| For the last ten years I have been privileged to serve more than 200,000 taxpayers as a commissioner on the board of the multi-county Sebastian Inlet Tax District. Re-election time is close at hand and I intend to file at the earliest date and run again since the Sebastian Inlet is a wonderful asset to Central eastern Florida and I feel that I have much to offer to keep it operational. It has been an honor and a privilege to have served the taxpayers in the district these last ten years. While much has been accomplished by the Commission in this last decade there is still much to be done.
Here are some of the District's more noteworthy accomplishments since I was first elected in 2004.
The Commission has cut the tax 68%. This has saved the District’s taxpayers more than $5 million over several years. How is this possible given the current state of the economy? Very carefully thought out budgeting is how. Here is a link to a draft of the 2010 budget. As you can see $10,500,000.00 of the budget are funds carried over. Every dollar is earmarked. Most is earmarked for projects either in the design stage, in the process of permitting or permitted that will soon be started. Today such projects are hugely expensive largely because of the permitting process. Other factors run up costs as well. For instance it costs more than a million dollars just to prepare and move a dredge into place so it can begin operating. Because it takes years to obtain permits the District is careful to allocate the needed funds years in advance. To not operate this way would cause the district to come up short when it came time to pay for a project. To give the reader a better idea of what's going on here's a link to some of the projects in the pipeline and a few that the District has completed. Basically we have managed to allocate sufficient funds to comply with all state and federal mandates and improve the Inlet and its environs while lowering taxes.
The Commission settled, rather than appealed, an inverse condemnation lawsuit that had been filed against it in 1995 by some property owners South of the Sebastian Inlet. Although the plaintiffs won the case in 2003, before I was ever on the Commission, the matter hadn’t been settled completely by the time I was elected in 2004. After I was sworn in a settlement was worked out that saved the taxpayers over $400 thousand in direct costs. The District saved much more than that simply by not appealing (we would have lost on appeal).
As a result of the lawsuit lost by the Sebastian Inlet District the state mandated that the District move 90,000 cubic yards of sand to the South of the Inlet every year. By partnering with Indian River County (which is South of the Sebastian Inlet) in their sector three beach renourishment project the District has saved the taxpayers over three million dollars. How? Because partnering gave the District more than 3 years worth of “sand credit” (298,000 cubic yards of sand) with the state and saved the District from spending over $4 million of hard-earned taxpayer money on engineering, mitigation, design and permitting costs.
Without a doubt my most important accomplishment is that early in 2006 the District obtained the long sought after permits to dredge the Sebastian Inlet’s channel all the way to the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Permits to do this particular project had been sought by previous Inlet District Commissions for over 65 years. Once I was on board the Commission obtained the needed permits in a year and a half. This despite the dire predictions of various naysayers all claiming it would never happen. During this project the District hand transplanted over 370 linear meters of sea grass as mitigation. Sea grass is some wonderful stuff. It is home for just about every kind of larval sea life you can imagine. Naturally since it is full of little fish the big fish hang out as well. If you’re a fisherman you know where I’m going with this. Not only did we improve habitat with this project, but we improved boating safety considerably and made the Inlet usable by larger boats by providing a 12 foot channel depth where it had been about 3 feet deep before the project. By clearly marking the channel and the sea grass beds we’ve reduced the number of boats by a huge percentage that had been cruising through the sea grass beds and tearing them up.
Other mitigation the Commission did to meet state requirements on the channel completion project was to partner with Indian River County to make improvements on the Vero Main Relief Canal which drains land West of Vero into the Indian River Lagoon. All the agricultural and residential runoff that once ran unimpeded into the Indian River Lagoon now runs through a sophisticated filtering system that eliminates hundreds of tons of invasive aquatic vegetation and trash which would have otherwise continued flowing into the Lagoon. It has really helped clean up a good part of the Indian River Lagoon. Here’s a link to an article about the project.
The Commission eliminated the fulltime lobbyist position. I’m told this saved the District way more than the $43 thousand we can document that he was paid yearly.
Every year that I have been on the board the Commission has more than adequately met the stringent and extremely complex Truth In Millage (TRIM) requirements set forth by the state.
The Commission finally got the needed permits to straighten the dog leg in the channel between markers 21 and 22 and this job was done a few years ago. A bed of sea grass prevented us from getting the permit to cut straight through there the first time. The permitting agencies were more amenable to working with us after they saw our sea grass transplanting projects worked out so well.
The sand trap needs to be improved and all the rock pinnacles ground out so that it traps more sand and all that gets sucked up in a dredge is beach quality sand. Design and permitting are complete on that project and the big 14 inch suction dredge with its rock cutting head will be on site and working in March, 2014. Work will start on the sand trap only after the big dredge has cleared the channel of all shoals and pumped many thousands of cubic yards of beach quality sand south of the inlet to restore the beach which was severly eroded in a Nor'Easter back in October 2013.
The L-dock on the Inlet's South side is the only place that rescue boats can currently dock to offload injured boaters for helicopter life-flight to hospitals. The L-dock was flimsy and in need of repair. A few years ago the Commission saw to it that it was replaced with a much more substantial structure better for barge tenders to tie up to and better for fishermen.
The tide pool was almost filled in after years of silt buildup, but a few years ago the Commission obtained the permit needed to deepen the tide pool and add fish habitat while improving it for swimming and snorkeling. The improved tide pool is a big hit with families and the fish habitat makes for some happy fish as well.
The channel from the boat launch on the Inlet's south side to the Inlet's main channel needed dredging and improved signage. This project was completed.
The Nor'Easter of October 2013 severely eroded the shoreline on the Inlet's south side so the Commission set about obtaining permits and allocated funds for emergency shoreline stabilization and repair. All of this work has been completed very satisfactorily. The boat ramps on the Coconut point are plugging with sand and the commission is working with the park to excavate the sand. that will happen soon.
I worked two jobs to put myself through college and earned a BS in Marine Biology, graduating on the Dean's list in 1975 from Florida Institute of Technology. In 1978 I worked several jobs while I studied hard at Florida Atlantic University toward a Master's Degree in Coral Reef Ecology. I have fished my whole life. I have a natural affinity for the ocean and a love of sports associated with it. Boating is high on that list. I have owned several boats and have taken Coast Guard courses to be a certified operator of small craft. Boat owners love to lament that a boat is little more than a hole in the water into which they pour money, but face it, boats are great fun whether you sail, motor or paddle. Any boat owner who navigates the Sebastian Inlet will tell you that the channel is tricky, what with the tides, wind, waves and all. The condition of the channel prior to the channel completion project in 2007 only added to the difficulties navigating the Sebastian Inlet. Since the completion of the 2007 channel project tnad the subsequent removal of the dogleg in the channel navigation has been much safer.
In 1992, after years of research, I wrote the definitive history of the Sebastian Inlet. This project began in this way. In 1989 I began helping the late Jack Forte with his quest for justice from the state regarding its unjust taking of Jack's business and property at the Sebastian Inlet. For 18 years Jack had tried, without success, to obtain a settlement from the state. I began to help Jack and opened up such a can of worms that the state sent its inspector general and the D.N.R. sent its chief legal counsel to Melbourne to meet with me at my home and see what I had. With the help of State Rep. Dixie Sansom and myself Jack got a settlement shortly thereafter. As a result of helping Jack I learned a lot about the Sebastian Inlet that no-one had ever uncovered before. This knowledge became my book.
I have lived in Brevard County, Florida for 39 years. I married my wife, Jan, in South Melbourne Beach February 12, 1983. Although we have no children we have been blessed with friends who did and who have shared their joy in raising their children. Jan and I are prone to rescue dogs and give them a home. Jan and I have lived in the same home for the last 26 years. We use the same phone number I have had since 1980. We own two small businesses, Sea Bird Publishing, Inc. and J&J Graphics so we well understand how hard it is to make a go of it in the business world. This knowledge aided me in making decisions while on the Inlet District's Board of Commissioners.
I have been a surfer since 1965 and a SCUBA diver since 1970. I have surfed, fished, boated in and SCUBA dived in and around the Sebastian Inlet for all of the 39 years I have lived in Brevard County. It is my favorite place for recreation on planet Earth. Everglades National Park runs a close second though. I understand how important the Sebastian Inlet is to the economy and ecology of the Indian and Banana River Lagoon system and want to do everything I can to see that the Inlet stays open, navigable and continues to provide this beautiful area with all the benefits that it has since it first opened back in 1923. Most importantly I want to try and increase public awareness of the operations of Sebastian Inlet Tax District and see that the District continues to operate in an efficient, above board and accountable fashion.
I had the great privilege of serving on the Brevard County Historical Commission from 1992 to 2006 and on an advisory committee to Brevard County Parks and Recreation. I feel that I can still do some good as a member of the Sebastian Inlet District Commission and it would be the least I could do for such an important asset of the part of the world I call home. There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the Inlet that I want to see finished before I retire from the commission.
Thanks very much for reading this.
Here's a link to my facebook page.
Here's a link to my youtube channel.
(P.S Click Here to read a fishing story I wrote about The Inlet)
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