to get a move on.”
The budget has money set aside for stabilizing historic buildings such as the old water works building in Heritage Square and the post office, should the city obtain it.
There was also discussion about construction of a restroom facility at Heritage Park, near the trailhead and parking lot of the Heritage Trail extension. Redfern said that is a joint project with the county and Parks and Recreation.
The budget also contains funding for a watershed park on Wilbur Street behind Langford Stadium. Redfern said the plan would be to remove the pavement from the road and turn it into a greenway with possibly a veteran’s walkway included through a community partnership.
Redfern said the road would not be closed, it would just no longer be paved.
“That’s a good idea,” Tillman said, adding it was discussed several years ago.