Commissioners to prioritize budget, streamline service

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – County commissioners gave themselves and county staff marching orders for the next few years, setting goals they hope to accomplish this year and the years to come after holding an economic summit with the cities of Vero Beach Sebastian and Fellsmere.

Of those goals, commissioners discussed prioritizing the budget, streamlining government services, establishing industrial parks, and reviewing commercial impact fees, among several other tasks they set.

While no votes were taken, a consensus was established and the discussed goals are expected to come up at later commission meetings. The goal-setting session came after a three-hour morning economic summit attended by other local municipalities and business leaders.

Commissioner Joe Flescher asked the board to consider options when it comes to collecting impact fees on commercial businesses. Commissioners, in the past, have expressed concern that businesses bear the brunt of the fees.

One option they would have would be to require the impact fees – which can cost some businesses upwards of $300,000 – be paid at the time the certificate of occupancy is issued rather than upfront.

Flescher also suggested the county continue working to provide Web-based permitting for incoming businesses, which he said would help bring in more businesses from out of the area that can’t necessarily get to the County Administration building to file for permits.

County staff have expressed tight budgets as the reason for not being able to implement the service.

Commissioner Gary Wheeler suggested the board hold a couple of early budget workshops starting in April so they could evaluate the county’s expenditures and prioritize services. He said they should look for ways to shrink government instead of growing government.

County Administrator Joe Baird told commissioners that the early workshops would be doable, however, the county’s revenue from property and state taxes would not be available at that time.

Commissioner Wesley Davis asked county staff to evaluate finding private organizations that could help utilize currently underused facilities, such as the county fairgrounds. He said he envisioned an organization like the soccer association that operates the soccer fields, which are county-owned.

The commissioner also suggested the county work to find a way to partner with the Mental Health Collaborative to provide better mental health care to those who wind up in the judicial system. He added that it would most likely end up as a cost savings to the Sheriff’s Office and lessen the court and jail burden.

Commissioner Bob Solari sought continued support for goals the county is continuing to work on, including the county’s Greenway Plan, Indian River Lagoon plan, continuing discussions with the City of Vero Beach and the Town of Indian River Shores about the possibility of consolidating water and sewer services, and reorganizing government departments starting with the numerous committees the county has established.

Commission Chairman Peter O’Bryan asked commissioners to support efforts to revitalize Downtown Vero Beach, calling it a “hub” and “major center.”

Commissioner Gary Wheeler asked what the county could do other than what it has done in building the Main Library, the parking garage and the County Courthouse.

O’Bryan said funding might be one way to assist.

The commissioner also told his fellow members that he would like to see the county get at least one of the two industrial parks west of Vero Beach near Interstate 95 up and running and market it to the business community.

Within the next five years, he said, he’d like to establish a biotechnology industrial park on Oslo Road near I-95 that might pressure the Florida Department of Transportation to put in an interchange there.

Also discussed was a resolution the commission had passed a while back about the Amtrak station proposed for Vero Beach. O’Bryan did not get commission support for committing resources to the site. Instead, commissioners said they support the concept of the station but have not received enough information about the cost the county might bear if the station were to be located in the county.

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