Sebastian Council candidates voice opinions on city issues

SEBASTIAN — Five candidates will be vying for two seats on the Sebastian City Council in the Nov. 4 general election.

Vice-mayor Jim Hill, a 25-year resident of Sebastian and owner of Innovative Drain Technologies serving the golf industry, is seeking his sixth term. The other incumbent Jerome Adams is seeking his second term.

Adams and his family moved to Sebastian over 7 years ago. He is a Section Supervisor at the St. Lucie County IT Department.

Damien Gilliams is a 25-year Sebastian resident and co-owner of Mid Florida Real Estate. He’s been a challenger in four previous elections and is former chairman of the Sebastian Code Enforcement Board.

First-time candidate Ed Herlihy currently serves as chairman of the Budget Advisory Review Committee. Now retired, Herlihy was managing director for Wedgewood Communications, Inc., and held other broadcasting positions.

Challenger Albert Iovino is also running for a seat for the first time. Iovino, who has lived in the area for almost 12 years, is an EMT/emergency room nurse at Indian River Medical Center, and has a background in criminal justice.

The candidates provided the following answers to a questionnaire prepared by Sebastian River News:

Question: How do you wish to address All Aboard Florida?

Adams: I’d like council to continue to advocate for the residents and our way of life and the use of our tax dollars. Residents are concerned that the additional trains will disrupt the quiet enjoyment of the city, increase first responder delays, lower the value of their homes and leave them to foot the bill for maintaining the tracks, all the time receiving no benefit. Council should continue to urge the governor not fund this project.

Gilliams: I’d support it if a passenger station in Sebastian, with at least four stops daily in each direction, was made a part of the master plan, as well as them upgrading all of the crossings within the city limits. Otherwise, I am opposed to it. Also it must pay for itself – no government grants.

Herlihy: For both AAF and the lagoon, I want council to take firm, results-oriented actions. With respect to AAF, oppose any federal funding by attending meetings and sending continuing communications to all federal agencies and congressional representatives concerned. Direct legal counsel to oppose or mitigate additional costs of maintaining road crossings, hiring outside counsel if necessary. Hire outside consultants to examine the Environmental Impact Statement to be published by the Federal Railroad Administration. Measure public sentiment for/against quiet zones. Determine costs to city of any proposed quiet zones, including liability insurance.

Hill: Council must insist AAF fund any safety upgrades needed to provide quiet zones, mitigate negative environmental and economic impacts to Sebastian. No governmental assistance in the form of grants, matching funds, or low interest loans for this private enterprise.

Iovino: I am not a fan of AAF whatsoever. However, if the project continues to move forward, and clearly it may, the city should and must demand that the railway address any safety issues. They should request the railway provide any requested quiet zones where applicable. I don’t believe any funds should come from the government in the form of loans, state or federal, or even grants. Also there needs to be some form of compensation to the city as this railway may cause a negative impact in the form of: sound and environmental pollution.

Q. How do you wish to address the Indian River Lagoon?

Adams: We have numerous agencies doing studies of the water entering the lagoon. We have identified some sources such as stormwater runoff, fertilizer and septic leaching into the groundwater. We need to get into high gear and put solutions in place. We’ve already enacted a fertilizer ordinance. We need to do frequent monitoring to see if any change good or bad is happening. We need to encourage the State and Department of Health to approve the Septic Tank Effluent Pump (STEP) System so we can get septic systems converted. If this is not possible, we need to devise a plan for converting all septic systems to sewer, including what the cost will be to the residents.

Gilliams: The lagoon is the life blood of our community and should be nurtured and protected at all costs.

Herlihy: The lagoon needs action to implement actual pollution control. The council should take a position that no pollutants should flow into the lagoon. Total enforcement of fertilizer ordinance. Establish funding sources including grants for installation of seven additional baffle boxes to control stormwater runoff. Direct staff to set up monitoring system of C-54 canal outflow into St. Sebastian River. Take firm action if pollution flows from canal. Work with county to fund sewers east of the railroad tracks in the North County. Connect everyone possible to existing sewer system along waterfront.

Hill: We should work with local, state and federal agencies to procure funding for research, continue installation of baffle boxes at all stormwater outfalls, approve stormwater retention ponds at all new projects to reduce discharges.

Iovino: Continue full-time funding to address pollution, research and other related issues. We need to continue to obey the local fertilizer ordinances and do our part. This is an important issue that needs constant addressing and support from residents as well.

Q. What are your views on annexation?

Adams: Annexation is a good way of expanding our tax base. However, we can only annex voluntarily. Whoever wants to be annexed is more that welcome to start a conversation to see if it’s mutually beneficial.

Gilliams: Annexation should only be considered if it financially benefits our taxpayer and has positive economic and environmental effects.

Herlihy: Annexation needs to make economic sense for the city. Annexing a property that requires major costs to the city places an added burden on local taxpayers. Annexation for a development should not cost the city additional funds. Future costs also need to be considered. Council needs to set specific criteria for annexation, more specifically for police, traffic, roads, drainage/ stormwater, parks, incremental costs on the city general fund.

Hill: The city should consider any annexation proposal based on positive impact to current residents. Annexation is voluntary, but the city should pursue commercial and industrial properties contiguous to the city that would provide a higher tax base.

Iovino: Annexation can and may result in positive growth, and I am always for growth when it is a positive step for the residents and business owners of the city.

Q. How important do you consider maintaining the unique “fishing village” character of Sebastian?

Adams: The “fishing village” feel is what makes Sebastian, Sebastian. Residents want to keep it this way. I am here to work for the residents, so I will do all I can to follow their wishes. While some development is necessary to make sure we have a sufficient tax base to allow us to have the services we want, we cannot let development run wild. Large big box stores are not what the people want. We are a small “mom & pop” kind of city. I don’t see large companies requiring a huge amount of square footage moving in, but I can see smaller companies in our city.

Gilliams: A fishing village is what we are, always have been and should primarily remain. It has never been properly promoted nationwide, or even regionally and locally for that matter. We can build a thriving local economy centered on sport fishing. The Sebastian Inlet is one of our most valuable assets. Please let us not take prime waterfront property off the tax rolls for special interests such as Hurricane Harbor.

Herlihy: The “fishing village” concept is an excellent one and very important to Sebastian’s future growth. However, the concept and associated zoning rules are over 10 years old. The council needs to update the concept and rules. The city has a major investment in the “working waterfront,” the center of the “fishing village” concept. It is also part of the economic development. The city needs to continue fostering the concept but with modern rules and regulations. Our waterfront and the “fishing village” concept are vital to future development, especially tourism. This will create more local business and thus more development.

Hill: It is very important to maintain our heritage and fishing village character. I’ve worked hard over the past 15 years to do just that. Our codes and regulations in our riverfront district have been crafted to insure that any new development will enhance this character. We’re also nearing completion of the “Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront” in the center of our riverfront district.

Iovino: I’ve lived in Sebastian for almost 12 years and worked through two separate hurricanes. The city and its “fishing village” character has survived and bounced back from major setbacks like these and more. This is a very important aspect of the city. Our elected officials have done a great job in maintaining this character. If elected, I will work to continue our “fishing village” character and also work with small business while at the same time working to educate folks to the importance of it.

Q. What other issues do you consider key during the coming 2 years?

Adams: I think we need to focus on the Working Waterfront/Museum, street repairs and re-paving and building sidewalks.

Gilliams: Quality of life centered on and around the lagoon, strict environmental safeguards, business-friendly codes and regulations that foster and enable sound economic development and create good-paying employment opportunities, lower property taxes offset by ever increasing property values, commercial recycling, fund and maintain the highest level of K-12 educational standards possible for our future leaders, eliminate the wasteful wants of a tax-and-spend city council, and concentrate on the basic need of our community, especially senior citizens. We must educate and inspire the other 85% that do not participate and vote in the election process, so all can be heard.

Herlihy: Future financial planning. Council generally focuses on the upcoming budget, not future financial planning. There are some major financial events coming in the next few years including the possibility of the loss of the one-cent sales tax, changes in the gas tax revenue and the end of major city bond payments. Financial planning and discussion should begin now with workshop meetings. On economic development, talk is cheap, but actions cost money. The city is not actively promoting or funding economic development. One of our biggest assets, the airport, needs active promotion to attract more businesses. The airport’s new East Airport Drive complex is being built. We need to attract businesses to fill the spaces. The city also needs to promote our sponsored events. They, in turn, promote economic development including our waterfront. Council needs to adopt specific economic development plans including funding to attract businesses. Economic development adds businesses to the city tax base and provides more local employment. The city does not do well communicating with its local business community. At a minimum, the city needs to develop an e-mail system to communicate with businesses to share ideas. The business community needs to feel that it is part of the planning process.

Hill: Taxes and revenues. Sebastian has done a great job dealing with lower revenues, caused by the latest recession, by cutting taxes and streamlining government services. As revenues increase due to increased property values, we must continue to insist on efficient government while maintaining the level of service we all expect. All too often, during better economic times, governmental officials find it easy to bloat government beyond its purpose and raise taxes. We must resist this urge and spend only what is necessary to keep Sebastian a wonderful place to live, work, and play and to keep our citizens safe.

Iovino: There has been a proposal to increase ad valorem taxes, which I’m always against. The only reason why taxes should increase would be as a last resort. We can accomplish this by fiscal responsibility, while at the same time making sure residents get what they need in fire, police protection, etc.

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