Sebastian approves new lease for working waterfront, more funds

SEBASTIAN – Sebastian city leaders agreed Wednesday night to approve a new lease with a non-profit co-op to operate Hurricane Harbor and what is known as the “Dabrowski” site on Indian River Drive.

The agreement, however, was not unanimous, as Councilman Eugene Wolff expressed opposition to how a sub-lease was formed and the projected cost overrun to fix up a site for which the city had already paid too much.

Calling it a “pig in a poke,” Wolff voted against the amended lease agreement with Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian, explaining that the city doesn’t really know what it’s getting into.

The cost estimates for rehabilitating the Hurricane Harbor property – just south of the former Sebastian Entertainment Center – went from $180,000 to $200,000 to now $250,000.

Wolff pointed out that there are still no written cost estimates for the work that needs to be done.

The councilman also objected to how Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian came to sub-lease Hurricane Harbor to Indian River Seafood, a Sebastian fish market, to operate its market on the site.

After saying the non-profit advertised the sub-lease opportunity and passed the bids to the city’s Working Waterfront Committee for review and recommendation, Wolff said, “It didn’t happen that way.”

Wolff alleged that a personal relationship between Fisherman’s Landing and Indian River Seafood led to the sub-lease agreement, without seeking bids from other potentially viable fish markets.

“This is how we do business in Sebastian,” Wolff said.

As a non-profit, Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian is not required, as the city would be, to send out requests for proposals for the sub-leases.

City Manager Al Minner told the council that by having the city lease both properties to Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian and granting the co-op the power to sub-lease, the non-profit could move faster in getting the properties up and running and would not be bound to the same rules the city must abide by.

“They know best their plan,” Minner said.

Under the new lease agreement, Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian will be required to make all the necessary repairs and modifications to Hurricane Harbor that the city was to do, including fixing the air conditioning, performing electrical work, re-roofing the building, and painting. The city, instead, would pay for the repairs, reimbursing the non-profit up to $250,000.

Minner explained to the council that the only funds that the city would give to the co-op would be for those repairs the city had agreed to take on and only for the amount invoiced. There would be no blanket check for $250,000 cut to the non-profit.

In the event that more than $250,000 would be needed to cover the city’s portion of the rehabilitation, a request would be made to the city council for approval.

The monies for the city-approved repairs will come from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency budget.

With the lease in place, Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian hopes to have Hurricane Harbor fixed up and ready to open in April.

Along with a fish market, there is expected to be a demonstration area for the public to watch the workings of a commercial fish house along with a no-wait deli-type area selling concessions.

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