Vero Council trudges through another long, tedious meeting

VERO BEACH — At the end of a meeting which lasted nearly five hours Tuesday, the Vero Beach City Council had discussed a multitude of issues and listened to much public comment, but had made few weighty decisions.

Where action of the council was not required, members voted 5-0 to give Florida Power and Light permission to pursue due diligence that the utility needs to do prior to possibly making an offer to purchase the Vero Beach Electric Utility.

“We didn’t think that legally we needed this vote today to kick the tires and look under the hood, but we wanted it to be out in the open,” said FP&L External Affairs Manager Amy Brunjes.

Council members had already agreed to this in concept during individual meetings last week with FP&L executives, so the show of support was no surprise.

After more than one hour of debate and input from the public and members of the sports industry, the council voted to affirm its decision of last month to enter into a land swap deal with the Board of County Commissioners so planned projects at the Vero Beach Sports Village, formerly Dodgertown, can go forward.

The council directed City Attorney Charles Vitunac and Interim City Manager Monte Falls to formalize the documents and bring them back for approval, possibly as soon as Dec. 21 if all goes well. With that action, the council acknowledged that any hopes of refurbishing and re-opening the historic Dodgertown Golf Course were laid to rest.

For future meetings, beginning with Dec. 21, a new form will be required to place items on the agenda, as recommended by Councilwoman Tracy Carroll.

The vote came down to a 3-2 split with Mayor Jay Kramer and Councilman Brian Heady opting for the form to be “recommended” but not required.

“If it’s not required, no one will do it,” Carroll objected. “Or some people might not do it.”

Historically, Councilman Heady has failed to include backup documentation with items he wishes to be placed on the agenda.

Other members of the council said backup information would not only give the public an idea of what was coming before the council, but it would also give council members material to read and research before taking action.

The council voted to have a workshop on Dec. 21 at 9:30 a.m. to look at the city’s existing committees, their missions and their continued usefulness to the city.

Councilman Craig Fletcher wanted the meeting put off until January, but was outvoted.

“I would prefer waiting until the first of the year to get past Christmas and get into some deep business,” Fletcher said. “Starting off at the first of the year seems much more convenient.”

As the meeting would be a workshop, the council could come to a consensus of what committees to eliminate at a future meeting.

“I don’t think we want to do any action, just to kick some ideas around,” said Mayor Jay Kramer.

At that workshop, Councilwoman Tracy Carroll’s proposal for a Youth Advisory Board will be considered.

The matter was on Tuesday’s agenda, but Carroll tabled it until the workshop.

Carroll had raised the idea at the Nov. 8 meeting, but Councilwoman Pilar Turner at a previous meeting had said she didn’t want to add any new committees until the city looked at trimming boards that were deemed obsolete or inactive first.

At the behest of Councilman Brian Heady, the Council took some tepid action to “send a message” to its commissions and advisory boards that they should order their meetings so the public has a chance to speak at the beginning, prior to votes being taken.

Heady called this his “Putting the Public First” initiative.

“The Mayor is doing a great job of putting the citizens up front and being tolerant however long they take,” Heady said, noting that was his wish for the city’s committees as well.

Councilman Brian Heady sparked a brief discussion about complaints he’s received about noise coming from two local night clubs – Joey’s Bistro and the Riverside Café – and was told that some citations had been issued to Joey’s and that staff was working on the issue.

In other routine “housekeeping” matters, the council voted unanimously to change a floodplain ordinance to comply with the National Flood Insurance Program parameters, set aside some land for the eventuality of an Amtrak station, appointed some new advisory committee members and gave Interim City Manager Monte Falls permission to sign city checks.

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