The regular May 21st meeting of the Village Council saw lingering litigation appearing to ebb away with the former village manager and former mayor cases seeming to near closure. It was a packed agenda of nearly four hours with lots of dense issues reviewed like the next stage for the undergrounding of utilities; financing for 530 Crandon; the evaluation of charter officers’ performance; and a denial from the Army Corp of Engineers for support due to a shortage of public beach access as the private village beach launch of a new water sports option got approved but only unilaterally embraced.
Paddle boarding rows on
Over the objections from Key Biscayne Watersports Association representative Fernando Romero who read a statement during citizen comment expressing “disapproval and opposition to” giving PADL LLC a license to operate four paddle boards out of the Village Beach Park in a set up similar to Lime and CitiBikes, the consent agenda sponsored by Council Member Ed London passed unanimously.
Romero said there should be similar regulations for the budding for-profit enterprise such as those Kiteboarder’s have had to comply with like: a demonstrated proficiency by the users, liability coverage, and imposing similar fees for access to the beach.
“Citizens pay to use the village beach while for profit businesses use it for free,” said Romero.
He also suggested supervision of the renters, enforcement of life vest usage per coast guard requirements, limitations during high wind days, keeping kids who might want to use the equipment late at night out, opening the process up for bidding, and manning the concession with a full time marshal.
“This is a non-exclusive license and they are providing a service because they love the sport,” said London during discussion. “They will be providing equipment for all, as far as the comments on it being dangerous, I beg to differ. The difference between kiteboarding and paddle boarding is night and day.”
Council Member Ignacio Segurola wished the group of three men at the podium led by Andres Avello well, but was worried about setting a bad precedent that could make the village potentially liable if a user got injured. He also questioned the fairness of the process.
“I can’t ignore the objections brought up (considering the vessel exclusion zone) with kiteboarding; a paddle board is a vessel. If we don’t use the same requirements for kite boarding we may have a double standard and that concerns me. Although I wish you the best, using public property for private business can be creating the wrong precedent, we are not business incubators.”
Avello said the paddle boarder routes would be tracked and repeat offenders banned. He mentioned fee charges as a deterrent to abusing the system and an after-hours lock that he claimed would prevent check outs beyond operating times.
Council Member Katie Petros insisted the contract for PADL, LLC be approved for a trial period only to see how they do considering safety concerns and confirmed capping the maximum boards available to ten. “No automatic renewal…come back, and we will see how it goes,” she said.
Federal shoreline protection program snub
The village was “screened out” of inclusion in a federal shoreline protection program led by the Army Corp of Engineers due to a lack of public access to beaches and parking contrary to their rules to qualify and be a part of the 50 year program (see Islander News March 27, 2019 edition related interview with Congresswoman Donna Shalala) according to village manager Andrea Agha.
“It is an opportunity we can (still) pursue,” said Agha. This would include a letter to be sent indicating a willingness to improve public beach access and parking to “keep up the fight.”
Whither 530 and The Park Without a Name
Vice Mayor Allison McCormick requested an update on the former pump track and it’s, at least, five year mission (according to a recent documented letter to the editor sent to Islander News from Allene Nicholson) to become a park.
Manager Agha updated the council stating a request for proposal meeting this past April yielded nine possibilities, four of which were submitted by May. The awarded contract is expected to come up for review at the June meeting. They are still seeking ways to finance the gap for what is anticipated to be a total 1.6 million dollar expenditure.
Council Member Luis Lauredo said the village needs to do a better job of seeking out federal funding during grant money liquidation season when sources have to find homes for their dollars in order to have a minimum of the same funding amounts the next fiscal cycle.
“It is a massive multi-billion dollar industry from September to October 1 for appropriations in Washington for that year,” said Lauredo. “The biggest sin is not to spend the money and we can do more, proactively, (then) for all kinds of grants.”
Agha said she had called out grants in “my orphanage” of underserved priorities. She expects the new financial director who is coming aboard in mid-June to be able to help find funding for village projects like 530 Crandon.
Speaking of efficiency, Lauredo questioned why the park at 401 Hampton Lane had yet to be named, something that was apparently stipulated to receive the grant money reimbursements given back for the purchase.
“Can we just name the park, why is it so complicated?” asked Lauredo.
“’Serenity,’ ‘Friendship,’ did we not take the next step to reach out to the schools (to request possible names from students)?”
Agha said they did, but did not get anything back. For compliance on grants purposes they are titling it currently as: ‘the park located at.’”
Lauredo pushed to take action and moved the name ‘Friendship’ as he said was suggested to him by the chair of parks and open spaces. McCormick requested the council hold out on the naming for one more meeting to have the request publically noticed in case anyone wants to come to the podium and make a suggestion.
“We wanted a generic word, no one family or saint…something conducive to that piece of land,” said Lauredo.
No referendum for undergrounding of utilities question
Council Member Segurola was the lone objecting vote against, in the otherwise, “no means yes” tally to bypass a referendum on whether or not to proceed with the undergrounding of utilities, after he presented the council an update on the status of the project. The yes for no referendum passed.
“Since the last meeting we decided to put a hold on (undergrounding) because the State of Florida ‘is taking care of everything,’ well that is just not the case,” said Segurola referencing a reimbursement bill that passed this legislative session in Tallahassee that is set to give back some of the dollars spent by municipalities to underground power lines. That dollars and cents outcome awaits determination from the Public Service Commission he said.
Segurola and London reviewed big questions remaining such as the cable and telecommunications hardware/wooden poles status; who will finance the surveys related to feeder lines; transformers; aesthetics; the level of tax payer expenditures; and the degree of impact to homeowners versus condo dwellers.
On an anecdotal side note related to island history, London questioned how AT&T came to own the phone poles--a far cry from the days when telephones were set up in Vernon’s Drug Store.
Council Member Brett Moss quoted a village survey indicating the undergrounding of utilities was deemed the number two top village issue and with 79% of responders calling it a “priority.”
Mayor Mike Davey said it has been discussed since 2006 and it’s time to make it happen. He followed on what Lauredo called the obligations of “representative democracy,” or the council leaders’ charge to make the decision on behalf of the village.
Mayor Davey led the council discussion to secure a reimbursement for KB Presbyterian School in the neighborhood of $120,000 for what he described as an over-due pay back on land borrowed post Hurricane Irma and used to pile cleared debris. The process will be expedited as insisted upon by resident Michele Estevez; to do the job while school is out this summer after they came up with a compromise on the challenge of sourcing quick dollar allocations that has stalled the pending I-O-U.
On boards: the vacancies on the parks and open spaces board have been filled, and the four candidates who did not make the cut were named and encouraged to stay active in local government. There is to be greater oversight to manage residents serving on more than one board, and therefore one seat still remains open on either the beautification, or arts in public spaces, board.
The entire council was in favor of Davey’s interest in an imminent proclamation to honor immigrants during June’s “Immigrant Heritage Month.”
Miami Dade County resiliency coordinator Karina Castillo waited patiently until the end of the meeting to speak in favor of the 305 Mayor’s Accord that Davey is supporting. She gave a brief presentation about the three year effort pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation with 100 resilient cities programmed that addresses community capacity to adapt “in the face of shock and stress.” She said demonstrated examples of local crisis are epidemics like the Zika Virus, and sea level rise, respectively.
With the unanimous support of council, Davey was set to sign the accord and pledge the following week.
Youth Council ahead
Council Member Moss updated his enthusiastic colleagues on the prospects come fall for at least seven kids from grades six to ten to get an early exposure into life on the dais. The group agreed to keep invites to what sounds like a mini student-congress style participatory education, open for residents attending any county-wide school. Juniors and seniors were deemed to college driven to engage, and the enterprising youth who first floated the idea to Moss is in sixth grade, hence the entry level.