Special to the Sunday News
HARLEM, FL (Friday, June 24, 2016) — This largely black community has undergone enormous transformations, and now with perhaps one final push along portions of Harlem Academy avenue, could truly become a place its kids would be proud to call home.
And that might be the best thing that could be done for student morale in the Clewiston-area schools. No one questions that improved performance in schools is one of the highest development-related goals in this county.
The Harlem Community center is now fronted by a large beautiful park populated by dozens of medium-sized trees cared for by the energetic crews at Cross Training Ministries.
And the Harlem of today has a sizable percentage of fairly new and very middle-class residences surrounded by other modest but well-cared for homes. Lawns are green and watered and nicely trimmed. The Harlem library is a showplace.
Gone are the days of old when confidence in the future of Harlem was diluted by the presence of iron bars on the windows of house after house. Clearly there is evidence of reduction of crime, a mounting middle class here, and one assumes it consists of families whose breadwinners have had steady work at U.S. Sugar.
This kind of sharp appearances and progress is evidence of the presence of diligent families at work, investing their money into their residence, a widespread influence of numerous churches, not the result of a government project.
Hendry county was taking just such a step to, then a small misstep, in that direction last week— ordering demolition of a structure at 1136 Harlem Academy, when the contractor given the demolition job didn’t get the right address and took down the wrong building. There was some dismay.
The county had just received a federal designation that might raise by a few points the chances of winning a major grant. Here in Harlem might be the best place to commit funds that would have the greatest benefit for the school system, and at the same time demonstrate to Harlem that people around the whole county are with them 100%.
If there is such a thing any more as a small urban redevelopment grant that could replace the motley assortment of ‘commercial’ structures along Harlem Academy with a real commercial center, albeit small, with a small bank branch, a small theater, a place where kids can hang out without poolroom or drugs, it would put the finishing touches on a community that has worked its way back deservingly.
The demolition flap was an obvious miscommunication between county and contractor. Some of our higher-salaried government employees have a lot to learn about dealing with the kind of local contractors we have here.
In no time, the county heard reports from the neighbors, promptly as one can imagine, and called Mike Davis, the contact with the demolition company.
His company was low bidder for 1136 Harlem Academy, $4,800, and other demolitions at 1152 Georgia avenue, $2,940, 260 Bald Cypress in Montura, $2,400, and 3950 Hendry Isles Blvd in Pioneer, $4,410. The county told Davis his company would be “responsible for all necessary actions and costs.” Specifications by the county include: “The vendor shall remove all structures on the property. This includes the primary structure, sheds, garages, doghouses, etc. As a rule, the county does not want to leave secondary structures . . . The site shall be brought to a raked-site basis. This shall include bringing in ‘clean’ fill dirt.”