Depot District aerial

The Inverness city council will decide during its meeting Tuesday, April 6, whether to spend money for security cameras to be posted throughout the park and a security firm to manage and store the camera data.

For years, Inverness has marketed itself as a friendly and inviting city with inviting downtown shops and businesses, quiet, family-oriented parks, and safe neighborhoods.

But times change, and sometimes not always for the better.

Following a string of vandalisms at the renovated Liberty Park, including a February robbery at gunpoint, the city council will decide during its meeting Tuesday, April 6, whether to spend $68,028 for 18 security cameras to be posted throughout the park and for the security firm to manage and store the camera data for the next 10 years.

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Eric Williams

Inverness City Manager Eric Williams 

“Since the redevelopment and reopening of the Depot District parks, there has been an unfortunate increase in undesirable activities,” City Manager Eric Williams wrote to his council bosses. “In taking proactive measures to address these unwelcomed activities and to increase public safety and visibility, the city has engaged Howard Technologies to recommend, engineer, and install wireless camera systems (at Liberty Park).”

While Inverness markets itself as a Florida version of Mayberry, Williams told the Chronicle the world has changed and is more litigious than when the fictitious town was created for television during the early 1960s.

“It’s put Mayberry in the business of needing security cameras,” Williams said.

The city is responsible for trying to ensure people’s safety at the park and because there’s already been vandalism, the time has come for security cameras.

The expectation of some measure of privacy will unfortunately be a casualty, he said.

The park and its parking lot don’t have gated entrances and are open, which allows people to come and go as they please despite when the park and parking lot are closed, Williams said

Williams said the city will eventually also install security cameras at Wallace Brooks Park. There are no such plans for Whispering Pines Park because that park is gated with a single entrance and exit.

The security cameras will also act as a deterrent, Williams said.

People are less likely to do something wrong if they know they’re being recorded, he said.

“And if someone got hurt … someone would hold the city accountable for not having security cameras,” he said.

Inverness city hall already has security cameras.

If the city council agrees to the cameras, Williams said they could be installed and operational by the first part of the summer.

In other city business, the council will:

• Consider whether to hire Florida-based Civic Icon Arts to help the city in public arts planning and Art Festival management services.

“As council is aware public art adds value to the cultural, aesthetic and economic vitality of a community and is also increasingly part of quality urban design,” Williams wrote the city council.

“The city’s historic downtown is well positioned to add public art as an additional enhancement to its recent streetscape improvement initiatives,” he wrote.

The city has many artist strengths and art potentials, but the city needs a plan, he told the Chronicle.

“Public art is the embodiment ... and the first thing people see (when they come to Inverness),” he said.

Creating a larger artistic plan is beyond the city’s staff abilities, so outside help from someone steeped in the art community is needed, Williams said.

Under the proposed contract Civic Icon Arts would also oversee the city’s Festival of the Arts program. Williams said he wanted the Festival of the Arts to have an impact on the community throughout the year and serve as a springboard for art in the community.

“It’s an investment in the future,” he said.

• Will consider William’s request to demolish the long-time eyesore known as Manning’s Bar on State Road 44.

Manning's Bar secondary.jpg

The former Manning's Bar is located near the corner of North Independence Highway and Forest Drive. The Inverness council welcomed the city manager's notice he warned that if owner Milton Kongquee, of Hernando, did not demolish the building, the city would do it.

The bar closed about 35 years ago, but many know the dilapidated building with a fallen roof by its old Manning name.

If approved, the city could demolish the structure as soon as April 12.          

The city in 2016 directed owners Milton and Nadeen Kongquee, of Hernando, to fix the dilapidated property, but the couple did not comply.

Williams said efforts to fine the owners and force compliance to repair the property have not succeeded.

The cost to demolish the building will cost $6,000.   

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.