Category Archives: Bob Garcia

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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DeBary OKs $20K for July Fourth fireworks blast

In DeBary, the Fourth of July fireworks show is more than a big blast in the night sky.

According to City Council members, the annual party at Gemini Springs Park is a celebration of patriotism, family, local talent and community spirit.

So the price tag of $20,000 — roughly $1 per DeBary resident — is a worthwhile expenditure, according to DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia.

Garcia and the rest of the City Council voted Wednesday to spend the money to pay for the grand finale — a 25-minute fireworks show.

Garcia said the event is becoming more popular every year because other venues, including DeLand, are “so crowded.”

The DeBary show offers a “country-type” atmosphere that appeals to a “family oriented” audience, Garcia said. The fireworks aren’t free, he acknowledged. 

“But as far as the 20,000, one dollar for every person in the city of DeBary, I think it’s worthwhile,” Garcia said. “Have you ever seen those babies out there with the fireworks and how their eyes gleam? So to me, that’s one of the biggest benefits they’re going to remember of their beautiful city is of the Fourth of July they spent here. Maybe some of them won’t even leave here. They’ll stay here for the rest of their lives.”

City council members explained their support of the expenditure after a DeBary resident, Mort Culligan, criticized them for the “$20,000 giveaway.” Spending money on fireworks means tax dollars are just going “up in smoke,” he said. 

“You people, the people of DeBary, the American people, are so over-entertained, it’s outrageous,” Culligan said. “To spend $20,000. All you have to do is watch fireworks on TV.”

Council members say residents want the show and this is a way local government can interact with citizens in a positive way. The City has paid for Independence Day fireworks for several years.

“I think the fireworks are kind of branding our city,” Council member Mike Brady said. “It’s a good event down there. It’s a family event. The events of the day are very well done and our city is getting a good reputation because of that.”

DeBary’s Stephen Bacon gets lesson about collaboration

Stephen Bacon
Stephen Bacon

Stephen Bacon is off to a rough start.

The new DeBary City Council member’s vision for a multimillion-dollar community center-amphitheater went nowhere.

He’s struggling for two other ideas: 911 callboxes along county trails in DeBary and a citywide safety preparedness drill.

Then Bacon – who joined the council in January – got a lesson about how to get things done on the DeBary City Council.

“If you can convince us, then we can direct the city manager to take action on it,” DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia said during a workshop Wednesday.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

Multimillion-dollar amphitheater

The debate surfaced as council members pondered the fate of interim City Manager Ron McLemore and the process of finding his eventual replacement.

The debate is expected to continue at a meeting next month.

McLemore, 71, indicated he would like to stay for roughly a year, help the city find his replacement and ensure a smooth transition.

But Bacon wanted McLemore gone within six months.

His critical assessment of the veteran government administrator comes less than a month after Bacon outlined a proposal for a community center-amphitheater.

In a 14-page proposal, Bacon described a $16 million facility with 5,000 seats inside and 7,000 more outside on donated land within the “Costa property.”

The project, funded largely with taxpayer-backed bonds, would have cost $25.6 million with interest under Bacon’s proposal.

He proposed a specific designer  — world-renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Bacon included Calatrava’s designs in his presentation, including the Information, Science and Technology (IST) Building at Florida Polytechnic University.

The $100 million building is in Polk County off Interstate 4.

During a DeBary council meeting Feb. 23, council members  thanked Bacon for his proposal but said the city had more pressing needs, including managing storm-water.

A vastly scaled-back proposal for a community center is already being studied by a task force and city consultants.

‘Sweet-talking’

Bacon said Wednesday he is frustrated that McLemore isn’t getting results for him on fulfilling his campaign promises and other projects.

For instance, Bacon wanted McLemore’s help to persuade the county to add emergency call boxes on county trails that go through DeBary, including the ones in Gemini Springs Park.

He’s concerned a jogger will have a medical issue and won’t be able to get help.

“One of these days somebody is going to have a heart attack and they won’t be able to locate him,” Bacon said.

McLemore told Bacon he works for the council as a collaborative body and can’t take direction from one member.

That’s one of the issues involved in the high-profile ouster of former mayor Clint Johnson, who was removed from office in August because he allegedly tried to direct city staffers. That power is delegated to the manager under the charter. The council, in turn, directs the manager.

Johnson is suing the city to get his job back, and a decision from a judge is possible as soon as April.

McLemore told Bacon if a majority of other members don’t like his ideas then “they’re going nowhere with me.”

Bacon said McLemore didn’t fully explain the process.

“You should have told me that from Day 1 in January that that was the procedure because I was led to believe from others, other past council people, that by sweet talking you, you would work with me…” Bacon said.

McLemore said he’s ready to work with Bacon, but the council member has to sell his ideas to his colleagues.

“I spent four times the amount of time with you in the last three months than I spent on anybody on this council –  probably five times,” McLemore said. “And I’m willing to do it.”