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Here’s The Scoop … What Happened In Town Hall Stayed In Town Hall?…

KEEPING IT UNDER WRAPS ? ….

Dear Readers …The latest on the sure to be discussed sewer “subsidy” (tonight’s Budget Meeting) kept under wraps in Town Hall from 1997 to 2010 is this… All of LBTS uses Pompano Beach for their sewer service …All …north/south and the condos… All residential customers are charged a rate per thousand gallons along with a surcharge…The Condos are also charged an “availability charge” for service to each unit …The puzzle is now coming together ….

SRC asked for their rates to be the same as LBTS once annexed in and to no longer pay the “flat fee” …”surcharge”…which is really the “availability charge” that was attached to the sewer bill per a fixed-long term contract with Pompano Beach…The Commission at their Feb 3, 1997 Special Commission meeting (prev. post) came to consensus with a 5-0 vote to offer that rate change and to have the Town Atty. go to Pompano Beach once the annexation was complete and ask them to agree to end that contract …Failure to do so would result in a declaratory judgment action from the Town …. It was then -Vice- Mayor Parker who asked about the Town being “exposed” to any  litigation arising from temporarily paying a”blended sewer rate during litigation of the contract ” that had been suggested by Town Manager Baldwin…Town Atty. Cherof is on the record for stating he did not think the Town would be….Later on Parker made it clear he did not want any offer of an aggregate rate to be in the agreement so as not to “weaken the Town’s position in court”…and again stated the Town’s “willingness” to renegotiate the rate… On Feb 4th, former Town Manager Bob Baldwin sent SRC a letter …(prev. post)…reiterating this…”The Town Commission approved several item, as follows 3. Agreed to take necessary action to reduce the condominium resident’s sewer bills to a rate charged by the City of Pompano Beach to Town residents.”…TM Bob Baldwin followed up with a Feb 19, 1997 Q & A (prev. post) which further stated ….”The Town Commission has agreed to lower the condominium resident’s sewer fees. The Town intends to bring the condominiums under the Town’s master sewer agreement wit the City of Pompano beach. This would decrease your rates (based on current rates) from $1.81/per one thousand gallons plus the additional flat fee to $1.51/per one thousand gallons with no flat fee. If neither the City of Pompano Beach nor the courts allow this change, the Town will explore other options. The Town Commission is committed to making the sewer rates the same for all residents. That means your rates will be lowered.”…

Once more Folks … “If neither the City of Pompano Beach nor the courts allow this change, the Town will explore other options. The Town Commission is committed to making the sewer rates the same for all residents. That means your rates will be lowered.”…

Readers recall from the previous posts this came up in 2007 from then- Comm. Silverstone and ended when comparisons were made by John Thompson showing SRC was paying their sewer bills and Jim Silverstone informed this writer they had been looking in the wrong place…(Pompano Beach when SRC paid Fort Lauderdale)… It came up again a week ago Monday…On Friday, Mark Brown wrote about it in the latest edition of his newspaper and this writer posted on it last Friday as well with a followup posted yesterday…

Now it appears that once SRC annexed in they paid their sewer bills to the Town…and continued until Fort Lauderdale took over the billing for the Town because the Town was doing a poor job of collecting… SRC never heard anything else after annexation …They just paid their bills…until they heard something when a phone call was made from the Town a few months ago…SRC reiterated where they paid there bill…They heard from this writer yesterday (prev. post) …as well as from the Town once again…The Town we hear has the files from the former Town Atty. and the issue grows cold from the time of annexation to now…

It appears that there was no contract discussions with Pompano Beach and no declaratory judgment action… It also appears that it never came back to the Commission for any action to take place or option to vote on to honor or not honor the consensus of the Commission at the Feb 3, 1997 meeting… It appears that a few people inside Town Hall made the decision to find an option to cover the “availability charges” for SRC and keep it quiet for all these years!…

The north end annexed into LBTS in 2001 and as far as we can tell never asked and were never offered a rate equity or to rid them of the “availability charges” for the condominiums …we are told…

As of this year and the latest sewer bill payments made by SRC the condominium of 722 units pays Fort Lauderdale $3 per thousand gallons while the Town’s rate to residents is $2.85 (I was informed)…and also pays the Town $190 “availability charge” for meters …of which SRC has three …for an additional payment of $570 dollars…

If SRC was charged the “availability charge” that would amount to $14.47 per unit …or $10,447.34 a month … which equals $125,368.08 per year…close to the $127,000 Mark Brown quoted in his article …Hmmmm….

So, who made the decision to not go back to Commission and go forward as planned?… Who made the decision not to go back to SRC and explain they needed to continue to pay an “availability charge” per unit as all other condominiums were required to have (we are told)?…Does anyone believe doing so would have been a deal breaker in the annexation?…

Most importantly, we do know that the Town Attorney was  Jim Cherof…The Town Manager was Bob Baldwin…and the Vice-Mayor was Oliver Parker…who then became the Mayor…along with Finance Director Esther Colon who became the Town Manager and they had to have paid Pompano Beach a check that was much more than the check received from SRC to them and then from Fort Lauderdale for SRC  just as Interim TM Hoffmann did upon her appointment in April 2010… but they kept it under wraps!…

How to go forward….It is this writer’s opinion that the Town cannot expect or receive payment from an unknowing SRC ….As previously posted the Commission per TAtty. Cheroff also voted 5-0 to defend SRC from any litigation resulting from the annexation… Not being a lawyer…I would think although it almost 13 years after the fact…the Town will now need to go to SRC and explain SRC they need to start paying the “availability charge” per unit going forward…and figure out the “meter” charges and what that is all about…

Repercussions for those that carried out this “option” behind the scenes for all these years…that’s something supporters and voters may want to consider very carefully going forward….

more to come….

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