Officials decide not to pursue merger of Winter Park / Fraser
Sky-Hi Daily News
On May 20, the town councils of Winter Park and Fraser met at the Crooked Creek Saloon and discussed the future of merging their two towns. By the end of the meeting, they had agreed not to move forward with the consolidation.
No community members or members of the media were at the meeting.
When the Sky-Hi Daily News asked Fraser Manager Jeff Durbin and Winter Park Manager Dave Torgler what happened at the meeting, neither would comment.
“Both towns agreed to issue a press release (which neither have done in the two weeks since the meeting),” Torgler said. “It would be really inappropriate for me to discuss it.”
The meeting was attended by both town managers, mayors Fran Cook and Jim Myers, members of both councils, Winter Park Town Clerk Patti Garcia, Town Engineer Chuck Swanson and Fraser/Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor.
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“It wasn’t a public meeting,” Winter Park Mayor Jim Myers said. “It’s just a joint workshop.”
At the meeting, the people present discussed the “pros and cons” of the consolidation.
The last time the two councils met to discuss the merger of the two towns was Jan. 10. At the January session, both towns agreed it was in their best interest to further explore annexation. Annexation was one of the four alternatives a Joint Working
Group came up with in its year-long study that explored merging the two towns.
In order to move forward, both town councils decided to form a commission made up of three members from both town councils ” six total ” to find out what the legalities are in taking the decision for an annexation to a public vote.
But in order to form such a commission, each council would have to pass a resolution.
At the time, the resolution to appoint a commission was table until after the April elections.
At the May 20 meeting at Crooked Creek, “We decided not to activate a committee,” Myers said. “We’re going to put that off.”
He said elected officials feel that “when the time comes” Winter Park and Fraser will become one. “It will be a very natural consolidation.”
However, this could take five to 10 years, Myers said.
Cook said they had all the information on how a merger could benefit Fraser and Winter Park, but the town leaders did not want to “alienate” the communities.
“We did come to the conclusion that it was just not the right time to weigh in with the community,” she said.
Fraser Trustee David Pratt also attended the May 20 workshop.
“I’m kind of disappointed we’re not investigating it a little more,” he said. “Some town residents want to remain separate.
“Personally, I thought it’s still worth looking into because there’s a lot of advantages to combining the two towns,” said Pratt, owner of Crooked Creek Saloon. “It would have been a good business decision to at least go forward and looks at it a little more.”
Both towns would have been better off financially, he said. “We didn’t have a formal vote. The consensus (is that) they would like to let it lie and continue to have a good working relationship with each other. I voiced my opinion that we should keep looking into it. It’s kind of hard to fight for something when the majority doesn’t want to do it.”
In addition, he said, it would have been a complicated issue to put on the ballot.
“It’s unfortunate that the investigation work was wasted, but that’s the way it goes in government sometimes,” he said.
The town managers said the action not to move forward with exploration of the merger was a “consensus” and not an official vote. Neither were certain if the discussion would be discussed again at a regularly scheduled town council meeting.
Fraser Trustee Joyce Burford was not at the meeting, but is disappointed with the outcome.
“We had a process in place, that process has been tabled,” she said. “I really don’t know why they went in that direction.
“I hope it will be picked back up again in the future.”
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