Indian River Report Headline Edition. Tune into Rhett Palmer live at 8am on Monday and 3 pm for details.
County Attorney Marianne Fell was cut from the team. County Attorney Will Collins made the call after being directed to trim staff due to budget cuts. Was there more to it than meets the eye? You bet there was.
Jim Davis, director of Public Works is retiring this week. Truly one of the honest good men of government. Good luck and thanks for your many years of service.
The issues caused by last weeks vote on beach renourishment may not be completely decided. A lawsuit has been filled by the lowest bidder protesting the award to the higher cost proposal. Readers may recall that Commissioner Gary Wheeler made a motion that awarded the contract to the higher bid. The motion caught all by surprise especially the low bidder who had little time to try to stop the train.
Beach residents were hoping to have the process complete by the start of turtle season in the spring. It is likely that the litigation will cause a serious delay perhaps into next year.
The issue was the hot topic at last weeks Coffee with the Vero Beach Council. A number of questions were asked of Tom White who told concerned beach residents to contact their County Commissioner. White said he could not explain the County Commission decision but expressed concern over the traffic caused by selecting the mainland source and the decision to use a St. Lucie County sand mine that resulted in trucks going over all bridges not just Wabasso and traveling more miles along A1A.
Speaking of lawsuits, the county lost round one in the legal action filed by Ocean Concrete. The County denied an application by Ocean Concrete to place a concrete batch plant along a stretch of Old Dixie Highway. Bowing to pressure by the IRNA Commissioners reclassified Ocean Concrete and prevented the plant and its 50 plus employees from opening. The Courts held that the County used an improper legal basis for failing to extend Ocean Concrete's application. A second part of the legal action is what is called a "Burt Harris" claim. Prepare for the County to have to write a multi million dollar check for damages.
Tourism in Indian River County continues to spiral downwards. Another 15% loss was reported this week. A large loss in February and March is directly tied to the departure of the LA Dodgers. Minor League Baseball was slated to begin hosting events this fall but that has now been postponed to February of 2010.
Just three months ago the Tourist Development Council awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism again. One of the Chambers biggest supporters was Council member Susan Hunt. Hunt is the marketing director for the Vero Outlet Mall which is now in foreclosure.
Hunt was also one of the Tourist Development Council members to approve funding for the Tourist Development director including a handsome salary, health benefits and retirement. Friday it was announced that the Chambers Tourist Director, Lori Burns, was retiring and she would be replaced by....wait for it...Susan Hunt.
Don't get me wrong, Mrs. Hunt is highly qualified and will likely do well but taking a position that she voted to fund? Just two days before the announcement Hunt took part in a meeting and heaped praise on the Chambers presentation without disclosing her conflict of interest.
Well, maybe she will at least bring some much needed changes to the Chamber program. Hope springs eternal.
CITY OF VERO BEACH
Utility rates remain the driving force in the City of Vero Beach. Council members heard a barrage of complaints at its public hearing last week. Mayor Sabe Abell told the crowd that rates would be lower in January but when pressed by citizens would not say that rates would be the same as FPL or even competitive with FPL.
Questions remain about the new contract entered into between the City and Orlando utilities. Some, including this reporter, say that we may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
After all we have been subjected to a long list of poorly executed contracts approved by the City Manager and legal department. All Requirements Power, Legal representation for the FMPA lawsuit, Dodgertown purchase, all multi million dollar mistakes. Still we approve Orlando Utilities, a water project that includes million plus for buildings we will not need if a cooperative effort with the County is approved, a Government Clinic which could spell disaster in the future, a red light camera contract that may well land us in court and on and on. Who is responsible?
By the way. Did you know that the City of Vero Beach has a seat on the Florida Municipal Power Authority Board of Directors? How did our representative vote when the issue of gambling on fuel hedge futures came up that ended up costing Vero Customers millions. Reportedly he voted for it. Just the latest in a long series of multi million dollar mistakes by City staff. But no worries...we'll just raise rates.
Citizens hoping to have a referendum on power providers have collected more than 6,000 signatures. Want to sign up, try 2002 restaurant on Miracle Mile or the Arby's restaurant on US1.
Remember a referendum was held in the late 70's where voters voted by a four to one margin to sell the utility. Has anybody asked if there was an expiration date in the referendum?
Former Councilwoman Lynne Larkin got pounded for legal fees stemming from a City Council race several years ago. Larkin was savagely attacked by a political action group out of Palm Beach. Her efforts to defend herself have now cost her $85,644 in legal fees. Larkin is herself a lawyer and says that the fees being charged are excessive.
School District officials continue to fight Charter Schools. The Board will be asked to deny Imagine Schools seventh and eight grade expansion. This is needed so that students can go from K to 12 in Charter schools without having to go to the district school for 7 and 8 and then back to the Charter High School to graduate.
Also set to oppose a new charter for grades k - 5 called Journey Charter.
Aggressive overbuilding has left the Indian River School District deep in debt and with as many as 2,000 empty seats. District officials cannot afford to lose more children to Charter Schools.
Unemployment remains among the highest in the state but did not rise in August. Now at 15.2%. Indian River County has been shedding up to 600 jobs per month since the beginning of the year.
Riverside Bank is nearing the bottom. Ranked as troubled by national firms. RUMOR HAS IT that a takeover is imminent.