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Luxury restaurant set for site of old P.V. Martin's
week of July 17, 2014

A new 6,000-square-foot fine-dining restaurant is coming to the oceanfront a few miles south of the county line in the North Hutchinson Island location where popular eatery P.V. Martin's stood for many years. "I think everybody will be blown away by the caliber of food and drink and the music venue," says Stephen Brinley, the Treasure Coast Sotheby's agent who brokered the sale of the vacant 3.1-acre property to Vero Beach businessman Joe Caragol and partners. "These guys are in the food business and they know restaurants and they are serious about making this a destination property. It is going to be very upscale and posh." Tentatively named South Orchid Island Club, the venture has preliminary site plan approval from St. Lucie County and is awaiting response to its state Department of Environmental Protection permit application. "The ground-floor dining room will have a double-sided fireplace and there will be a second-floor dining area above with a balcony that wraps around and gives beautiful views to the southeast," says project architect Jeff Ray, principal of Atelier d' Architecture. "There will be a beautiful outdoor bar and a curvilinear deck that has full ocean views. There may be some tables down on the sand. READ FULL STORY


Shores police play key role in solving laser burglaries
week of July 17, 2014

A late January break-in and the theft of a $100,000 laser from an island plastic surgeon's office seemed unlikely to result in an arrest. But diligent police work involving law enforcement agencies in Indian River Shores, Vero Beach and South Miami recently resulted in two arrests and is likely to lead to two more and the solving of four additional laser theft cases. In Indian River Shores on Jan. 30 at about 10:25 pm, four men dressed in black, with their faces mostly covered, kicked in the floor-to-ceiling window of Dr. Alan Durkin's Ocean Drive Plastic Surgery offices and clinic on A1A, and stole an expensive Palomar laser system and six laptop computers. At the time, police did not know that within two days of the burglary, expensive lasers had also been stolen from four more clinics and spas – two in Martin County, one in Broward County and one in Miami-Dade County. That information eventually led to a valuable link that is helping police solve the five crimes. Video surveillance tapes from the Shores break-in of Durkin's office showed four men prying the window loose with a crowbar and kicking it until it shattered, then leaving with the equipment. READ FULL STORY


Cultural Council may join Art Club in new downtown art center
week of July 17, 2014

The Indian River Cultural Council is rethinking its plan to attempt to acquire the historic downtown diesel plant for an arts center, and instead is considering multiple smaller spaces. One space currently under consideration has also piqued the interest of the Vero Beach Art Club, and the two entities are in early discussion on just how they might cooperatively make such a center happen. "We're just scratching the surface," says Barbara Hoffman, the Cultural Council's executive director. "We do not want to rule out the diesel plant. But we've been encouraged to have an alternative Plan B." "Because of the lawsuit, because of the trains, because of the fact that we might maybe want a larger space, we started looking at alternatives. The more you research, the more you really think through your projects, and you sometimes do reposition as a result. "What's been hitting my brain is that the community isn't really interested in the Cultural Council's building as much as they are in bringing art to the entire community. Is it through one building for the arts? Or is it though several buildings?" READ FULL STORY


Indigent care talks headed for arbitration
week of July 17, 2014

The Hospital District has pulled the plug on negotiations with Indian River Medical Center over how much taxpayer money the District trustees will give to the hospital for indigent care bills. Arbitration will begin Aug. 11 unless the hospital makes an offer the Hospital District accepts prior to that date, according to a unanimous vote by District trustees. "The advantage of arbitration is that the books are basically open, and the public and trustees deserve real answers," said District chairman Tom Spackman. A letter from the District, hand-delivered to Indian River Medical Center CEO Jeff Susi on Friday morning, said that the hospital had not negotiated in good faith on the Indigent Care Agreement and that the hospital was in default. The hospital was given 30 days to cure the default and come to an agreement with the District. The day before, at the District's monthly meeting, hospital attorney Bill Stewart tried to convince District trustees not to proceed to arbitration but to have more detailed discussions with the hospital to better understand what each side "found deficient in the other party's proposal. READ FULL STORY


Vero hoping to move sewer plant by 2021
week of July 17, 2014

In its first proactive step to get the city's sewer plant off the Indian River lagoon, the Vero Beach City Council directed staff last week to come back with a proposal to move the plant to the airport by 2021. This "whitepaper" the council asked for is expected to present a plan to take advantage of an opportunity to finance the project through bonds or loans after the city pays off tens of millions in debt seven years from now. Rough estimates put the cost of the project at $25 million or more, which would not only free up the 16.3 acres of prime riverfront property, but also give Vero a new wastewater treatment facility to serve ratepayers going forward. "This is a great thing that we're doing for the city," Mayor Dick Winger said after the meeting. Both Winger and Councilwoman Pilar Turner campaigned on the take-down of the sewer plant and have throughout their terms repeatedly urged the staff to get working on concrete plans to get it done, for environmental and aesthetic reasons. City officials assure the public that the plant poses no threat to the lagoon as the city no longer discharges waste into the water, but getting the aging facility off the waterfront would eliminate any possibility of an accident spilling raw sewage or chemicals into the delicate estuary. READ FULL STORY


Ocean Drive, Beachland Boulevard to be repaved
week of July 17, 2014

Cruising Ocean Drive is set to become a smoother ride this fall after the City of Vero Beach completes a re-paving project. Public Works Director Monte Falls said during city budget talks that he's targeting areas in need of new asphalt and the nearly mile-long stretch of Ocean Drive between Greytwig Road and Gayfeather Lane in Central Beach is one of those spots. The last time that section of Ocean Drive was paved was 1999. The city will also resurface three blocks of Beachland Boulevard from A1A east to Ocean Drive. Beachland Boulevard was last re-surfaced nearly 30 years ago. The whole project should take about a week, weather permitting. "Work will be done at night, traffic will be maintained in one lane and the on-street parking will not be accessible," Falls said. Falls told the council he's coordinating with the Oceanside Business Association on the timing of the project to minimize the impact on the OBA's major events – monthly Sunset Saturday concerts, the Christmas parade and April's Taste of Vero. Right now, construction is set to take place in mid-September. READ FULL STORY


Indian River Hospital decides to scale back Wellness Center
week of July 10, 2014

Indian River Medical Center is cutting its much-touted Wellness Center to less than half its originally planned size, eliminating the gym, dramatically downsizing the imaging center, and filling most of the smaller building with doctors' offices. The original Wellness Center was to have housed a variety of complex imaging equipment. But the hospital purchased Vero Radiology a few weeks ago, and much of its equipment duplicates what had been planned for the original wellness center. The cost of the scaled-down Wellness Center, originally projected at $32.6 million, has been reduced by some $10 million. But to build it, the hospital still will borrow $20 million – along with the $23 million it just borrowed to purchase Vero Radiology. Indian River Medical Center also will take an additional $1 million dollar hit for professional fees paid for design of the original larger Wellness Center plan, which will no longer be needed. The decision to shrink the Wellness Center from its original 133,300 square feet to 64,800 square feet was approved at a hospital finance committee meeting on Tuesday, July 1st. The facility is to be built on land next door to the main hospital. READ FULL STORY


State investigators probe complaints by hospital patients
week of July 10, 2014

Investigators from Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration recently paid an unannounced visit to Indian River Medical Center to investigate a complaint filed by Sandra Griffin about how the hospital treated her 80-year-old handicapped husband, Norman. The state health care agency, which is based in Tallahassee and has statutory authority for licensing all hospitals in Florida and policing the quality of patient care, found "serious violations" with the Griffin case and several other cases it looked into while investigators were at the Vero hospital. The AHCA investigation revealed that IRMC violated patient care and patient rights rules and statutes in the Griffin case. Furthermore, a random selection of five other complaints, dated between January and late March 2014, revealed that in four out of six cases studied – including the Griffins' – the hospital ignored its own complaint policy. The on-site investigation, wrote an AHCA administrator, consisted of interviewing patients and staff at IRMC as well as reviewing completed medical charts. READ FULL STORY


Pet owners beware! Poisonous toads have made it to island
week of July 10, 2014

It was about six weeks ago that Michael Fuller noticed his 1 1/2-year-old English Setter, Major, was severely foaming at the mouth and shaking his head. So he immediately rinsed out the dog's mouth, rushed him from their Ocean Pearl home in Vero Beach to Highlands Animal Hospital in Sebastian, where the veterinarian promptly treated Major for toad venom poisoning. From there, Fuller took his dog to an emergency-care animal hospital in Melbourne, where Major spent the night connected to a heart monitor before returning home. "He's fine now," Fuller said. Major is fine because Fuller, who moved to the barrier island from the Kansas City area 4 1/2 years ago, knew exactly what to do if he suspected his dog had licked, bit into or tried to pick up a cane toad. READ FULL STORY


Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend chooses our community
week of July 10, 2014

Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend and his wife Jill have decided to forsake the Ocean Reef Club in favor of the Vero barrier island as the place they make their primary home when Townsend retires in a few years. In the meantime, they will be at the home they just purchased for $2.2 million in Riomar Bay part-time beginning around Labor Day. "My guess is, that's when we will start to migrate down," Townsend says. "My wife will probably be in town over the winter more than I will, but I have a tendency to fly in most weekends." The Townsends have been winter residents of the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo for decades, but Townsend said Vero Beach had greater appeal as a place to spend his post media-mogul years. The Townsends presence here will certainly lend the town some added cache. A well-known yachtsman and former commodore of the New York Yacht Club, he leads one of the most successful media companies in the world, publisher of Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, GQ, The New Yorker, Architectural Digest, Golf Digest, Wired and a dozen other premier magazine titles in the U.S. and around the world. READ FULL STORY


Death of Hospital District treasurer roils indigent care negotiations
week of July 10, 2014

The death last week of Hospital District Treasurer Trevor Smith, whose 2011 Jaguar veered off AIA and slammed into the concrete base of a utility pole, leaves the community stunned and saddened, as well as perplexed about how contentious negotiations over the indigent care agreement will now play out. Smith, 74, was the District's point man in negotiations with Indian River Medical Center over what amount the District will pay the hospital in tax dollars for indigent care in fiscal 2014-2015, and the time allotted for arriving at that amount is running out. "The fact that he's no longer with us may have a critical negative effect on our dealings with the hospital," said Hospital District Chairman Tom Spackman. "Trevor was tremendously well respected as a financial person and a real gentleman. He had a great deal of knowledge and finesse when negotiating, and I'm not sure how this will go without him," said District Trustee Burton Lee. READ FULL STORY


Audit sought of shadow electric lobbying group
week of July 3, 2014

When the Florida Auditor General camps out in the Orlando offices of the Florida Municipal Power Agency co-op to perform a full operational audit, the Indian River Board of County Commissioners wants state officials to also look into the FMPA's shadow lobbying organization. While the FMPA is a public entity, the Florida Municipal Electric Association or FMEA is classified as a trade organization and thereby not covered under Florida's Sunshine laws. How much money the FMEA collects and, more importantly, how it spends that cash to promote and protect the cause of municipal-owned electric utilities is a secret – even though potentially millions of dollars in membership dues paid to the FMEA each year come right out of electric customers' bills. The FMEA employs nine lobbyists, including its full-time executive director Barry Moline and its director of public affairs Amy Zubaly, to seek to thwart any attempted regulation of municipal electric utilities. READ FULL STORY


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