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Proposal for electric price fix would deepen Vero entanglement
week of October 23, 2014

The City of Vero Beach's last great hope that a major re-do of the 20-year, $2 billion wholesale power contract with the Orlando Utilities Commission might help rescue ratepayers from high electric bills appears headed for the Vero graveyard of broken dreams. The "big news" released Monday after months of negotiations turned out to offer pretty anemic short-term savings that were tied to new contractual commitments that could lock Vero into even higher future costs that it would remain obligated to through 2030. If all the stars align, the city's utility attorney Robert Scheffel "Schef" Wright says that Vero in the near term could get its rate down $10 per month, from the current $123.93 per 1,000 kilowatt hour to $113.93 per 1,000 kilowatt hour. This would still be roughly 17 percent higher than FPL's rate for the same power. But the real bottom-line question is whether yet one more Vero City Council – the one seated after the November 4 election – will go for what looks like a "short-term fix," giving up on seeking to extricate Vero from the municipal electric business, and locking the city into one more long-term power contract that proves impossible to ever escape. READ FULL STORY


Hospital feud with District spins over into election
week of October 23, 2014

Voters will get a chance in two weeks to weigh in on the ongoing dispute between Indian River Medical Center and the Hospital District by choosing between two candidates for District trustee who hold sharply different views on funding and other issues. Laura Moss, former sales director for a large New York optical company, clearly sides with the current majority on the Hospital District, which has been seeking to get a better handle on hospital finances and cut back on growing IRMC demands for increased taxpayer funds for indigent care. Marybeth Cunningham, a former automotive executive who has served on a variety of nonprofit boards, says she wants to support the hospital "as it grows and adds services," and thinks the public airing of issues discourages donations to the hospital. Moss has the support of most of the current Hospital District trustees for her effort to join them by winning the only contested seat; Cunningham has the support of most hospital and hospital foundation board members. READ FULL STORY


Mulligans wins a round in beachside parking wars
week of October 23, 2014

City officials and merchants all agree that on busy beach days, it's tough to find a parking space along Ocean Drive. But neighbors of Mulligan's failed to convince a City Council majority Monday that the oceanfront restaurant should be forced to rip out a 3,800-square-foot outdoor dining expansion to ease congestion. With season only weeks away and no cohesive plan in place to provide parking for hotel and restaurant employees, plus patrons, plus beachgoers and those who show up for special events – not to mention Ocean Drive shoppers – the City Council heard a three-hour appeal of a decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission to retroactively bless the dining area Mulligan's Beach House added two years ago without seeking city approval. Neighbors Charles Replogle and Mark Tripson of the Ocean Grill, Cathy Padgett of Veranda, Nancy Cook of the Twig shop and attorney E. Steven Lauer filed the appeal. Lauer, who introduced himself as the owner of the office building just north of the Holiday Inn, argued five points including a lack of notice to adjacent property owners, a wrong interpretation of city code, a failure to consider the rights of neighbors, and the fact that Mulligan's actions exacerbated an already bad beachside parking problem. READ FULL STORY


Price of Vero beachfront property up over 20 percent this year
week of October 16, 2014

The price of Vero oceanfront land, relatively stable since the end of the last real-estate boom in 2007, has jumped more than 20 percent so far this year as inventory continues to be depleted by an unprecedented volume of sales. The main way of valuing beachfront property is cost per running foot on the water. In 2013, the average price per running foot paid by buyers on the barrier island was $19,446, meaning a typical 100-foot-wide lot would cost $1.95 million. So far this year, the average is nearly $24,000 per precious foot of Atlantic Ocean frontage, and some sales have topped $30,000 a foot. "Prices are undeniably increasing," says Michael Thorpe, co-owner of Treasure Coast Sotheby's International Realty. "Oceanfront property is viewed by many as the premier asset on the island and it is a diminishing resource, which is making it more valuable." READ FULL STORY


Jason Nunemaker: The man with a plan for Fellsmere
week of October 16, 2014

Spend an hour visiting with Jason Nunemaker and you can't help but come away feeling optimistic, even excited, about the future of this small-in-numbers, large-in-area city in northern Indian River County. Not only does Fellsmere's city manager have a wonderfully intriguing blueprint for what this mostly undeveloped swath of land can become, but he also exudes a passionate-yet-practical enthusiasm for transforming his vision into a reality. "It's definitely something I can see," Nunemaker said, not a hint of doubt in his voice. "And what I see is the chance for this city to become even more special than it already is – to become something that will be a source of pride, not only for our residents but for the entire county. "We're going to take advantage of the resources we have and not try to be something we're not," he added. "Most of our plan is long-term, though there are some things we want to do sooner rather than later. Certainly, the economy will be a factor. READ FULL STORY


Shores panel OKs A1A office building
week of October 16, 2014

With a record crowd of protesters packing Town Hall, the Indian River Shores Planning, Zoning and Variance Board unanimously recommended Monday that the Spectrum office building project be approved by the Town Council. But they did it with one important concession to those opposing the project: They recommended that the two-story building not be permitted to house retail businesses or medical practices. Only professional offices would be allowed. The board, however, did not yield to repeated requests that the building be smaller and that more green space surround it. About 150 people took all of the available chamber seats, stood along the walls and gathered in groups outside to applaud speeches against the project and shout "no" when a handful of people spoke in favor of the Bermuda-style building proposed for a site across A1A from the Shores Town Hall. Those favoring the project said it would be "a gorgeous building and an enhancement" to the area. READ FULL STORY


Vero City Council election:
A battle for third?

week of October 16, 2014

With the fall election less than three weeks away, the battle among seven candidates for three available seats on Vero Beach City Council is shaping up as a two-way, or possibly three-way, battle for third place. But whatever the outcome, it is not likely to drastically alter the "Keep Vero Vero" policies of the present 3-2 majority on the council. Mayor Dick Winger, Vice-Mayor Jay Kramer and Councilwoman Amelia Graves have provided the 3-2 majority on a number of issues for the past year, and of that troika, only Kramer is up for re-election this time. Although his about-face on the sale of the city's electric system – he used to be for it until he became its most vocal opponent on the council – has earned him some enemies, he is expected to ride the power of incumbency to get back in. Randy Old, the newcomer who raised a ton of money, waged a professional campaign, showed a good grasp of the issues and collected an impressive array of endorsements, has been tapped by most pundits to finish as the top vote-getter this time around. READ FULL STORY


Kristen Simpson's journey: The pivot from grief to hope
week of October 9, 2014

About a year after her husband Brian was murdered in the bedroom of their Fiddlewood home, Kristen Simpson realized that she had lost hope. At first, the grief was so overwhelming she lived from minute to minute, never thinking about the day. But as time passed and she struggled through the mechanics of daily life, trying to keep going for her children, she knew she didn't want to. And regardless of what she did – teaching her PE students, going to counseling, running and going to every meet, game and concert of her kids – she looked forward to nothing. "Hope was so alien to me, I no longer knew what it meant," she said.But with the trial of the man who murdered her husband just over, her home saved by a caring community and the unwavering love of family and friends, she now sees the world differently. READ FULL STORY


Jurors say killer's iPhone sealed guilty verdict
week of October 9, 2014

While the jury weighing the fate of Henry Lee Jones, Jr. found him guilty of the murder of Brian Simpson in near record time, the key evidence that took most of them to a place "beyond reasonable doubt" was not presented until near the end of the trial and came from Jones' cell phone, according to interviews with four jurors. "The cell phone data on top of the other evidence is what nailed it in my mind. But I told myself I would keep an open mind to see what the defense had. When they didn't have much, I knew what I thought," said juror Tasha Solis, an urgent care nurse. "After the cell phone data I couldn't see it any other way even though I tried to," said juror Jim Gagnon, an Orchid Island security officer. "I believed Darius Robinson (the accomplice) who testified that Jones had the gun and shot Mr. Simpson, but what confirmed it for me was the GPS information on Jones' cell phone and the email on the phone about the stolen coin," said juror Stacy Smith, an orthopedic physician's assistant. READ FULL STORY


Warren Anderson, 93, dies here in obscurity
week of October 9, 2014

Thirty years after the deadliest industrial accident in history caused the deaths of 10,000 in Bhopal, India, Warren M. Anderson died in virtual obscurity in Vero Beach last week. The former CEO of Union Carbide, who was held accountable by Indian authorities for the 1984 disaster at the pesticide plant, would have turned 93 in November. It was four years after the toxic gas release, and two years into retirement, that Anderson and his wife Lillian in 1988 bought a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot home in Sea Forest, one of Indian River Shores' least pretentious private communities. There, they lived a quiet life together, reportedly retreating to an apartment in John's Island only on the December anniversary of the Bhopal incident, lest yet another activist or journalist disturb them. The couple also kept a century-old home in Bridgehampton, NY. "He was extremely well admired and well-liked," said Warren Schwerin, whose company, Related Properties, acquired the Union Carbide headquarters in Danbury, Conn., soon after Anderson's retirement. "He was a gentle, soft-spoken man and extremely private." READ FULL STORY


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