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Here’s The Scoop … 6/15/10 Master Plan Steering Committee … Win Some … Lose Some …

DIFFERENT STROKES … FROM DIFFERENT FOLKS …

Dear Readers …. this writer was taken aback as I watched last night’s  MPSC … I saw some things from certain members that was deja vu seen in  past members on the losing side of the last election ….Not at all what I expected to see again…and so soon at that…. .. I Guess when this writer returns home…I may be in need of some of the cast away VFD Bunker Gear left over from outgoing members….

The meeting began a little disjointed…and surprisingly at the table was MIA member and former candidate for Comm. Marjorie Evans …who might as well have continued to MIA with her commentary…(see below)… Committee member Bob Eckblad was not present although from some of the comments directed toward him from fellow member Edmund Malkoon and others he had significant “”air time”…Too bad his comments on the A1A and El Mar Drive projects (online Town website)  were not read aloud after Malkoon read his… Co-Chair Malkoon thanked PIO D’Oliveira for the backup and future archiving of board meetings to be on the Town website as he requested…This writer and others have long asked for this…It is really due to a new Administration and new Commission…that it finally came to fruition…

Chair Paul Novak introduced Asst. Int. TM Bud Bentley who came to give an overview about the Capital Improvement process…which fell on deaf ears, in this writer’s opinion, with the money being spent by the committee going forth this evening…Bentley reiterated what Com. Sasser asked at the first budget workshop June 8th…If the millage rate stays at 3.999 we start out this budget approx. $600,000 in the hole…and those funds which need to be made up somehow by the Town come from the General Fund…He covered the divide between the Town’s portion of the A1A project $200,000+ to the State’s $400,000+…He stated once again we do not have the $200,000 already in the budget…It does not work that way…We need to allocate for it…The only funds we have appropriated are the $58,000 which will be reimbursed by FDOT… He acknowledged that the Finance Dept. is currently doing an analysis of funds for the CIP to see if there are any funds left to go for next year… Bud Bentley again explained there is a misconception that funds are there already for projects projected out in a 5 year CIP…they are not!…

The Reps from PBS&J came to update where we are in the process and answer questions as well as get input …They came with a handout and plans that have been submitted to the FDOT as required by the beginning of June…The timeframe did not allow for input or a meeting with the citizens or the members… Hmmmm….Hopefully this was due to the constraints of the previous Asst.TM and not an ongoing situation no matter who is at the helm… The comments included the “branding” of LBTS with a logo…along with a “residential feel” …limited decorative paving …stamped in the asphalt..pavers are no longer allowed by the state…shade “canopy” which the Rep. stated was 2/3 ( later changed to 1/3) of the $600,000 which “does not go very far” in the “plot” of a mile and a third. …section of A1A (Pine to Town Limits north…same as was done in the early 90’s prev. post..for drainage- planting-decorative lighting…and they also have underground wiring)… Intersections will get the most bang for the buck with “decorative nodes” where people stop… also at the bus stops which will be relocated up to 100 feet for extra Right -Of-Way  to put in benches etc… They cannot change curbs or ramps and may not put in medians (good thing as most did not want them)… “vertical  architectural elements” will come from seating walls …..and there will be “logos” that will add “character for the city-town to be decided with the Town …The trees will be Gumbo Limbo/Live Oak/ Beauty Leaf as well as supplementing trees we already have… Bentley added monies that go into extra elements take away from the landscaping.. Post Buckley  was being conservative and there would also be no street lighting.. and with the submittal things could be altered as long as they stayed within what was submitted to keep on time with the project which is finalized at the end of Dec….any major changes throws everything off schedule…

In the “She hasn’t changed a bit” category……Marjorie Evans spoke about A1A and the hotels with backout parking …not knowing this project was only for the north…Arghhh…

Bud Bentley touched upon a concern staff had with some of the hardscape improvements involving areas of private driveways on the east side and wanted input if there was too much in certain areas…no response came…The description without seeing the plans which unfortunately were not available for the viewing audience sounded like SRClub’s driveway…

Ken Kugler asked about the money being limited to the north and said the north looks nice now…it’s the south end of A1A most in meed of improvements…stating the project is a “nice to do”..”Not a need to do”… He asked if the money was not used for this could it be allocated elsewhere..Bentley answered “yes and no”… He said this money was came from a grant in 2000 as an incentive for annexation (so did the Palm Club sewers and the Town took a $200,000+  loss and said no to that one 2 years ago as well as the Jarvis Hall enclosure etc.. etc… etc…)… The area for the grant cannot be changed …but the money would be available if the commission decided to use elsewhere if not allocated for this project… He also answered the question asked at a prior meeting of the committee stating they had an opportunity to go to the MPO and scale down for the matching request… He added these kinds of expenditures take a long time to get and landscape is aging in Town…

The first “tussle” between members took place when Helene Wetherington took  shot at Kugler stating it was not purview to debate prioritizing the best use of funds..that was to come from the Comm…She would be the first of quite a few members who were wrong on their direction from the Commission… Edmund Malkoon thought SRLakes could contribute with trees as they had plans already in place for planting and had earlier indicated they were awaiting the plans from the A1A project…Later on it was answered that the land in front is A1A property not SRLakes…and falls under the A!A project monies… (Why are they not contributing then?/ Or are they?)…. Ken Kugler took the opportunity to “tussle” Helene back stating  that they were absolutely there to debate and recommend to the Commission…(He was correct)… Helene went on from there asking about the actual walk the committee went on and if they feedback made its way to PBS&J…the answer came back no…Seems someone dropped the ball due to there being 2 meetings in May and questions PBS&J said needed to be directed through the Town were supposedly being addressed per Malkoon’s statements at the 2nd meeting in May… There was more discussion on the elements…and then the timeframe going forth…FDOT will review and get back to PBS&J in the next month… PBS&J stated in this time as they await the review and comments they are also looking for input into the actual design from the committee …Helene again brought up the beach access…something the committee needs input from the north area residents about to see if they still do not want the entries to the beach more pronounced to the public…Edmund asked about the condo’s and “not interfering ” with their landscaping…The reply was PBS&J were “sensitive to that but they (the condos) may be more  sensitive “… Later on Malkoon would state the condo’s will not be touched…the ‘sensitive” statement does not jibe with that assertion…Helene asked about coverage around utility boxes and PBS&J said they could look into ways to mitigate it…WE have been told repeatedly in the past …no way…After was some discussion on signage …

Paul stated that Commissioners were in the room and perhaps they could answer what they were looking for after the “tussle” of Kugler and Wetherington over the role the committee was to play ….Edmund Malkoon said he did not read that in the minutes or the direction from Comm. Sasser was anything more than the design…

Asst. Int. TM Bud Bentley correctly came forward to state and inform Malkoon that at the budget meeting with the “reality of the budget system being more apparent” the Commission wants a recommendation whether to proceed or not…

It was time to go around the table…

Sandra Booth was not ready…but later did a real about face from her prior stance at previous meetings.. Now in support of the project…..stating people are drawn to memorable places like LBTS…She like the simple design and “as a single project we could recommend we support it.”…

Co-Chair Edmund Malkoon read his “personal e-mail” that he sent without the committee on May 25th to the Commission (on Town website backup) stating he wants this…it’s for the good of the whole town…it was promised at annexation…will raise property values  and it benefits half the population…also he  misstated the impact on condo landscaping ….He took aim at Bob Eckblad’s written input (Eckblad’s was  correctly sent to the committee/Commission/ concerned citizens ..on Town website backup ) stating he could not understand Bob’s “lack of support” for the project and dissing him on his prioritizing the spending of funds in these hard economic time…very uncool ….

Ken Kugler said he would be brief and said he too would like a unified LBTS…he still felt there should be a grant for the south end of A1A ..North side was already beautiful …asked and answered will go with the committee…

James Rogers agreed with Ken the money could go elsewhere ..it was a low priority…as he stated previously in past meetings…

John Panitsas stated A1A can be unified but it was not at the top of the priority list …he did acknowledge the bus shelters…design and signage…

Helene Wetherington had no recommendation…(although it was clear she was for the project )…

Marjorie Evans said “it as very nice up there” (north end) but it was “hot where the condo’s aren’t”…She stated if the money was “earmarked ” the $258,000 and the decision was made long ago to carry it out…she “was on the fence”…HUH?…

Paul Novak was also a surprise to this writer in the change in his stance from prior meetings as he posed the question to Ken. John and James where the money would go… Ken responded with the same answers Paul himself had stated in the past months..drainage…El Mar and the Pavilion improvements… infrastructure ….

Bud Bentley interjected making two points yet again…the money is not there…it will need to be budgeted …and the Town’s match will come from the General Fund … “significant policy decisions” will need to be made…and again stated the match could be reduced…Again there were no takers…on this committee…will there be any on the dais?….

Helene asked about “in-kind” matches…using taxpayers as labor…or donating the benches from the Town..with plaques of the donors… Bentley said no way would the FDOT allow citizens to work construction on A1A… After construction the benches could be looked into..

Marjorie again showing she hasn’t changed a bit since campaigning…all roads lead back to her life collecting donated big money trough her non-profit …telling the committee about $200,000 Lowe’s gave in equipment to her group home and it was used as a match…She then did a “Marjorie” by turning around to the Int. TM and asking what their job was…to “decide if we like it”…”I’m confused”…

Int. TM Hoffmann came forward and again stated the desire of the Commission at the Budget CIP meeting wanting to know from MPSC if they should go forward…get out …or scale down…

Malkoon did a “Mark Furth” and said he did not think commissioners should come up and give their personal opinions  ..they ” don’t need to hear from the Commissioners”…. adding that commissioners speaking at their committee meeting without the full commission would be influencing the committee…He said he would asked for “clarification from the Commission”… YIKES!…  DEJA VU!… In 2008 Mark Furth and then McIntee/ Silverstone declared the same charges of “influence peddling” to then-Comm.. Stuart Dodd…(also in the hall last evening)… when he chose to speak and comment at the MPSC meetings…WOW!…

Ken Kugler stated the Int. TM and Int. Asst.TM made their mission clear…it was time to go ahead and vote… adding Paul now feels it’s time to move forward with the project…

Comm. Vincent actually stood to speak after Malkoon’s comments about Commissioners  and was totally “PC” in his comments thanking the committee and everyone that spoke stating he was not there to give his opinion and he agreed with “Mr. Malkoon” about it being influential at some point…Everyone will vote and …get a consensus and bring it to the Commission… Big let down ….

Edmund’s mother stood to speak and came to sit down at the table…she stated she hadn’t planned to talk but agreed with her Bel Air neighbors about the divisiveness  felt in the north …spoke of her role in getting the annexation approved by those who opposed it…

With that…a vote was taken 5-4 to go ahead…

For spending the $200,000+….Edmund Malkoon (Co-Chair)/Paul Novak (Chair)/Sandra Booth/Marjorie Evans/Helene Wetherington

Against spending the $200,000+ ….Robert Eckblad/Ken Kugler/John Panitsas/James Rogers

After the vote Paul stated PBS&J would return on July 20th for further discussions after FDOT responds…later on in the meeting after further discussion from the group on community input and Charettes for this and El Mar Drive…the Int. TM sat at the table to inform them they had $5,000 allotted to them per the Comm. and to inform them of the hefty cost when these consultants come..Last month when Ocampo came the cost was $1000 …on that note…the very same members who were not concerned about spending $200,000+ went along with Marjorie when she said “we don’t need them in July.”… Hmmm …..

The A1A project segwayed into El Mar Drive…and here Readers…all you have to do is go back and take a look at the prior meetings on El Mar Drive to see the jest of what was discussed…Non- El Mar Drive residents on the committee telling longtime El Mar Drive residents and business owners what’s what… Quite interesting that the same north side residents who state a divisiveness  from the south …feel no compunction to refrain when it comes to the south end occupants who keep emphatically stating they want to keep 2 lanes on El Mar Drive… Front and center on this was again Co-Chair Malkoon who sounded very much like Comm. Vincent of late…….as the lanes became the focal point for another round…ad nauseum ….

Each member was asked for their input…which ranged from the 1-2 lanes… backout parking…size of sidewalks…bike lanes…medians…crosswalks…green space…shade trees…lights…drainage and underground utilities… Infrastructure was resoundingly the most important…followed by the rest…

Moments of UGH…came from  Helene Wetherington  adamant about the Master Plan from 2005 being the only “true public input” ..(Ken Kugler vehemently disagreed with her once again)…

Marjorie wasn’t done with her painfully uninformed comments of the night…asking why we were letting Minto…(she was corrected it was Oriana) define how the monies could be used…(on El Mar Drive) ….”They’re not even citizens here.”…She went on to state “If it’s a contract hire an attorney and fight it.”… Arghhh…

Paul ended the comments by stating he was for the “whole enchilada” …2 lanes..wider sidewalks if the telephone poles are removed… in 2 phases possibly and that the Town should borrow $4 million to do it at a low interest rate…reminding all that in 1962 the Town Mayor spearheaded the money being borrowed for the sewers and it was the smartest thing he did…

Not done yet it re-wound to the lanes once more…how many lanes it takes to back out into and on and on and on……Ken Kugler finally suggested they make a decision on the lanes as they did on A1A…1 or 2 lanes and move forward…(Kudos to Ken this evening!)…

Sandra 2 lanes/ Edmund 1st for traffic study..then to move forward…and after seeing the majority changed his vote back to traffic study/ Ken  2 lanes… move forward/ James  re-open- 2 lanes…then 1…then ?…/ John 1 lane- re-open/ Helene 1 lane/ Marjorie no decision….2 lanes? / Paul 2 lanes…Ken added Bob was for 2 lanes per his letter…

It ended with Paul stating infrastructure …2 lanes …2 phases… “move forward”…..

BC- Any bets?…The Commission is now between a rock and a hard place… Will they go with the recommendations of this committee and spend the money on north A1A and  infrastructure – etc on El Mar Drive…with a Charette in August?….Will south end residents and businesses once again rise up about it being their time to get monies for improvements?….Will walkers on El Mar Drive come and fill the hall for 2 lanes?…..

Deja Vu…Readers…… 2 Deja Vu’s….

more to come….

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