PEDA makes a push for parks, public schools in Poinciana’s Village 7.

Members of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, meeting at the Poinciana Community Center, discuss the lack of parks and public schools in Poinciana's Village 7. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

POINCIANA – An economic development group is trying to put a focus on one of the 10 villages in Poinciana, saying it’s woefully underserved and lacks parks and schools.
“It’s a disgrace,” said Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, of Village 7 on the Polk County side of Poinciana. “They have no parks there, or a middle school, or a high school.”
PEDA is now working to schedule a public meeting in Village 7, to talk about ways to pressure Polk County commissioners to make a long-term commitment to providing more public services there.
“I’m going to be setting up a Village 7 meeting, to meet with the various groups there,” Murdock said, during PEDA’s regular meeting on March 7 at the Poinciana Community Center. “It’s a very sad situation.”
Poinciana is a community of more than 84,000 residents that cuts across Osceola and Polk counties. Village 7 is “newer as far as housing growth in the community,” said Jeanette Coughenour, the manager of the community’s homeowners association, the Association of Poinciana Villages. “During the housing boom, it also experienced a tremendous amount of growth, but it’s basically overall newer construction than Villages 1, 2, 3 and 5.”
Located on the southern boundary of Poinciana, the students there attend schools in neighboring communities like Haines City, Coughenour said. Polk County, she added, hasn’t built any middle or high schools on the Polk side of Poinciana, and those residents are unable to attend Poinciana’s other high schools – Poinciana High, New Dimensions and Liberty High – because they’re located on the Osceola County side.
“When you live in Polk County, just as when you live in Osceola County, your children attend Polk County schools because that’s where your property taxes go,” Coughenour said.
Osceola County invested more in building schools in Poinciana than Polk has, Coughenour said, because “Osceola County housing has been here longer than Polk housing has. If you live in Polk County, there are certain circumstances where you could go to Osceola schools, like your parent is a teacher there, but otherwise you go to schools in the county where you live.”
“We want those two schools in Village 7,” said Tony Claudio, a volunteer at one of the elementary schools on the Polk County side of Poinciana, Palmetto Elementary. He added that Polk County’s School Board should consider turning another Poinciana elementary school, Lake Marion Elementary, into a middle school.
“We have enough elementary schools on the Polk County side of Poinciana,” Claudio said. “We should get Lake Marion Elementary to transform it into a middle school. It was designed to be a middle school, and they made it into an elementary school instead. So why can’t it be transferred to a middle school now?”
Wendy Farrell, a member of PEDA’s board of directors, said Village 7 students shouldn’t be forced to attend a school in a neighboring city.
“A lot of them go to Dundee Middle, which is way out,” she said.
But the challenge, she said, is finding a speedy solution, considering the length of time it takes any county to get a new school funded, then constructed.
“It takes five years to build a school, and we need it,” she said.
Jeff Goldmacher, a member of PEDA and a candidate for the Osceola County commission, said the short term goal should be to convince Polk County commissioners that Village 7 has the student population that warrants new schools being built there.
“We need to show Village 7 has enough students at the middle school and high school level to justify it,” he said.
Coughenour said she thinks that can be proven, simply because Village 7 grew so dramatically during the housing boom in the past decade.
“It would sure be nice to have a high school and middle school down here,” she said.
In the meantime, Polk County is moving closer to the start date for construction on a new park that will be built in Village 7. Phase one on the 28-acre park that will be constructed in multiple stages, and is expected to eventually include four baseball and softballs fields, three football-sized multi-purpose fields, a dog park, and two concession stands and restroom facilities.
Polk County commissioners have allocated $4.3 million for phase one of this project, which is expected to take about nine months to complete. The initial construction work will include the creation of access roads to the park, a parking lot, electric, water and wastewater servives, a stormwater retention pond, and field lighting for night use of the baseball and softball fields.
“The new park is located right off State Road 542, and it is under construction now,” Coughenour said. “The park construction is being undertaken by Polk County.”

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