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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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County responds to Wimauma outcry for services

WIMAUMA — People in this mostly rural enclave in southeastern Hillsborough County recently spoke out about poor roads, a lack of sidewalks, crime and a perceived shortage of government services in their area.

Hillsborough County officials are responding. They have agreed to help organize an area cleanup, work with the school district to build sidewalks along school bus routes and address complaints about poor drainage.

“This is unprecedented,” said Liz Gutierrez, director of planning and programs for the Hispanic Services Council, which conducts outreach in Wimauma. “It’s an example of an amazing coming together through collaboration with the community.”

Hillsborough workers in recent weeks have graded some of the community’s dirt roads; they are documenting areas where illegal dumping takes place and have promised to look into financing a program to help maintain private roadways.

Public Works Director John Lyons said he believes some issues can be addressed without the county spending more money.

The Hispanic Services Council is working with Wimauma residents to help them develop leadership skills, address health issues and otherwise begin to fulfill their hopes for the community. The council’s interest and efforts led dozens of residents to attend a meeting in December at which they pondered why the county doesn’t do more for Wimauma.

Wanda Sloan, Hillsborough’s Community Affairs and Neighborhood Relations representative, helped organize a meeting last week at which county officials met with Wimauma residents.

Because Wimauma is within the county’s designated Rural Service Area, it is not targeted for some upgrades, Sloan said. But others are in the works, she said.

Other matters under consideration include a summer program at the local community center. Shorty Robinson, with the county’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation department, said officials are working with the Redlands Christian Migrant Association to launch a summer program in Wimauma. The RCMA now runs an after-school program at a center in the community.

And Maj. Ron Hartley, who oversees law enforcement in the area for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, said he will continue working with Wimauma residents to address crime problems, including aggressive four-wheeler enthusiasts who speed along neighborhood roads and illegally ride through conservation lands.

Ross Dickerson, general manager for the county’s Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands and Protection Program, said his office is aware of the issues in Wimauma and fenced the conservation property seven years ago to keep out four-wheelers. When the fence is cut, he said, it gets repaired. He also noted sheriff’s deputies not long ago conducted a sting to catch trespassers.

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