Sebastian City Manager settles into role to tackle full plate

SEBASTIAN — Sebastian’s new city manager, Paul Carlisle, in office for a mere two months, already has a plate full of issues to deal with, including stormwater management, annexation, the hot-button Brightline train, armed school resource officers, and the city’s $12 million-plus 2018-2019 budget. Not to mention pickleball.

Armed with 30 years’ experience in municipal government, Carlisle comes to the city of 24,000 from a similar position in Glades County, taking the reins in May, following City Manager Joe Griffin’s retirement.

Stormwater management is, most agree, Sebastian’s biggest ongoing issue, with a project underway somewhere within the city virtually every day. In order to meet current needs, the City Council recently voted to double the monthly stormwater fee from $5 to $10 a month, a move deemed necessary in order to bolster the undernourished Stormwater Utility Fund.

The City wants to pump the fund up to $2 million, in order to finance needed system maintenance, equipment replacement, and new projects, throughout a storm water system consisting of 280 lane miles of swales, 50 miles of ditches, 9 miles of canals, and 275 catch basin/culvert structures.

Carlisle is determined that residents clearly understand how their stormwater fees are being spent. To that end, he and City Finance Director Ken Killgore are restructuring the budget listing to breakdown the Stormwater Utility Fund figure into specific line item expenditures and project dates. The information will also be online and, likely, through other materials as well.

Additionally, says Carlisle, there will be a 5- and 10-year plan, so residents will have a clearer long-range picture, and project completion goals will be more precise.

On a related subject, Carlisle reminds city businesses there are still funds available to help with the cost of switching from septic tanks to the county’s sewer system.

The new City Manager will oversee 182 more acres than his predecessors. In March, the City Council unanimously voted to annex the property, located south of the Sebastian Industrial Park and north and east of the Sebastian Highlands, granting a request by Ridgewood Sebastian LLC. Ridgewood is proposing Spirit of Sebastian, a development of 550 single-family homes and 140 duplex villas.

Carlisle is monitoring the progress of the controversial Brightline project (originally called All Aboard Florida), which would send high speed passenger trains thundering at 100-plus mph through Treasure Coast communities 32 times a day while providing zero local service, and which Sebastian and other Treasure Coast municipalities have battled since 2014.

Concerns include cost of enhanced safety features and quiet zones at the five city crossings; traffic delays, especially of emergency vehicles stopped on the wrong side of the tracks; and noise. Currently, Brightline has won an extension to issue tax-exempt bonds, so, says Carlisle, until an updated Brightline project time-frame is established, the city is in an alert “wait-and-see” mode.

The Sebastian Police Department, Carlisle continues, is adding two new officers, who will serve as armed school resource officers, in cooperation with the Indian River County School District and the Sheriff’s Department, responding to the state’s new law that requires armed security on every campus. Half the cost will come from the state, through the School Board, he notes.

Carlisle, along with the finance department and other department heads, are waist deep in budget preparations, anticipating approval of the proposed General Fund budget – $12,145,950 – which reflects the rollback millage rate of 3.1514, says Finance Officer Ken Killgore.

An issue of considerable importance to an enthusiastic segment of the citizenry, pickle ball, did not make it into this year’s budget, noted Carlisle. For several years, the Sebastian City Council has batted around the idea of providing a location somewhere in the city for this sport, which has gained a large nationwide following, but so far, other items continue to take priority, he explained.

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