Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue project.
An opportunity for rebuilding city-county relationship.
With Inverness home to county facilities as the county seat, county government has a shared interest in the functionality and attractiveness of the downtown district.
Recognizing this shared interest, county commissioners in 1988 agreed to contribute to the city’s cost of improving Park Avenue, now called Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Avenue, since it was primarily used by county employees and visitors to access county facilities. Under the 1988 agreement, the county’s share of the estimated total cost of $62,000 was $15,000.
Since the agreement was penned the city-county relationship has regrettably soured over the years with the principal reason being the county’s decision to withhold its contribution for the operation of Whispering Pines Park during the period 2008 to 2014, even though the park serves all county residents.
The resumption of the county’s contribution for Whispering Pines Park in 2014 gave hope that the two governing bodies would work more closely together on mutually beneficial improvement projects in the downtown district. Regrettably, that hope has faded with jabs and counter jabs over such disputes as the city’s CRA expansion and annexations at the request of property owners.
The latest jab came from Commissioner Ron Kitchen’s adversarial suggestion that the park’s funding be put on the table during the county’s upcoming budgeting process. Although Commissioner Kitchen quickly recanted his suggestion, it unnecessarily reopened the Whispering Pines Park wound.
For this reason, the city’s letter resurrecting the 1988 agreement that asks the county commission to help fund MLK Avenue’s realignment, sidewalks, and landscaping in the spirit of cooperation is an opportunity for rebuilding a much needed city-county relationship that is a two-way street.
When indexing for inflation, the county’s 1988 $15,000 share is now $37,500. Given the county’s healthy reserve fund, an increased taxable value of at least $1 billion, and the mutually beneficial MLK Avenue improvements, county commissioners are urged to honor its previous support of the project in the spirit of cooperation.
The time is long overdue for the two governing bodies to put aside personal sensitivities and bureaucratic disputes in favor of working together collaboratively in the shared interest of making our county seat a place that every county resident can take pride in.