Category Archives: Bob Garcia

Stephen Bacon’s beef with Irma bills called ‘bunk’

Interim City Manager Ron McLemore defended himself and city staffers after Stephen Bacon alleged costly bungling of rapid-cleanup contracts approved after Hurricane Irma.

The City Council member on Wednesday questioned debris-removal deals negotiated under emergency conditions and approved unanimously by the City Council to protect the public days after the storm ripped across Florida in September.

Ron McLemore
Ron McLemore

“That is such a pile of bunk that I don’t even want to answer you,” McLemore told Bacon.

Mayor Bob Garcia defended McLemore, saying Bacon’s recollection of what happened “is not actually correct.”

Other council members remained silent during the heated exchange between Bacon and McLemore.

Wednesday’s showdown marked the lasted flashpoint between Bacon and his colleagues.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

Contractor shortage

Contractors were hard to find in Florida after Irma’s passage. Hurricane Harvey’s damage to Texas ramped up demand.

On Sept. 20, as limbs piled high along DeBary roadways, McLemore offered options for City Council members for the express-debris removal they wanted.

Bacon and the other council members picked the most expensive option – estimated to cost $540,000 – to hire two contractors – Waste Pro and DRC.

DRC got a standard rate negotiated a year before the storm of  $7.62 per cubic yard for removal of debris on public roads.

After the storm, as contractors ran to south Florida for higher rates, Waste Pro negotiated a $15.78 cubic yard rate for pickup on private roads.

Storms pinch budget

Initially, the city estimated it would cost $540,000 for all debris pickup. That amount nearly tripled to $1.5 million because Irma downed more trees and limbs than expected.

City officials are trying to get funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Irma and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 for that could take months or longer.

Those two storms combined cost DeBary taxpayers $1.8 million over two budget years, putting pressure on city finances.

If the hurricanes had not happened, the city’s 2017 general fund would have closed with a $562,000 positive cash flow.

Instead, it had a negative balance of $75,000.  Reserves were used to balance the budget.

Bacon blasts costs

As far as costs for Irma, city staffers are still examining the bills and may have a full accounting of the expenditures within the next two weeks.

Bacon said he’s upset because Waste Pro hired a subcontractor and made more than he expected from the city. He thought Waste Pro would make 40 percent of the contract.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

The remaining 60 percent, he thought, would go to the cheaper contractor.

“But in actuality, it turned around,” Bacon said. “No one expected that they would find a contractor. Why didn’t we find a contractor that would work for a lower price?”

Bidding wars


McLemore reminded Bacon that he, along with other council members, approved the contracts, the city was facing an emergency and contractors were hard to find as two states cleaned up from separate hurricanes.

Then Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

There were reports of bidding wars with contractors leaving unfinished jobs to get better-paying ones elsewhere.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

In the situation we were backed up into at that particular time, we couldn’t get people to turn around and come to the city of DeBary on our original agreement. And it had to do with the federal government saying that they could charge the additional money,” Garcia said. “We were the first city to have everything picked up and cleaned up so we did a very very good job as far as that’s concerned.”

‘Premium’ on public safety

Local governments across Florida experienced problems with a shortage of contractors and equipment after Irma.

It hit just two weeks after Harvey slammed Texas.

“You put a premium, this council put a premium, and I agree with you, to get this place cleaned up as quick as possible for public safety,” McLemore said. “We did it. We did in a great way. And we were one of the first to get cleaned up when other people were still trying to get trucks.”

McLemore said Bacon’s concern that the Waste Pro subcontractor didn’t have a performance bond with the city is unfounded. That sub was covered by Waste Pro’s bond and insurance. “This is just a bunch of misinformation and I resent the fact that it’s put out here,” McLemore said.

‘That’s legitimate’

He said he hasn’t been able to provide a  full accounting of all the costs because staffers are finding mistakes on the bills and sending them back to the contractors.

After the charges are checked out, McLemore will make a presentation about the costs to the City Council.

“We have sent these bills back to the company telling them they are incorrect because we are performing the pre-auditing function you should know all about,” McLemore told Bacon, an accountant.

Bacon’s response: “That’s legitimate.”

“Of course it is,” McLemore replied. “Your staff doesn’t sit around twiddling their fingers trying to find something to do. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do, and what they know to do and they’re doing it quite well.”

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DeBary picks party planner for Fourth blowout

DeBary Fireworks
DeBary fireworks

DeBary’s Independence Day festival has a new party planner.

The City Council, on a 4-1 vote Wednesday, hired a small Ormond Beach company for $10,000 to run DeBary’s biggest annual party – the daylong Fourth of July festival at Gemini Springs Park.

Concerns about professionals

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

City Council member Stephen Bacon cast the lone dissenting vote against the arrangement with Festival Designs, echoing previous concerns about having professionals- instead of volunteers– running the show.

Volunteers still needed

“I think the community needs to get involved again,” Bacon said.

Parks and Recreation Director John Fletcher noted that  Festival Designs will still use volunteers to help run the show, which draws 7,000 to 10,000 attendees from across Central Florida.

Festival Designs will also have to work with DeBary’s fireworks vendor, Creative Pyrotechnics of Orlando. DeBary hired Creative Pyrotechnics for $20.000 last April. The deal can be renewed for two years at $20,000 for each show.

Festival Designs,

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DeBary gives nod to negotiate with possible fireworks vendor

DeBary is negotiating with a small Ormond Beach company to run the city’s next annual Fourth of July festival.

But if a deal can’t be forged with Festival Designs, city staffers are prepared to manage the party at Gemini Springs, interim City Manager Ron McLemore recently told City Council members.

Ron McLemoreThe event draws 7,000 to 10,000 attendees from across Central Florida.

Festival Designs was the only company to respond by the deadline when DeBary put out feelers for potential vendors online, said Parks and Recreation Director John Fletcher.

Eleven entities downloaded information about DeBary’s event, which was posted on myvendorlink.com, Fletcher said.

Terms and conditions

On Jan. 17, the City Council authorized McLemore to negotiate with Festival Designs and make a recommendation about whether the city should hire the company.

A contract would have to be approved by the City Council, McLemore said.

“So, as part of this, we will be evaluating them as well as studying and negotiating terms and conditions,” he added.

DeBary entered the market for a party planner after McLemore and some council members expressed concerns about an arrangement with a nonprofit that ran the show annually since 2011.

CPPI ‘handshake’ deal

A DJ’s burst of profanity-laced music just before the fireworks display on July 4, 2017 prompted city officials to take a closer look at their deal with Community Partnership Program Inc. (CPPI).

They realized they had no official agreement with CPPI, even though DeBary contributes thousands for the cost of fireworks, security, and staffing.

Last year, for example, the city’s cost was about $35,000.

McLemore called it a “handshake” deal that left responsibilities unclear and exposed the city to certain liabilities.

‘People like to get involved’

The City Council, in a 4-1 vote, agreed on Nov. 15 to seek proposals from other entities.

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

Council member Stephen Bacon, who cast the dissenting vote, went along with the recent decision to negotiate with Festival Designs. But he still expressed an interest in having a community-based operator like CPPI.

“People like to get involved,” Bacon said.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

Mayor Bob Garcia’s response:  “It’s not as easy as you think it is, sir,”

Festival Designs said in a letter to DeBary that it is licensed with Volusia County and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Festival Designs pitch

“As a graduating company of the UCF Business Incubator Program in 2013, started by Volusia County, Festival Designs has grown to provide festival and event management services to several regional events,” the letter said. “These include the World Rowing Championships in September, Christmas Tree Experience in November, the Chuck Strauser Candy Cane 5k in December.”

Cathy Pulliam, a 35-year resident and veteran office manager with experience in finance and law,  is the sole member of Festival Designs LLC.

“Scott Chesley is the Director of Operations and will be the primary contact,” the letter added.

Chesley has more than 38 years of festival design, layout, and event management experience and has participated in more than 3,000 festivals and events.

“The purpose of Festival Designs is to create events of any size that exceed the expectations of the attendees and enhance the community, the city and this region,” the letter added.

Festival Designs,

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DeBary mayoral race wide open with Bob Garcia’s departure

Kind words and gratitude followed after Bob Garcia announced his political retirement last week.

But the full impact of his move on DeBary’s election landscape remained unclear this weekend.

Political newcomer Louis Sweet of DeBary-based Sweets PC Consulting launched his campaign for mayor last year and remains the lone announced candidate.

Louis Sweet
Louis Sweet

However, a few other unspecified names are “floating around,” according to DeBary resident Patricia Stevenson, who ran unsuccessfully for Seat 2 in 2016.

Hopefuls should announce soon.

“It shouldn’t be long now that Garcia has bowed out,” Stevenson said.

DeBary City Council member Mike Brady said he has not heard of any other possible candidates but noted that it is a bit early to commit.

Garcia, most recently elected in January 2017, said he will serve the remainder of his term, which expires on Dec. 31.

He previously served from 2009 to 2014.

Mike Brady
Mike Brady

“Bob represented our city very well for many years and he will be missed,” Brady noted. “He is someone I am proud to call my friend.”

Asked if he had heard of any other mayoral hopefuls, DeBary City Council member Stephan Bacon said:  “An organization is

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

only as good as it’s leadership and at this time I have no prospects in mind that I would endorse for Mayor.”

Candidates have until June to officially qualify, and open seats generally draw multiple competitors.

The next mayor will most certainly play a key role in shaping the future of DeBary.

It’s a city that’s been bruised by small-town political scandals and lawsuits amid unresolved financial challenges and increasingly intense growth pressure from Central Florida.

Some have speculated that former Mayor Clint Johnson – ousted by his colleagues in 2016 – will attempt to retake his seat this year.

Clint JohnsonHe hasn’t responded to messages about his political future.

Two other positions – Seats 3 and 4 – are up for grabs this year.  Phyllis Butlien and  William Sell are running for Seat 4. No one is running for Seat 3 right now.

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DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia: I’m not running again

This year’s election season just took a surprise turn after Mayor Bob Garcia announced his political retirement.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

During Wednesday’ s City Council meeting — the first of the New Year — Garcia revealed he would not seek another term.

“It’s been wonderful serving you,” Garcia said. The move leaves only one officially declared candidate – Louis Sweet — though an open seat will likely draw more hopefuls with months before the election.

Garcia, 67, was most recently elected a year ago, defeating two other challengers for the vacancy created by Clint Johnson’s removal from office.

Johnson was removed after four other City Council members said he violated the charter by trying to direct staffers. Johnson lost an appeal to overturn the decision and return to office.

Garcia said he will serve the remainder of his term, which ends on Dec. 31.

Garcia previously served as mayor from 2009 to 2014.

He resigned effective June 2014 to run an unsuccessful bid for the state House.

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Duke Energy wants rate hike for Hurricane Irma

DeBary residents and others across Florida would see their energy charges go up to pay for Hurricane Irma costs under a new Duke Energy plan.

Duke residential customers would get a $5.20 monthly rate hike per 1,000 kilowatt-hour of electricity, assuming a three-year payment plan.

The energy giant wants $381 million in “cost recovery” revenue and an additional $132 million to replenish the utility’s storm reserve account.

“This past hurricane season impacted Florida significantly, from damaging homes and infrastructure to affecting agriculture and tourism. Duke Energy Florida understands the impact this filing has on both our residential and business customers,” Harry Sideris, Duke Energy Florida state president, said in a statement. “We will continue making smart investments to significantly enhance service reliability throughout the year, including during storm season.”

Florida Power & Light, another electric provider in DeBary and elsewhere in Florida, has also proposed an Irma-related surcharge.

Customers will be charged $4 a month per 1,000 kilowatt hours, assuming state regulators approve, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Duke Energy came under heavy fire from local officials for response and communication after the storm passed through.

“I have issues with Duke Energy and how they went about it, ” DeBary Mayor Garcia. “Yes, they need a lot of fixing. Yes, they need to turn around and hire more people.”

Florida Power & Light responded within 48 hours and had 98 percent of customers’ power restored after Hurricane Irma, Garcia said.

“Duke Energy took almost nine to 10 days before they turned around and addressed the issue of power in the city of DeBary,” Garcia said.

Duke Energy said it restored power to more than 75 percent of customers in just three days and 99 percent within eight days.

Duke Energy Florida just filed a petition with the Florida Public Service Commission to recover from an estimated $381 million in costs associated with the company’s response to September’s Hurricane Irma in Florida.

In addition, the company is seeking to recover $132 million to replenish its storm reserve fund for use in responding to future storms.

“The company depleted the remaining $62 million in the reserve fund as part of its Hurricane Irma storm response,” a Duke statement said

“Commercial and industrial customers will see an increase of approximately 2.5 to 6.6 percent, though bills will vary depending on a number of factors,” Duke added

The Florida Public Service Commission will review the proposed initial storm cost recovery surcharge within 60 days.

Duke Energy said “crews and contractors traveled to Florida from as far as Canada to get 1.3 million customers restored as quickly and safely as possible.”

In Florida, more than 12,000 line and field workers replaced approximately 1,800 distribution poles, 140 transmission poles and 1,100 transformers.

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DeBary mayor: ‘Keep your fingers crossed!’

Mayor Bob Garcia this morning expressed optimism about electricity restoration for still-powerless neighborhoods in DeBary.

Electricity has slowly been returning to DeBary homes and businesses after Hurricane Irma downed power lines and caused other problems with distribution networks Sunday.

“I believe that based on what I see the [equipment] and supplies are coming into DeBary,” Garica said online Saturday. “Keep your fingers crossed!”

The message was posted on Facebook’s DeBary Proud! page by DeBary resident Diane M Van Auken on behalf of Garcia, who is “not on social media,” the post said.

“The power company is working hard to get All the power restored in DeBary,” said Garcia. His update also said:

  • Traders Cove has power
  • Highland Marina has partial power restored and is waiting for transformers and tree removal
  • Linemen in Terra Alta are also waiting for tree removal and transformers

“The Vistas area (where Mayor Garcia & his family live) were hit hard and are still without power,” he wrote. “There are many problems there that are being worked on before the power can be restored.”

He said it is possible homes in the Valencia Circle area may get power by tonight or no later than Sunday.

Duke Energy says it has 81,055 Volusia customers. Of those, 65,438 had power restored and 6,126 remained without electricity as of 4 p.m. Saturday. Power restoration was estimated by midnight Sunday.

Florida Power and Light said 20,670 of its 176,800 customers in Volusia County are without power as of Saturday.

According to Florida’s Department of Emergency Management:

Duke Energy had more than 1.3 million customers affected by Irma. Power has already been restored to more than 1.1 million customers.

  • Duke Energy expects power restoration to be completed for western service areas the night of Friday, Sept. 15.
  • Duke Energy expects power restoration to be completed for central and northern service areas the night of Sunday, Sept. 17.

Florida Power and Light had 4.4 million customers affected by the storm. Power has already been restored to more than 3.4 million customers.

  • FPL expects power restoration to be completed for the East Coast the night of Sunday, Sept. 17.
  • FPL expects power restoration to be completed for the West Coast by Friday, Sept. 22.

This isn’t the first time Garcia was featured on social media because of the storm.

On Saturday, as the storm approached, a Facebook user posted video of Garcia urging residents to volunteer for cleanup and repairs after Irma passed.

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Hurricane Irma: DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia asks for help


As Hurricane Irma neared, DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia this morning urged residents to quickly complete storm preparations and volunteer if possible to help the community.

Garcia made his comments at about 9 a.m. from the parking lot of Genuine Bistro & Lounge at the crossroads of DeBary’s busiest roadways: U.S. Highway 17-92 and Highbanks Road.

He said residents should complete preparations by 5 p.m. today or, if they’re planning to evacuate, they should leave immediately.

His comments were captured by a Facebook user and posted online.

Garcia was flanked by City Commissioner Erika Benfield and workers can be seen in the background completing storm preparations.

Volusia County is facing an increased threat for tornadoes based on the latest track, according to county emergency managers.

They are expecting 8 to 12 inches of rain with some areas
receiving 15 inches.

After the storm passes and conditions are safe, residents should check on their neighbors to make sure they are safe. Garcia urged residents to clean up, but not to put debris near roadways, fire hydrants and utility poles.

He encouraged residents to join him sometime Monday after the storm passes to volunteer with cleanup efforts.

He said he expects to stage at noon Monday near the intersection to coordinate volunteers.

“I need your help,” Garcia said.  “This is not going to be sponsored by the city. This is us coming together as a community.”

Garcia made his comments shortly before a briefing by Volusia County emergency managers and Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

Chitwood said Volusia County will be under a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 9 a.m. Monday.

Volusia County’s Citizens Information Center is answering questions from callers right now. The number is  866-345-0345.

“We do not want people in the water or at the beach today and in the coming days,” the county said in a news release this morning. “Beach officials are flying the double-red flag. After the
storm, please wait [for] an announcement that it is safe to visit the beach. There may be debris in the water and along the shore.”

The county said Florida Power & Light is expected widespread
destruction throughout its service area. More than 16,000 workers from nearly 30 states are responding.
“FPL expects 3.4 million customers may lose power as a result of Irma, and could experience prolonged outages, based on the current forecast,” the county said.

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DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia issues warning about $155M in projects

Before endorsing a proposed $12.5 million community center Wednesday, Mayor Bob Garcia ticked off a list of other big-ticket items facing DeBary.

The biggest one — estimated at $100 million –is for a state-mandated septic-to-sewer project for nearly 5,000 homes, said Garcia said.

The city has $9 million in debt for storm-water projects. The River City faces another 49 small-scale drainage projects estimated to $10 million.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

“These residents have been waiting a long time and have been paying into a stormwater assessment fee for these flood issues to be addressed,” Garcia said.

Garcia repeatedly voiced support for the community center while reminding residents of roughly $155 million worth of projects facing DeBary.

“I’m just giving you my concerns and what’s facing the council,” Garcia said before the City Council unanimously endorsed moving the center forward.

A nine-member task force appointed by the council was directed to develop a voter-education campaign in anticipation of a referendum about the center.

Voters must approve the expenditure for what’s envisioned as a two-story facility on roughly 7 acres along U.S. Highway 17-92 in DeBary’s transit-oriented development district (TOD).

The land for the center would cost roughly $1.5 million and construction would be an additional $11 million, documents estimate.

The vision for the center calls for an indoor running track, workout room, kitchen, meeting rooms and other amenities.

Interim City Manager Ron McLemore said it’s too soon to predict when the referendum, saying there’s more work to be done. He stressed, however, that the city is in a very strong financial position.

He estimated the city will attract $750 million worth of development during the next eight years.

Development in the form of a mix of uses — including residential and commercial — is targeted for the roughly 200-acre TOD district clustered around the DeBary Sunrail station.

The center is proposed on land just north of the station on property previously used for a mobile-home park. The city owns roughly 3 acres and would add another 5 acres under the center plan.

The per-household cost for the center would vary by property value.

Lita Handy-Peters
Lita Handy-Peters

It would cost $6 monthly, or roughly $72 a year, for the owner of a home valued at just below $100,000, according to one estimate.

City Council member Lita Handy-Peters said voters should decide the issue.

“I’ve always been under the impression that, as a council, what we would be doing with the final presentation is we would be giving it the blessing to move forward to a referendum and the citizens of DeBary can make the decision as to whether they feel like that this is an important want, need — whatever you want to call it,” she said. “So, I’m just looking forward to the final product.”

 

DeBary Community Center

 

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DeBary stormwater: ‘Impervious surface area’ fee for homes proposed

Owners of big homes would pay more. Small homeowners would pay less.

But most property owners in DeBary will continue to pay something for the city’s roughly $2 million per year stormwater program created in the wake of widespread flooding in 2004.

That appeared to be general consensus during a recent DeBary City Council workshop on the often-controversial stormwater fee, which is $192 annually for homes on public roads.

The fee was enacted in 2005 at $84 per home and raised to its current level in 2015.

Another workshop on the fee is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 26 at DeBary City Hall, 16 Colomba Road.

‘Tiered approach’

Some City Council members, speaking during an April 19 workshop, appeared to favor a proposed “tiered approach” to fund the stormwater program.

The approach recognizes that smaller homes generate less stormwater than larger ones, council members said.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

“I’m trying to find a balance,” Mayor Bob Garcia said. “Personally, myself, I wanted to reduce it, the stormwater, but it appears I can’t because if I reduce it, I won’t be able to maintain the level of services I have already.”

Impervious surface area

The option, known as Alternative 4, is among several outlined in a 35-page report from storm-water consultant David Hamstra. (see full report below).

Under that proposal, residential property owners pay based on the amount of their pavement, sidewalks and other so-called impervious surface areas of their properties.

So, for example, the owner of 2,000 to 2,999 square feet of impervious surface area would pay $125, a drop from the current per-house fee of $192.

But the owner of a 3,500 to 3,999 square feet of impervious surface area would pay $219.25.

More than 67 percent of households would get a fee cut under the proposal when compared to the existing $192 fee, according to a consultant’s report.

Those numbers could change as the proposal continues to be refined.

Storm scramble

The city scrambled after widespread flooding hit DeBary during storms in 2004 and 2008. Since then, the city has installed stormwater upgrades valued at roughly $30 million.

Two years after the first flood, DeBary voters in 2006 approved a $10 million bond to help jumpstart the drainage upgrades.

If the city rolled back the fee to $84 but didn’t add some other form of revenue, it would only collect enough to pay for the annual debt payments of $700,000. The city has 12 more years of loan payments.

Under that scenario, no new projects couldn’t be constructed, existing ones couldn’t be maintained and public-works employees would likely be laid off, council members were told.

‘It’s a must’

City Council member Lita Handy-Peters said expressed several concerns.

Lita Handy-Peters
Lita Handy-Peters

“So we’ve got 12 years left to pay and to continue to maintain this infrastructure and a stormwater assessment is absolutely – it’s a must,” she said. “I’m not in favor of any rollback rate or increasing the millage rate. I’m just not.”

Council members are also exploring whether to give owners of commercial properties a small break on their fees in exchange for building, maintaining and regularly inspecting their stormwater systems.

Commercial owners also pay based on the impervious surface areas of their properties.

Currently, owners of developed residential properties fund 65 percent of the program, with undeveloped residential contributing another 5 percent.

Developed commercial properties fund nearly 30 percent followed by undeveloped commercial paying nearly 1 percent.

Assessment3

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