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Here’s The Scoop … Something Smells Rotten In The Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Sewer Agreements …

AGAIN….WHO KNEW WHAT AND WHEN ….

Dear Readers … the backup for the latest on the Sea Ranch Club/Sea Ranch Lakes North Sewers as well as the latest 2007 Town Master Sewer Agreement with Pompano Beach is now on the Town’s website (link below)… It will be discussed at the Budget Workshop on Wed. August 25, 2010 at 5 pm…Public comment will be allowed….

The Town hired a consultant to look into the longtime subsidy being provided to the 4 condominiums by the Town of LBTS after it was found by the Interim Town Manager and to come up with a recommendation …This writer has posted on this previously and some of what I posted was used in the backup…including the minutes from a Special Meeting held on Feb 3, 1997…

“At the February 3, 1997 Commission meeting the Town Commission discussed the proposed annexation of the Sea Ranch Club Condominiums (Attachment B.) The sewer rate discussion focused on the following areas: The Town’s desire to include the condominiums in the Town’s Master Sewer Agreement. The existence of a contract between the City of Pompano Beach and the four condos that requires the condos to pay a surcharge to Pompano Beach and the legal question of whether the Master Sewer Agreement would take precedence.Creation of a aggregate blended sewer rate should the Condos inclusion not legally be possible. Filing of a declaratory judgment action to bring the SRCC under the Town’s Master Sewer Agreement. The Commission provided direction to the Town Manager and Town Attorney to proceed with the annexation.”….

The actual exchange from the minutes was as follows…

“Town Manager Baldwin asked the Commission that in the event the condominiums

cannot be brought into the Town’s Master sewer agreement would they be willing to

have an aggregate sewer rate to distribute the sewer costs.

Vice Mayor Parker stated if the Annexation were to go through the Commission should
authorize the Town Attorney to file a declaratory judgment action to bring them under
our sewer rate Vice Mayor Parker said only if the judgment failed should the
Commission authorize an aggregate sewer rate.
Vice Mayor Parker asked Town Attorney Cherof if it would hurt the Town’s position if
they went on record stating they would be willing to create an aggregate sewer rate
Town Attorney Cherof responded he was not sure why the Town would need to make a
decision on the aggregate sewer rate now.
Town Manager Baldwin replied the condominiums are concerned they would have a
higher sewer rate than the other Town residents.
Vice Mayor Parker stated the Town’s response should be the Town will file a lawsuit a
declaratory judgment action to bring the condominiums into the Town’s contract with the
City of Pompano beach. He said they will then fall under the Town’s contract rate for
wastewater disposal.
Vice Mayor Parker told the Commission if the Commission went on record in advance
and say the Town would be willing to have an aggregate rate it would weaken the
Town’s position in court. He said it would indicate a willingness on the Town’s part to
renegotiate the sewer rate.”

Also included was a letter the following day Feb. 4, 1997  to SRC Director John Thompson from former Town Manager Bob Baldwin that addresses the Commission’s meeting and their commitment to the annexation and what will be agreed to … “On February 4 1997 Robert Baldwin Town Manager sent a letter (Attachment C.) to the Director of the condominiums stating The Commission has approved several items 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.”

What was not included was the February 19, 1997 “Annexation Questions & Answers ” sent to the SR residents from the Town which included the following…

“Will our sewer rates decrease?

YES. 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 with the City of Pompano Beach. That 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.”

We now know that the entire town gets their sewage treatment from Pompano Beach and from Sea Ranch Lakes North (5200 N. Ocean ) north receives both water and sewage treatment while north of SRLNorth gets their water from Fort Lauderdale…

From the rest of the 26 page report it states some even more disturbing information …

“Former Town Manager Baldwin and Former Town Attorney Cherof have been consulted to see if
they can fill in the gaps on several issues in the research but neither could recollect the history on those particular issues.”

BC- why am I not surprised?…

We learn that there “is no indication of a follow up on a declaratory judgment in the Town files or minutes” and a request was made from the former Town Attorney for the old files and what was received stopped at the period of negotiations on the new Master Sewer Agreement…

BC- which means there is no record of any follow up prior to Dec. 2007…the date of the new master Sewer agreement….

The exchange with the Pompano Beach Utility Customer Service Manager and Pompano Beach Utility Director produced these gems…”I spoke with the Pompano Beach Utility Customer Service Manager, who indicated there was no documentation in their files regarding the billing change from the condos to the Town. The position of Pompano Beach regarding the billing is they are following the City policy of charging for sewer service that allows for per unit availability charges and a surcharge for out of City residents. In a discussion with the Pompano Beach Utility Director, he stated no mention was made of the annexed areas during the negotiations for the new Master Sewer agreement executed in 2007.”

BC- So to clarify …in 2007 the Town of LBTS entered into a new agreement with Pompano Beach which was passed by the Commission on Nov. 13, 2007 as a Consent Agenda item with no discussion leaving out the annexed in areas from the Town Master Sewer agreement…This practice of passing Consent Agenda items in “batches” without discussion is a practice often done at commission meetings and is the reason why no one in the audience and perhaps some of the Commissioners as well (due to so many occasions backup was not provided to them) …prev. posts)…. did not know of the agreement did not include the annexed areas….The previous Master Sewer agreement was in 1966 prior to the two annexations …but in 2007 SRC /SRLN and the north were fully annexed in and should have fallen under the agreement as stated in the Feb. 19, 1997  Q & A  (above and prev. post)…”The Town intends to bring the condominiums under the Town’s master sewer agreement with the City of Pompano Beach” …. The Town Commission is committed to making the sewer rates the same for all residents. That means your rates will be lowered.”….

BC- It seem to this writer the Master Sewer Agreement is not a valid agreement with the exclusion of the annexed areas and needs to be renegotiated to include the entire town…

Disturbing facts continue in the report from none other than former Vice Mayor- Mayor Parker who finds out today, Aug. 24, 2010  if  Broward voters will elect him to become our new Broward County Circuit Court Judge … Parker bought a condo in SRC building C according to the BCPA in November 1997 after the Feb 3, 1997 Special Meeting, but definitely during the time of those who decided behind closed Town Hall doors to subsidize SRC without following through with going to Pompano Beach or going for a declaratory judgment and making the decision not to bring it back to the dais ….according to this report…thus it appears it became a benefit  … It is hard for this writer to believe Parker did not know what was going on in Town Hall and did not inquire on the process and the outcome of what was supposed to take place after the SRC annexation…

The exchange with Oliver Parker …

“I also spoke with former Mayor Oliver Parker on 7/15/2010 who provided some
background from his time as an elected official. He told me during pre-annexation
discussions with the SRCC residents they requested that they be treated equally with
Town of LBTS residents regarding sewer rate. The Condos had a long term agreement
with Pompano Beach (with 15-20 yrs more to run) dictating a higher rate than Town
residents. The Commission through discussion at meeting and direction to the Town

Manager agreed to charge SRCC residents the same rate as other LBTS residents
were charged. That information was conveyed in a letter from the Town Manager to the
Director of the Sea Ranch Condominiums.
It was his recollection that the SRCC sewer agreements were assigned to LBTS. He
believes this assignment could have been done at a managerial level between the City
of Pompano Beach Manager and the LBTS Town Manager. He stated the SRCC sewer
system was folded into our sewer system and LBTS then created a blended sewer rate.
The former Mayor Oliver recalls that the rates established by the Commission took into
account the amounts paid by the Town for SRCC blended rate as well as capital
needs that would be made in all areas of the Town but were not necessary in the
SRCC area.

BC- So according to Parker …”He believes this assignment could have been done at a managerial level between the City
of Pompano Beach Manager and the LBTS Town Manager.”…. He stated the SRCC sewer system was folded into our sewer system and LBTS then created a blended sewer rate. The former Mayor Oliver recalls that the rates established by the Commission took into account the amounts paid by the Town for SRCC blended rate as well as capital needs that would be made in all areas of the Town but were not necessary in the SRCC area.”… These statements are disturbing on so many levels… Managers from 2 towns made a deal without any documentation in either town?… The Town created a “blended sewer rate” and the Commission took that into account for each budget year going forward?… Parker …Baldwin….Colon…etc…just kept mum and did not bring back to the Commission that the agreed upon sequence of events ( discussion with pompano Beach/ declaratory judgment) discussed on Feb 3, 1997 were not adhered to and a subsidy was enacted none-the-less …

This should put to rest any insinuation that Sea Ranch Club or Sea Ranch Lakes North residents had any idea they were being subsidized over the years without going through the proper avenues they were informed would take place at the time of negotiations….It is safe to assume they believed some agreement had been made with Pompano Beach as they continued to pay the Town each year the same rate as the rest of the residents…

I do disagree with the consultant and Pompano Beach’s reps on when SRC began paying the Town…They stat it was 2001 when SRC began paying the Town…I have been informed as I previously posted that SRC began paying the Town right after annexation in 1997 up until the time Fort Lauderdale took over the billing for Town….. It does not add up …pun intended…for SRC to have continued to pay Pompano until March 2001 because SRC would have known they were paying the higher rate in those 4 years according to statements made by the Pompano reps in the report of Pompano continuing to charge the surcharge and unit availability charges … Also, it does not make sense SRC would switch for just one year and pay the Town only to then have Fort Lauderdale pay the Town and then have Town pay Pompano Beach the following year if they were paying Pompano in the first place…. A further look into the books at SRC needs to be done to clear this up if possible……The only other explanation would be if the “managerial level” agreement Parker alluded to between PB & LBTS did this with no documentation as well ….which seems highly unlikely …

In doing some searching for the 2007 Master Sewer Agreement in the Town’s archived minutes I came upon this exchange shortly before the Nov. 13, 2007 signed agreement ….finalized by pompano on Dec. 17, 2007….

The Sept. 27, 2007 Minutes (pg. 2)

“Tom Carr asked about the revenue for the sewer charges that used to be billed bi-monthly, He said since Ft. Lauderdale is now collecting both water and sewer charges, would they return the sewer charges back to the Town of Lauderdale-By-The Sea, or whether the money went directly to the City of pompano Beach.

Mayor Parker explained there are two providers, Ft. Lauderdale provided the water and sewer services and Pompano Beach provided water only, north of Pine Avenue.

(BC- either Parker was wrong or the minutes were incorrect…as stated above PB supplies both north of SRLNorth…)

Mr. Carr wanted to know where the excess charges went. Manager Colon explained that the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea paid the City of Pompano Beach for the master sewer bill for the south end of town and for Sea Ranch Condos.”

The report includes the 2007 agreement and tables etc….

BC- The explanation and recommendation made by by the consultant are problematic to say the least in this writer’s opinion and in the opinion of a few that were involved at the time of the agreement in 1997…

“EXPLANATION ……The next step is for the Town Attorney to review the report and pertinent documents to advise the Town on the legal strength of a request to have Pompano Beach start billing the Sea Ranch condos directly for their sewer service as they do all other
Lauderdale by the Sea customers north of Pine Avenue.”
“RECOMMENDATION: Seek the Town Attorney advice on the matter and advise the Sea Ranch condos of the likelihood of a change in how they are billed for sewer service.”

BC- SRC agreed to the promises made by the Town’s representative …former TM Bob Baldwin that they would be charged under the Town’s Master Sewer Agreement and treated equally with the South end of town (the north was not a factor).. It stands to reason that SRC may legally challenge any attempt by the Town to make them join the north in paying a 25% surcharge etc…plus per unit availability charges knowing now that the Town never followed through with negotiating with Pompano Beach or going to court  to say nothing of the fact that those in charge never came back to the Commission to decide the next step…in honoring the agreement…SRC would seem to have a case of precedent due to what those same people in Town Hall chose to do to comply with the agreement in order to have SRC pay the same rate as the rest of LBTS at the time of annexation to present…which is a flat rate with a user fee paid by the Town to Pompano Beach (see above 9/2007 minutes) The two large south end condos Caribe and the Fountainhead pay that way as well…

Again, it is this writer’s opinion that the following should now take place…as stated above…back to the negotiating table with Pompano Beach…on the Master Sewer Agreement and the annexed areas being included…If Pompano Beach is not receptive to new negotiations …then it is on to a declaratory judgment… to see where the courts stand on this debacle…before making any attempt to break the agreement with SRC and SRLN….I also believe if we go to court depositions should be taken on those who were behind the decisions made…and while  former TM Colon can not be charged with any wrongdoing found “from the beginning of the world” per her agreement with the Town made last month..She can be called to answer questions on this million+ dollar subsidy and could possibly be found either in contempt or perhaps charged with perjury if she does not comply honestly after being sworn in….

Also not included in the backup is any input by the present Town Attorney ….

Of note…one other item that needs answers as we deal with this issue is the June 15, 2005 City of Pompano Beach Resolution 2005-254 /Sanitary Sewer Agreement this writer received in a PRR  last week which covers the north side of town and the phases of the septic to sewer areas going forth …Phase 3 was the Palm club which was to start no later than 2007 and be completed no later than Dec. 2008… A follow up PRR has been made for any correspondence with Pompano Beach to advise them a vote was taken to stop phase 3 in Feb. 2008 and informing Pompano to revise and/or amend the sewer agreement as well as the City’s resolution to reflect that action …If none was made …it would appear a breach was made in this contract as well by some of the very same people behind closed doors in LBTS’ Town Hall..

http://www.lauderdalebythesea-fl.gov/town/backup2010WORK.htm

The meeting will be open to the public as a workshop…no public input …Wed. Aug 25th, 2010 at 5 pm in Jarvis Hall …on Comcast Ch, 78/ Town website live-streaming…and then archived… http://lbts.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2

more to come….

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