Current Council’s assault on the City Charter is unbelievable!

GUEST COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a former three-term member of the Vero Beach City Council, and former mayor of the City.

“The proposal is for you to give up your voice in the use of the land and approve a blind open-ended referendum and let Council decide for you.”

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

The City Council Agenda for July 17th is unbelievable!

Below bottom is a direct extract from the Agenda for City Council Meeting for  Tuesday, July 17, 2018 3:00 PM.   It is UNBELIEVABLE.  You must be there to protect yourself and our City.

Regrettably, this message is long.  We ask your indulgence, but there are just this many developments which are important to the future of your City and your way of life which you need to know about.  We will comment on each issue separately in the near future.

Unbelievable – with no advising the voters about what will be placed at the West End of the 17th Street Causeway after the Utilities are removed, Council is asking the protection you have against misuse and unacceptable uses be removed.  The proposal is for you to give up your voice in the use of the land and approve a blind open-ended referendum and let Council decide for you.   See the Agenda below.

Unbelievable – that there is a proposal to end the City having the Legal Staff that has protected us so well and go to an outside lawyer, which will cost more per hour.   See the Agenda below.

Unbelievable – that River House, despite almost 1,000 petitions and the Recreation Commission recommending against it, is still up for consideration to be turned over to a brewery.

Unbelievable – that the sale of the Post Office is being put forward for final approval with the excuse that the  $1,300,000 proceeds will be used for the Lagoon when the City is running over with money from the Electric Sale, with “$26,000,000 unrestricted” after the proposed 2018-19 Budgetary Actions.

Unbelievable – The three-day Budget Session this year was cut to 2 half days because there was nothing cut out of the General Fund staff budget and there were several big increases in funding. Past sessions have run 2.5-3 full days.  This City Council “Folded Like an Unpressed Suit” very unlike the last 6 or 7 City Councils.  They did not protect your interests and look at cost versus benefit.

Unbelievable –  In the Budget Discussions there was chatter about building a new City Hall and raising Council salaries.

Unbelievable  – In the Budget Discussions the City is moving to deficit spending to cover current expenses, by using $2,500,000 FPL sale funds next year as a starter. The commitment is to a minimal $7.5 million deficit for five years.  That is in with the very optimistic hope that property taxes revenue will increase $500,000 each year in the face of the potential 4% loss due to the State Constitution referendum.  The City should be endowed with Electric sale proceeds, and should not deficit spend Electric sale funds five years in a row.

Unbelievable – In the Budget Discussions, despite an approximate 20-30% reduction in workload for the City Staff (City Manager, Finance Departments, etc.) as a result of the Electric sale, there is no reduction in staff and a 2% pay increase.  Less work and more pay!

Unbelievable – is $275,000 of unfunded street resurfacing next year and $2.3 million over five years.

Unbelievable –  is that the Lateral E Canal project, for Mainland City Drainage into the Main Relief Canal, is put off until 2021 and 2022 when it is the major negative City contributor to the poor Indian River Lagoon water quality.  “This is our last major untreated water source.”

Four Good Developments:
* The Marina debt is to be paid off with FPL sale funds, meaning this business now can maintain itself.  On the bad side, a Request for Information to outside firms was completed on leasing or selling the Marina.  Now Council is moving this to a Request for Formal Proposals.   The Marina should remain under the voters’ control and the RFP should be blocked at Tuesday’s meeting.
* On June 26th, Youth Sailing Foundation turned down Mayor Howell’s and Councilman’s Zudan’s request (confirmed on May 1 with a non-binding Council vote) to move from the Waste Water Plant site to Riverside Park, which would have taken either a large portion of the recreation field between the museum parking and the river, or alternatively the area in the South of the Park between Mockingbird to the existing South Boat Ramp, near or in conflict with recreation facilities located there.
* After the last two City Councils voted against help for our dying Lagoon, this Council is actually putting $767,000 into the effort next year by using the Post Office Sale money.  However, over 5 years there remains $3.8 underfunding for City remediation of Lagoon runoff.  The City would not have to sell the Post Office with all the excess FPL money.
* The City is following up the actions of several prior Councils to move the Sewer Plant from the Lagoon to the Airport for possible completion by 2021-22`.

This Budget Session was a very weak approach to maintaining our way of life and the needed financial restructuring of the City due to the Sale of the Electric System.  There is little plan to face the annual loss of $5,000,000+ in revenue in a $23,500,000 Budget, except deficit spending.  The Budget session was spend, spend, spend!  This reverses the commitment of the Councils of 2010 to 2017 to make each dollar provide benefit to you.

Word for Word Extracts:

CITY OF VERO BEACH, FLORIDA
JULY 17, 2018  3:00 P.M. REGULAR CITY COUNCIL MEETING
CITY HALL, COUNCIL CHAMBERS, VERO BEACH, FLORIDA

3. CONSENT AGENDA
F) Purchase of Downtown Post Office Property

4. CITY COUNCIL MATTERS
A. New Business
1) Consider directing the City Attorney to draft a referendum for community vote in November to remove “Big Blue” Electric Site from the City Charter. – Requested by Councilman Val Zudans
2) Consider directing the City Attorney to draft a referendum for community vote in November to remove the Water and Sewer Site from the City Charter – Requested by Councilman Val Zudans
3) Consider as part of the budget process, exploring options of both internal and external legal services for the City including a possible RFP to determine the best option for taxpayers. – Requested by Councilman Val Zudans
B. Old Business
Riverhouse – Council/Community Discussion For the convenience of all the following documents are attached: 1) Recent Photographs of newly refurbished Riverhouse 2) Vero Beach Code, Section 5.05 (Note: Riverhouse is located in Alex MacWilliam Boat Basin Park.) 3) Minutes of 05/15/2018 City Council Meeting regarding Riverhouse as New Business: pages 16-26 (Note: Motion made and Council vote on page 26.) 4) Background Information provided for that 05/15/2018 Meeting Agenda 5) Minutes (Draft) of the 06/19/2018 City Council Meeting regarding Riverhouse  a. Howle Proclamation b. Moss Response to Proclamation (“remaining professional”) as pertains to Riverhouse: pages 2-4  c. Public Comment as pertains to Riverhouse: pages 9-14  Requested by Councilwoman Laura Moss
5/15/18   Dr. Zudans made a motion to have the City Manager enter discussions with Mr. Bing about what potentially he wants to do if he is interested with a concession at Riverhouse. Vice Mayor Sykes seconded the motion and it passed 3-2 with Colonel Young and Councilwoman Moss voting no.

The local media is not covering this and unless you watch the meetings and the City Council agenda, it is hard to keep up with the issues.  If you have read all the way to the end here, THANK YOU and we need to keep these issues in the conversation with everyone who cares about the City of Vero Beach.  Please communicate with this City Council and share your thoughts on these agenda items.

Editor’s note: Following are the recommendations of the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce task force formed to make suggestions and recommendation on how the community should proceed in deciding on how best to make use of the power plant and wast water treatment sites located north and south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.  In short, the task force recommended, “…the community taxpayers and stakeholders should be included in a professionally led master planning process.” No where in their report did the Chamber’s task force recommend handing the decision over two three Council members whose seats were, for all intents and purposes, purchased by outside interests. Following is the full text of the final report issues by the Chamber’s 17th Street Intersection Task Force.

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