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Riverside Theatre moves to new level with original works
week of November 20, 2014

Vero's Riverside Theatre has long held more influence over its productions than most regional theaters, producing Broadway shows with its own sets, casting and direction, rather than importing productions created elsewhere or booking shows on tour. Now, it is taking this to a whole new level, creating original works from script to score, staging them here, and if all goes well, taking them on tour. The copyrighted works could then be produced by other theaters, generating royalties for both Riverside and the shows' creators, Allen Cornell and Ken Clifton. Riverside Theatricals LLC, a new division within the theater, will launch its first original musical, "Poodleful," next September. "We have hopes of launching a tour of it, and we have hopes for other theaters to purchase the rights to produce it themselves," said Cornell. READ FULL STORY


Island woman sues Vero Beach over battery by police officer
week of November 20, 2014

A 61-year-old island woman is suing the City of Vero Beach and a now-former police officer she claims punched her in the face and used unnecessary and excessive force during a traffic stop in December 2010. In the lawsuit filed in federal court , Alison Landsman alleges that Vero Beach Police Officer Fletcher McClellan violated her civil rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments while arresting her at the front door of her Sea Oaks home. The complaint also accuses McClellan of battery. "I was putting my key in the door and he grabbed me," Landsman said. "He pulled and twisted my shoulder twice, then started punching me and knocked me unconscious." After being handcuffed and formally arrested, Landsman was transported to the Indian River Medical Center, where, according to the complaint, she was diagnosed as having suffered "traumatic injury" to her brain (intracranial bleeding), nose (bridge fracture) and left eye (peri-orbital swelling). She was then transferred to the trauma center at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce for specialized care of her brain injury. She later learned that she also had suffered a torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder. READ FULL STORY


Former football star the pick to mediate Vero electric lawsuit
week of November 20, 2014

Tallahassee attorney and University of Florida Gators football Hall of Famer Carlos Alvarez appears to be the top draft pick of the City of Vero Beach, the Town of Indian River Shores and the Indian River Board of County Commissioners to mediate a pending lawsuit over Vero electric and what the Shores calls unreasonable rates. "We have had discussions with Carlos Alvarez and have tentatively set Dec. 17th as a mediation date," said County Attorney Dylan Reingold on Monday. No time or place had been set as of press time. Vero Beach City Manager Jim O'Connor said Reingold was tapped to contact Alvarez and work out the details to bring back to the Shores and Vero. Reingold said Monday that he had crossed paths with Alvarez before in a previous position. "I worked with him while I was with the City of Jacksonville in a different conflict resolution process." READ FULL STORY


Police trace Jones' drive to Melbourne with nurse's body
week of November 20, 2014

Despite accused killer Michael Jones' apparent effort to throw police off his scent on the day he allegedly disposed of his victim's body, police have reconstructed a trial of evidence that follows Jones from his Vero garage to Melbourne – where nurse Diana Duve's body was found – and back to his apartment. The trail of evidence from several different sources starts early Saturday, when a neighbor up early to make a tee time saw Jones pulling out of the garage of his Carolina Trace apartment just before 6 a.m. and leaving – alone – in Duve's black Nissan Altima. Vero Beach crime scene investigators using a substance called BLUESTAR subsequently found evidence of blood on the garage floor, suggesting that prior to Jones' early morning departure, he had loaded Duve's nearly naked body into her car's trunk. About an hour later, security cameras picked up Jones driving up to the Wal-Mart in Palm Bay in a black car. He entered the Wal-Mart and purchased a "burner" – a no-contract cellphone to use instead of his own iPhone. READ FULL STORY


County seems ready to fund a new mental health court
week of November 13, 2014

Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar and Judge Cynthia Cox have asked the county commission to contribute $140,000 to help get a mental health court up and running in Vero Beach. The request last week came after nine months of volunteer work by Cox and Loar – and a group set up by the Mental Health Collaborative – to figure out how to get help for people with mental problems who commit low-level crimes, as opposed to giving them prolonged jail time which often leads to their becoming career criminals. "We can't arrest ourselves out of mental illness. People with mental illness need a soft landing so that a defendant turns into a client," said Cox, who heads the mental health court in St. Lucie County, which has a reputation for success backed up by solid numbers. With Loar and the team, which includes Vero Beach Police Chief Dave Curry, other local police chiefs and assistant chief state attorney Tom Bakkedahl, Cox want a similar court program in Indian River County, where 50 to 55 percent of the people in jail, at any given time, suffer from some form of mental illness. READ FULL STORY


Quail Valley club paid $3.5 million for Royal Palm site
week of November 13, 2014

Steve Mulvey, whose grandparents were once co-owners of the Brooklyn Dodgers, remembers when the end of what is now Royal Palm Pointe was home to the Sea Gull Motel and Marina. Today it's not sea gulls but Quail claiming the prized waterfront spot. Last week, Mulvey and his Quail Valley Club partner Kevin Given closed on the one-acre property, ending speculation on the future of the site of the recently closed Lobster Shanty restaurant: other than the occasional charity event, their proposed hotel and restaurant will be restricted to use by club members and their guests, and not be available to the public at large. According to Mulvey and Given, multiple dining and lodging options will make Quail Valley "one of the most unique clubs in the state of Florida." The pair intends to tear down the old Lobster Shanty restaurant to build a 16-room lodge and restaurant. Its proposed granite and wood façade is "something you'd see in Newport, Rhode Island, or Nantucket," he says, reeling off two ultra-affluent destinations sure to be familiar to the membership of Quail Valley. READ FULL STORY


Simpson's family speaks of loss at killer's sentencing
week of November 13, 2014

Even though the outcome was a foregone conclusion – Henry Lee Jones was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Brian Simpson – the scene in Judge Robert L. Pegg's courtroom Friday was a gut-wrenching tearjerker. It began with Simpson's sister, Sue Haller, taking the witness stand and telling Jones, who shot her brother to death after breaking into the Simpson family home on Fiddlewood Road three years ago, how it had destroyed their family. "We will never be the same again. Brian was our rock, our fun, our life. Now, my family stands around lost and just tries to get through holidays," said Haller, one of three siblings of Brian Simpson, who was the youngest of four when he was shot to death at age 41 after he interrupted Jones rifling through the master bedroom bureau. Haller then read a letter to the judge from their mother, Betty Graham: "My beloved son Brian is dead. I can't put into words what the void in my life is." READ FULL STORY


Jones at class for batterers before murder
week of November 13, 2014

Only hours before accused killer Michael David Jones drove off from What-A-Tavern with his sometimes girlfriend Diana Duve, who subsequently was found brutally murdered, records show the beachside banker had attended a 90-minute evening session of a 26-week intervention program for batterers of women. Among the thousands of pages of documents and images in evidence against Jones, who sits in jail awaiting trial for the first-degree murder of Moorings resident Duve, is a sign-off sheet showing that he was in week 14 of a Batterers' Intervention Program run by the Mental Health Association. The document was discovered and photographed by Vero Beach Police Department detectives after they served a search warrant on Jones for his Honda automobile. The original document is secured in Vero's evidence lockup, but Vero Beach 32963 obtained copies of the photographs through a records request submitted to State Attorney Bruce Colton's office. Three high-resolution digital photographs show a "26-Week Batterers' Intervention Program Payment Contract" tossed in the trunk of Jones' car with a manila legal file folder, a towel, folding chairs, a beach blanket, a wooden coat hanger, a red car jack and a green-and-white golf umbrella. READ FULL STORY


Shores' position on electric not same as county's
week of November 13, 2014

Indian River Shores this week sought to put some distance between its lawsuit aimed at extricating the town from Vero electric, and the County's separate effort to escape via a different route at the Florida Public Service Commission. The county's petition for a PSC ruling clarifying what the Board of County Commissioners can and cannot do once its 30-year franchise with Vero expires in March 2017 has met with stiff opposition – not only from Vero, but also from investor-owned utilities and even Florida Power and Light. The utilities all reject the idea that service territories are anything other than "permanent." Apparently anticipating a negative recommendation from PSC staff to the county's petition challenging its territorial agreement with Vero electric, the Shores emphasized that it has based its lawsuit on totally different principles that don't "undermine the PSC's jurisdiction over territorial agreements. "While I'm fully supportive of the county's efforts to protect its residents," said Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, "I think it's important for our community to understand why the county's filing with the PSC is different than, and will have no direct impact on, the lawsuit that our town filed in circuit court. READ FULL STORY


Voters send mixed message in Vero Council election
week of November 6, 2014

Vero Beach voters sent a mixed message to their city government by returning to office two incumbents with diametrically opposed positions, Jay Kramer and Pilar Turner, and electing a newcomer, Randy Old, who swears he'll be his own man, despite the endorsement of the old-guard political machine. Top vote getter Kramer explained that voters seem to hedge their bets on election day, a phenomenon that often happens in Vero. "It seems as though the public enjoys tension in the government. Having Pilar and I on opposite sides of the issues, the public likes to see the yin and the yang of that discussion," Kramer said. "As a politician, we'd like to have it all one way, but the public likes to have the balance." READ FULL STORY


Marybeth Cunningham wins election to serve as Hospital District trustee
week of November 6, 2014

Marybeth Cunningham, a retired automotive executive, beat competitor Laura Moss Tuesday night in a hotly contested election that will get Indian River Medical Center management at least one additional solid supporter among Hospital District trustees. Cunningham got 54 percent of the votes, while Moss received 45 percent. The total vote, unprecedented for a minor elective post at the bottom of the ballot, was 22,772 for Cunningham to 19,120 for Moss. The victory came as somewhat of a surprise to disappointed Moss supporters, who had expected her to win because she campaigned much longer and much more vigorously than Cunningham, who said she did not want to talk about the results. Alma Lee Loy, whose vacated the District seat that Cunningham will fill, hailed her victory. "I feel that Marybeth is the right choice to be a District trustee. She is extremely qualified because of her strong management skills and ability to make decisions in a business-like way," said Loy. READ FULL STORY


Local hospitals get good marks on stemming infections
week of November 6, 2014

Two local hospitals – Indian River Medical Center and Sebastian River Medical Center – are doing a bit better than the national average at stemming infections that develop during a hospital stay, according to just-released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their performance – equal to the national benchmark in four categories and better than the national benchmark in one category – grouped the two local hospitals with 20 other Florida medical centers that received the same rating. Two neighboring hospitals – Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne and Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute in Ft. Pierce – were among 23 Florida hospitals that achieved higher ratings. Another 125 Florida hospitals received lower ratings. Holmes and Lawnwood will get much bigger Medicare bonuses for exceeding the benchmark for preventing three infections. One is called "CLABSI" (Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infection), which can occur with the insertion of tubes in the chest, groin or neck. Another is CAUTI (Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection). Both Indian River and Sebastian, along with Lawnwood, will get bonuses for exceeding the national benchmark in the prevention of a digestive tract infection that causes diarrhea and, sometimes, colitis called clostridium difficile or C.diff. READ FULL STORY


70 percent of island beaches critically eroded
week of November 6, 2014

Despite the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars sunk into replenishment of the island's beaches over the past 36 years, a full 70 percent of Indian River County's 22.4 miles of shoreline is still categorized as "critically eroded," according to the first draft of the county's 2014 beach plan update. The plan projects that expenditures averaging nearly $8.2 million per year are needed to maintain beaches for recreation, wildlife habitat and protection of property. Where that money would come from is yet to be determined, and when, where and how it would be spent is sure to become a political issue. All of Vero's oceanfront hotels, resorts and restaurants in the main Ocean Drive tourist and shopping area are in a critically eroded zone. But the City of Vero Beach, known in the beach plan as Sector 5, is not slated for a major sand project for quite a few years. The county now handles all non-crisis beach replenishment – for the city as well as unincorporated areas – because Vero voters a quarter-century ago approved a referendum prohibiting the city from doing so. The March 1989 referendum barred the city from placing any sand on beaches "except in the amount necessary to protect life or property during storms or other natural disaster." READ FULL STORY


Vero and Shores headed next for mediation over electricity
week of October 30, 2014

After failing to settle the lawsuit filed by the Town of Indian River Shores against the City of Vero Beach over excessive electric rates, the City and the Shores – with Indian River County along for the ride – are headed to pre-trial mediation. When the Shores filed its suit in circuit court in July, and the County followed up with its own petition to the Florida Public Service Commission, it looked like things couldn't get any worse for Vero Beach. But a City Council no longer controlled by a majority that wants to extricate Vero from the electric business once again retained an outside lawyer that took a dismal situation, and torpedoed the city deeper into the abyss. Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, reacting to the skeleton of a plan revealed last week that held out the nebulous promise of short-term rate reductions, said: "From my perspective, it appears to be too little, too late and too risky." READ FULL STORY


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