By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- The next 12 months are fully scheduled with capital improvement projects, events and negotiations, city and county leaders said.
Hometown News asked local county and municipal leaders for a summary of expected 2014 happenings and their answers are provided below.
Indian River County
"We feel like we are going to see a measured growth for the next three years and we're pretty excited," said Joe Baird, county administrator.
"We've got a lot of projects coming up that are going to be a help to the community," he said.
One project that will break ground in 2014 is the new intergenerational recreation facility at the Richard N. "Dick" Bird Regional Park in the southern part of the county, said Mike Zito, assistant county administrator.
Major renovations and upgrades to Gifford Park will start in January, including raising and resurfacing the football field and senior and Little League baseball fields, as well as upgrading lighting for safety, Mr. Zito said.
"Additionally, the Indian River County Shooting Range has been selected to host the 2014 Shooting Industry Masters Tournament featuring many sport shooting Olympians and celebrities, as well as top executives from many nationally known gun manufacturing and ammunition supply corporations," he said in an email.
Some of the other projects include road paving and expansions, investigating elimination of septic tanks, oyster reef construction and public transit hub construction, county department directors said.
Indian River County Sheriff's Office
Soon after the new year, the Indian River County Sheriff's Office will hold a grand opening of its new state-of-the-art crime scene unit facility.
"Every day, our forensic team works hard to ensure the safety of the citizens of Indian River County," Sheriff Deryl Loar said in an email interview.
"It will be my district pleasure to officially open our new crime scene building and allow our team's expertise to grow even more. We will be hosting specialty forensic training to crime scene investigators from all over the world and will in turn reap the benefits of developing professional relationships with other in the field," said Sheriff Loar.
The crime scene building will be added to the tours of the sheriff's citizen's academy, beginning with the course starting Jan. 29.
Indian River County Chamber of Commerce
"In the early part of the new year we will be looking to the state legislature to retain Florida's Enterprise Zone program," said Penny Chandler, president of the chamber of commerce, in an email interview.
"The program has been very beneficial to our enterprise zone properties and is up for sunset review in the legislature. We expect we will continue to see job growth and - in some cases -business expansions from existing companies. Outside firm contacts with those interested in moving or starting a business will also continue to increase," she said.
The discussions between the city, Florida Power & Light and the Florida Municipal Power Agency will definitely get a lot of attention in 2014, said Jim O'Connor, Vero Beach city manager.
"I also expect to see the economy still recovering and that will show in building permits, not only new housing, but more importantly in renovations of existing housing," he said in an email interview.
"This reinvestment in our community is very important and shows that real estate in Vero Beach is worth investment," he said.
The level of city services, proper city budgeting and protecting city parks will also be discussed in the New Year, Mr. O'Connor said.
"Also, I see the season to be more populated with visitors and longer in duration. This trend has started and I expect it to continue. This will be good for community activities such as the beachside concerts, Under the Oaks, participation at the museum and theater and the continued development of 14th Avenue and the arts district," he said.
Newly appointed interim City Manager Joe Griffin said the financial condition of the city is in excellent shape, thanks to the watch care of the previous city manager, Al Minner.
"A number of projects go on in this city, especially for the population," Mr. Griffin said.
Some of the projects that will continue into, or begin in 2014, include drainage improvements, repaving roads, development of the Working Waterfront area, he said.
"And in the next city meeting, we will be bringing forward a recommendation for a natural gas franchise with Florida City Gas to provide service to the city," Mr. Griffin said.
His priorities while he holds the city manager position include making sure the city provides basic needs and services, public safety, roads and drainage, and make sure the employees have a safe and enjoyable place to work so they can work to their fullest potential.
The city will continue to work on the Fellsmere Water Management Area, a manmade wetland project with the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2014.
A storm water master plan is being developed and will help improve the city's chances for bringing in new business, said Mark Marthes, Fellsmere community development director.
Another ongoing project is the development of the North Indian River County Greenways, an interconnected system of greenways and blueways in Indian River County that promotes multi-modal transportation, connects urban and rural areas locally and regionally and enhances recreation and conservation opportunities.