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Lagoon Council creates ‘roadmap’ to restore estuary
week of January 10, 2019

The Indian River Lagoon Council has created a detailed “roadmap” for restoring the ailing estuary to health over the next 10 years which requires the help of all five counties, 38 cities, and some 1.6 million residents in the region. After spending months drafting and re-drafting the comprehensive, 186-page conservation and management plan entitled “Looking Forward to 2030,” the council submitted the document to the Environmental Protection Agency for review, with final adoption expected around June. The plan lays out an array of 32 “vital signs” of lagoon health, characterizing six of them – impaired waters, wastewater, stormwater, seagrass, harmful algae blooms, and the ability to implement and finance solutions – as critical, requiring immediate and aggressive intervention in order to save the Indian River Lagoon. READ FULL STORY

Little League return seen setting off new youth baseball wars
week of January 10, 2019

When it comes to youth baseball leagues in the Vero Beach area, more isn’t necessarily better – and three might be too much. That’s why Derek Muller, president of the Indian River Cal Ripken Baseball League, said last week he can’t embrace the return of Vero Beach Little League, which is attempting a comeback after a six-year absence. “The thought of providing kids with another choice might sound good,” Muller said, “but by further dividing the pool of available players and diluting the local talent, it’s going to weaken both leagues and probably will kill one of them, eventually. “Remember: The county Recreation Department has a youth league, too,” he added. “So this is going to create a mess . . . an unnecessary mess.” Coogie Freedman disagreed, saying he sees no downside to resurrecting Vero Beach Little League, which folded in 2013, after the organization’s national headquarters refused to allow the city’s two financially challenged leagues to merge. READ FULL STORY

Wesley Davis seen likely to shake up office of property appraiser
week of January 10, 2019

Former County Commission Chair Wesley Davis got an early 49th birthday present on Monday – a really big one. At 5 p.m. nine days before next Wednesday’s birthday, Davis announced he’d gotten the long-awaited call telling him outgoing Gov. Rick Scott had appointed him by executive order, effective immediately, to be the next Indian River County Property Appraiser. Davis fills the office vacated when David Nolte died in November. Davis, who ran against Nolte in the 2016 Republican primary, will serve out the balance of Nolte’s term until January 2021. “I thank the governor and his staff for their confidence in me. I’d also like to thank the voters and all the people who supported my appointment,” said Davis, a Wabasso resident. Weeks prior to Nolte’s death in office from an extended illness, the entrenched property appraiser had recommended his loyal, longtime deputy, Sissy Long, to take over for him and extend his nearly 40-year administration. It is rare for Florida governors to go against the wishes of a county constitutional officeholder in an appointment like this one. READ FULL STORY

Acupuncturist Jill Jaynes:Was this what the judge had in mind?
week of January 10, 2019

Acupuncturist Jill Jaynes, who is out on bond, facing multiple charges of fraud and racketeering, has closed her once thriving Vero Beach practice, Absolute Integrated Medicine (AIM), and opened a new clinic on Royal Palm Pointe. According to city records, Jaynes purchased a new business license which lists her as the sole owner/manager at the clinic location, 65 Royal Palm Pointe #B. The business name listed on the license is Jill Hollis Jaynes, although there is no signage at her new location. Jaynes did not respond to several phone messages asking about the new clinic, where she has been seeing clients for at least two months, according to business owners who work nearby. It is not clear whether setting up a new clinic, and posting a note on the window of her old clinic referring former clients to her new business, might be considered a violation of Circuit Court Judge Robert Pegg’s bond condition that she was to “have no contact with” Absolute Integrated Medicine. READ FULL STORY

Few wear masks to help stop spread of flu at clinics
week of January 10, 2019

The “Mask On” command came down Monday at Sebastian River Medical Center, issued by the Boston-based owner Steward Health Care System, after the Centers for Disease Control sounded the alarm. Flu in Florida is increasing and is higher than it was at the same point in previous years, most notably in southeast Florida. Outbreaks now number 61, and have gone from regional to widespread. Though nothing prevents flu like the flu vaccine, studies show masks worn by an infected person afford some protection to the people around them. Steward’s policy, in line with CDC guidelines, is that any caregiver who has officially opted out of the company-wide free flu vaccination must wear a mask within 6 feet of any patient under their care. There is no distance requirement at Cleveland Clinic Indian River; the masks go on as soon as the caregiver enters the building. But the rule doesn’t go into effect until flu reaches epidemic levels, a status not yet reached this season. READ FULL STORY

Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge remains open despite federal shutdown
week of January 10, 2019

Despite reports to the contrary in the local daily, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is not closed to the public during the government shutdown. The refuge remains open because it is the Indian River County Parks Department, not federal employees, who open and close the refuge gates, maintain the restrooms and parking lot, and take care of trash collection, according to Parks Department Conservation Land Manager Beth Powell. The only changes visitors to the Refuge are experiencing during the shutdown are the absence of the volunteers who normally greet visitors, answer questions and drive the tour tram. The tram is the property of the federal government and volunteers are considered federal “employees,” says Tim Glover, treasurer of the Pelican Island Preservation Society (PIPS), a support group for the Refuge. Unlike many other national wildlife refuges, there are no camping facilities at Pelican Island, and the refuge is primarily “do-it-yourself,” with hiking opportunities and an information kiosk. READ FULL STORY

Piper Aircraft sales soaring, hiring surges
week of January 3, 2019

Piper Aircraft’s sales soared in 2018, with deliveries of its airplanes jumping nearly 50 percent, prompting a surge in hiring that has upped the workforce of the county’s largest private-sector employer to more than 1,000. It was just 3 ½ years ago that sagging sales and economic uncertainty in the global marketplace forced Piper to eliminate 115 full-time positions and reduce its payroll to 655 workers, some of whom accepted transfers to lower-paying jobs to remain employed. Since then, however, Piper’s business has taken off: Aircraft deliveries climbed from 127 in 2016 to 155 in 2017, with an even more dramatic jump in 2018. Jackie Carlin, Piper‘s senior marketing director, said last week the 2018 production numbers weren’t yet available, but she projected 229 deliveries – a whopping, 48 percent increase over the previous year. Carlin said deliveries of Piper’s M-Class line of business and personal single-engine, turboprop aircraft grew 35 percent from 2017 to 2018, and that the company, riding an increased demand for its smaller pilot-training aircraft, anticipates another strong showing in the coming year. READ FULL STORY

Sebastian Inlet dredging yields sand for beach renourishment
week of January 3, 2019

Boaters and beachgoers in and around Sebastian Inlet will see dredge boats setting up and workers running pipes south along the beach for the next few weeks as the Sebastian Inlet District undertakes scheduled channel maintenance and beach renourishment projects. Every four years or so, the district must dredge sand from a 42-acre sand trap near the mouth of the inlet to ensure safe navigation for boaters and then pump the sand onto beaches to the south to ease erosion. “The sand trap was blasted with dynamite in the 1970s,” Inlet District Administrator Marty Smithson said. “The sand collects there by design and fills up the trap about every four years. “You can tell when it is full because the channel starts to shoal in.” The district’s contractor, Ferreira Construction of Stuart, will dredge 150,000 cubic yards from the sand trap, pumping about 120,000 cubic yards of the material through pipes that will stretch two miles south along the beach to a restoration site north of the McLarty Treasure Museum. READ FULL STORY

Island retailers report this was a great holiday season
week of January 3, 2019

Up and down the island, from the Village Shops to Ocean Drive, merchants happily agreed with last week’s Wall Street Journal report that “shoppers delivered the strongest holiday sales increase for U.S. retailers in six years.” “Very good” was the virtually unanimous response from island retailers when asked “How has your holiday season been?” And the level of enthusiasm was high going into 2019, as the Holiday Season melds into Vero’s High Season. At women's clothing store Pineapples in Central Beach, owner Carolyn Redfield said, “We had a good holiday. A very good holiday. We have a lot of holiday clientele for our party dresses.” Pauline Adams, owner of synthetic jewelry boutique “I'll Never Tell” for 25 years, called the holiday season “great so far. People are here to relax and they don’t mind spending, including Canadians, even with the money exchange issues.” Another long-time Ocean Drive business, Very Fitting, was bustling during a recent visit, with sales personnel assisting customers and manager Erin Metz multi-tasking. Other than to say it's been a good season, Metz was “too busy to talk.” READ FULL STORY

School District facing penalties for inflating number of kids bused
week of January 3, 2019

The state Department of Education is likely to withhold $1.8 million in transportation funding from the Indian River County School District for inflating the number of kids carried to and from their classes each day on school buses, according to School Board Chairperson Laura Zorc. Zorc said she got the $1.8 million figure from recently-resigned Finance Director Julianne Pelletier. “I believe her numbers over anyone else’s,” Zorc said. “Ultimately it will all come out of the general fund to make up for the shortfall in state funding,” Zorc said. “It’s a significant punch to the district’s general fund balance.” About $600,000 of the holdback is for incorrectly counting or not counting riders during the school year ending June 31, 2017, as shown in the Auditor General’s September 2018 audit statement. Most of the remaining $1.2 million is for claiming 2,350 more riders than actually rode buses during the first part of the current school year, a discrepancy still being investigated by the Department of Education. READ FULL STORY

Two healthcare aides face up to 60 years if convicted of exploiting elderly John’s Island couple
week of January 3, 2019

Two healthcare aides charged with exploiting an elderly John’s Island couple – spending more than $500,000 on such expenses as a stay at the Plaza Hotel in New York, rental of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, and shopping at Ralph Lauren and Nieman Marcus – should be ready for the setting of a trial date by mid-January, their attorneys told Judge Cynthia Cox. Cox scheduled a Jan. 16 status hearing for Vero Beach residents Chiquita McGee, 30, and Sophia Shepherd, 31, who both face two felony charges – exploiting an elderly adult and scheming to defraud a financial institution. If convicted, the women could face up to 60 years in prison. McGee’s attorney, Lydia Pittaway, and Shepherd’s attorney, Robert Stone, told Cox last month they needed a few weeks to review a Dec. 17 deposition the state attorney’s office took from Michelina Martinelli, one of the victims of the alleged fraud. According to court affidavits, McGee and Shepherd, certified nursing assistants, had been working for Michelina, 87, and her husband, Alfred Martinelli, 89, since at least 2017. READ FULL STORY

Damaged equipment blamed for Shores cell tower woes
week of January 3, 2019

Indian River Shores residents who tried unsuccessfully to “reach out and touch” loved ones on Verizon phones from inside their homes this holiday season – instead of outside at the curb next to trash bins of discarded Christmas wrap and turkey carcasses – will bemoan the latest snag in the long-running saga of the town’s new cell tower. The Verizon transmission equipment needed to boost signal on the barrier island arrived at the contractor’s office, but it had to be sent back, according to Curt Jones, president of Datapath Towers, the Shores’ partner on the cell tower project. “The equipment designated for this site was damaged in transit and they had to decline acceptance. Meanwhile, Verizon is reordering the equipment and working on a new delivery date,” Jones said last week. Jones said he does not believe the replacement equipment needs to be custom-fabricated for the Shores tower, so hopefully the setback should only mean weeks more of waiting, not months, for Verizon customers. READ FULL STORY

Hospital district shifts focus to ‘population health’ as it seeks to upgrade Gifford clinic
week of January 3, 2019

Two proposals for expanding services at the Gifford Health Center are on hold until January after the Hospital District discovered that competing cost projections provided by the county’s Health Department and Treasure Coast Community Health Center were based on different patient-visit numbers. Those numbers – estimates of total patient visits – are the basis for calculating the cost of delivering health services to county residents. With the two bidders using significantly different numbers, it was impossible to compare the proposals they presented last month, Hospital District Treasurer Allen Jones told the board last week. Jones proposed scheduling a special meeting after the numbers are corrected to go over the proposals, with the hope of giving the go-ahead to one of the two organizations by mid-to-late January. The snag hasn’t stopped the Hospital District from contemplating how the Gifford expansion dovetails with its newly focused mission of working to address underlying causes of ill health in the county. Those causes, including limited access to medical care and behaviors like smoking and overeating, are increasingly being dealt with under a discipline known as population health. READ FULL STORY

Vero Beach 32963 celebrates its 10th anniversary!
week of December 27, 2018

BY HENRY K. “BUZZ” WURZER | 32963 Reader — Never have we, as news consumers, been as inundated with international and national news, every day all day, as we are today. But local news is a different story. Industry sources estimate that 15,000 editorial positions have been eliminated over the past decade at newspapers around the country, and many of these jobs were held by reporters and editors handling local news. Vero’s longtime newspaper of record, the Press Journal, was owned historically by local interests, and in the 1980s and early ’90s, its local coverage was well regarded. But in the mid-1990s, it became an acquisition target of major media organizations. Acquired by Scripps in 1996, the Press Journal was merged into a Treasure Coast network of Scripps Florida dailies based in Stuart. More recently in 2016, Gannett acquired Scripps and the Press Journal became part of a USA Today Florida network. As a result of these acquisitions and mergers, Vero area residents have experienced a noticeable decline in local news coverage as have those who live in so many other similar communities across our nation. Ten years ago, to fill this void, a local resident, Milt Benjamin, a newspaper veteran with excellent credentials, along with a couple of prescient investors, launched Vero Beach 32963 as “Your Vero Beach Newsweekly.” READ FULL STORY

Cleveland Clinic to take over our hospital on January 1
week of December 27, 2018

It’s a whopper of a Christmas present, to be delivered the last day of December: Cleveland Clinic will officially give its world-renowned brand and a $250 million capital commitment to Indian River Medical Center, effective Jan. 1. With all regulatory hurdles cleared, the final closing documents were signed last Monday, to be released from escrow by attorneys for all the parties involved after a 9 a.m. conference call on New Year’s Eve. And, as with all mannerly gift-giving, Cleveland’s presents will be reciprocated. Along with getting a hospital in sound financial shape, according to numbers presented to the IRMC board of directors’ final meeting last week, Cleveland Clinic Indian River will continue to receive the benefit of the remarkable philanthropy that has largely shaped the hospital over the past 20 years. During those years, the IRMC Foundation has raised $115 million for the ever-expanding hospital on 37th Avenue. That money has built the specialized treatment centers that not only saved lives, but may have saved the hospital by catching the eye of top-notch institutional suitors, including Cleveland Clinic. READ FULL STORY

A judge deals with disorder in the court
week of December 27, 2018

An effort by District Court Judge Cynthia Cox to hear more than 700 cases in three days turned into an angry confrontation with attorneys and their clients on the first day after Cox ran out of time, and had to reschedule about a dozen plea-bargain hearings for January. Cox, who will step down from her post at the felony court at the end of December, was trying to complete as many cases as possible before her successor, Judge Dan Vaughn, arrives in January. Her task was not as impossible as it may sound. A majority of the cases on the docket were status hearings, at which attorneys say they are ready for trial or that they need more time to prepare. Those hearings typically take a minute or less. Nevertheless, with more than 230 cases queued up on Wednesday, Dec. 18, conflict and confusion eventually erupted. The courtroom atmosphere was already tense before Cox arrived that morning because of the crush of people. Dozens of defendants were crammed into the court chambers, sitting uncomfortably close to each other or standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the walls. READ FULL STORY

‘Regulatory disconnect’ at state level factor in pollution at Blue Cypress Lake
week of December 27, 2018

Indian River County Commissioners have set a public hearing for Jan. 8 to add another six months onto a moratorium on biosolids, treated human waste used as fertilizer, after hearing study results at their Dec. 11 meeting. The countywide moratorium enacted six months ago was intended to give the county time to figure out if nutrient overload in the once pristine Blue Cypress Lake was coming from biosolids. The lake suffered a massive blue-green algae bloom during the summer fed by the types of nutrients contained in human waste. A study conducted by Jones Edmunds & Associates has confirmed biosolids are the source of pollution. The study also makes plain how little protection the state Department of Environmental Protection provides in its permitting and monitoring of biosolids. South Florida government officials convinced the state legislature to ban biosolids in 2012 for the Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River watersheds, bypassing the DEP. Since that ban went into effect, more biosolids have flowed north to Indian River County. READ FULL STORY

County’s Dodgertown deal with MLB gives Vero leverage in parking negotiations
week of December 27, 2018

If county officials want to make sure they can use Vero Beach-owned properties adjacent to Historic Dodgertown to provide the 2,000 parking spaces required in their long-term lease with Major League Baseball, they’ll probably need to pay for them. City officials say the overflow parking spaces, particularly those available on the former Dodgertown Golf Club property to the immediate west, are available for rent. They’re not for sale – not for the $2.4 million the county offered for the golf-course property in October, anyway. “The city sees the potential for that property as a revenue-producing piece of ground,” City Manager Jim O’Connor said. “So selling the entire tract to the county at that price doesn’t make sense, because it doesn’t generate an ongoing revenue stream for us. “If we leased the spaces to the county, however, that’s a recurring revenue stream.” For example, O’Connor said, the city could raise $400,000 annually by leasing 2,000 spaces – using a section of the golf-course property, city-owned lots north of Aviation Boulevard and fields at the Vero Beach Regional Airport – for $200 per space per year. READ FULL STORY

Man being retried for island murder gets a new lawyer
week of December 27, 2018

Murder suspect Henry Lee Jones, who in April decided to represent himself in his second murder trial, was back in court last week asking for legal assistance. The case had not been going well for Jones, who was convicted of murdering a Central Beach resident in 2011 and later granted a new trial upon appeal. But Jones earned a rare court victory last week, when Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Cox approved his request that all motions filed by him, and all evidence submitted by him since he began representing himself, be wiped from court records. She also agreed to appoint a new public defender to represent Jones as he reversed his earlier decision to act as his own lawyer. Cox noted in her judgment on Dec. 20 that although it was Jones’ decision to represent himself, it was also clear that he didn’t know what he was doing in court. His actions were so detrimental to his own case that the court would be denying him a fair trial by allowing him to continue serving as his own counsel. In her ruling, Cox wrote: “Anything entered by the defendant when he was acting pro se (as his own legal counsel) shall be deemed either moot or waived unless specifically adopted by the current attorney of record.” READ FULL STORY

Is Shores missing a bet as it searches for a new town manager?
week of December 27, 2018

It should not take seven months to hire a new town manager for a municipality of 4,000 people. Overall, the Indian River Shores Town Council does the taxpayers proud when it comes to taking care of business. The executive and financial knowledge and experience stored in the five members of the Shores Town Council is probably tops in Florida. But they may have missed a great opportunity when they rejected an innovative proposal by Vice Mayor Bob Auwaerter last week to get the most out of the existing town staff instead of bringing in someone town leaders were admittedly not thrilled over. Town Manager Robbie Stabe, who served for 22 years as a decorated, triple-trained public safety officer, and then briefly as chief before being promoted to town manager in 2013, gave his notice on May 17 due to health concerns related to job stress. Since then, however, several of the major projects Stabe had been immersed in have been mostly or completely resolved, which would lessen the strain on his health if he stayed. READ FULL STORY