Editor’s note: Ken Daige is a former member of the Vero Beach City Council.
Why are “outsiders” now advising City leaders to sell valuable enterprise funds, such as the water & sewer and solid waste utilities?
There has been no public outcry at the podium from residents of the City demanding the disposal of enterprise fund departments, no public record emails or letters, and no current news articles demanding the City divest its enterprise fund departments.
Indian River County has not expressed a current interest in taking over our enterprise fund departments. They have their hands full with ‘tires.’
Behind the scene conversations by “outsiders” have always included plans to bring about disincorporation of Vero Beach, with Indian River Shores and Indian River County dividing the spoils that include Vero’s Museum, Riverside Park, Riverside Theatre and Vero’s quality beaches.
This conversation by “outsiders” includes schemes for commercial development of parkland properties under the electric and wastewater systems. As a gentle reminder, City of Vero Beach residents have twice voted in favor of protecting and maintaining these properties, now described in the City Charter as parkland.
Plans by non-City residents include “allowing” Vero Beach to remain a city in name only without any enterprise funds and extremely limited government functions. The Police Department and Recreation Department, among other departments, would be turned over to the County.
Placing all City Government functions into the County’s hands would enlarge County government – a direct opposite to the oft preached desire for less and smaller government.
Currently cities are fighting for Home Rule vs ultimate State Government control.
As a gentle reminder to the residents of Vero Beach, there was a study completed by experts in the field about the financial viability of our enterprise fund departments, such as the water and sewer utility and the solid waste department. Later there was a Benchmark Study which identified positive financial impacts from the enterprise funds. All of this information is public record. If City Council requests more studies the taxpayer-residents will be the checkbook.
The city is still in the final phase of the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. Putting more financial questions on the residents’ plates is unnecessary and disconcerting; they need to know more about the next budget cycle.
The City’s Water-Sewer, Garbage, and Marina fund departments are currently transferring income to the General Fund, and these earnings are used to help pay for important municipal services.
With the spotlight on issues at the County’s Spoonbill Marsh project, Vero’s Deep Injection Well is a tempting prize for the County. And the City’s wastewater treatment plant is a closed system with no discharges into the lagoon. So, despite what some might claim, the plant does not pose a threat to the Lagoon.
We are being told to accept opinions from those who are in favor of disposing the City’s capable, sound, and smooth operating enterprise fund departments. Their presentation at the last City Council meeting was not a reflection of the expectations of Vero Beach residents.
The opinions presented would diminish our Home Rule, including the advantage of having our own police, recreation-parks, and public works departments.
There is a noticeable difference in the level of City vs County services. There will never be a true comparison between city and rural quality of life issues. These two life styles are quite different. Folks choose to live where they do based on cost, services provided, and proximity to desired activities.
The current movement of conversation could lead to the dissolution of Vero Beach and its standing as the County Seat.
If that occurs, we, the residents, will lose all City Charter protections which include height and density restrictions, protection for parklands and related structures, and our Cemetery.
We would also lose all ordinances and resolutions which constitute our Home Rule. This includes short term rental provisions.
There will be consequences to actions that diminish Vero Beach as the City it is.