Travel Blog – Talking politics and music Reply

BY MILT THOMAS

EDITOR’S NOTE: InsideVero Contributing Editor, Milt Thomas, is traveling in the Middle East, and will be corresponding with our readers as he journeys to Egypt to the United Arib Emirates.

Milt Thomas

Milt Thomas

CAIRO –  We arrived an in Cairo and hour and a half early, at 11am.  On the plane, I met Tariq el Layeb. He is US citizen from Sudan who lives in Greensboro, N.C., and works for US Post Office. He is coming to Egypt to get married. His fiancé is coming up from Sudan.  Tarig will be in Egypt for a month, and will going on to visit in the Sudan a few weeks, before returning to US. I invited him to our cabin in western N.C. next summer. He is a laid back, serious type but all smiles when I did little things for him, helped put his luggage up, passed his food to him.

More…

Travel Blog – “Tell me about your family.” 1

EDITOR’S NOTE: InsideVero Contributing Editor, Milt Thomas, is traveling in the Middle East, and will be corresponding with our readers as he journeys to Egypt to the United Arib Emirates.
BY MILT THOMAS
Milt Thomas

Milt Thomas

NEW YORK CITY (JFK Airport) – Right now I am sitting in the shopping level of JFK international terminal amid the hustle and bustle of travelers and the uncompromising, careless noise of construction workers. Yes, JFK is undergoing another restructuring, new businesses rising out of the debris of failed ones, travelers inconvenienced, sitting in corners and empty spaces, wherever they can find a place to sit while they wait for flights. I fell a little guilty taking a small tea table and chair that could be used by people wandering around, looking for a place to sit and eat their high priced, fast food meal.  McDonald’s never tasted so expensive as a Big Mac in construction land. I think everyone needs to get away from our comfortable lives in quiet Vero Beach once in a while to see how the other half lives. More…

Charter Amendment Petition Form Circulating Reply

A group including former city attorney Charlie Vitunac is circulation a Charter Amendment petition.  If approved by voters, the proposed amendment to the City Charter would protect both the power plant site and the water treatment site for commercial use without voter approval.  The form, which appears below, can be printed and mailed to:  2606 Mockingbird Drive, Vero Beach, FL  32963.

Charter Amendment Petition

Government meeting week of Jan. 28 Reply

Monday, Jan. 28

Code Enforcement Board of Indian River County – 1:30 p.m.

http://www.ircgov.com/Boards/CEB/2013/Agendas/CEB012813A.pdf

City of Sebastian Recreation Advisory Committee – 6 p.m.

http://cityofsebastian.org/WEBLINK8/DocView.aspx?id=86561

Tuesday, Jan. 29

City of Vero Beach Utilities Commission – 10 a.m., City Hall, Council Chambers

http://www.covb.org/vertical/sites/%7B898790A2-F88A-48AE-A9B3-666AAE67AD40%7D/uploads/012913agenda.pdf

Thursday, Jan. 31

City of Vero Beach Finance Commission – 2 p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers

http://www.covb.org/vertical/sites/%7B898790A2-F88A-48AE-A9B3-666AAE67AD40%7D/uploads/013113ag.pdf

Fact Check – Sorting fact from fiction and opinion Reply

Are south barrier island residents paying 30 percent more for water and sewer service?

Some residents and community leaders in the unincorporated area of the south barrier island have the impression they are “paying about 30 percent more under City management” for water and sewer services than they would as customers of the county. More…

Opinion – In pursuit of the common good, the focus cannot be on “me” but on “we,” as in “We the people…” 2

BY MARK SCHUMANN

When one non-profit agency providing affordable independent living for low-income seniors, and a second offering after school programs, approached the Indian River County Commission with a request to lease county property in order to expand their services, Glenn Heran, speaking on behalf of the Taxpayers Association, was there to object.

There was a time when the Taxpayers Association stood for responsible government.  Now the organization’s mantra sounds more Libertarian than it does traditionally conservative.  The group seems to be calling, not for better, more efficient government, but simply for less of it.

Heran told the County Commission this week the 3.8 acres of unused county property on 17th Avenue adjacent to the Boys and Girls Club and to St. Francis Manor should not be leased to these organizations for $1 a year, but should instead be sold, with the proceeds going into county coffers. More…

Opinion – Stifling public comment, limiting input is no way to run a meeting or a city 3

BY MARK SCHUMANN

What some may remember most about Craig Fletcher’s previous term as mayor was the heavy-handedness with which he ran council meetings, often cutting off public comment, loosing his temper, even belittling members of the public who dared challenge him.

Mayor Craig Fletcher

Mayor Craig Fletcher

Privately, Fletcher will tell you he has calmed down and relaxed, but there was little if any evidence of a softening on his part last night when he cut off comments by resident Phyllis Frey, sparred with Brian Heady, and unilaterally decreed that challenging the accuracy of statements made by Council members will be considered an inappropriate subject for public comment. More…

Opinion – Wilson argues unsuccessfully for “redistribution” of impact fees Reply

Indian River County Commissioner Wesley Davis

Indian River County Commissioner Wesley Davis

Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari

Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari

Charlie Wilson, of Impact Fee Consultants, addressed the Indian River County Commission

Charlie Wilson, of Impact Fee Consultants, addressed the Indian River County Commission

County Administrator Joe Baird

County Administrator Joe Baird

VERO BEACH – Perhaps County Commissioners Wesley Davis and Bob Solari grew weary of hearing Charlie Wilson argue with County Attorney Alan Polackwich, whose interpretation of an ordinance regulation the return of unspent impact fees does not allow for a “redistribution” of of the fees as Wilson has proposed. Or, maybe their thoughts had drifted to the problems the county is having with the roof in Administration Building A.  Whatever was on their minds during Wilson’s back and forth with the Commission and county staff Tuesday, Davis and Solari found themselves gazing up at the ceiling.

Wilson unsuccessfully argued that some $83,000 in unspent impact fees, though also unclaimed, should be returned to other county property owners whose impact fees have been spent. Wilson left the Commission meeting vowing to form a political action committee whose sole purpose will be to support Commission candidates committed to replacing County Administrator Joe Baird.

 

Council approved new zoning for central beach 1

Nancy Cook

Nancy Cook

VERO BEACH – Over the objections of some who think new zoning regulations will restricted property rights and negatively impact property values, the long discussed and much debated Ocean Drive and Cardinal Drive commercial zoning overlay district was approved by the City Council 4-1 Tuesday.  Councilman Jay Kramer voted against the plan, saying he could only support the measure if compliance was voluntary. More…

Heady spars with Fletcher over ‘stifled” public comments 6

Former city councilman Brian Heady squares off with Mayor Craig Fletcher.  Police Chief David Currey stood aside, as Mayor Craig Fletcher reminded Heady he could have him removed from the council meeting.

Former city councilman Brian Heady squares off with Mayor Craig Fletcher. Police Chief David Currey stood aside, as Mayor Craig Fletcher reminded Heady he could have him removed from the council meeting.

Mayor Craig Fletcher

Mayor Craig Fletcher

In a sharp exchange reminiscent of Craig Fletcher’s first term as mayor, he and former councilman Brian Heady squared off Tuesday evening over Fletcher’s having earlier accused Phyllis Frey of “getting personal” in her comments before Council. More…

City’s attorney describes power negotiations as “arduous” Reply

With the proposed purchase and sale agreement between the city and Florida Power & Light, and the FMPA contracts stacked before on the dais, Councilman Richard Winger posed questions and asked for a report from the city's transactional attorney, Rick Miller.

With the proposed purchase and sale agreement between the city and Florida Power & Light and the FMPA contracts stacked before him on the dais, Councilman Richard Winger posed questions and asked for a report from the city’s transactional attorney, Rick Miller.

BY MARK SCHUMANN

VERO BEACH – At Councilman Richard Winger’s request, Rick Miller, an attorney representing the city in its negotiations to sell the electric system, appeared before the City Council last night to answer questions about the status of negotiations with the Florida Municipal Power Association. More…

Commission approves leasing old jail site to Boys & Girls and St. Francis Manor 1

The 3.8 acre old jail site will be leased to the Boys & Girls Club and to St. Francis Manor.

The 3.8 acre old jail site will be leased to the Boys & Girls Club (in background) and to St. Francis Manor.

St. Francis Manor, founded in 1974 backs up to the jail site.  The new land lease will allow for expansion.

St. Francis Manor, founded in 1974, backs up to the old  jail site. The new land lease will allow for expansion.

VERO BEACH – Over the objections of County Commissioners Joe Flescher and Bob Solari and Taxpayer’s Association president, Glenn Heran, the Indian River County Commission voted 3-2 to lease the old jail property on 17th Avenue to the Boys & Girls Club and St. Francis Manor.

The two non-profit organizations, both with facilities adjacent to the old jail site, had proposed the 3.8-acre property be split between them and added to their current $1-a-year leases from the county.  The Boys & Girls Club borders the property to the north, and St. Francis Manor to the west. More…

Council gets shirt traded off its back Reply

IV.012212shirt off back cartoon.jpg

The proposed purchase and sale agreement worked out between the city’s transactional attorneys and representatives of Florida Power & Light has a target closing date of Jan. 2014.  And yet, though the agreement allows for the deal to be concluded as late as Dec. 31, 2016, none of the key provisions in the agreement are linked to the variable closing date.

The net effect is that the city will be taking on great risk and could stand to loose millions of dollars. With fixed terms and a 36-month window for a closing, the proposed agreement leaves the city open to all kinds of liabilities and additional expenses it would not be facing with a fixed date to complete the deal. More…

Save the Chimps sanctuary will open doors to members on Jan. 26 Reply

More than 250 people attended Save the Chimps’ inaugural Member Day held in January 2012. Members will once again have an opportunity  to tour the sanctuary on January 26.

More than 250 people attended Save the Chimps’ inaugural Member Day held in January 2012. Members will once again have an opportunity to tour the sanctuary on January 26.

 

FORT PIERCE – Save the Chimps will host its third annual Member Day Event on January 26.  The first Member Day event, held in January 2012, reached capacity with 300 visitors who were given an opportunity toured the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary.

The sanctuary is usually closed to the public so the chimpanzees can enjoy their lives in a peaceful environment. Member Day is the only opportunity for people to tour the 150-acre sanctuary and witness over 250 chimpanzees enjoying their island homes. More…

Transactional attorneys to make another run at contract issues this week Reply

IV.012113.brick wall-B

VERO BEACH – The city’s transactional attorneys, having already charged more than $750,000 to clear the low and intermediate hurdles in structuring a deal to sell Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light, will reportedly make another trip to Orlando this week to meet with representatives of the FLorida Municipal Electric Association.

By far, the biggest obstacle yet to be overcome in selling Vero Electric is crafting some means of either satisfying or relieving the city of its contractual obligations to the FMPA.  Some have argued that the discussions now taking place with the FMPA and its bond counsels should have happened long before a purchase and sale agreement of some 100 pages was hammered out.

Hibiscus Children’s Center holding “Tour the World” food and wine pairing event Feb. 11 Reply

Take an interactive tour of eight different countries and sample food and wine pairings from each region without ever leaving Vero Beach!  Have your event passport stamped in each of the country stations as you sample delicious hors d’oeuvres and expertly paired wines.  Hibiscus Children’s Center, with the support of event sponsors Wilmington Trust, Vero Beach Yacht Club and Crown Wine and Spirits, will be hosting “Passport to Wine and Dine” on Monday, February 11, 2013 from 5:30pm until 8:30pm at the Vero Beach Yacht Club. More…

South Beach Property Owners Association to hold meeting Thursday at 4 p.m. Reply

A Special Meeting of the South Beach POA will be held on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. in the Commodore’s Room at the Moorings Club.  The Commodore’s Room is located on the Lower Level next to the Dockside Grill.

AGENDA:

–IRC Commissioner Bob Solari.  Commissioner Solari, who represents the South Beach, will explain why the upcoming Water Sewer and Irrigation survey is important to WSI users in the South Beach.

–Glenn Heran, President, IRC Taxpayers Association.  Glenn will discuss recent developments on FPL’s offer to purchase the City’s electric utility.

Craig Weyandt, Superintendent, Moorings Golf Course.  Craig will review the “best management” practices he uses to prevent harmful nutrients from entering the Indian River Lagoon.

Ken Grudens of the Indian River Land Trust and Dr. Dennis Hanisak of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University will discuss the purpose, programs and objectives of the Land Trust and Harbor Branch in the quest to protect the Indian River Lagoon.  It is noted that the Land Trust now owns six miles of property that borders the Lagoon.

All South Beach residents are welcome to attend this Special Meeting

Finance Commission considers pension options, advises Council to consider alternate site for substation Reply

Pension consultant Rocky Joyner and Finance Director Cindy Lawson

Pension consultant Rocky Joyner and Finance Director Cindy Lawson

If and when Vero Electric is sold to Florida Power & Light, an estimated $30 million in electric system reserve funds will be available to the city.

The Finance Commission heard yesterday from pension consultant Rocky Joyner, of The Segal Company, about options for how some of that money could be used to reduce or completely pay off serious underfunding in the city’s pension fund. More…

Opinion – Proposed sale of Vero Electric to FPL looks more like a generous offer to a family member Reply

Arms Length

BY MARK SCHUMANN

Describing the collaborative relationship between the city’s staff, its transactional attorneys and their “counterparts” at Florida Power & Light, Mayor Craig Fletcher several months ago said, “They are like family.”

It is concerning that Fletcher would characterize as familial the relationship between two parties to what is supposedly an arm length transaction.

If the city’s staff and transactional attorneys were serving the interests of residents and taxpayers, then the best thing that could be said about them would be, not that they were “like family,” but that they drove a hard bargain and pressed for the best agreement possibly for the city. More…