Deadwood Season 3/Episode 1 (minus a few four-letter words)
In 1990, the city of Apopka was a community of 13,512 residents, according to the US Census. The population had more than doubled since 1980. Apopka was growing then, but it was still a small town.
In 2000, Apopka nearly doubled its population again to 26,642. It was clear the city was up and coming, but it was still a small town.
Now, in 2022, Apopka is booming with over 55,000 residents and consistent growth. It can no longer call itself a small town. But is Apopka ready to do the things necessary to become a modern city?
Many residents would like to see Apopka keep the small-town charm it's been known for, and also manage the growth it is experiencing. That doesn't sound like a bad plan, but are small-town charm and managed growth at the core of the challenges Apopka faces?
Change happens. It is not to be feared, resisted, or ignored. It's inevitable.
With technology and innovation continuing to move forward, a modern city needs to invest in itself to flourish and compete in its region. A growing city like Apopka must move forward or lag behind other comparable cities in Orange County and the region despite having its second-largest population.
On June 30th, around 11:40 am, a horrible accident occurred at the Apopka Fire Department's Station #1. A 4,500-pound sand trailer fell on top of a young firefighter/EMT.
I've asked several firefighters what a sand trailer is. Some did not know. Some have never seen it in action. But those familiar with it say it's an invention from around 1990 that was dispatched when there were fuel spills after traffic collisions. It's rarely used these days if ever, I am told.
I am not referencing this accident to implicate anyone. I'm not blaming the leadership of Apopka or the Apopka Fire Department for this terrible accident. There will be a time for investigations and accountability, but not now.
I will, however, make the case for using the coming budget cycle to invest and upgrade every department at the City of Apopka and maybe add another. There is a time and season for every invention, innovation, and advance in technology... and then it's time for another.
The fax machine was once the best way to move documents efficiently for businesses and individuals. It was in every office and seemed like a miracle... until email went mainstream and became more accessible to use than the fax.
A little over 100 years ago, telephones changed the world of communication for everyone. Suddenly, people could talk to anyone in the world. But then, the emergence of cell phones changed communication dynamics, and telephones (now known as landlines) are used far less than they were.
People moved on from the fax and landline. I could extend the list and reference AOL, The I-pod, and Internet Explorer, but you get the idea.
In 1990, the sand trailer was a clever invention that helped the AFD deal with fuel spills. But today, specialized hazmat units deal with those emergencies more efficiently and safely.
A two-person squad truck following a fire engine staffed with two firefighters was a flexible way for a small-town department to fight fires economically. Still, four firefighters on a fire engine are more efficient and safer for a modern fire department.
Having a mayor act as economic development director is an inexpensive way to let prospective business owners meet the CEO of a small town. A handshake with the leader is important, but in larger modern cities, it's more efficient to have an economic development department handle the day-to-day duties of building a city's economy. It allows a mayor to perform the duties of the mayor and then come in at the end for those important handshakes after the deal is closed.
No one in the world wants to pay higher taxes, but after record-low millage rates for as long as the eye can see, perhaps this is the budget where that should no longer be the primary goal. There are a lot of areas that need addressing.
It's time to take advantage of those perpetually-low millage rates and invest in Apopka.
And while public safety (fire and police departments) are the most important to upgrade and staff-up to appropriate levels, other departments are in dire need of investment as well. There is also a commitment made by members of the City Council to get the ball rolling on annexing South Apopka.
If Apopka is going to grab the mantle of the up-and-coming city in Central Florida, it is essential that they get past the idea of pinching pennies every budget cycle, and upgrade the city. It's important for the well-being of residents, the prosperity of businesses, and the safety of everyone.
And yes, lives could be at stake.
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