We have to stay the course 2

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council. 

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

Thank you for your support on the last two issues I reached out to you about.  With your help, Vero Beach City Council voted 4-0 to take the “old golf course: Dodgertown property” off the market.  While we did not succeed with the Storm Water Utility yet, that issue still needs to be addressed to save the Lagoon.

Now, I need your help again, by coming to the City Council meeting about the long term, or what is called THE VISION PLAN, 2:00PM this coming Monday, March 13th at City Hall.  Or if you are committed Monday, you can e-mail your feelings about keeping Vero Vero to the City Clerk at tbursick@covb.org.

My thought is we have to stay the course, or lose Vero.  Once a bad development, traffic pattern, or building exists, we cannot change it.  Once the Lagoon is dead, we cannot bring it back to life.  Once we become Fort Lauderdale, we “can never go home again.” More…

Politics and Money: Legislator who received generous contributions from FPL accelerates two bills favorable to the company Reply

 

Editor’s note: Locally, Florida Power and Light gave $55,000 last fall to a political action committee supporting Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.  The only other contributors to the PAC were residents of Indian River Shores. In a previous election, FPL spent more than $50,000 on then Councilwoman Tracy Carroll’s campaign. The previous spring, the company spent more than $100,000 persuading Vero Beach voters to approve a purchase and sale agreement with the City of Vero Beach. In total, FPL has invested some $250,000 in political contributions to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal elections. The following story by Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas reveals how FPL’s political contributions are also winning the company favor in Tallahassee.

See also: When all else fails

MARY ELLEL KLAS/MIAMI HERALD

Sen. Frank Artiles put on a brown jacket with “NextEra” emblazoned on the back and waved the green flag for the unofficial start to the Friday night truck race at this year’s Daytona 500 weekend.

Within minutes, a dramatic crash became the highlight of the season-opening event sponsored by NextEra, the parent company to Florida Power & Light.

Artiles, the chairman of the Florida Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, also used the event to conduct a fundraiser, which he says raised him more than $10,000.

Now, Artiles, a Republican from south Miami-Dade County, is returning a favor to Florida’s largest utility. Continue reading…

 

Former Coca-Cola executive joins Camp Haven board of directors Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Brian Korkus

Over the course of this 28-year career at the Coca-Cola Company, Brian Korkus served in numerous positions, including Vice President of Application and Technology Support, IT Director and General Manager of Global Field Operations.

A native of Southern California, Korkus studied Business Administration at Pasadena City College and California State University, Los Angeles. He began his career in Accounting in small manufacturing companies, before working for the Xerox Corporation.

Over the years Korkus organized a number of company-sponsored fundraising events in support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and charities focused on combating Human Trafficking and victim support. More…

Florida Humanities Series lecturer looks a early European colonization in Florida Reply

Michael Francis

Would you believe… Europeans settled ‘La Florida’ long before Jamestown?

Sorry, Jamestown, but Dr. Michael Francis is coming to set the record straight.

Almost a century before the English settled at Jamestown, Virginia, Europeans colonized Florida where their offspring have remained. This often-ignored, misunderstood period in American history is the subject of Dr. Michael Francis’ 7:00 p.m. lecture on March 9 at The Emerson Center in Vero Beach. The event is part of the venue’s popular Florida Humanities Series and admission is free.

Dr. Francis is a master storyteller who delivers a captivating, often humorous perspective that brings his presentation to life. Francis is a Professor of History at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. More…

YouTube video questions motives for partial sale Reply

Watch YouTube Video

Posting under the name “VideoM,” someone recently created a YouTube video raising questions about why City Council members Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Harry Howle so fervently support the sale of Vero Electric Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power and Light.  The video mentions $50,000 in campaign contributions FPL made to a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes.

The video also questions campaign promises made by Moss and Sykes about how proceeds from the sale could directly benefit the City and its residents.

Unaddressed, however, is the direct campaign support Moss, Sykes and Howle received from Shores residents. In the November elections, for example, Sykes took in 90% of his campaign funds from Shores contributors. Fully 70% of Moss’ campaign expenses were paid for with Shores money.

 

 

 

Shores Town Council to reconsider deed restrictions, right of way for property sale 2

The Town of Indian River Shores is planning to sell 5 acres of “surplus” oceanfront public open space. Just last week, the Town Council approved deed restrictions limiting development to no more than 15 units total. The Council also provided for a 5-foot right of way intended to preserve public access between Highway A1A and the ocean.

Those deed restrictions and the preservation of public right of way will again be up for discussion, when the Town Council meets in a special call meeting Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

Competing visions, or a lack of vision? 2

NEWS ANALYSIS

“While it is true the sale of the property would have improved the City’s cash flow by approximately $300,000 a year, the larger question has to do with what, if any, vision the community and its leaders have for this property, and for other public lands.”

MARK SCHUMANN

After hearing more than an hour of public comment, the Vero Beach City Council yesterday rejected a $2.7 million offer for 35 acres of land that was formerly a nine-hole golf course owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Harry Howle having left the meeting early, the Council turned back a proposed 280-unit development. The Council also decided to not renew the listing agreement on the property when it expires in early April. The Council plans to not take any further action on selling the property until after a series of visions meetings are held, and until after the 2017-2018 budget is established.

In 2005, the City bought the land for $10 million. At the time, the property was appraised at $9.9 million. Currently, the 35 acres, which is located immediately southeast of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, is valued at $3.5 million. The City still owes $5.5 million on the land, and is making debt service payments of $600,000 a year. More…

Cultural Calendar Reply

ONGOING

Riverside Theatre presents Mame, from March 7 through 29.  Mame Dennis is a larger-than-life personality living the high life in the Roaring Twenties in New York City.  Patrick, her orphaned 10-year-old nephew, comes to live with her and she introduces him to an eccentric lifestyle and madcap cast of characters.  When the stock market crashes and Mame loses her fortune, she tries, with comically disastrous results, to find a job for the first time in her life, but perseveres with humor and style.  For tickets, visit RiversideTheatre.com.

The Vero Beach Theatre Guild presents the musical comedy, “The Pajama Game,” from Thursday, March 9 through Sunday, March 26.  Set in 1950’s Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory, this comedic, fast paced story focuses on the stormy and romantic relationship between feisty union rep, Babe Williams, and the new factory superintendent, Sid Sorokin.  “The Pajama Game” opens Thursday, March 9, and runs through Sunday, March 26, with six matinees and nine evening performances.  Tickets are $28 and $30, students under 18 half price, and can be purchased by calling 562-8300 or online at verobeachtheatreguild.com.

THURSDAY, MARCH 9

The film In Marjorie’s Wake: A River in Time will be shown on Thursday, March 9, from 2-3 p.m. at the North Indian River County Library tracing the 1933 journey of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Dessie Smith on the St. Johns River as described in Cross Creek. Free. More…

Impact 100 announces 2017 grant finalists Reply

L to R: Jeffrey Shearer, Tykes & Teens; Shannon Bowman, Childcare Resources of IRC; Andrea Berry, IRC Healthy Start Coalition; Linda Downey, Ballet Vero Beach; Dr. Edith Widder, Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA); Judy Lemoncelli, Alzheimer and Parkinson Association of IRC; Paul Sexton, Hibiscus Children’s Center. PHOTO BY Laura Steward

NEWS RELEASE

The ninth annual Impact 100 of Indian River County grant finalists were announced today at a packed house of media, grant finalists, committee members and other invited guests.

Impact 100 has concluded its intensive vetting process by selecting seven (7) grant finalists to present to the full membership for final selection of grant recipients at the April 19th Annual Meeting at Oak Harbor. This year’s grants will mean Impact 100 membership will award over $3 million dollars since their inception.

“The quality of the grants we received this year is a reflection of the dedication of the nonprofits to improve the lives of those who live in Indian River County,” says Grant Chair Wanda Lincoln. “This year’s Grant Panel Volunteers worked tirelessly to review each grant and conduct site visits. We are pleased to present these Finalists to our Impact 100 Membership for Final Voting on April 19th.”

Since the membership again numbers over 400, four $100,000 grants will be awarded, with any remaining funds divided evenly among the other finalists. Each year, Impact 100 awards every penny of membership funds in grants to local nonprofits.

The 2017 Impact 100 Grant finalists are: More…

Beware of hidden agendas 4

COMMENTARY 

“Anyone who does not see the interconnected ways in which developers and their limited-government allies are trying to strangle the City of Vero Beach is simply missing the larger picture.”

MARK SCHUMANN

The Loggerhead Marina in Riviera Beach. Can Vero Beach expect to see a similar development on what is now the power plant site? You can bet some are hoping so.

The Loggerhead Marina in Riviera Beach. Can Vero Beach expect to see a similar development on what is now the power plant site? You can bet some are hoping so.

As City of Vero Beach officials are approaching a fateful decision on selling 35 acres of public open space, some who remain concerned about the future of the community are, quite correctly, urging the City Council to slow down, draw back, and take a long view.

Ironically, one person raising questions about the wisdom of disposing of irreplaceable public land is Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman. “If you don’t like local government selling open space, attend their meetings and speak out,” Reisman recently wrote, adding, “You can give the Vero Beach City Council a piece of your mind at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.”

Whether Reisman is willing or able to recognize the connections between the proposed sale the old Dodgertown property, the resistance to establishing a stormwater utility fund, and the relentless drive to dispose of the City’s electric utility, these are, in fact, related, for they are all about paving the way for more development, while at the same time limiting the role of local government.

Why would the City consider selling for $2.7 million dollars land it purchased in 2005 for $10 million?  Quite simply, the sale is being proposed to improve the City’s cash flow. And why is improving cash flow a priority? Because the City does not now have sufficient revenue to provide important municipal services and at the same time maintain and improve infrastructure.

Currently, the City is spending some $600,000 a year in debt service on the Dodgertown property. Selling the land now, even at a $7.3 million loss, will free up $300,000 a year in sales tax revenue. That money can then be redirected to stormwater filtration projects designed to reduce the amount of pollutants flowing into the Indian River Lagoon.

Recently, Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young called for establishing a dedicated source of funding for stormwater projects. Creating a so-called stormwater utility to help address the Lagoon crisis would have brought Vero Beach in line with nearly every other municipality along the fragile estuary. However, Reisman and other advocates of “limited” government cheered on Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, as they rejected creating a dedicate means of paying for stormwater projects.

If funding seems tight now, just wait until the City hands Vero Electric over to Florida Power and Light. With the sale of the electric utility, budget issues will only get worse, for the City will lose $5 million a year it now earns off the utility.

How one person can advocate for the sale of Vero Electric, reject the formation of a stormwater fund, and oppose moves to improve the City’s cash flow defies logic. Further, why people like Reisman do not see the ways limited government extremists are using the power sale to further the interests of developers is beyond me. Anyone who does not see the interconnected ways in which developers and their limited-government allies are trying to strangle the City of Vero Beach is simply missing the larger picture.

Once the City has disposed of the old Dodgertown property, and then the electric utility, next will come the sale of its water and sewer system to the County. That move will be forced on the City, and at a fire-sale price. “Relieved” of approximately $6 million annual earnings from its two largest enterprise funds, the City will then be pressured to sell fro commercial development the riverfront land north and south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge. The result? A bonanza for developers.

Cultural Calendar Reply

ONGOING

weekend-vbma-art-school-painting-dawn-mill-1The Vero Beach Museum of Art his holding registration for its Spring art classes with sessions beginning the week of March 20.  Professional instructors are on-hand to address the needs of both beginners, intermediate and advanced students, with opportunities to explore watercolor, oils, acrylics, drawing, photography, art history, beading, ceramics, and more.  For a full list of available classes, visit VeroBeachMuseum.org online.

Create at Studio MA, 835 17th Street in Vero Beach is offering Spring Break Classes for children from 9 am to Noon for the weeks of March 6 through 10 and March 20 through 24.  The cost is $35 each day.  Call 772-538-1989.

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 2

weekend-new_the_weight_wsMusic Works, Inc. presents Live! From Vero Beach with The Weight, former members of The Band performing their hits such as “Up On Cripple Creek”, “Rag Mama Rag”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and so many others on  Thursday, March 2 at 7 pm at the Emerson Center.  For tickets to these concerts, call the Cultural Council of Indian River County at 772-770-4857 or visit MusicWorksConcerts.com.

More…

Concerns raised about proposed sale of old Dodgertown property 6

Editor’s Note: In an email addressed to Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger, and copied to each member of the Council, Finance Commission member Vic DeMattia raised several concerns about the proposed sale of 35 acres of public open space.  Winger is also questioning the proposed sale of the property, which was once a 9-hole golf course owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

Relevant facts:

  1. The property was bought by the City in 2005 for $10 million dollars, when it was appraised for $9.9 million.  Currently, the land is appraised at $3.5 million.
  2. In 2005, the Council was concerned to prevent a 300-unit residential development from being built on the property, which is located southeast of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, and is immediately under the flight path of one of the airport’s two main runways.  
  3. According to minutes from 2005 City Council meetings, city leaders were also interested in eventually developing a westside park similar to Riverside Park. 
  4. The land is currently unused. The City spends $15,000 a year on maintenance and insurance on the property.
  5. The City now owes $6.1 million on the property, with debt service of approximately $600,000 a year.
  6. A Palm Beach Gardens developer is proposing to buy the property for $2.7 million, and to build a mixed use development with 280 homes.
  7. If the City accepts the $2.7-million offer, it will still owe $3.4 million on the original note, and will still have debt service obligation approximately $300,000 a year. 

Mr. DeMattia’s letter to Councilman Winger:

I very much agree with your request to delay any decision on the sale of our Dodgertown Golf Course property.  Please see videotape of the few minutes of my comments at the very beginning of yesterday’s Finance Commission meeting.

It appears to be the opinion of the City Manager and some members of the Finance Commission that we should just dump the property for a 73% loss (plus continued interest cost for 10 years!).  It has been presented by them and our realtors to have a very limited current value and even that value will likely decline in the future.

It was hypothesized that the City tax revenue from the development would be a strong positive to offset the loss.  The proposed population would be ~1,000 residents.  The likely COVB RE tax contribution from those properties would likely be on the order of $100 per person per year.  Considering the stress on roads/traffic, schools, water, sewer, Fire Protection, Police Protection, social services, etc., any improvement of the city’s economic situation from this development is highly unlikely.  In fact, the opposite may well be true … even cruelly true.  Certainly, this high density neighborhood will negatively impact the taxable value of many properties in the surrounding neighborhoods.

We have at least three potential positives for the area:  Airport, commercial and environmental/recreational. More…

Winger wants delay in decision on sale of City’s Dodgertown property 2

MARK SCHUMANN

Richard Winger

Richard Winger

Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger is not warming up to the idea of selling 35 acres of public open space, especially if the deal nets the City a loss of some $7 million dollars.

The land, located southeast of the intersection of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, was once a 9-hole golf course own and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Purchased by the City in 2005 for $10 million, the land is now the subject of a possible acquisition by a Palm Beach Gardens developer who is proposing to buy it for $2.7 million for a 280-home development.

Yesterday, Winger submitted an agenda idea for the March 7 City Council meeting proposing that any decision on selling the land be delayed until the Council’s first meeting in April.

Winger wants a closer look, and a public airing, of the considerations that went into the decision to by the land in 2005. Whether or not to sell the land is, Winger said, as much a visions issue as it is an economic one. “While the 2005 Council paid too much; money is a tangential issue,” Winger wrote, adding, “The real issue is whether the City Council of 2005 had the correct vision then and whether that vision is the correct vision now.”

When the 2005 Council bought the land, city leaders planned to develop it into public open space comparable to Riverside Park.

Related Story: Concerns over possible sale of old Dodgertown course raise larger questions about City’s future

Application deadline approaching for Hibiscus Festival Fine Art and Fine Craft Show Reply

Vero Beach’s annual Hibiscus Festival set for April 8-9

NEWS RELEASE

hibiscus-festival-logoThe fourteenth annual Hibiscus Festival is April 8th and 9th, 2017.  Over the years, the Hibiscus Festival Committee has strategically planned to expand the art element of the Hibiscus Festival and this is the third year the Art Show will be two days.  With the increasing number of galleries on Fourteenth Avenue and many businesses featuring guest artists during the monthly Gallery Strolls, Downtown Vero Beach is an officially recognized Arts District. Categories for the Hibiscus Festival Art show are Ceramics, Digital Art, Fiber, Glass, Graphics, Jewelry, Metal, Mixed Media, Oils/Acrylic, Photography, Sculpture, Watercolor and Wood.  This year a new category of Bicycle Art has been added at the request of event partner Vero Cycling Club. Cash prizes will be awarded for First, Second and Third Place. More…

Assuming facts matter Reply

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

The conventional wisdom today holds that attention spans are short, distraction are many, and the average news consumer wants to receive information in small doses. So, here are just two facts relevant to the proposed sale of Vero Electric. Some will argue, and they may be right, that the debate over the sale has become so toxic and so distracting to other, larger issues facing the community that it is now time to hand the utility over to Florida Power and Light at any cost.

Other contend that while it is important to sell the utility, the City Council still has a responsibility to negotiate the best deal possible for the City and for the people of Vero Beach.

Still others wonder if the people of Vero Beach would be as supportive of the sale, if, rather than serving as a propaganda arm for FPL and local utility activists, the media were reporting all relevant facts.

Two numbers worth considering, numbers not reported or discussed by the island weekly or the local daily, are the shifting rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL, and the amount Vero Beach will net from the sale of its largest asset.

Vero Beach’s electric rate peaked at $158.82 per 1000 kWh in June, 2009, at which point FPL’s rate was $104.37.  Allowing for a 6% franchise fee, FPL’s rate in June, 2009 would have been $110.63, for a difference of 30%. As of January, 2017, FPL’s rate for 1000 kWh was $98.77. Accounting for a 6% franchise fee, FPL’s bill would be $104.69.  Compared to Vero Beach current rate of $116.08, that is a difference of 10%.

When Glenn Heran, Stephen Flaherty, FPL, the island weekly and the Press Journal began building interest in and support for a sale of Vero Electric, the rate differential was 30%. Today it is 10%

Fact: The rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL is one-third of what it was when the majority of Vero Beach voters first bought into the idea of selling the utility.

Some eight years ago, when the local media, FPL and pro-sale advocates first stoked interest in a sale of Vero Electric, the promised the public the deal would net the City some $180 million dollars. This money, they said, could be used to ensure tax increases would not be necessary to maintain municipal services.  It is clear now that the City and its rate payers will be lucky to avoid having to bring money o the table to close the deal. Further, as a result of the sale, cuts in municipal services and/or increases in taxes are all but inevitable.

Fact: Despite what was originally promised, the sale of Vero Beach Electric utility will lead to tax increases, further cuts in services, or both.  Indirectly, the sale may also lead to higher water and sewer rates, as the City’s remaining enterprise funds will have to cover more of the fixed costs for administrative services. 

One can be reasonably be for the sale, against it, or indifferent. Either way, the facts should matter, and certainly they should be reported.

Concerns over possible sale of old Dodgertown course raise larger questions about City’s future 2

COMMENTARY

“Reisman quoted former Vero Beach mayor Mary Beth McDonald as questioning if the City is really so desperate that it can longer afford to hold on to the Dodgertown property. The larger question everyone should be asking is whether, after the sale of Vero Electric and the forced takeover of its water and sewer utility, the City will be able to continue to exist as an incorporated municipality.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Related Story: Should Vero Beach sell old Dodgertown course?

Press Journal opinion columnist Larry Reisman today addressed a proposal for the City of Vero Beach to sell for $2.7 million 35 acres of land it purchased in 2005 for $10 million.

At the time the City acquired the old Dodgertwon golf course, supporters of the purchase argued that the move would prevent further residential development in an already congested area, and would provide for more public open space. If the City Council accepts the offer it has received from a Palm Beach Gardens developer, it will be taking a net loss of $7.3 million. Further, the Council will be paving the way for 280 new homes to be built on what was once a nine-hole golf course open to the public.

Reisman argues that selling the property for just $2.7 million will “compound the problems associated with a bad investment made 12 years ago,” concluding, “Quality of life is our No. 1 asset.”

If Reisman truly believes quality of life is the community’s “No. 1 asset,” then his unquestioning and unqualified support for selling Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light is, to use his words, “a sick irony.” More…

It’s a four-sport weekend at Historic Dodgertown. Reply

NEWS RELEASE

For the first time in Dodgertown’s 70-year history, baseball, softball, rugby and lacrosse teams take to the fields over the same weekend.

This weekend’s teams are:

ATAVUS/USA Girls Rugby

BSE Agency, Inc and CRBL – boys baseball from Quebec, Canada

iJUCO Crossover Softball

Red Water Lacrosse

Historic Dodgetown Baseball Classic featuring the University of Pittsburgh and Siena College

Historic Dodgertown’s 80-acre property boasts 10 full fields and one half-field, batting cages and locker rooms, on-site housing and dining, giving players the ultimate in a major league experience. The grounds crew team is coordinating equipment for rugby on the 100’ x 130’ multi-sport field, setting up Holman Stadium and baseball fields for baseball and softball, and marking the lines to convert baseball outfields for lacrosse.

Historic Dodgertown was the Spring Training home of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948-2008. Today Historic Dodgertown is a multi-use sports and conference center welcoming teams, corporate and leadership training, community events, family reunions and more. Our 80-acre property features 89 hotel villa rooms, pristine fields, athletic locker rooms and training rooms, plus recreational amenities including a competition-sized swimming pool with oversized deck, lighted tennis and basketball courts, a sand volleyball court, a fitness room, paths and trails for walking and jogging, and more. 

To book your team for games and training at Historic Dodgertown, please call (772) 569-4900 or email info@historicdodgertown.com.

Study reveals 43% of Treasure Coast households continue to struggle to afford the basics Reply

Carol G. Houwaart-Diez, President/CEO, United Way of Martin County, Michael Kint, CEO, United Way of Indian River County, Karen Knapp, CEO/President, United Way of St. Lucie County

Carol G. Houwaart-Diez, President/CEO, United Way of Martin County, Michael Kint, CEO, United Way of Indian River County, Karen Knapp, CEO/President, United Way of St. Lucie County

There are 99,339 Treasure Coast households unable to afford the basics of housing, food, health care, child care and transportation despite working hard, according to the United Way ALICE® Report Update released today by United Way of Florida. On the Treasure Coast, more than 69,568 households live above poverty but below the ALICE threshold, or the basic cost of living. Combined, ALICE and poverty households, account for 43% percent of households on the Treasure Coast. 

The ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed; Report, places a spotlight on hardworking, and yet struggling residents who have little or no savings and are one emergency from falling into poverty. ALICE was originally introduced in 2014 and the update provides a deeper look at how households have struggled over time since before the recession in 2007 through 2015. Using data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and Florida Department of Education, the report tells us more about the number of working individuals and families struggling financially in Florida. More…

Cultural Calendar Reply

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23

The  Senior Resource Association’s “Songs of the Heartland” performed by the Silver Tones will feature fun Gospel, Country and Folk music on Thursday, February 23 from 7 to 9 pm at the First Presbyterian Church, 520 Royal Palm Blvd. in Vero Beach.  Free.

The Indian River Charter High School will perform Wizard of Oz – The Musical on February  23, 24, 25 & 26 at 7 pm.  For tickets & more information, visit www.irchs.org.

The travel film, Ruta 40 – Patagonia, will be shown  on Thursday, February 23 from 2-3 p.m. at the North Indian River County Library.  Join Zay Harding as he climbs Volcan Lanin, paraglides at El Bolson, rides a narrow gauge steam train at El Maiten and continues to the Cabo Virgenes lighthouse at the southern tip of Argentina.  Free.  More…

Status of power sale from the FMPA’s point of view 1

MARK SCHUMANN

In addressing the Vero Beach City Council earlier this week, Florida Municipal Power Agency General Manager Jacob Williams explained the FMPA’s position on the City’s proposed sale to Florida Power & Light.  Williams addressed both a partial sale of just the City’s Indian River Shores customers, as well a sale of the full system.

Williams explained that while the final numbers need to be worked out through more analysis and negotiations, the FMPA believe it can relieve Vero Beach of all its contractual obligations to the agency for approximately $108 million. Leader in Vero Beach, including councilman Richard Winger, see promise in the FMPA’s proposal.  Winger now believes that, rather than sell just the Shores portion of the City electric system, it is time to renew negotiations with FPL for selling the full 34,000-customer system.

FMPA Assistant General Manager Mark McCain today released a summary of the agency’s take on Tuesday’s Council meeting. Following is the full text of McCain’s report.

FMPA representatives were present at the Vero Beach City Council meeting last night. FMPA made a presentation on its review of Vero Beach’s proposed sale of its customers in Indian River Shores as well as explained FMPA’s preliminary option to help Vero Beach exit FMPA projects. The meeting went very well. On behalf of Jacob Williams, this email provides a description of key points in the meeting and provides corresponding video excerpts.

Below are eight highlights from the meeting with links to short video clips. The entire video of the meeting can be found online at: http://verobeachfl.swagit.com/city-council. FMPA’s portion starts early in the meeting and lasts approximately two hours. 

1.       Vero Beach’s Goal, and Good Working Relationships: Jacob Williams states Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss has done a good job focusing on Vero Beach’s goal of selling its electric utility. Jacob says she understands that all 19 FMPA cities must approve any potential deal, so it is worth having a good relationship. Likewise, Rep. Erin Grall representing Vero Beach has been helpful facilitating positive efforts toward the same goal of selling Vero Electric. Jacob emphasized that if we can all focus on the goal, and not be distracted by other efforts, we can make good progress. [watch video]  More…

Finance Commission directed to no longer review proposed partial sale 3

MARK SCHUMANN

Ken Daige: "We want to know who is looking out for the interests of the people of Vero Beach."

Ken Daige: “We want to know who is looking out for the interests of the people of Vero Beach.”

The Vero Beach City Council this evening voted to direct the Finance Commission to no longer review or assess the proposed sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power & Light. The motion was made by Harry Howle, and supported by Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.

Council members Tony Young and Richard Winger strongly objected to muzzling the Commission. They argued that the Council could benefit from more analysis and input. They also pointed out that the Commission has so far never reviewed the proposed sale, because, at least until recently, key information about Vero Electric’s Shores customer base was not yet available.

Howle, Moss and Sykes all said they are clear about what they want to do regarding the Shore’s request for a partial sale, and are no longer in need of input and advice from the Finance Commission. (Howle, Moss and Sykes support the sale at $30, despite recommendations from a team of utility experts who advised it will take no less than $42 million to downsize Vero Electric without causing higher rates and higher taxes for the remaining customers of Vero Electric and for the taxpayers of Vero Beach. The Troika also continues to press for the partial sale despite the increasing likelihood that the entire system can now be sold.)

In the recent election, Moss received 70 percent of her campaign contributions from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign funds from the Shores, and a political action commission funded by Shores residents and by FPL supported both Moss and Sykes.  Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot also identified moss and Sykes as “members of the Shores team.”

That Howle, Moss and Sykes are pressing ahead without a review of the deal by the Finance Commission has some wondering who is looking out for the people of Vero Beach. Former councilman Ken Daige addressed the Council this evening, pointing out FPL has executives looking out for its interests, and Shores residents have elected officials looking out for them. “We want to know that you are looking out for our interests,” Daige said.

The Howle-Moss-Sykes Troika’s muzzling of the Finance Commission was followed by a heated discussion of the mayor’s authority relative to other council members. Last week, without approval from the full council, Moss pressured Finance Commission Chairman Glenn Brovont to cancel a meeting scheduled for Feb. 20. By acting unilaterally, Moss was acting beyond the scope of the City Charter, since the mayor’s position does not come with extra authority. “You are not the chief executive of the city,” Winger said to Moss.

Earlier in the the meeting, the Council hear from Florida Municipal Power Agency General Manager Jacob Williams. Williams laid out a plan and a timeline for enabling Vero Beach to end its membership in the power agency, thus paving the way for a sale of Vero Electric to FPL. Given that a sale of the full system now seems to be a real possibility, some wonder why Howle, Moss and Sykes are pushing ahead with a partial sale for the Shores, when a sale of the full system would bring rate relieve, not just for Shores residents, but for all 34,000 customers of Vero Electric.

 

City receives $2.7 million offer for Dodgertown property 5

MARK SCHUMANN

With plans to build a 280-unit residential development, Murphy Garlinge & Associates, LLC of Palm Beach Gardens has made an offer of $2.7 million for approximately 35 acres of public land located southeast of the intersection of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard.

The land was once the site of of a nine hole golf course owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a deal involving the City, County and the Dodgers, Vero Beach bought the land in 2005 for $10 million dollars. At the time, the vision was to develop a park comparable to Riverside Park. Sharp budget cuts following the 2009 Recession and an increasing focus locally on limited government has left the City without the resources or the inclination to create more public open space.

Currently, some $500,000 in sale tax revenue that could otherwise be used for road maintenance and for making improvements to the City stormwater system now goes to service the City’s $5 million debt on the property. Debt service this fiscal year will total $662,000.

Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari, who was a member of the Vero Beach City Council in 2005, continues to insist buying the land for $10 million dollars was a wise move on the part of the City.

In a memorandum accompanying the offer Murphy Garlinge founder Patrick Murphy wrote, “Gents, I understand the City paid a premium for this site, but in all honesty, it was never worth what they paid for it.”

Mayfield advocating 2-part sale of Vero Electric 4

MARK SCHUMANN

In her most recent newsletter, State Sen. Debbie Mayfield signaled she has lined up with Indian River Shores officials, who insist best way to sell Vero Beach’s entire electric system to Florida Power & light is to first carve off the Shores portion of the customers base.  Without question, a bifurcated sale will be more costly and more complicated for the City. This reality seems to be of little concern to Mayfield, or the Shores officials. Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes also contend a partial sale for the Shores is their first priority, and is being pursued “in the context” of a full sale.  Moss and Sykes, in particular, have strong ties to the Shores. In the recent municipal election, they received nearly all of their campaign contributions from Shores residents.

From Mayfield’s newsletter:

FMPA/Vero Electric Press Release

“After discussions with the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) and local government officials in Indian River County, tangible progress towards the sale of Vero Electric is taking place.  In a letter the FMPA provided to the City of Vero Beach, the estimated exit cost from three All-Requirements Projects that the city is currently involved in is $108 million.  Although completing this complicated transaction may take up to a year, it is the second phase of a two-part process which also includes the partial sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to FP&L in the near term.”

UPDATE: Off duty Indian River County Sheriff’s Deputy killed in evening Gifford shooting Reply

deputy-chambliss

NEWS RELEASE

Since last night, detectives have learned that Deputy Garry Chambliss was visiting family and friends in the 4400 block of 28th Avenue when gunfire erupted. Detectives are also aware that a number of people were gathered in the 4300 and 4400 blocks of 28th Avenue after a wake from earlier in the evening. Makhail Malik Chambliss (21) of Gifford, and an undisclosed passenger were traveling north on 28th Avenue when an object struck his black Chevrolet Camaro. It is believed that the object was thrown due to an ongoing dispute between Makhail Chambliss and several unidentified suspects. Forensic evidence shows that Makhail Chambliss then fired several rounds in the 4300 block of 28th Avenue. As he fled the scene heading north in his vehicle, an as-yet-unidentified suspect fired rounds at Makhail Chambliss’ vehicle. The bullet that struck and ultimately killed Deputy Chambliss originated from the second suspect, firing from more than 100 yards away. More…

Off Duty Indian River County Sheriff’s corrections deputy killed in evening Gifford shooting 1

NEWS RELEASE

At approximately 9:30 P.M., the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office received multiple calls of a shooting in the 4400 block of 28th Avenue. Responding deputies located Indian River County Sheriff’s Corrections Deputy Garry Chambliss with a gunshot wound. Deputy Chambliss was transported to the Indian River Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries. Information was received that suspects in the shooting were seen leaving the Gifford area in a black Chevrolet Camaro. Deputies located the suspect vehicle and conducted a traffic stop at Powerline Road and County Road 510. One suspect was taken into custody but deputies are currently searching for a second suspect who has not yet been named. Details of the shooting are still under investigation at this time. More will be released as it comes available.

Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar stated, “This is a tragic day for the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.  We are actively investigating this homicide as we face the difficult reality of losing one of our own to violence. We will find those responsible for this senseless loss of life and put them in prison where they belong. Please pray for the family of Deputy Garry Chambliss and everyone at the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office during this difficult time.”

Sale of Vero Electric now a real possibility 2

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

The Florida Municipal Power Agency’s executive committee yesterday authorized General Manager Jacob Williams to begin discussions with Vero Beach officials to enable the City to exit the power agency. As a point to begin negotiations, the FMPA is suggesting it might be able to assume all of Vero Beach’s power purchase and power supply contracts, as well as contingent liabilities, for approximately $108 million. Williams is to address the City Council next Tuesday evening.

With yesterday’s development, what has long been an insurmountable wall of contractual obligations to the Florida Municipal Power Agency may soon be reduced to an intermediate hurdle, one that can easily be cleared, if Vero Beach leaders focus their efforts and work together to achieve the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. Though $108 million may seem to many like a lot of money to exit contracts, it is significantly less than the $200 million to $300 million some had speculated would be needed to ensure other FMPA cities are not negatively impacted by Vero Beach’s exit from the joint action agency.

Some Vero Beach officials, including Councilman Richard Winger and Finance Commission chairman Glen Brovont, believe that, based on the price FPL had previously been willing to pay for the full electric system, it might now be possible to sell the electric system in a way that will not require tax increases for the people of Vero Beach. More…

Historic Dodgertown opens 2017 sports season with Presidents’ Day Tournament Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Dodgertown LogoMore than 1,300 athletes ages 9 to 18 representing 87 teams, plus coaches, families and friends from 12 states and Canada, will meet in Vero Beach this weekend for Historic Dodgertown’s annual Treasure Coast Presidents’ Day Challenge tournament.

The Treasure Coast Presidents’ Day Challenge, co-sponsored by the Treasure Coast Sports Commission, kicks off the busy spring sports season at Historic Dodgertown. The tournament’s size and scope expands to games also being played at South County Regional Park as well as Lakewood and Lawnwood Park in St. Lucie County. 

Historic Dodgertown hosts seven weekend and weeklong tournaments each year in addition to other teams, sports and organizations who utilize the facility for their games, training, conferences and retreats.  More…

Timothy Girard named 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Timothy Girard

Timothy Girard

Exemplifying the innovation, drive and persistence of a successful entrepreneur, Timothy Girard of Vero Beach and Girard Equipment will be recognized with the Dan K. Richardson Entrepreneurship Program’s 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Announcement of the award will be the highlight of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award dinner held on Thursday, March 2 at the Indian River State College Richardson Center at the Mueller Campus in Vero Beach. The award, which recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit, business excellence, and community involvement, is a central element of the Dan K. Richardson Entrepreneurship Program established by the IRSC Foundation and 13 other founding members to promote awareness and appreciation of the free enterprise system. More…

Gallery 14 to present ‘Soulful Statements’ Reply

Mixed media by Carol Staub and acrylic paintings by Cheri Cruden

NEWS RELEASE

By Cheri Cruden

By Cheri Cruden

By Carol Staub

By Carol Staub

Gallery 14 is happy to present an exhibit featuring Cheri Cruden and Carol Staub, two artists with long standing ties to the Gallery. Carol who is represented by Gallery 14 year round is being given a special expanded showing of her work. An international star in the field of mixed media, Carol has won an astonishing number of awards for her work, including most recently, the Holbein Award in the California Watercolor Association’s 47th Annual National Exhibition and First Place in Acrylic, at Art by the Sea in Vero Beach. A former owner-artist at Gallery 14, Cheri’s acrylics and mixed media work include abstract as well as representational images done in a bold, large, distinctive style. Commissioned by Scoozi in the Arts District, her striking vegetable paintings create dramatic ambiance in the main dining room, where they adorn the walls. More…

More on the outside money that bankrolled Moss in recent election 1

MARK SCHUMANN

Laura Moss

Laura Moss

Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss’ attempt to exercise authority not assigned to her by the City Charter has lead two council members to submit related agenda items for next Tuesday’s Council meeting. Given the recent offer by the Florida Municipal Power Agency to clear the way for Vero Beach to sell its electric system to Florida Power and Light, Moss’ behavior, and her dogged insistence on passing ahead with with Indian River Shores’ request for a partial sale, has some continuing to wonder about where the mayor’s loyalties lie.

Perhaps the answer can be found in, as they say, following the money.  During the recent municipal election, Moss was supported by a political action committee funded entirely by contributions from Shores residents and from FPL.  The PAC, chaired by Dan Stump, raised $106,249, with $55,000 given by FPL.  Additionally, seventy percent of the campaign funds raised directly by Moss came from Shores residents.

This unprecedented level of outside influence in a Vero Beach municipal election, though newsworthy, was never reported by the Press Journal, or by the John-Island-centered island weekly. (Press Journal publisher, Bob Brunjes, is married to a key FPL executive involved in the company’s effort to acquire municipal utilities.)

Not only was the PAC that supported Moss funded entirely with outside money, it used those considerably funds to mislead voters with what have no be proven to be false claims about the supposed benefits of the partial sale.

Below is a full accounting of the contributions to the PAC that supposed Moss. Other than the $55,000 given by FPL, all the remaining contributions were from individuals with homes in Indian River Shores.

flip-the-switch