BELLE GLADE -- Belle Glade City Manager Lomax Harrelle is proud of the progress the city has made over the past 12 years.
At the June 21 Belle Glade City Commission meeting, the, outgoing Belle Glade City manager presented a breakdown of sizeable accomplishments made by the City of Belle Glade since 2008.
Harrelle pointed out the larger and more significant goals which have been reached since he rejoined the City of Belle Glade in October 2008. He noted none of these achievements would have been possible without the city’s management team, employees and city commission working together.
“We have been extremely fortunate to have assembled the team who have all worked so hard toward one common goal for the last 12 years, improving the City of Belle Glade,” Harrelle said.
Throughout the past 12 plus years, the city of Belle Glade has grown in almost every aspect of function. Due to the need for fast action, the city has been able to take care of issues such as financial debt, depressed fleet, low employee morale, etc., he explained.
In 2008, the city had a total of 70 vehicles in its fleet which were old, well-worn and undependable. Thanks to a strong and long-established working relationship with companies in the Glades, the city has now been able to upgrade those 70 unreliable vehicles to new or gently used vehicles to serve the city. Today in 2021, the city owns 70 reliable vehicles ranging from sedans, 15-passenger vans, pick-up trucks, service trucks, dump trucks, sanitation trucks and even a full-size tour bus.
Since a large make-up of employee morale depends on whether they feel as if they are being fairly compensated for their work, the City of Belle Glade has always strived, even in its worst times, to provide its employees with at least an annual raise. Below is a breakdown of given pay increases and bonuses from 2008-2020:
• November 2008: $500 bonus;
• May 2010: 5% increase;
• October 2010: 3% increase;
• November 2012: $500 bonus;
• October 2013: 3% increase;
• October 2014: 50 cent raise;
• October 2015: 2% increase;
• October 2016: 3% increase;
• October 2017: 3% increase;
• July 2018: $250 bonus;
• October 2018: 5% increase;
• October 2019: 5% increase;
• May 2020: 2.5% increase;
• May2020: $500 bonus;
• October 2020: 2.5% increase;
• October 2020: $250 Bonus
The airport has seen a multitude of upgrades and changes throughout the last 12-plus years. Six projects have been completed or are underway;
The airport will see three more projects coming between 2022 and 2024;
On Nov 8, 2016, the Infrastructure Surtax was approved by voters which meant roughly an additional $1 million per year in city funding. This funding is put aside for improvements to recreation facilities and other activates around the city. In 2016, an oversight committee was appointed to accept and observe spending from this income.
As of today, a total of $4,279,289 has been approved by the committee and used for new playground equipment in all parks, improvements and renovations at recreation facilities, funding to replace the pool, walking paths, fencing and many other improvements at all parks in the City of Belle Glade.
The Infrastructure Surtax committee has set aside $400,000 to be put toward the reconstruction of the pool at Lake Shore Park. In 2019, the city applied for a Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) grant for the amount of $250,000 in addition to the surtax to total $650,000 for the Lake Shore Park Pool. However, the FRDAP grant was not approved.
Harrelle said that the city would apply for the FRDAP grant again, but if they do not receive it, they will then pursue approval from the Surtax Committee and City Commission to allot the additional $250,000 from the Surtax Fund to reconstruct the pool. Plans are being made to replace the current pool with a state-of-the-art indoor swimming pool with new locker rooms, restrooms, etc.
Since 2012, the City of Belle Glade has been able to resurface 140 streets and make notable drainage improvements on seven streets with a total of $9,579,280 in state funding. As of June 2021, resurfacing an additional 17 streets is in progress totaling $720,720. The city has applied and is waiting for an award from SCOP for FY2022-23 to resurface another 13 streets. If the city is to receive this award, a total of 170 streets will be resurfaced totaling $11.359,685.
“We have been extremely fortunate to have the long-established working relationships with local, state and federal legislators that made this funding possible,” Harrelle said.
In 2014, the former Glades Correctional Institution was purchased from the State of Florida by an investment group. With hopes to bring more year-round employment opportunities for glades citizens, the investment group desired to turn the property into a second business park. Currently, 8-10 businesses occupy the site with approximately 100 people at work.
To construct its new cutting-edge manufacturing facility, newest owner, Finfrock, a pre-cast concrete manufacturing company, is in the process of demolishing all buildings which reside on-site of the prison facilities. This $36 million build-out will employ around 200-plus people and add to the city’s tax base.
The City of Belle Glade cherishes its agricultural hometown industry but seeks to add more year-round employment options for its citizens. While the city doesn’t have the resources to draw developers to locate to Belle Glade, it does offer small-town service, a hands-on approach by city staff and streamlined building and permitting to help move the project from an idea to reality quickly. During the last 10-12 years, the city has seen numerous new businesses open and or expand allowing more employment opportunities.
Below are businesses that have joined the city of Belle Glade during the last 10-12 years;
Businesses that have made expansions or remodels during the last 10-12 years include:
It has been noted multiple times by developers, contractors, sub-contractors and others how easy it is working with the City of Belle Glade and how fast things can get done. The city has not built or remodeled any of the units of housing listed below. Instead, they helped guarantee the completion of these projects.
Developments that have been newly built or remodeled include:
In 2018, the 10.4-acre parcel which was the old Gove Elementary School was deeded over to the City Belle Glade by the School Board of Palm Beach County. The one regulation put on the donation was that the property is to be used for housing. The City of Belle Glade has added one more restriction to the property which is it much be affordable home-ownership, no rental properties.
In 2008, the city’s general fund or otherwise known as the “rainy-day fund” had a balance of $1.98 million. Expenses that year surpassed revenues by over $1 million and the city saw rising debt. It was proposed to the commission to place a moratorium on spending until the city’s finances were under control. All spending was then operated on a “pay as you go” basis and the city quickly saw improvements.
From 2009 to 2021, the city spent over $33 million on projects, improvements, upgrades, etc. approximately $31 million of those expenses were covered by grants and other funding sources outside of the city. A few of those improvements were; resurfacing 157 city streets, total reconstruction and/or drainage improvements on seven streets and large improvements at the marina.
From 1992-2005 the City of Belle Glade had received the “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award”, a finance industry award. However, due to the state of the city, from 2006-2011 the award was not given to the City of Belle Glade. In 2012 the award was earned for the first time since 2005 and has been acquired for eight consecutive years.
In 2020, the City of Belle Glade received superior rankings in three of five categories of the Taxpayer Accountability & Transparency Project (TATP). The city saw an A rating in Government Debt and Government spending, a B rating in Government Size and a D rating in Crime and Education.
“We are certainly pleased with these top three ratings, but we know there is work to be done on the last two,” Harrelle said.
As of today, the City of Belle Glade is essentially debt-free. There is now over $11 million in the rainy-day fund and the net worth of the city has increased from $38.8 million to $55.7 million.
Harrelle said he is very proud of where the city is compared to where it was in 2008. He stressed that none of this would have been possible without the hard-working professionals beside him and citizens of Belle Glade who have supported him all these years.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the City of Belle Glade and I feel that I am leaving the city in outstanding condition on every front,” Harrelle said.