Feds to investigate Solari’s pet project 2

An official with the Environmental Protection Agency's Atlanta office announced today the agency is going to investigate concerns about the County's Spoonbill Marsh wastewater treatment facility. Some are concerned about unaccounted for, brine-contaminated water that may be leading into the Lagoon and onto adjacent properties.

An official with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlanta office announced today the agency is going to investigate concerns about the County’s Spoonbill Marsh wastewater treatment facility. Some are concerned about unaccounted for, brine-contaminated water that may be leading into the Lagoon and onto adjacent properties.

MARK SCHUMANN

County Commissioner Bob Solari has blanketed the county with political post cards claiming Spoonbill Marsh, a wastewater treatment facility adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon, is helping to save the fragile estuary. Not everyone agrees with Solari that Spoonbill Marsh is doing its job.

Just today, Dennis Sayre, Acting Section Chief of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlanta permitting and enforcement branch, wrote an email to Indian River County resident, Barry Shapiro, informing him the EPA is opening an investigation into complaints and concerns recently raise about the prospect brine-contaminated water is flowing into the Indian River Lagoon and onto adjacent properties, including an environmentally sensitive tract of land owned by the Indian River Land Trust.

“Please send any corroborating evidence that you have have to me either by email or through the mail at the address below. Specifically, DMR’s from January 2015 to June 2016, pictures of any flow going into the Indian River Lagoon from Spoonbill Marsh, a copy of the FDEP permit, and anything else that may aid in our investigation,” Sayre wrote.

Shapiro made his complaint in a email sent to EPA officials, as well as to other federal, state and local officials.  Sharpio’s email included the following,

“There is a scandal being perpetrated that no one is willing to talk about. This information is confirmed by leading scientists and environmentalists and yet the local media has not only not been made aware of the situation but in some cases where the have been tipped off they are burying the story until after the election. Most of our local media have endorsed both incumbents Bob Solari and Tim Zorc to return to the County Commission despite their false and misleading statements about just what the county is doing. I believe they are suppressing this story because they don’t want to look like schmucks just a couple of weeks after endorsing people who may possibly be committing criminal acts.”

Editor’s note: No one at the Land Trust is willing to talk about how Spoonbill Marsh may be impacting adjacent properties. A week has past since InsideVero made a public records request of the County asking for documentation of meeting and copies of written correspondence between County Commissioners, County Staff and representatives of the Land Trust. The County Attorney’s Office may be able to stall a local news website, but they will have a hard time ignoring or delaying on  public records request from the EPA.

FPL chief defends $1.3B rate request 1

JIM TURNER/THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

A request for $1.3 billion in base-rate hikes is “driven by investment and infrastructure” rather than profit as critics claim, the president of Florida Power & Light told regulators Monday during the opening of an expected two-week hearing on the proposal.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO of the Juno Beach-based utility, defended the request to the Florida Public Service Commission as a way to maintain the company’s “stability and predictability” while making improvements that include increased use of solar power.

“Ultimately, these are going to end up providing savings for customers,” Silagy said.

But the company’s proposal has met stiff opposition from representatives of consumers and some business groups. Patricia Christensen, an attorney with the state Office of Public Counsel, was among the critics telling the commission that the four-year request is “unjustifiable.”

Continue reading…

Editor’s note: That FPL is seeking a $1.3 billion rate increase may be news to many Treasure Coast readers. Though announced by FPL early this year, the utility giant’s proposed rate hike has yet to be reported by the Press Journal and its sister newspapers to the south.

32963’s latest attack on Kramer is a campaign ‘ad’ for Solari 4

Island Bully
COMMENTARY

“The island weekly’s editorial urging readers not to vote for Kramer in his primary challenge to Solari is further evidence that Solari is the candidate who can be counted on to work for the disincorporation of the City of Vero Beach. If the people of Vero Beach want to lose their city, then Solari is the candidate to support come Aug. 30. If the people of the Shores and the County want to see more contentiousness in local politics, more lawsuits, more empty promises about addressing the Lagoon crisis, then Solari is your man.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Solari

Solari

Kramer

Kramer

Vero Beach 32963’s latest attack on Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer is remanicent of other instances when it appeared the newspaper’s publisher and/or editors were incapable of censuring themselves or in moderating their tone.

For example, the island weekly once published a half page picture of a local woman making a less than ladylike gesture to a 32963 paparazzi. Other photographs were available to illustrate the story on the dangers of driving while distracted, but that did not keep the island weekly from needlessly embarrassing the young mother and her family.  Then there was the time 32963 carried a DUI booking photograph on the front page, even though the picture was not directly related to the current offense being reported.  Why use the older photo? “Because,” the publisher told me, “it was the stronger image.”

More importantly, the weekly’s latest rant is further evidence of its bias against the City of Vero Beach, its leaders and its employees.

Now comes 32963’s accusation that Kramer has been “duplicitous” in his dealings with Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot. The Shores-centric island weekly’s latest temper tantrum rises out of years of mounting frustration over the newspaper’s failure to aid in the election of a majority of Vero Beach City Council candidate who will kowtow to Shores leaders. More…

Is County’s Spoonbill Marsh better than City’s deep injection well? 2

Questions raised about County’s wastewater facility as brine contaminated water goes unaccounted for

COMMENTARY
A $11 million dollar deep injection well built in 2011 enables Vero Beach to operate its water and sewer utility without discharging treated water or brine water into the Lagoon or canals. Currently, the well can handle 10 million gallons a day, but can be permitted for nearly twice that capacity.

A $11 million dollar deep injection well built in 2011 enables Vero Beach to operate its water and sewer utility without discharging treated water or brine water into the Lagoon or canals. Currently, the well can handle 10 million gallons a day, but can be permitted for nearly twice that capacity.

“Given that the City’s deep injection well is capable of disposing of ten times more brine per day than Spoonbill Marsh, it was more that a little misleading for the island weekly to write, ‘Officials (County) stand by their choice in 2009 to spend $4 million on the project (Spoonbill Marsh) instead of drilling a deep-injection well which could have cost utility ratepayers two to three times more.'”

Editor’s note: This article was first published in February, 2015.  Given that County Commissioner Bob Solari is in a campaign mailer claiming personal credit for Spoonbill Marsh, questions about the effectiveness of the County’s wastewater treatment are again in the public eye.

 

MARK SCHUMANN

In a glowing article that read as if it had been written by public relations consultants, the island weekly recently reported that the County’s Spoonbill Marsh project provides “a net benefit to the lagoon.” While the County may deserve credit for trying an innovative approach to reducing brine discharge into the Lagoon, the assertion that Spoonbill Marsh is a cost-efficient way of disposing of concentrated brine seem dubious at best. More…

Attention Vero Beach residents and taxpayers. Your city is under attack.

County Commissioners and Shores Councilmen continue to repeat a clever lie

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: The following commentary was first published in October, 2014.  Sadly, somethings never change.

MARK SCHUMANN

When it comes to hypocrisy, Commissioner Bob Solari stands above the rest.

When it comes to hypocrisy, Commissioner Bob Solari stands above the rest.

No one strikes a privileged tone quite like Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot.

No one strikes a privileged tone quite like Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot.

In a joint meeting between the Indian River Shores Town Council, the Indian River County Commission and the Vero Beach City Council, the ten privileged, sometimes self-righteous “gentlemen” who serve on the County Commission and the Shores Town Council had a lot to say about morality. But for all their self-congratulating talk about serving the public and seeking the high ground, these so-called public servants continue to repeat a cleaver lie intended to convince the customers of Vero Electric they are being taking advantage of by the City of Vero Beach.

When it comes to hypocrisy, Commissioner Bob Solari stands above the rest. While a member of the Vero Beach City Council, Solari shared in presiding over a city government at least partially funded by earnings from the municipal electric utility. Today, Solari called those six percent transfers “immoral,” but he voices no objection to Florida Power & Light’s guaranteed 11-12 percent rate of return and he expressed no indignation over the $14-million a year compensation package FPL gives its top executive.  Solari and his fellow commissioners also have no apologies for their practice of annually tacking on six percent to Vero Electric’s bills for the benefit of the County’s budget. More…

Solari’s Indian River Shores connections 1

MARK SCHUMANN

Solari looks north for the money to fund his campaign.

Solari looks north for the money to fund his campaign.

Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari is a resident of the City of Vero Beach. He represents District 5 on the Commission, which includes Vero Beach and Indian River Shores.

Fifty-five percent of the money Solari has raised to fund his campaign has come from Indian River Shores residents, and only 15% from the remainder of District 5.

One John’s Island business owner, who at least at one time had an ownership interest in Vero Beach 32963, contributed $500 to Solari’s campaign.  32963 has been harshly critical of Solari’s opponent, Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer.

Thirty percent of the $58,745.15 in contributions recently reported by Solari came from outside District 5, including $2,000 from a Stuart couple, Thomas and Kristina McNicholas.

 

What is really going on at Spoonbill Marsh? 3

MARK SCHUMANN

County Commissioner Bob Solari, who is running for re-election, has made the effectiveness of Spoonbill Marsh an issue in his campaign, bragging in campaign mailers to be the driving force behind the wastewater treatment facility.  

County Commissioner Bob Solari, who is running for re-election, has made the effectiveness of Spoonbill Marsh an issue in his campaign, bragging in campaign mailers to be the driving force behind the wastewater treatment facility.

Earlier this week, Inside Vero submitted a public records request to the County Attorney’s Office seeking copies of written correspondence and calendar evidence of meetings between County Commissioners and County Staff and representatives of the Indian River Land Trust regarding the possible flow of brine-contaminated water from the County’s Spoonbill Marsh wastewater treatment facility onto adjacent Land Trust property. No one at the County Attorney’s office is available to address our public records request until after Aug. 24.

Land Trust Executive Director Ken Gruden did not return our call, and no one at the Land Trust appears willing at this point to speak on the record. One Land Trust staff member did ask us to “please” follow up with him after receiving the County’s response to our public records request. 

Yesterday, Barry Shapiro, a concerned citizen, distributed the following email raising his concerns about a possible cover up of issues at Spoonbill Marsh.

From: Barry Shapiro 

Date: Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 10:14 AM

Subject: Important information for anyone who cares about our environment. More…

Barefoot, island weekly attack Kramer for representing his own constituents 4

Shores leaders don’t do well when things don’t go their way
COMMENTARY

“Surely Kramer is not surprised by these assaults from Barefoot and the island weekly. When Kramer voted to protect the interests of his own constituents, he knew full well the attacks that would follow. Kramer’s vote will likely cost him support from Shores residents in his Aug. 30 primary contest against Solari. Win or lose, Kramer is an example of political courage in a time when selfless public servants are not easy to be found.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Randy Old

Vice Mayor Randy Old

Mayor Jay Kramer

Mayor Jay Kramer

Imagine that someone approaches you asking to buy your home, or if you are a wealthy resident in Indian River Shores, imagine receiving an unsolicited offer from someone wanting to buy your second or third home. You weren’t planning on selling, but you inform the prospective buyer you will, at your own expense, hire a professional appraiser and will then get back with them.

After completing his work, the appraiser informs you your home is worth $470,000.  When you share this number with the person wanting to buy your home, he balks. A few days later he comes back with his own figures showing your home is worth just $300,000. You weren’t looking to sell your home. The professional appraiser you hired believes it is worth $470,000. The person who has made an unsolicited offer insists the home is worth just $300,000. What would you do?

This scenario is not much different from the recently concluded negotiations between the City of Vero Beach, the Town of Indian River Shores and Florida Power & Light.  After spending more than $1 million on a lawsuit that sought to strip Vero Beach of its service territory in the Shores, and fearful the Florida Public Service Commission will reject their latest petition, Shores leaders, working through FPL, made an offer of $30 million to buy Vero Electric’s Shores customers and electric utility infrastructure located within the Town.

In an effort to accommodate the Shores’ request to be served by FPL, Vero Beach leaders hired a team of five utility consultants to determine how much it would take to keep the City, its taxpayers and remaining customers from being exposed to potentially higher rates.  The consultants came back with a number of $47 million. It is, admittedly, an estimate, but one calculated to protect the residents of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric.

To justify the Town’s $30 million offer, the Shores representative on the City of Vero Beach Utilities Commission, Bob Auwearter, came up a set of numbers showing the City needed no more than $27 million.  Auwearter is a resident of Indian River Shores, and was appointed by the Town to represent the Town’s interests on the Utilities Commission.  To be sure, Auwearter does not wake up each day asking himself what he can do to protect the taxpayers of Vero Beach and the 34,000 customers of Vero Electric. Auwearter is a Shores man looking out for his own interests and those of his fellow Shores residents. More…

Candidate Laura Moss: Divining the will of the people, or distorting the truth? 1

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Laura Moss - "Moss' assertion that the voters of Vero Beach have weighed in on the question of a partial sale is a bold and deliberate distortion of the truth."

Laura Moss – “Moss’ assertion that the voters of Vero Beach have addressed the question of a partial sale is a bold and deliberate distortion of the truth.”

The Vero Beach City Council this week declined to sell Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base at a “short sale” price of $30 million. A sale at that price, experts have said, would led to higher rates for the remaining customers. (The Council did, however, make clear it is open to a sale at $47 million.)

Given the Council’s action, candidate Laura Moss’ misleading statements made during Tuesday’s meeting came to no harm. In fact, Moss’ latest departures from the truth might well be forgotten, except that she is again seeking election to the Council. As a candidate, her veracity, or lack thereof, is a legitimate subject for scrutiny.

Moss gave two reasons why the Council should agree to a partial sale to the Shores at $30 million. First she said, recommendation of a sale at 63 percent of the estimated “break-even price” was approved by the Utilities Commission.” We spent more than an hour discussing this matter,” Moss said.

Second, according to Moss, selling 3000 of  Vero Electric high-use customers, essentially carving the system up, reflects “the will of the people.”

“Something we are leaving out of the equation is the will of the people. I mean, the people have spoken on this. I just think it is so important to fulfill the will of the people,” Moss said.

Moss’ assertion that the voters of Vero Beach have addressed the question of a partial sale is a bold and deliberate distortion of the truth.  The second-time Council candidate’s claim is no truer than Councilwoman Pilar Turner’s regular assertion that the people of Vero Beach have twice voted to sell their electric utility. For this blatantly false assertion, Moss deserves the Pinocchio Award.

Here are the facts, facts which Moss continues to ignore. More…

Media Watch: What constitutes a raise? No one at the Press Journal seems to know. 4

COMMENTARY

“Vero Beach’s ‘break-even’ number has been public for weeks, if not months. For Wixon and her editors to characterize the City Council’s action this week as “upping the price” is just more propaganda aimed at aiding FPL.”

MILT THOMAS

A front page story in this morning’s Press Journal carries the headline “Council raises electric offer.” According to reporter Colleen Wixon, “The City Council all but killed a potential $30 million deal with Florida Power & Light Co…..by upping the price by $17 million.”

As a reporter, Ms. Wixon could have easily found out the city’s position for some time now was that it needed at least $47 million for the Shores portion of Vero Electric in order to protect the remaining  customer base from continent liabilities related to that portion. As a community publication, the Press Journal and its editors should know that publishing a misleading story (on the front page) is not in the community’s best interests, especially with an election coming in 13 days.

The only possible excuse for the Press Journal getting this story so wrong is that its employees so seldom receive raises that they have forgotten the meaning of the word.The real reason for this morning’s misreporting is the Press Journal’s persistant bias in covering FPL’s efforts to acquire Vero Electric. We all know that the Press Journal has sided with FPL from the beginning (and we all know Treasure Coast Newspapers president is married to an FPL executive). More…

Fitch Ratings affirms Vero Electric’s ‘A+’ bond rating 1

MARK SCHUMANN

Vice Mayor Randy Old

Vice Mayor Randy Old

Critics of Vero Beach, including Council members Pilar Turner and Harry Howle, contend the City is on the verge of bankruptcy. Vice Mayor Randy Old, a retired banker, among others, sees the numbers differently. Old argues the City, and its enterprise funds, are on solid financial ground.

Just yesterday, Fitch Ratings of New York affirmed the ‘A+’ rating for Vero Electric’s $32.3 million revenue bond. Revenue bonds are secured by net revenues from Vero Electric.

Fitch’s report noted improvement in Vero Electric’s financial. “Financial performance has steadily improved after reaching a low point in fiscal 2011.”  (The year 2011 was when Turner, along with former council members Tracy Carroll and Craig Fletcher were in the majority; and it was the year the Turner, Carroll and Fletcher first began serious negotiations to sell Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light. Over the next two years, the City’s electric customers bore the cost of some $2 million in legal fees.)

The report also addressed Vero Electric’s rate issues. “The utility’s rates remain slightly higher compared to the statewide average for municipally owned utility systems,” according to Fitch.

Fitch noted Vero Electric debt ratio “compares well” to other municipal utilities, and is likely to continue to improve.

The favorable credit rating report did, however, raise a concern about the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base. “Indian River Shores, despite high wealth levels, has continued its efforts to cease being served by Vero Beach, because of the utility high rates…Until fully resolved, Vero Beach’s sale of the wealthiest portion of its customer base remains a credit concern that will continue to be monitored,” the Fitch report reads.

Yesterday, by a 3-2 vote, the City Council rejected a $30 million offer from Florida Power & Light for Vero Electric Shores customers and related infrastructure. Turner and Howle supported accepting the offer, but Mayor Jay Kramer, Vice Mayor Randy Old and Councilman Richard Winger instead voted to counter at $47 million, the price a team of consultants hired by the City has calculated would be needed to protect the City, its taxpayers and remaining electric customers from higher rates.

FPL spokeswoman, Pamela Rauch, said FPL’s offer is “final” and will expire August 25.

Cultural Calendar Reply

ONGOING

weekend - FlametreeClayFlametree Clay Art Gallery, 2041 14th Avenue in Vero Beach is featuring Floral Containers including vases, Ikebana containers, clipping starters and wall pockets through August.    Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 pm.

Judy Burgarella presents a collection of portraits in oil and acrylic on view at the Indian River County Courthouse, 2000 16th Avenue from August 19 to October 5.  Judy teaches portraiture at the Vero Beach Museum of Art and Mixed media painting at the Sebastian River Art Club.  View the exhibit from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday – Friday.   Exhibits at the Indian River County Courthouse are a benefit of membership with the Cultural Council of Indian River County.   More…

Shores strong men descend on Vero Beach 4

…and other observations

COMMENTRY

“Though they (Pilar Turner and Harry Howle) were prepared to sell Vero Electric’s Shores customers for $30 million, at least based on their vote today, they appear unwilling to accept $47 million. Theirs is a curious position, indeed.”

“Beware, though, Weick and his wealthy Shores colleagues, with financial assistance from FPL, may now be preparing to stoop to even lower lows in this coming election. Who knows what they will be prepared to do, or how much they will be prepared to spend, to influence the outcome of yet another Vero Beach municipal election. Weick and Barefoot would do well to keep in mind that the people of Vero Beach are smart enough to realize not all neighbors are good neighbors.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Weick

Weick

Brian Barefoot

Barefoot

Moss

Moss

As she does at nearly every meeting of the Vero Beach City Council, candidate Laura Moss was before the public and the cameras today to put in her two cents worth.  I’ve lost track of how many times Moss has made the point that the Utilities Commission voted in one accord to recommend the City Council accept Florida Power & Light’s offer to buy Vero Electric’s Shores customers for 63 percent of the City’s asking price.

Every time Moss reminds us of the unanimity with which the Commission made its decision, I am reminded of the story of a corporate board meeting at which the members were asked to weigh in on a major strategic decision, one that would commit significant resources and, for better or worse, alter the future of the company. Following a brief discussion, the chairman asked each member in turn to cast their vote.  When it became clear everyone was in full agreement on a course of action, the chairman said, “Since we all see this the same way, I suggest we table our decision until we understand it better.”

So much for unanimity. What the chairman wanted was the depth and breath of understanding that comes from and honest airing of competing views.  We saw none of that at the most recent Utilities Commission meeting.

Differing opinions were hardly in short supply this morning, though.  From FPL executives, to candidates for the Florida House of Representatives, to north county candidates for the Indian River County Commission, to even a candidate for the Florida Senate, it seemed everyone running for public office wanted their free three minutes of television time. Ostensibly, all were there to offer the City Council advice on the proposed partial sale. Panderers one and all, these candidates urged the City Council to accept FPL’s offer, never mind the fact that the City’s consultants have estimated it would take closer to $47 million to protect the City, its taxpayers and remaining electric customers. More…

Beating a dead horse – at the expense of Vero Electric’s rate payers 2

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Indina River County Attorney Dylan Reingold, much like John Dean of the Nixon White House, is a fine young lawyer stuck doing someone else's dirty work.

Indina River County Attorney Dylan Reingold, much like John Dean of the Nixon White House, is a fine young lawyer stuck doing someone else’s dirty work.

Several months ago, Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reinhold claimed he was encouraged by an official of the Florida Municipal Power Agency to continue looking for ways to complete the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light. Supposedly, this conversation took place between Reinhold and a lobbyist for the FMPA.

Most likely, the elevator conversation amounted to far less than Reinhold has made it out to be, for the reality is that no one at the FMPA, or the City of Vero Beach, or the County, or Indian River Shores, or FPL is in a position to re-write Florida contract law. The impediments to the sale, as negotiated between 2011-2013 at a cost of more than $2 million to the ratepayers of Vero Electric, are numerous and complicated, but essentially it boils down to the fact the Vero Beach’s position in two FMPA coal power projects, (Stanton I and Stanton II), are underwater. More…

City Council to FPL: $30 million will not keep City ‘whole’ 7

Turner, Howle vote not to invite counteroffer

MARK SCHUMANN

Winger

Winger

Old

Old

Kramer

Kramer

After hearing three hours of at times impassioned public comment, the Vero Beach City Council today declined to accept a $30 million offer from Florida Power & Light to buy the City’s approximately 3000 customers in the Town of Indian River Shores.

Staying with an estimate of approximately $47 million prepared by a team of consultants hired by the City, Mayor Jay Kramer, Vice Mayor Randy Old and Councilman Richard Winger rejected FPL’s proposal, but at the same time committed to approve the proposed partial sale at $47 million, if FPL and the Shores are willing to meet that number.

Howle

Howle

Turner

Turner

Following the Council vote, FPL vice president Pamela Rauch came to the podium to remind the Council that  FPL’s offer was final and would expire on Aug. 25.

In making an original motion to accept FPL’s proposal, Councilwoman Pilar Turner said, “We have been given a reasonable offer that protects our customers, and that will return tranquility to our community.”

Though Turner was supported in her motion by Councilman Harry Howle, many who addressed the Council today, and three of her fellow Council members, disagreed with Turner on at least one, if not both points.

Winger said he felt he would be violating his fiduciary responsibility if he approved a sale at anything less than $47 million. That is the number consultants have said it will take to ensure the City’s taxpayer and remaining electric customers are not burdened with higher rates and higher taxes as a result of the sale. More…

At what point is “political correctness” correct? 2

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

 

Last week we heard about a series of bombings in Thailand. It happened a few days after the ruling junta, which had overthrown the legitimate government, held a constitutional referendum that many feel was rigged.

So why should we care about this? Because a friend of mine immediately assumed the bombings were a Muslim terrorist attack and blamed “political correctness” as the reason media outlets did not call it that. I pointed out that branding every incident as Muslim-inspired terrorism unnecessarily stokes up the underlying fear Americans have dealt with since 9-11.

It also led me to question the entire concept of political correctness. It seems we can’t say “what is on our minds” anymore because it will offend someone. Really? Now, before you agree with that statement you might want to think about what it really means. If you are standing in a room full of people and you are about to say something on your mind that is not politically correct, do you glance around to see who might be offended? Chances are it is a woman, a minority, a homosexual, someone of a different religion, a person with disabilities, a liberal or a conservative. So maybe the problem isn’t political correctness, but the problem is really “what is on our minds.”

More…

First ever rugby training camp held at Historic Dodgertown Reply

2016 ATAVUS Men's Residence Camp, Vero Beach Florida

2016 ATAVUS Men’s Residence Camp, Vero Beach Florida

ATAVUS Rugby, a leader in rugby training and tournaments, wrapped up a week-long training camp at Historic Dodgertown, and despite heavy rains earlier in the week, gave a thumbs-up for the condition of the fields, meeting rooms and overall experience.

“We had all the tools we needed for the players to succeed,” said camp director Matt Trouville, who said ATAVUS chose Historic Dodgertown after researching all the best facilities. Trouville, originally from Sydney, Australia, is a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Rugby is the fastest-growing team sport. In the United States, there are more registered rugby players than anywhere in the world. More…

A case of willful ignorance? 4

COMMENTARY

“How can an elected official with a fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the taxpayer of Vero Beach say with certainty they will or will not support a deal about with they admittedly know ‘little?'”

MARK SCHUMANN

Pilar Turner

Pilar Turner

If the island weekly’s report today is accurate, Vero Beach City Councilwoman Pilar Turner admitted she is uninformed on the details of Florida Power & Light’s latest offer to buy Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base. Curiously, Turner also told the island weekly she is opposed to any further study of the proposal about which she claims to be less than fully informed.  “In response to objections that city officials planned to call for an impact study to the deal, Turner said Monday, based upon what little she knew about FPL’s written summary of its offer, not study or consultant analysis is needed,” wrote reporter Liza Zahner.

How can an elected official with a fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the taxpayer of Vero Beach say with certainty they will or will not support a deal about with they admittedly know “little?” Such an action, if it ultimately leads to harm, could constitute misfeasance.

If Zahner’s reporting is accurate, Turner seems committed to the proposed partial sale, regardless of whether the terms proposed by FPL will ultimately prove unfavorable for the taxpayer of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric. Turner’s commitment to the partial sale come hell or high rates gives rise to a troubling question. Exactly whom does Turner represent, her patrons and supporters in Indian River Shores, or the residents and taxpayers of the City of Vero Beach?

FPL is offering $30 million for Vero Electric’s Shores customers and infrastructure within the Town. Shores residents are to pay $3 million of the $30 million offered.  Turner and fellow councilman Harry Howle have said the deal would be more than fair for Vero Beach. Relying on estimates prepared by a team of consultants, Mayor Jay Kramer told the Utilities Commission this week he cannot accept FPL’s offer.  From the City’s perspective, the number needs to be much closer to $47.5 million.

Late this week, Kramer wrote a letter to Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot suggesting the Town’s residents should be prepared to contribute, not $3 million, but $20 million to make the sale possible. Kramer’s letter pointed out that by the Shores’ own estimates, Town residents and businesses stand to gain $60 million over the next 30 years by switching to FPL.  A $20 million investment, Kramer said, would lead to a net return of $40 million for Shores.  What Kramer said he will not do is agree to a price that “throws everyone else under the bus” just to benefit the Shores.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss FPL’s offer when it meets Tuesday at 9:30.

Press Journal silent on Solari’s fear mongering 2

In a recent campaign mailer, Solari used a disturbing picture of the deadliest train crash in Amtrack history.

In a recent campaign mailer, Solari used a disturbing picture of the deadliest train crash in the history Amtrak.

 

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

In endorsing Bob Solari for re-election to the Indian River County Commission, the Press Journal’s editorial board seems as much out of touch with reality as is the divisive, combative candidate it supports.

It is as if the Press Journal editorial board, most of its members cloistered in Martin County, is unaware that Solari persuaded his fellow Commissioners to join him in squandering more than $1 million in taxpayer money in a dubious and so-far unsuccessful legal challenge to All Aboard Florida. Yet, Solari continues to pretend he can single-handedly turn back the trains.

The Press Journal editorial board, which surely appreciates Solari’s dogged support of Florida Power & Light’s efforts to take over Vero Electric, continues to give the commissioner a pass.  (Press Journal publisher, Bob Brunjes, is married to a key FPL vice president involved in the utility giant’s initiatives to expand its customer base.)

For example, in a recent campaign mailer, Solari used a disturbing picture of the deadliest train crash in Amtrak history. The accident happened Sept. 22, 1993 on a rail bridge over a bayou in Alabama. Forty-seven people were killed. If the use of this image isn’t fear mongering, then what is? (Note that the mailer was printed by the Press Journal’s parent company, Treasure Coast Newspapers.)

All Aboard Florida is coming. The question is what can and will be done to mitigate the impact of the trains.  By fixating on a futile effort to stop the project, Solari is, as usual, missing an opportunity to be a part of whatever solution is possible. More…

Cultural Calendar Reply

ONGOING

weekend - Nature NookThe Nature Nook Gift Shop at the Environmental Learning Center is having  “50% Off” sale on most of its merchandise now through the month of September!  The shop will be closed in October and November and re-emerge like a butterfly transformed during season! Hours: Tuesday – Friday 10am to 4pm; Saturday 9am to 12 noon; Sunday 1pm to 4pm. Call 772-589-5050 for more information.

 

FRIDAY & SATURDAY  AUGUST 12 & 13

weekend - Travisweekend - PaulCOMEDY ZONE VEGAS NIGHTS THIS WEEKEND – Riverside Theatre presents The Comedy Zone Experience – Vegas Nights on Friday & Saturday, August 12 & 13 with shows at 7:30 and 9:30 pm. Enjoy an exciting Las Vegas-style casino night party with live entertainment inside and outside the theatre. Play a game of chance at the blackjack and craps tables, or get a lucky hand at Caribbean poker. Play with RT’s funny money and then cash in your winnings for a chance to win some great prizes. Scheduled comedians are: Frankie Paul  (at left)  and Lenny Travis (at right).  Free outdoor concerts with variety rock bands, Wiley Nash on Friday and The Jacks Band on Saturday beginning at 6:30 pm.   For tickets  visit RiversideTheatre.com.

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Vero Beach Mayor Kramer presents Shores with ‘counter proposal’ 1

MARK SCHUMANN

Brian Barefoot

Brian Barefoot

Jay Kramer

Jay Kramer

In hopes of keeping alive discussions on Indian River Shores’ and Florida Power & Light’s request for a so-called partial sale, Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer today sent a letter to Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot containing what Kramer characterized as “a personal suggestion.” Kramer was quick to clarify that he is not authorized to negotiate on behalf of the City Council.

On behalf of the Shores, FPL recently proposed buying Vero Electric’s Shores customers base and associated infrastructure for $30 million, with $27 million to be paid by FPL and $3 million by Shores residents and businesses. Vero Beach officials have calculated it will take, not $30 million, but approximately $47.5 million to avoid putting the City, its taxpayers and remaining electric customers at risk of having to pay higher taxes and higher electric rates as a result of any such “partial” sale. More…

Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman: comedian/journalist gone ‘wacky’ 3

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

In John Oliver’s most recent segment of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” the comedian/journalist and his team presented a troubling, yet accurate report on the decline of community journalism.

With newspapers cutting back on original reporting and investigative reporting, in preference for “tweets” and banal commentary about the most trivial of subjects, this is a great time for local politicians given to corruption and cronyism, for no one is watching.

One “journalist” who often finds himself in the thick of thin things is the Press Journal’s Indian River County opinion columnist, Larry Reisman.

In his latest “deposit,” Reisman ragged on Indian River County Commission candidate and Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer for using a picture in a campaign mailer of green algae.  Kramer’s use of a stock photo of algae Reisman called “wacky.”

According to Reisman, algae in the Indian River Lagoon is green in Martin County and brown in Indian River County. Likely, the difference in the colors is do to the runoff from his columns. Reisman’s fixation on the color of the algae in the lagoon is truly humorous. Without intending to, Reisman, like Oliver, has become a comedian/journalist.

In Kramer, at least the public has a politician who cares about doing something to address the Lagoon crisis. In contrast, Kramer’s opponent, Bob Solari, successfully led the County Commission in its decision not to cooperate at a regional level to address what is fast becoming a ecological and economic disaster for the region.

 

 

Shoot-from-the-hip Howle’s voodoo economics 4

COMMENTARY

“If it were possible to commit treason against a municipality, then Moss’ and Howle’s comments today would have bordered on treasonous.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

Laura Moss

Laura Moss

Jay Kramer

Jay Kramer

Harry Howle

Harry Howle

Most memorable during Tuesday’s Kangaroo (Utility) Commission meeting were statements made by Commission Chairwoman and second-time Vero Beach City Council candidate Laura Moss, by Councilman Harry Howle and by Mayor Jay Kramer.

Despite considerable political pressure from Florida Power & Light and the Town of Indian River Shores, Kramer made it clear he will not “throw the taxpayers of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric under the bus,” simply to appease the Shores. As one online commenter suggested, Kramer is offering a profile in courage.

If it were possible to commit treason against a municipality, then Moss’ and Howle’s comments today would have bordered on treasonous. Without independently-verified facts to support their rejection of the City’s $42.5 million asking price, Moss and Howle continue to push for a sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customers to FPL for $30 million.  At best, their advocacy on behalf of Shores residents is irresponsible, given the City’s position that a sale at $30 million will lead to higher taxes and higher electric rates for everyone else. More…

FPL sets Aug. 25 deadline for City to accept partial sale offer 10

Kramer describes FPL’s offer as an “ultimatum”

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Jay Kramer

Jay Kramer

Addressing the Utilities Commission this morning, Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer said he would not support selling Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers for the $30 million Florida Power & Light has offered.

Given threats by the island weekly and others to use Kramer’s position against him in his Aug. 30 county commission primary contest against Bob Solari, Kramer’s strong stand for Vero Beach residents and electric customers is a display of political courage. Residents of Vero Beach, and county customers of Vero Electric, would do well to take note of Kramer’s willingness to stand up for them despite threats from Shores residents and their propaganda machine, the island “weakly.”

In his letter to Kramer amending the offer by imposing a deadline, FPL vice president Sam Forrest claimed to be motivated to “take the politics out of it.”

More likely, FPL imposed the Aug. 25 deadline, in advance of the Aug. 30 primary election, to put maximum political pressure on Kramer. FPL went from being a reluctant participant in the Shore’s partial sale scheme to calling the shots, and in doing so the utility giant again demonstrated its preference for playing hardball.

According to Kramer, because FPL’s proposed purchase price falls some $15 million short the number the City has set, the deal would amount to “throwing the remaining customers under the bus,” and all to benefit residents in the Shores.

As City Council candidate Tony Young pointed out, the proposed partial sale “shows preference to a wealthy neighborhood.”  Young suggested that if the residents of Oslo objected to their electric rates, they would not receive the same considerations that are now being afforded the residents of Indian River Shores.  More…

Former Dodger great Steve Garvey visits Historic Dodgertown Reply

Former Dodger great Steve Garvey returns to Historic Dodgertown this week, as a proud parent whose son is playing in Historic Dodgertown’s All-Star Classic Baseball Tournament.

 For Sean Garvey, who enters his senior year of high school this fall, this is his first visit to his famous father’s Spring Training home for nearly 15 years.

 For Steve, coming back to Historic Dodgertown is a homecoming.

 Steve was drafted by the Dodgers in 1968, made his major league debut in September 1969 and starred for the Dodgers through the 1982 season. He retired as an active player in 1987 with the San Diego Padres, concluding a prolific 19-year career. More…

‘Willing’ does not equal ‘desperate’ 2

COMMENTARY

“The Shores is proposing this partial-sale, not Vero Beach. While Vero Beach may be a willing seller, it is not a desperate seller.”

“Instead of writing an insulting, bullying letter to Mayor Kramer, Barefoot should write a letter of apology the taxpayers he represents, as well as to the taxpayers of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric.”

MARK SCHUMANN

City officials now have in hand a formal offer from Florida Power & Light to buy Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base for $30 million.  Also in hand at City Hall is a letter from Indian River Shores Brian Barefoot to Mayor Jay Kramer explaining why Barefoot and his fellow Shores Town Council members believe the deal is a good one for Vero Beach.

Admittedly, FPL’s latest proposal to pay nearly $10,000 per meter for Vero Beach’s Shores customers is more than twice the company’s original offer. Still, what Barefoot and company consider a “generous” offer falls some $15 million short of what the City’s outside utility consultants have estimated will be needed to insure that carving off the Shores customers base will not put the City’s taxpayers and remaining electric customers at risk of paying higher taxes and higher rates.  (The considerations and calculations for a sale of the full system would be quite different, for the City would not be holding long-term contractual obligations and financial risks.)

Barefoot, who shoulders no responsibility for decision affecting the taxpayers of Vero Beach and the customers of Vero Electric, assured Mayor Kramer the $30 million offer “will more than cover the City’s long-term costs and contingent liabilities.”  Barefoot refutes the City’s analysis of the costs, likely risks and lost economic opportunity; and he does so largely because he has yet to wrap his mind around that fact that the Town’s legal challenges have gone and are going nowhere. In fact, though the Shores has so far spent nearly $1 million trying to persuade judges and regulators to force Vero Beach to abandon it’s Shores customer base, nothing has come of these efforts. Nothing! More…

Palm Beach Post reports on pedestrian deaths along the FEC tracks Reply

 

Death on the tracks

FEDOR ZARKHIN/PALM BEACH POST

By all accounts, Leonor Cuervo was not suicidal. Her husband and daughters can only guess why she was hit by a train a few hundred feet from her Boca Raton home.

But the fact that the Colombia native was crossing the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in the first place is something the company could have prevented, asserts her daughter, Andrea. No fence or signs stopped her as she followed a makeshift footpath across the tracks to get from a bus stop to her home.

Of 61 deaths on all train tracks in Palm Beach County since 2008, 47 were pedestrians, a Palm Beach Post analysis of medical examiner reports shows. A quarter of the state’s reported pedestrian rail deaths in 2011, 2012 and 2013 were in Palm Beach County. Continue reading…

 

Cultural Calendar Reply

ONGOING:

The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County will be waiving the adoption fees on all cats and kittens from July 23 – August 7.  The  cats are spayed and neutered, microchipped, dewormed and given age-appropriate vaccines prior to adoption. (772) 388-3331.

THURSDAY, FRIDAY & SATURDAY

weekend - image017weekend - image018AERIAL ANTICS YOUTH CIRCUS  THIS WEEKEND – The City of Vero Beach Recreation Department will present ‘Cirque de L’ amour’, the 42nd Annual Aerial Antics Youth Circus on August 4, 5 and 6 at Saint Edward’s School (1895 Saint Edward’s Drive) begiinning at 7 pm.  This years’ LOVE theme will combine gymnastics, dance and circus aerial routines with popular love songs.  The LOVE theme allows for music from every genre over many decades for every age group to enjoy.  The Aerial Antics Youth Circus performers range in age from 3 – 31.  The 3 – 5 year olds are always a crowd favorite and the more experienced performers are breathtaking on the aerial apparatus (silks, Spanish web, trapeze, cloud, hoop, etc.).  The male performers will amaze with their strength and gymnastics ability. Tickets are available at Leisure Square and Riverside Racquet Complex. Tickets are $7 for adults and $6 for children under 12 and seniors.  Please contact the Recreation Department at 567-2144 or visit www.covb.org for more information.

 

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Compassion Vero to hold community forum Reply

cropped-CompassionVeroFINAL (1)Compassion Vero, a community-wide initiative of business, governmental, religious educational and non-profit leaders, invites the public to attend a gathering focused on how citizens can work together to improve every aspect of our shared living here in Vero Beach and Indian River County. The gathering will be held at 12:00 on Friday, August 12, at the Emerson Center, 1590 27th Ave in Vero Beach. A light luncheon with refreshments will be served at no charge.

The program will share the group’s mission and invite people to participate in one of two groups. The Positive Action Group will gather ideas to increase Compassion Vero’s visibility in the general community. The Idea Tool Box Group will discuss plans we are working on and solicit fresh ideas that can be added to the group’s “tool box.”

Compassion Vero formed in 2014 after an incident in a public meeting where an elected official showed disrespect for a citizen. That prompted a meeting of business, religious and community leaders that ultimately led to formation of Compassion Vero, an organization with the motto, “Respect for the Common Good.” Compassion Vero co-chair, Suzy Feeney, explains, “Compassion lies at the heart of all social, religious, ethical and moral traditions, calling on us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”

The organization’s goal is to elevate compassion to the center of our community life and show respect for the cultural and religious diversity of our great community. For more information about Compassion Vero, go to CompassionVero.org or check us out on FaceBook. To attend the August 12 event, please RSVP to CompassionVero@gmail.com or call 772-778-7880 so we can accommodate all for lunch. Thanks!

Cultural Calendar Reply

FRIDAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY, JULY  29 -31

weekend - IMG_0818FAMILY FUN AT THE PIRATE FESTIVAL THIS WEEKEND – The Vero Beach Pirate Festival hosted in part by the Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce will be held in Riverside Park on Friday (2 pm – 6 pm), Saturday (10 am – 8 pm)  & Sunday (10 am – 4 pm),  July 29- 31. The Festival will also span the lagoon to include Royal Palm Pointe.   Each year, on the anniversary of the fateful voyage, Pirates, Privateers and Treasure Hunters of all ages gather to commemorate the loss of the 1715 Treasure Fleet in a family friendly celebration of piracy.  All weekend long,  there will be Living History Pirate Encampment, Roving Mistrels, Kids Fun Zone, Live Music, World Famous Treasure Hunters, Artists, Authors and Historians as well as The Quest Game (An Interactive Hunt for Wanted Pirates).  Admission is FREE though a $2 (buck-n-ear) voluntary admission is greatly appreciated!  On Friday night, adults (18+) may attend the Pirates Ball from 8 to 10 pm in the entertainment tent. Appetizers served from 8:30-9:30 pm and a cash bar will be available. Advance Tickets $20 per person – ($25 day of the Ball) Advance tickets to the Ball are available until 5 pm on Tuesday, July 26 at VeroBeachPirateFest.com

Ride the The River Explorer, a 24 seat pontoon boat, between Royal Palm Pointe and Riverside Park and make sure to visit the Vero Beach Art Club’s Pirate Art Show on Saturday, July 30th on Royal Palm Pointe. The show will be on the deck between the fountain and the boat dock where the ferry will be bringing visitors.  The Pirate Art Show will include contemporary treasure, booty and paintings with a Treasure Coast theme. Show hours will be Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. More…

FPL’s offer doubled, but still far short of City’s ‘keep whole’ number 4

NEWS ANALYSIS

“Shores leaders and FPL representatives have yet to effectively refute in detail the City’s estimates. Absent different and credible estimates, the only way to rationalize a $30 million price is to dismiss the City’s position that everyone must be ‘kept whole.'”

MARK SCHUMANN

When representatives from Florida Power & Light, the Town of Indian River Shores and the City of Vero Beach met earlier this week to discuss a possible sale of Vero Electric’s 3500 Shores customers, FPL’s delegation presented an offer of $30 million, more than doubling their original $13 million proposal.  Some, including and especially Shores officials, are hailing FPL’s offer as “generous.”  FPL spokeswoman Sara Gatewood said a sale at $30 million would be “a win for all parties.”

Not everyone sees it that way. Officials for Vero Beach, including City Manager Jim O’Connor and special utility counsel Schef Wright, stress that the City’s priority, and the fiduciary responsibility of its elected officials, is to ensure a partitioning of Vero Electric does not result in higher rates for the remaining customers, or higher taxes for City residents.  In their language, any sale must be “cost neutral” and “risk free.”

Importantly, is it Shores leaders and FPL officials who are seeking to carve off a portion of Vero Electric. Vero Beach leaders, though they have sought to sell the full electric system, are not proposing to partition the municipally owned utility, for doing so, they say, will have negative impacts, and will leave the City with significant financial risk. That the Shores and FPL are asking for the sale is an important distinction, for it puts the burden on them to pay a price that keeps Vero Beach’s taxpayers and electric customers “whole.” More…