Loss of additional enterprise funds will lead to the end of home rule for the people of Vero Beach

COMMENTARY
Insisting governments should not be in the utility business, some want to turn the city’s water and sewer system over to the county. But isn’t the county also a government?

Editor’s note: Ken Daige is a former member of the Vero Beach City Council.

KEN DAIGE

Ken Daige

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.

4 comments

  1. It is interesting to note that the Finance Commission met one week before the Agenda was published for the City Council Meeting of May 1. The subject of the disposal of several or all of the City’s Enterprise Funds was not on the Finance agenda.

    If this issue was of such high priority that it had to be mentioned immediately at the City Council meeting, I feel it would have been important to put that subject on the Finance Commission’s Agenda for study, comment and recommendation.

    If there had been sufficient backup for the issue to appear on the City Council’s Agenda, surely that information should have been presented to the Finance Commission for review and comment. If that backup did not exist, as is apparently true, then it should not have appeared on the City Council’s agenda either.

    This appears to violate the fundamental precepts of good, true and honest government.

  2. Please leave well enough alone. Our city has done so well for so many years we don’t need to change it. As the old expression is “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. please Outsiders leave Vero Beach to Vero Beach residents to make their own decisions. We don’t need your input anymore you have caused enough problems over the last seven or eight years with the power plant.

  3. Who are you addressing in your comment? The author of this commentary, Ken Daige, is a current and long time resident of the City of Vero Beach, and a former member of the Vero Beach City Council – by no means an outsider. In contrast, Mr. Faherty and Mr. Heran are county residents, and allies of County Commissioner Bob Solari. Mr. Solari once held a seat on the City Council. At the time, Mr. Solari’s fellow council members did not recognize or appreciate his genius. He has ever sense held this against the City.

  4. The Vero City Council should insist that any person coming before them to speak must state whether they reside in the city or the county. For too long certain people have skirted around the issue by claiming to be Vero residents when they, in fact, live outside the city limits.
    The Dynamic Duo played that card at the last council meeting but were never corrected or asked a question as to the correctness of their status.
    It is my opinion that the Dynamic Duo are working against the best interests of the city and in the interest of the county takeover of our city.
    While they claim to be experts,let’s remember they were wrong in their analysis of the how much money would be derived from the sale of Vero Electric to FPL,and they were wrong by millions of dollars. So, so much for their expert status; we can put that myth to rest once and for all.
    Furthermore, claiming that governments should not be be running any utilities and then urging the county take over that same enterprise is illogical. The Dynamic Duo can’t have it both ways.

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