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Alligator Point flourishes under new neighborhood leadership

It’s not your father’s taxpayers’ association anymore.

In fact, the Alligator Point St. Teresa Association is
blossoming, having ventured out with a rejuvenated outreach to the community.

A July 4 catered affair for members at Kay McCord’s home at
Mariner Circle not only celebrated the nation’s independence, but the newfound independence
of the association.

In his year as president, succeeding Dr. Andrea Novak, Ben Houston, retired as a executive with Memphis-based Donruss and Philadelphia-based Fleer baseball card companies, has continued the sort of
broad outreach that had been the case with longtime board member Allan Feifer.

But in addition, he’s instituted a regular digital
newsletter to members, keeping everyone well-informed. And he’s toned down the
often confrontational manner of his predecessor, avoiding taking on any issues
that do not directly affect his constituents.

“Ben Houston has been with the Alligator Point St. Teresa Association
for over 25 years and has been instrumental in helping to inform and develop
the organization,” said Feifer.

Feifer said he’s glad Houston has stepped that information
campaign up, because a lot of folks don’t know the extent to which the association,
over the past five decades, has enhanced the neighborhood, beyond the high-profile
issue of the Alligator Point Drive paving and repair, with which it is often

The group has funded the $35,000 needed to build a firehouse
for the volunteer fire department, and funded No Parking signs, streetlights
and other signage, as well as the creation and maintenance of the area’s
welcome garden, located about 3.5 miles south of U.S. 98 on Alligator Drive.

The association has funded Christmas decorations, and
provided support and design assistance to have the governor appoint a special master
to fix the road in front of the KOA. The group works closely with Sheriff AJ
Smith on issues of concern such as parking, speeding and policing issues.

In addition to hearing reports from Commissioner Bert Boldt,
Fire Chief Hugh Hartsfield and sheriff’s officials at its board meetings, the association
last Saturday heard from Kristin Ebersol, manager of Bald Point State Park.

She told of how the state’s recent purchase of lands from Deseret,
the land-owning arm of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, will mean an additional
4,000 acres will be added to the park, enlarging it to 13,000 acres. Part of
that will include creation of a passage to Ocklockonee River State Park in
Wakulla County, enabling bears to transit between the two parks.

Houston has announced plans to step down as president this
fall when his term expires. The word is Dr. David Harris, an Alligator Point
resident who also serves on the board of Weems Memorial Hospital, could succeed
him, which would have a touch of irony since the association, unofficially with
Feifer at the helm, often voiced opposition to Weems in favor of Ascension
Sacred Heart.

One issue the new board will no doubt weigh in on will be
a proposal by the Alligator Point Water Resource District to expand its boundaries
beyond the original ones created in the mid-1960s. Chairing the district board is
Chip Morrison, with Bucky Mitchell and Tom VanderPlatts rounding out the
three-person panel.

The idea is to expand the boundaries beyond the roughly 400
accounts within the district to include contiguous property that at present
encompasses about 65 customers that fall outside the boundaries. These customers
live to the south and east of the current district, including the Bald Point and
Pine Street areas, between Mission by the Sea church and US 98.

Ron Mowrey, attorney for the district, this past spring
secured a letter of support from the county commission to embark on an effort to
have a vote by residents to expand the boundaries.

The matter now heads to the Florida Legislature, which will
have a chance in the spring to vote to authorize such an election. Possible
sponsors of the legislation enabling the vote would be State Sen. Loranne Ausley
or State Rep. Jason Shoaf. If the legislature backs it, then it could go to a
vote as early as April 2022.

To expand the district boundaries, the vote would have to
secure a majority of people, registered to vote in the county, who live within
the proposed areas of expansion.

Feifer, who follows the water district matters closely, said
a similar vote held a decade ago failed by a mere three votes.

He said the move would lower rates for house assessed at $230,000
or less, and would enable customers who live outside the district to possibly serve as directors. He said it also could expand fire protections to these
areas, and guarantee them water.

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