In Lake Helen recently: A mini horse attends the City Commission workshop, a candidate drops out, a house is misplaced, and more ...
After a dog allegedly killed a mini therapy horse last year, the Lake Helen City Commission is re-examining its policy on dangerous dogs.
Although nothing was concluded at the end of a one-hour workshop earlier in June, there was a considerable amount of excitement generated by an unusual visitor — Susie Q, a mini horse, who rode the elevator to meet the commissioners in person.
“It was very polite,” City Administrator Becky Witte said of the horse.
July Fourth Parade
Lake Helen had a novel solution to the problem of social distancing and July Fourth events: Make a 10-mile parade.
The meandering proposed July Fourth Parade route makes a total of 18 turns along city streets and ends at the Lake Helen Equestrian Center.
The new plan — subtitled “Bring the Parade to the People!” — will allow people to avoid large groups and practice social distancing, officials said, by allowing many people to watch the parade from their own homes.
Right house, wrong place
In late January, Travis Martin, the owner of Trayton Homes, discovered a house his company was building at 380 W. Ohio Ave. in Lake Helen was about 50 feet into city-owned property adjacent to Melissa Park in Lake Helen.
“We currently have a couple of projects going on here in the beautiful city of Lake Helen. We have one we’ve made a slight oops on,” Martin told city commissioners at a February meeting.
After initially deciding to move the home, Martin came back to the commission in May with a new proposal: Martin would buy the land from the city, about one-third of an acre.
The plan, which assumed $40,000 as the price per acre in the area, proposed buying one-third of an acre for $14,000 with an additional $6,000 to the city as a donation for improvements to Melissa Park.
According to Martin, the new plan was based on community input, while the moving of the house was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We think the city, community and citizens of Lake Helen could benefit more with these funds versus paying to have the house moved,” Martin’s letter to the commission reads, in part.
On June 11, the commission opted to counteroffer with a price of $25,000, and included portions of the lot that extend back to an old railway line that is intended to one day be a hiking trail. Martin will also be responsible for any additional costs, and the proceeds of the sale are earmarked for improving Melissa Park.
The vote was three to two for the counteroffer, with Mayor Daisy Raisler and Commissioner Kelly Frasca both voting no — Raisler proposed a higher asking price for the lot ($60,000), and Frasca stood firm on the idea of moving the structure.
According to City Administrator Becky Witte, Martin verbally accepted the city’s offer.
“We are working on obtaining surveys and legal descriptions at this time,” Witte said.
The exact cause of the original gaffe has never been fully determined, although likely culprits include misplaced survey markers and incorrect city plats, officials have said.
Candidate jumps off packed slate
Lake Helen had a whopping five candidates qualify for an upcoming City Commission Zone 2 election, but at least one of the candidates has decided to withdraw.
Vernon Burton, the longtime incumbent who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, has decided to retire from the position, Burton said.
Because the race is nonpartisan, and because there are more than two contenders, the race will be on the ballot in the primary, Tuesday, Aug. 18.
If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote Aug. 18, the top two will proceed to the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Bart Gawlikowski, a longtime resident and volunteer with the City of Lake Helen, in a Facebook post June 19, announced his intention to withdraw from the five-person race.
Gawlikowski, who is also president of the Lake Helen Garden Club, told The Beacon the combination of his current duties, the amount of work required to be a commissioner, and an attack on his character, led to his decision to withdraw.
“One single candidate, immediately after my paperwork was filed, was on the attack,” Gawlikowski said. “That statement definitely doesn’t apply to all the candidates.”
On the advice of his lawyer, Gawlikowski declined to give any details.
Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis said Gawlikowski managed to file his paperwork in the nick of time.
“He actually caught us right before we went to print on the ballot — so his name was removed,” Lewis said.
Gawlikowski was the only candidate so far in the county to qualify by the deadline and subsequently withdraw, Lewis said.
The remaining four candidates will be on the ballot in the Aug. 18 primary. They are: Roger Eckert, Roxann Goodman, J.T. Hargrove and Nancy Weary.
Although the candidates must live in Lake Helen’s Zone 2, all registered voters who live in the city may cast ballots in the Aug. 18 primary.