$600,000 of taxpayer-funded landscaping in Casselberry neglected, again

City manager promised high-end trees, plants would be maintained

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

CASSELBERRY, Fla. - Weeds are growing higher than the shrubs in the median that splits the U.S. Highway 17-92 flyover at State Road 436 in Casselberry and, underneath those shrubs trash has started to collect.

All of the landscaping, including the $3,500 Sylvester date palms, unique plants and shrubs, badly needs trimming.

Rhonda Campbell-Sunney, owner of Sir Vac & Sew on U.S. Highway 17-92, said the landscaping was maintained once in the past six months.

"They put a tremendous amount of money into the plants and irrigation system but they haven't done anything," Campbell-Sunney said.

Campbell-Sunney rebuilt her store nearly four years ago as the flyover was being constructed and was promised beautiful and maintained landscaping.

"It's very disappointing," Campbell-Sunney said. "It's an eyesore."

When the trees and plants were first installed in 2016, it cost taxpayers $600,000. The Florida Department of Transportation, which constructed the flyover and selected the landscaping, was responsible for maintaining the foliage.

Landscaper Doug Dickerman, owner of Paradigm Outdoor, warned in 2016 that the extensive and expensive landscaping would be difficult to maintain and cost even more taxpayer money if it had to be replaced.

Neglected landscaping in the median at US Highway 17-92 and State Road 436. (Image: WKMG)

In 2018, when the jasmine plants that were designed to eventually spread out and cover the mulch died, Dickerman again issued the same warning.

"If the city doesn't have the money to maintain it, everything goes away and it dies," Dickerman said last year. "It's a waste of money."

In 2018, in response to the neglected landscaping, Casselberry Deputy Public Works Director Kelly Brock, who is also a city engineer, wrote in an email that when the city took over maintenance from the FDOT, the median landscaping would be maintained.

Document from the FDOT show Casselberry inspected and accepted the landscaping on Aug. 17, 2018, and assumed all maintenance activities on Aug.18, 2018.

"We have planned and budgeted for maintenance of these flyovers and all of the various right of ways and medians that we maintain Citywide," Brock wrote in 2018. "For landscapes that are the City's maintenance responsibility, we have performance-based expectations of our contractors. For example, if hypothetically our contractor were to cause damage to plantings due to overspray or use of an inappropriate herbicide, we would typically expect them to replace the plantings in-kind at no cost to the city."

Brock did not respond to repeated emails Tuesday asking for comments for this story.

Casselberry spokesperson Sara Brady wrote in an email that work on the median is scheduled and should happen "soon."

"The site you are referencing will be weeded and groomed," Brady said. "These are normal landscape issues that are cared for regularly. The taller growth falls under DOT."

Brady did not say why the weeds had overgrown the shrubs and mulch despite being "cared for regularly."

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