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Opinion

Velazquez: City should reclaim Chamber building

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Last week, I learned via email from the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors that at their recent Board meeting, they voted to vacate their lease agreement with the City of Apopka and return the city-owned building, as is, to the City. Yes, the Chamber has had a longstanding relationship and partnership with the current and past administrations, leasing the building for $1.00 a year.   

Unfortunately, the last hurricane caused extensive damage to the building, making it uninhabitable for its membership to continue using.

Vice Mayor/Commissioner Diane Velazquez
Vice Mayor/Commissioner Diane Velazquez

The lease agreement stated the Chamber would be responsible for providing insurance and for all repairs to the building. It has had some repairs that were visible: a new roof. As for the mold, I was informed by staff that it has been remediated.

Still, the building stood unoccupied for over a year and a half.  

There were numerous inquiries made regarding the status of the building. Each time, I was told the board was concerned with the cost to fully repair. No information re: Insurance Claims reimbursement was available for review.  

Earlier last month, the City Administrator shared that the Chamber had expressed vacating the building because of a lack of funds to fully repair the building.  Then, a follow-up email asking for a pause as the Chamber was looking into another location.  The 2nd council meeting of May 2024 went so long into the evening; during the Commissioner’s Report, I did make a statement I would speak to the status of the Chamber at the next council meeting (which was yesterday, 6/5/2024).  

I did not have to speak of it since I had received the email earlier in the day from the Chamber regarding vacating the lease and building.  

What is a priority for me as an Elected official is to take care of two important assets for the City of Apopka. 

Number one is the employees who work faithfully to provide the best quality of services to the Taxpayers, businesses, and overall everyone who calls Apopka Home.

Number two are our city buildings that house All our Employees, First Responders, 911 Dispatchers, and Public Services.

The city population and communities have grown exponentially, as has the city staff to keep up with the services. I visit some of the offices/departments in the City where employees don’t have enough office space because it is shared with others.  Even though, the City will be building a new Public Safety Building, it is not in the near future. Reclaiming the Chamber building will afford new office space for the employees.  Over the years, the City has been approached by various non-profit organizations asking it to provide office space and/or a community center with the same benefits as the Chamber.  

I believe the time has come for the City to take full control of its assets and properly utilize them by housing a department that needs a larger office. The location is ideal, as it is a short walking distance from the main City Hall building.  

In my response to the Chamber Board, I thanked them for their longstanding relationship with the City and hope they will continue to strengthen that relationship, grow the membership, welcome new businesses, and strengthen their relationship with established businesses. 

Sometimes, changes can be challenging, but I believe the City reclaiming ownership of the building will benefit us as services continue to expand to meet the demands of our growing community.

Opinion, OP/ED, Apopka, Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, Apopka City Council, Vice Mayor/Commissioner Diane Velazquez, What should the City do with the Chamber building?

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  • Nodcenter

    Diane, your first obligation is to the people that you work for, the citizens of Apopka. Your second is to the employees of Apopka, who also work for the Apopka citizens. I know it's easy to forget about us, especially when it's not election time. As your neighbor, living on the same street that you do, and a citizen of Apopka I am asking you to deal with a problem that both of us, and most of our neighbors and others outside our HOA are dealing with. The lack of reuse water pressure and volume. We should be able to have the same pressure, and volume that we did when I moved in 4 years ago. Why do the people in the older section have plenty, yet those of us in the newer section, that is connected to all the new development not have enough. City employees have consistently lied and said it is because of lack of rain, or other nonsense. Its reuse water, treated sewer water, not potable water that comes from a well. Our pressure, and volume has dropped equal to the new development. You don't have to allow the new development to have reuse if you don't have enough.

    And then in a recent news article about a sink hole off Golden Gem we find out that the City of Apopka is selling reuse water to the City of Altamonte Springs. Why are you, the City of Apopka, selling to another municipality what we don't have enough of? Can you or someone be honest with us?

    The City and the commissioners first obligation is to the Citizens of Apopka, we should not have to suffer, and pay more so that you can make yourself richer. Come up with a better plan, phase in the new developments' reuse access. Only sell to other municipalities when you have excess. The City of Altamonte ran out of capacity long ago, now they are causing us to run short. Where do we go? Mount Dora? That's is irresponsible management.

    5 days ago Report this