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The challenge of joining up with Cleveland Clinic
week of February 14, 2019

It was Day 37 of the Cleveland Clinic/Indian River Medical Center merger and if anyone was wondering who’s counting, Dr. Gregory Rosencrance made it clear: He is. In an hour-long, town-hall style presentation at Quail Valley’s River Club last week – the 14th such presentation he has given – the new president of Cleveland Clinic Indian River discussed the many tasks involved and the progress made so far in integrating an 86-year-old small-town community hospital into one of the top healthcare systems in the world. Among other things, he talked about how joining Cleveland has already benefited healthcare at Indian River, how Cleveland evaluates doctors and the future of medical education at the hospital here. “What happened Jan. 1 was about a seven-fold expansion of beds” in Cleveland’s Florida network, Rosencrance said, as a map of the state peppered with dots flashed on a screen to indicate Cleveland Clinic’s creep along Florida’s east coast. “We’re big, and we want to be big, but we want to act small,” he said. “Healthcare is a one-on-one, individual endeavor.” READ FULL STORY

A Cleveland Clinic leader’s first visit to Vero’s hospital
week of February 14, 2019

The day before the first board meeting of the newly minted Cleveland Clinic Indian River, a portrait of a somber young man was hung on a conference room wall, the painting’s gilt frame set off by walls freshly painted in a shade jokingly known as Cleveland Clinic White. The frame bears a discrete plate etched with the name Dr. J.B. Kollar. A modest object recently discovered coated with dust in a hospital storage room, the painting conjures up dramatic events that took place in and near Vero Beach that forged a life-and-death link between the town and Cleveland Clinic nearly 80 years before Cleveland took over the county’s largest hospital. On April 3, 1941, an Eastern Airlines passenger plane crashed in a swamp 11 miles west of Vero during a violent storm. Onboard was renowned surgeon Dr. George Crile, along with his wife, Grace, and 11 other passengers. After being rescued, Crile, a co-founder of Cleveland Clinic, was treated at a tiny hospital on Dixie Highway. Many years and several incarnations later, Indian River Hospital would eventually become a part of the Cleveland Clinic, in a merger finalized on Jan. 1. READ FULL STORY

If Publix supermarket does not come to Orchid, Village Beach Market interested
week of February 14, 2019

Overwhelming local opposition to Publix’s plan to build a supermarket-anchored shopping center in Orchid has renewed the Village Beach Market owners’ interest in putting a second island store on the seven-acre parcel a half mile east of the Wabasso causeway. Jason Keen, chief operating officer of the Vero Beach Market, said he’s closely monitoring the situation, waiting to see if Publix withdraws its application after a recent survey of the town’s homeowners revealed 87 percent of them opposed the Florida-based supermarket chain’s proposal. A digital survey, conducted last month by the Orchid Island Community Association after Publix representatives gave a presentation in the town, showed that 221 of 255 respondents opposed the project. Only 14 homeowners – just 6 percent – were in favor of it. Nicole Krauss, Publix’s corporate spokesperson for Florida’s southeast region, did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment on the survey’s results. “We’re not going to do anything with the town until we know Publix is out, one way or another, but we still definitely have an interest in doing something up there,” Keen said. “We think we’d be a good fit with the town and the surrounding community.” READ FULL STORY

What’s really going on with former INEOS facility?
week of February 14, 2019

Less than a month after trying to auction off the entire defunct INEOS plant, or sell its surplus land and equipment piecemeal, Indian River Eco-District Managing Partner Alain Castro last week told the County Commission the latest grandiose plan to host a group of businesses at the site would collapse if he doesn’t get cheap methane gas from the county landfill. Castro said the as-yet-unnamed companies that allegedly are poised to launch operations at the former ethanol plant – companies, he says, that ultimately could employ hundreds of local people – had to have access to the gas to move forward. The county finally voted to negotiate a contract with Eco-District – a subsidiary of Texas-based Frankens Energy that bought the defunct INEOS facility for a bargain basement price a year ago – to sell it the gas that is currently being burned off for safety reasons as it is emitted from the landfill and released through an exhaust system. But amazingly, there was no discussion during all this of the fact that last month, the Eco-District attempted to auction off the INEOS property – land, buildings and miscellaneous equipment and vehicles – via an online auction company in Minnesota that specializes in marketing industrial sites. READ FULL STORY

Construction about to get started on Lawnwood’s Vero emergency room
week of February 14, 2019

Construction of a freestanding emergency room on the former site of the Quilted Giraffe on U.S. 1 is about to get underway, according to builders as well as Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, which will own the building. “We’re full steam ahead, getting ready to come out of the ground,” said Proctor Construction project manager Rick MacDonald. Lawnwood spokeswoman Landy Angelone said groundbreaking is scheduled for next week, with an anticipated opening in October. “We look forward to offering care to the community as we continue to grow through additional freestanding emergency department and surgery center expansions,” she said. Proctor demolished two buildings on the south Vero site last fall and Lawnwood’s sign for the new ER has been up since then. MacDonald said the last of the required permits were finally received in the past two weeks. Freestanding emergency rooms have increased in popularity over the past decade, though they are considerably more expensive for patients than urgent care centers. Like a hospital ER, they can charge a facility fee as well as fees for providers. They typically care for less-critical emergencies than hospital emergency departments. READ FULL STORY

Orchid residents overwhelmingly oppose Publix shopping center
week of February 7, 2019

Orchid residents are overwhelmingly opposed to plans to build a Publix shopping center in a southwest corner of the seaside town, according to the board of the Orchid Island Community Association. In a digital survey of the town’s homeowners, 221 of the 255 respondents – a whopping 87 percent – opposed the project, while only 14 (6 percent) favored it, the association said. Twenty homeowners, or 7 percent of the respondents, said they were “neutral.” The board of the association, in announcing the survey’s results in an email to Orchid homeowners, said it intended to support the “majority view” of the community, and encouraged residents to “make your opinions known” to the members of the Town Council and Local Planning Agency. The Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club’s board of governors earlier voted unanimously to oppose the proposed development and urged the Town Council to do the same. In an email to club members, the board wrote that the project is “nowhere near compliant” with the town’s current zoning and code requirements, which were put in place to “assure a development that was compatible” with the Orchid community. READ FULL STORY

Polish Americans to finally get their Social Club back
week of February 7, 2019

An insurgent group that seized control of Vero Beach’s longtime Polish-American Social Club three years ago – turning it into the Vero Beach Social Club – has been ordered to vacate the club’s building within 20 days, return all property to the Polish faction’s member’s, and pay $27,864 in damages. In a ruling issued Jan. 22, Circuit Judge Janet Croom also invalidated all legal documents related to the takeover, including deeds and bills of sale. Croom’s decision concludes a three-year legal battle over the clubhouse on U.S. 1 and an estimated $1.25 million in assets once set aside to promote the culture and heritage of the Eastern European nation. Following years of disagreement over the club’s direction, the board of directors then in place formed a new corporation – the Vero Beach Social Club – in 2015. It then transferred the Polish-American Club’s assets to the new nonprofit and, without a vote by its membership, dissolved the original corporation. READ FULL STORY

For an island family, the front is very near
week of February 7, 2019

At 3 a.m. in a bedroom on a quiet street in Indian River Shores, one father last week was doing what countless other military parents – some of them also residents of our community – do every night. He was checking his cellphone, hoping for a text message from the front lines nine time zones away – just a few words confirming that his son is OK. Unable to sleep, he scanned international and military news websites for any scrap of information about events in the troubled area where his son is deployed. “I haven’t slept a full night since he left and I’m not going to sleep a full night until he’s home safe,” the father said over the weekend, admitting the deployment of his son, a 24-year-old U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, is even tougher on his wife, the young Marine’s mother. This “hyper vigilance” for months or years on end takes an emotional and physical toll on military families. In this case, the father is a man many 32963 residents know and respect: Indian River Shores Public Safety Chief Rich Rosell. READ FULL STORY

Cleveland Clinic Indian River board features both new and familiar faces
week of February 7, 2019

A familiar hand was set to wield the gavel at the first scheduled meeting of the new board of directors of Cleveland Clinic Indian River. Wayne Hockmeyer, the former chairman of the board of Indian River Medical Center, had been named chairman of the new board as well. Tuesday’s meeting was historic not only because of the prestigious new affiliation with Cleveland that began Jan. 1. It was also likely the first board of directors meeting in the hospital’s long history that was not open to the public. Previously, the hospital’s management was required by its lease with the Hospital District to hold certain meetings in public, in keeping with the spirit of the district’s requirement to follow government-in-the-sunshine rules. For those Vero residents named to the new board, it was a time to reconnect – all but one were on the Indian River Medical Center board. That one, Marybeth Cunningham, is an ex-officio member of the new board as chairwoman of the Hospital District. READ FULL STORY

Defense ordered to share mental info on accused Duve killer
week of February 7, 2019

Defense medical experts for Michael David Jones, charged with the gruesome murder of 26-year-old nurse Diana Duve, have been ordered by Circuit Court Judge Daniel Vaughn to turn over their findings to state prosecutors, whose own requests have been rebuffed for months. Vaughn, during a Jan. 31 hearing, approved subpoenas ordering the experts, including a neurologist and psychiatrist, to provide state attorneys all medical findings and documents explaining what instruments and techniques were used to make their determinations about Jones’ mental health. “As a representative for the people of this state, I need to know these things,” said Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl. Jones, 36, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge. He is accused of strangling Duve, a Sebastian River Medical Center nurse and resident of The Moorings, at his Vero townhouse, then putting her body in the trunk of her black Nissan Altima and driving to Melbourne where he abandoned the car in a Publix parking lot. If convicted, Jones could face the death penalty. READ FULL STORY

Area hospitals will help patients predict cost of a procedure
week of February 7, 2019

If there was one positive outcome in the seemingly senseless government mandate that hospitals release their wildly inflated “sticker price” list for treatment known as the chargemaster, it is that consumers searching for the list may come across initiatives already in place to help them predict how much a procedure will cost. Both Cleveland Clinic Indian River (formerly Indian River Medical Center) and Steward Sebastian River Medical Center offer personalized estimates of the cost of treatment or procedures. For consumers, the chargemaster price list is largely incomprehensible, unnavigable and irrelevant to what they can expect to pay, even though it includes a charge for every possible billable procedure or group of procedures for a particular diagnosis, plus every test, drug and medical supply. Until recently, the byzantine spreadsheet of code names and numbers was considered proprietary information, used in ultra-confidential negotiations with insurance companies that discount the chargemaster figures to arrive at the amount they will reimburse hospital for a covered patient. READ FULL STORY

Cleveland Clinic land buy hints at a new hospital
week of February 7, 2019

Could Cleveland Clinic Florida finally be getting a Palm Beach County hospital the old-fashioned way – by building it? Speculation about that possibility intensified last week when news came that the health system has acquired 35 acres of vacant land in unincorporated Palm Beach County, not far from the fast-growing town of Wellington and about four miles from the Wellington Regional Medical Center. Cleveland has expanded aggressively in the past year, acquiring hospitals and clinics in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties to go with its flagship Florida hospital in Broward County, and it clearly wants to operate in the only county along the east central Florida coast where it does not have a hospital. Palm Beach County property records show the 19-acre tract of vacant land, zoned agricultural/residential, was purchased in December for $4.6 million. An adjacent 16.3-acre tract was purchased for $4.63 million in January, according to South Florida Business Journal. Cleveland Clinic confirmed the purchases but did not offer a timeline or plans for development. READ FULL STORY

Suspects allegedly attempt to flush drugs with deputies outside bathroom window
week of February 7, 2019

Two Vero residents are facing multiple felony charges after allegedly trying to flush large qualities of marijuana down a toilet in their home as deputies stood outside the bathroom window, according to an Indian River County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit. The incident occurred on Jan. 25, when sheriff’s deputies acting on a tip arrived at 8725 105th Court, looking for felony suspect Zachary Music, age 23. According to Deputy Dwayne Hollett, when he approached the residence, he saw Music through the window in the front door “walking into a bedroom located in the south end of the residence.” When Hollett knocked, a juvenile opened the door and admitted that Music was in the house. As Hollett approached the closed bedroom door, Music opened the door and was grabbed by the deputy. As Hollett detained Music, he saw through the open door “several marijuana plants within a containment area designed for cultivating” pot. READ FULL STORY

Vero High student creates app to predict algae blooms in lagoon
week of February 7, 2019

Vero Beach High School science whiz Griffin Wagner last Wednesday took top honors at the Indian River Regional Science and Engineering Fair for his project aimed at combating the region's most pressing environmental problem: algae blooms fouling the Indian River Lagoon. Wagner created a computer program that he says can predict blue-green algae blooms in the estuary four to seven days in advance. The 17-year-old also developed a phone app to alert local officials (or anyone else) to the location of an impending bloom and its possible causes, and suggest ways to mitigate its effects. "It can predict algae blooms with a 93 percent success rate," Wagner said. Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, produces the 'green slime' that periodically afflicts lagoon waters – killing fish, shellfish and other marine creatures as well as their sea grass habitat. One species, microcystis, produces a toxin that makes people sick. Wagner, an 11th-grader and top finisher at science fairs for the past five years, says he has been researching algae blooms in the lagoon for more than year, trying "to create a preventative measure and warning system for the lagoon." READ FULL STORY

Rare beach closures on the island lifted this week
week of February 7, 2019

It was a rare event when three island beaches were closed to swimming last Thursday because of bacterial contamination. Vero Beach Recreation Director Rob Slezak said it was the first no-swimming advisory due to fecal bacteria at city beaches in at least a decade. After a record-breaking deluge of rain on Sunday, Jan. 27, high levels of bacteria associated with feces were measured at South Beach, Humiston Beach and Sexton Plaza, prompting the city to post warnings against going into the water. “It’s fecal. We had a lot of rain Sunday,” said Florida Health Department spokeswoman Stacy Broc. “It could be run-off. It could be a number of things.” The state – which has been testing 16 sites bi-weekly since 2002 – got results on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday from water samples taken Monday morning at the three beaches. When levels of the enterococci bacteria were found to have dropped below the threshold of 70 colonies in 100-milliliter water samples, the advisory was lifted.

Environmental Learning Center director resigns
week of January 31, 2019

The abrupt resignation of Environmental Learning Center Executive Director Molly Steinwald on Friday, Jan. 18, came as a surprise to the organization’s board of directors, says Board Chairman Don Barr. In a notice posted on her Facebook page, Steinwald wrote, in part, “I resigned as the Executive Director of Environmental Learning Center (ELC) Friday, due to differences in governance and understanding of the immediate needs of the organization.” By Saturday, after Steinwald and board members agreed that making her exit immediate would be best, she was gone. The search quickly began to find a replacement, which Barr estimates will take three to six months. Only the second executive director since the ELC’s inception in 1988, Steinwald brought impressive credentials to the position when she arrived in November 2014 to replace Holly Dill, who retired after 27 years at the helm of the island nonprofit known for teaching county grade-schoolers about ecology and the environment. So what happened? Was the board dissatisfied? Was Steinwald asked to leave? READ FULL STORY

Spawning sea trout a good sign for our lagoon
week of January 31, 2019

More spotted sea trout than ever before have been recorded reproducing in the Indian River Lagoon between Vero Beach and Fort Pierce, a highly encouraging indicator of good water quality in our stretch of the 150-mile-plus estuary. That's the gist of a just-completed scientific study by prominent Vero marine scientist Dr. Grant Gilmore – a former Harbor Branch researcher and founder of Estuarine Coastal and Ocean Science – and a cadre of local fisherman-volunteers using underwater sound technology. The findings are important because sea trout – a major recreational and commercial fishery all along the lagoon – are regarded as a 'canary in the coal mine' for water quality. The fish need clear, clean water that is more salty than fresh to thrive and reproduce. For that reason, their presence and spawning activity is a marker for good water quality in the lagoon, while the absence of spawning trout indicates polluted or otherwise out of whack parts of the estuary, where there is too much fresh water and too little seagrass. READ FULL STORY

County clears way for eco-friendly expansion of Grand Harbor
week of January 31, 2019

The County Commission last week cleared the way for development of a huge new Grand Harbor subdivision of nearly 900 single-family and multifamily homes built in a serpentine layout amid a manmade saltwater marsh and system of waterways designed to help clean up the Indian River Lagoon. As part of the project, three quarters of a mile of raised boardwalk will be constructed that will allow nature lovers to walk deep into the mangroves behind the new development. “This is an incredible, gutsy, cutting-edge project,” County Commissioner Bob Solari told the developer’s representative at the Jan. 22 commission meeting. “It will become a destination point for a lot of people. It’s the most impressive project I’ve seen as a county commissioner. I want to applaud your effort. It will be a tremendous benefit for the whole community.” At the meeting, commissioners approved rezoning a 413-acre tract north of 53rd Street from residential to Planned Development, a designation that gives developers more flexibility in designing a new community, in this case clustering buildings to create more open green space. READ FULL STORY

Vero real estate broker arrested for bilking big-time clients
week of January 31, 2019

No matter whether he is convicted at trial or cleared of all wrongdoing, Brian J. Burklew is likely to rue the day he ever took on OSV Investments as a client. The longtime local real estate broker is facing two felony charges for allegedly billing the Vero Beach investment company tens of thousands of dollars for repairs to a property police say was never worked on. The initials in the name of the investment company, which police allege was bilked out of nearly $30,000 by Burklew, are what make this a high-profile case. The “O” in OSV stands for former Vero Beach mayor and Central Beach resident Harry Offutt. The “S” stands for longtime criminal defense attorney Charles Sullivan Sr. and the “V” for civil trial attorney Louis B. “Buck” Vocelle of the Vocelle and Berg law firm. Burklew, 51, owner of Burklew Real Estate, was arrested on Jan. 22 and charged with organized fraud ($20,000 to $50,000) and second-degree grand theft. He posted a $53,000 bond on Jan. 23, and could not be reached for comment. Burklew’s arraignment is scheduled for March 15. READ FULL STORY

Musical chairs: Shores hires manager; Vero looking
week of January 31, 2019

As Paul Carlisle settles in as Sebastian’s new city manager, former Sebastian city manager Joe Griffin prepares to re-emerge from a brief retirement to take over the top job in Indian River Shores while Vero Beach opens up the search to replace City Manager Jim O’Connor. Griffin, a retired U.S. Airways pilot and decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran, will start Feb. 11 and be paid $140,000 per year. He was hired by a 4-1 vote last Thursday, with Vice Mayor Bob Auwaerter dissenting. Auwaerter said he had heard Griffin speak to a group a few months ago about how happy he was to be retiring and that it would take a lot to convince him of Griffin’s sudden change of heart. Easygoing, problem-solver and peacemaker are some of the words those who worked with Griffin in Sebastian use to describe his demeanor. Griffin has a reputation for striking a good balance between practicing a no-nonsense leadership style and cultivating rapport with residents, council members, other managers and employees. READ FULL STORY

School district seeks dismissal of lawsuit by beaten student
week of January 31, 2019

School district attorneys are asking a circuit court judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a former student whose skull was fractured when he was severely beaten in class by another student, arguing – among other things – that the injured student had antagonized his assailant by looking in his general direction. School attorneys also argue that the lawsuit filed by Dustin Turnage, the injured student, is baseless because the classroom teacher, Brian Krystoforski, didn’t realize the victim was in danger and couldn’t have prevented the attack. But the school district’s claim is contradicted by Krystoforski’s deposition, in which he admitted repeatedly warning the attacker “for more than five minutes” to stop threatening to beat up the victim. “Everything they’re saying is ludicrous,” said Nancy Turnage, the mother of Dustin Turnage. “This case has dragged on for six years now. Enough is enough. It’s time to go to trial.” Circuit Judge Janet Croom has not ruled on the district’s dismissal request, which was filed last month. A hearing is set for Feb. 18 to schedule a trial date. READ FULL STORY

New proposals sought for expanding Gifford Health Center
week of January 31, 2019

After reviewing two proposals to run an expanded Gifford Health Center, the County Hospital District has decided to issue a new Request for Proposals. That pushes the timeframe to hopefully have new services up and running at the center out to next fall. The initial proposal process was to have wrapped up by the end of January, but it turned out the two proposals that came in were calculated with widely differing patient volumes. Trustee Allen Jones sent the proposals back to correct the “apples-to-oranges” issue, but ultimately, on the advice of the hospital district’s attorney, the board decided to restart the selection process and issue a new RFP instead. Now a new wrinkle has come up in the RFP process: one of the potential applicants may have a problem providing free care, a requirement imposed by the hospital district. Jones, who is spearheading the expansion project, wants treatment to be free for those uninsured medically indigent patients whose care the hospital district underwrites. But Treasure Coast Community Health, one of the two applicants, is a federally qualified health center. READ FULL STORY

Longtime Dodgertown GM Callan still on job after takeover
week of January 31, 2019

As longtime Dodgertown general manager and Historic Dodgertown vice president Craig Callan put it: “There’s no new me yet.” In other words: Major League Baseball, which earlier this month took over Historic Dodgertown’s operations from the five-way partnership led by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, hasn’t yet brought in anyone to run the place. So Callan, who turns 70 in April, will remain in the job until Tony Reagins, MLB’s senior vice president for youth programs, hires his successor. “I told Peter and Tony that, after 40 years here and leaving on the best of terms, I’m willing to do it as long as they need me – as long as they don’t need me too long,” Callan said last week. “They’re taking their time, making sure they get the right person to represent Major League Baseball in Vero Beach. “Eventually, there will be a new CEO or VP or GM chosen to move the facility forward and oversee the changes that will be made,” he added. READ FULL STORY

Answers sought for high county infant mortality rate
week of January 24, 2019

The Indian River County Hospital District last week made a rare venture outside its mission to fund healthcare for the indigent, and voted to fund research into why babies die here at a rate higher than the rest of the state. The District Board approved a $60,000 fetal and infant mortality review, the first such study in more than a decade, according to Miranda Hawker, who leads the state Health Department office in Indian River County. “We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years,” said district trustee Allen Jones, who since joining the board in late 2014 has made it his quest to improve the health of the county’s babies and their mothers. Jones is frustrated that what he called the “excellent” prenatal care the hospital district funds through the Partners in Women’s Health program – care for some 600 women deemed medically indigent – has not brought down the rate of infant deaths, particularly in the black community. READ FULL STORY

Hospital preparing to contract out jobs of service workers
week of January 24, 2019

When the staff of what had been Indian River Medical Center met for the first time with Cleveland Clinic executives on Jan. 9, a clear concern was expressed: Would employees have to reapply for the jobs they currently held? Reapplication is sometimes required in transitions like the one that just took place as Cleveland acquired the county’s largest hospital. The answer from Cleveland was equally clear – and in writing. “No, they will not,” was the response spelled out in a takeaway of questions and answers. For two divisions in the hospital, that answer held up exactly a week. Last Wednesday and Thursday, janitors, cooks and everyone else in the dietary and environmental services divisions – more than 200 workers, according to one source – were told they would indeed have to reapply for their jobs. And not with Cleveland Clinic, but with an outside contractor: Aramark, a global facilities maintenance, food services and uniform company. Cleveland Clinic uses Aramark’s services at its Weston hospital as well as most of its Ohio community hospitals, and it will be taking over those services at Cleveland Clinic Indian River. The 200 workers will be employed by Aramark, not Cleveland Clinic. READ FULL STORY

City Council approves site plan for Rowing Club boathouse
week of January 24, 2019

The Indian River Rowing Club is a big step closer to having its own boathouse on the river in Vero Beach following the City Council’s 5-0 approval of the club’s site plan last week. “That was the last functional hoop we had to jump though,” said club secretary and former Notre Dame rower Shotsi Lajoie, who sounded both relieved and excited to finally get a green light from the city to move the project forward. “We are very happy.” Back in November 2015, the club, officially named Vero Beach Rowing Inc., signed a 25-year lease with the city for a 1.66-acre piece of property behind the Volunteer Ambulance Squad in MacWilliams Park at the eastern end of the Merrill Barber Bridge. The $25-a-year lease includes an option to renegotiate for another 25 years in 2040. According to the site plan application, the club plans to build a two-story, 14,734-square-foot structure, the ground floor for boat and “rowing vessel” storage, the second level for the club's office and exercise and training areas. READ FULL STORY

Curtis Huff Jr. charged with insurance fraud
week of January 24, 2019

A Vero Beach man who has served time for attempted murder and been a suspect in two others has been charged with insurance fraud greater than $100,000, a felony. Curtis Huff Jr., 50, 955 32nd Ave. SW, was arrested for insurance fraud on Jan. 7 and released from Indian River County Jail after posting a $20,000 bond on Jan. 9, according to court records. Huff, who is employed by MBV Engineering, was involved in an auto accident at 7:45 a.m. on June 13, 2017, according to an Indian River County Sheriff’s Office report. The single-car crash occurred on Route 60, 13 miles west of I-95. After the accident, Huff was airlifted to Lawnwood Medical Center and treated for unspecified injuries. He was released from the hospital on June 15, 2017, and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, stating that he was working at the time of the crash, according to a court affidavit. His claim was approved by FCCI Insurance group, which paid Huff $137,070.30. READ FULL STORY

Are School District reserves running dangerously low?
week of January 24, 2019

School Superintendent Mark Rendell was unable to give clear answers on how much cash is in the general fund at the Jan. 15 School Board meeting, but he denied recently-resigned Finance Director Julianne Pelletier’s warning that the district’s reserves will soon fall to 2.5 percent, or $3.8 million. That would be a problem because state statute requires a 3 percent cash remain in school district general funds for emergencies and unexpected expenditures. School Board Chair Laura Zorc placed discussion of Pelletier’s report at the top of the meeting agenda to warn fellow board members against any unnecessary spending until the state of the fund balance is made clear. Zorc said the report “is very troubling,” and needed to be brought “out into the sunshine.” Zorc only cited part of Pelletier’s report, a list of pending expenditures that will leave the general fund short. The list included $600,000 in fines levied on the school district by the state for miscounting bus riders, $2.6 million due employees, $90,000 for “additional legal fees” and $70,000 for “generator fuel leak clean up/tank replacement.” READ FULL STORY

Vero may consider local talent in search for new city manager
week of January 24, 2019

The current Vero Beach City Council debates many issues, and discussions sometimes get testy. But one thing council members agree on is that City Manager Jim O’Connor will leave enormous shoes to fill. Realizing what a job they have in front of them as they seek his replacement, the council decided that – parallel to hiring a search firm to recruit and filter qualified candidates – they would also consider people they already know. Mayor Harry Howle pointed out at least four talented local people who might want to step forward. He said he would like to get “some people who have an idea of our local ins and outs to participate if they’re interested. “If Joe Baird wanted to apply, then he should apply,” Howle said. Former county administrator Joe Baird, an Indian River Shores resident, has been working as a government affairs consultant for Republic Services. Howle also pointed to retiring Shores Town Manager Robbie Stabe. READ FULL STORY

Wesley Davis making changes at Property Appraiser’s office
week of January 24, 2019

Change is coming fast following the appointment earlier this month of Wesley Davis to be the new County Property Appraiser. Deputy Property Appraiser Sissy Long, who had been recommended for the top job by David Nolte before he died in office last fall, has resigned. In the No. 2 spot now on a consulting basis is Darlene “Beannie” Silverstein, who served as Nolte’s chief deputy for 25 years. Davis has also added a familiar face to his team to improve interactions with the taxpaying public and the media. Former Vero councilman and Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce official Charlie Wilson is now serving as director of communications and government affairs. Wilson said the personnel changes fall within Davis’ current, approved agency budget. With Silverstein’s decades of experience, Wilson said moving her into Long’s spot has resulted in “no interruption of service.” Davis also has reached out to local CPA Glenn Heran to help form a citizen audit committee that will take a hard look at the operations of the appraiser’s office. READ FULL STORY