In a guest column published in the Press Journal, Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger urged city residents to attend the 9:30 a.m., Feb. 7 meeting of the City Council to support an effort he is backing to help address the Lagoon crisis.
The proposal to raise an average of $5 per month from each of the City’s property owners to pay for better filtration of stormwater runoff was approved by 11 of 12 members of the Finance and Utilities Commissions. Yet, Winger expressed concern that several Council members may attempt to stall or kill the plan. “The City Council has members who campaigned one way and perhaps will vote another,” Winger wrote.
As Winger explained, within the five counties through which the Indian River Lagoon flows, Vero Beach is only one of two municipalities not adequately funding filtration of stormwater runoff with a dedicated, secure source of revenue. Winger reiterated the message he is receiving from fellow members of the Indian River Lagoon Coalition, which is that the Lagoon can only be saved if each and every county and municipality along the estuary does its part.
According to Winger, two-thirds of Vero Beach surface water currently flows into the Lagoon unfiltered, “carrying whatever is on our lawns and paved surfaces to contaminate the Lagoon.”
The average monthly fee of $5 to be paid by local property owners would not be used for salaries, operating expenses or equipment, but would instead pay for piping, pumps and filtration system to better clean surface water runoff before it reaches the Lagoon. The money could also be used for muck removal and aeration projects to clean the bottom of the Lagoon near outfall areas.
Opponents of the proposal, Councilman Harry Howle chief among them, argue the Lagoon Enterprise Fund will lead to more bureaucracy. Winger and other proponents of the plan stress that none of the money raised will in any way increase the City’s payroll or to buy equipment. Use of the funds will be restricted specific projects. If the City is going to do its part to help save the Lagoon, the only other alternative, they say, will be to raise property taxes.