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Neighbors worry about expansion of Vero Marina
week of August 15, 2019

City officials are attempting to quell the concerns of an island community group that redevelopment and expansion of the deteriorating Vero Beach Municipal Marina will bring mega yachts and commercial businesses to the site along with traffic congestion. New Marina Manager Sean Collins has been assuring the Community Park & Marine Group – a citizens group formed by Central Beach residents and members of the boating community – that although some marina expansion concepts call for additional and bigger boat slips, mega yachts are expected to steer clear of Vero Beach since they tend to dock in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. “To say just because we rebuild the marina, mega yachts will come is a stretch,” Collins said, adding he expects only “a few” would dock at an improved facility. Hotels, restaurants and other commercial space are not in the cards either – just an expanded marina with aging docks swapped out for new ones, Collins said. “The city marina is already a destination. We have thousands of boats that come through here every year, not to mention all the local ones that call this place home,” Collins said, noting some parts of the facility still standing today were built in the 1930s. “This place is a gem. It’s just a little bit buried in the dirt. It needs to be cleaned up quite a bit.” READ FULL STORY

Prosecution lays out evidence it wants to use in Jones murder trial
week of August 15, 2019

With less than two months to go before jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of former PNC Wealth Management advisor Michael David Jones, the admissibility of key evidence tracking the movements of Jones and victim Diana Duve is being debated by attorneys. Credit card receipts, cellphone records, hotel reservations and video surveillance footage from three counties have helped investigators piece together the events of the last days of 26-year-old Duve’s life, plus the next few days after she went missing in June 2014. State Attorney Bruce Colton’s office filed paperwork to admit those business records by certification, as representatives from the businesses providing the evidence to the court attested to the authenticity of the records. “All of the evidence which the state seeks to admit pursuant to this motion has been either provided to or made available to the defense pursuant to the state’s discovery obligations,” Assistant State Attorney Brian Workman wrote, adding that defense attorneys have had ample opportunity to explore or question the validity of the records and to depose the people who provided the receipts, video recordings or other records. READ FULL STORY

Council to discuss options for moving sewer plant off lagoon
week of August 15, 2019

Later this month, the City Council again will discuss turning over Vero Beach’s municipal water and sewage systems to the county as a possible alternative to spending more than $30 million to build a new wastewater treatment plant at the airport. City Councilman Harry Howle said last week he plans to put the matter on the panel’s agenda later this month. “When the topic was brought up a few years ago, there wasn’t much interest on the city’s part,” Howle said. “But now that we’re talking seriously about moving the wastewater treatment plant off the lagoon, this could be a way to fast-track the process. “Certainly, it’s an option we should consider,” he added. “The alternative is to borrow $30 million to $50 million to build a new facility.” Recently retired city manager Jim O’Connor said it probably would take two years to build a new plant at the airport. Howle, who has announced he will not seek re-election, said he has had informal conversations with County Commissioner Bob Solari to gauge the county’s potential interest in the city’s water and sewage systems. READ FULL STORY

More teachers, fewer subs in classrooms as new school year starts under new leader
week of August 15, 2019

For the first time in at least three years, the school district started the new school year on Monday with a permanent fulltime teacher assigned to each classroom. That’s a far cry from recent years when the district utilized as many as two- to three-dozen substitutes instead of hiring permanent teachers in an effort to save money. The new strategy is one of many changes implemented by Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley, who vowed when she was hired May 24 to improve student learning – in part by equipping classrooms with full-time, qualified teachers. Substitute teachers are poorly paid – $75 a day is the base rate in the IRC school district – and often lack the education, training or experience of regular teachers. Another drawback to subs that come and go is a lack of consistency in teaching methods and classroom expectations that can undermine children’s success. “We want regular teachers in the classrooms so that they can set the expectations we have for students,” Moxley said. “Having a full-time teacher in the classroom is better for the students because they can begin forming relationships on the first day.” READ FULL STORY

Blue-green algae toxin found in tissues of bull sharks in Lagoon
week of August 15, 2019

Toxic blue-green algae blooms are threatening the health of bull sharks in the Indian River Lagoon, one of the most important blue shark nurseries on the Atlantic coast, according to Harbor Branch researchers. Young bull sharks that spend the first few years of their lives in the Lagoon show microcystin toxin – a harmful chemical emitted by blue-green algae – in their tissues even when the algae that produce the toxin aren’t blooming in the estuary. That’s the bottom line of a new, ongoing study by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute assistant research professor Dr. Matt Ajemian and his colleagues at the institute’s Florida Center for Coastal and Human Health. The Center was established about a year ago to investigate harmful algal blooms in the lagoon and determine how they affect the health of people and marine creatures. Ajemian said bull sharks are a potential “sentinel” species in the study because they are relatively high up on the food chain and accumulate toxins from what they eat. Sentinel species are ones that give early indications of ecological problems that can affect humans as well as animals. READ FULL STORY

County deploys 2 artificial reefs south of the Sebastian Inlet
week of August 15, 2019

Indian River County has deployed two new artificial reefs to increase fish habitat and diving opportunities. In July, workers sank 500 tons of recycled concrete from old culverts, barriers and bridge decking in about 50 feet of water three miles offshore about five miles south of the Sebastian Inlet to form JK Patch Reef South. At the same time, they put down JK Patch Reef North – a cluster of 10 limestone-concrete pyramid modules about 600 feet away. The two new reefs are located near the Wabasso Fishing Reef – a structure deployed in June that was made of broken up concrete from the hurricane-ravaged fishing pier on the south side of the Wabasso Causeway. All three structures are part of what the county's Coastal Resources Coordinator Kendra Cope calls "a small but growing artificial reef program" spread across a series of 40-acre sites five to eight miles south of the inlet that were permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016. READ FULL STORY

Sheriff and deputies deadlocked over pay raises
week of August 15, 2019

The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and a union representing nearly 150 deputies are hopelessly deadlocked on how to distribute pay raises after months-long negotiations broke down, triggering a hearing next month before the County Commission intended to end the stalemate. The sheriff and Indian River County Deputies Association – part of the International Union of Police Associations – will have a showdown on Sept. 13 before the County Commission after meeting numerous times last year without reaching an agreement and then disagreeing in June over the recommendations of a special magistrate called in to referee the matter. The commission at the upcoming meeting must render a final decision on raising base salaries and how to distribute pay increases for 149 deputies for the current budget year, which ends in late September. The stalemate started on Dec. 3 when the union sent Undersheriff James Harpring a letter declaring an official impasse in negotiations, Indian River County Detective Joseph Karman said. The union sides with the recommendation of special magistrate Dennis Campagna to start new deputies at $42,000 a year – roughly $3,000 more than the current starting salary of $38,950; increase the top of the pay scale for long-employed deputies from $63,151 to $65,867; and give all other deputies a 4.3 percent raise. READ FULL STORY

Hospital tied for 27th out of 269 in Florida
week of August 8, 2019

Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital finished in a tie with eight other hospitals for 27th out of 269 Florida hospitals in the latest Best Hospitals ranking released by U.S. News. The U.S. News ratings can be confusing, because the publication ranks hospitals on specific programs and procedures in a nationwide comparison and then uses those scores to come up with the hospital’s overall rating. Outside of Indian River County, Cleveland Clinic saw the ranking drop slightly for its main Ohio campus in Cleveland and for the Florida division’s flagship hospital in Weston. Cleveland Clinic Weston dropped to a tie for fifth place in the state from fourth place last year. Still, Weston retained its rank of best in Miami-Fort Lauderdale region, a designation based on its state ranking. The Cleveland Clinic main campus in Cleveland retained its coveted No. 1 ranking in cardiology and heart surgery. But it dropped in overall national rank from second to fourth place, behind Mayo Clinic at No. 1, followed by Boston’s Massachusetts General and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. READ FULL STORY

More low-income residents getting access to healthcare
week of August 8, 2019

More uninsured low-income residents of Indian River County are getting free or lower-cost healthcare than ever before due to a financial aid policy that turns out to be far broader than was generally realized when Cleveland Clinic took over Indian River Medical Center. That policy dictates free care for uninsured patients earning up to 250 percent of poverty guidelines, and discounted care on a sliding fee scale for patients earning up to 400 percent of poverty guidelines. And it now turns out the policy extends beyond the hospital to include treatment by all Cleveland Clinic-employed physicians – primary care, urgent care and specialty care – in practices outside the hospital. “Once a patient is approved with Cleveland Clinic financial assistance, it is applied across all of our employed physician practices,” the hospital’s financial team told Vero Beach 32963. That means the primary care practice on Oslo Road at 43rd Avenue; the walk-in centers at Pointe West and in Sebastian; and the offices in the Wellness Center adjacent to the hospital, will all give free or reduced-cost care to qualifying uninsured patients. READ FULL STORY

Investors bilked by firm raising funds for ‘JetSet’ TV show
week of August 8, 2019

An Ocean Drive firm purporting to be in the business of producing hit television shows was looking for investors willing to put up $3 million to create a show called “JetSet,” showing off luxurious travel, vehicles, products, experiences and destinations. But investigators say the $500,000 that was raised ended up funding the jet-set lifestyles of those running the firm. “The Jet-Set lifestyle was to be showcased and $5-$7 million dollars was projected to be paid by various sponsors,” court records say of the firm’s business plan, as described by its CEO Eric Disomma. Five years later, Managing Partner and CFO Christopher Todd Delaney of Vero Beach is in jail. Questions about exactly what happened to half a million in investor cash may be answered in court as Delaney has pled not guilty and requested a jury trial. Court records show Delaney claims he was just recouping a portion of his own $180,000 investment in the project, but bank records obtained by the FBI don’t seem to support that claim. READ FULL STORY

Vero may annex oceanfront property, enabling developer to build condos
week of August 8, 2019

Condominiums could soon rise on a piece of oceanfront property located behind the CVS and 7-Eleven on A1A just north of the Vero city line where a shuttered marine sciences laboratory currently stands. Florida Institute of Technology is asking the city of Vero Beach to annex the 4.7-acre property, which is currently part of unincorporated Indian River County, so a potential buyer can build multifamily units. The Melbourne-based university plans to sell the abandoned property, 805 46th Place East, within the next 90 days to an undisclosed buyer, spokesman Wes Sumner said. “Florida Tech relocated its marine sciences activities to our Melbourne campus at least two years ago,” Sumner said in an email. “This was done in preparation to sell the property. This relocation aligned better with the focus of research on the Melbourne campus.” Neither Sumner nor Vero Beach attorney Barry Segal, who represents the potential purchaser, would identify the buyer or the sale price. The property is assessed at just under $2.6 million, according to government records. READ FULL STORY

Was community better off when Vero and county had joint recreation department?
week of August 8, 2019

As Vero Beach officials wrestle with the fate of the Leisure Square pool and continue to seek ways to offset the operating costs of the city’s Recreation Department, it’s fair to wonder whether the overall community would be better-served if the county and city still had a joint recreation department, the way they did up until 2002. The consensus among government officials seems to be that a recreation department partnership would be helpful for the city but that it isn’t a realistic possibility in 2019. “It might make sense to have a countywide recreation department, but with all the changes in the county over the years, we could never go back to that kind of joint operation with Vero Beach,” County Commissioner Bob Solari said. “At that point in history, the city was the big municipality in the county, so it made sense for the city to be the leader in this,” he added. “That’s no longer the case, however. The county has grown, and the city hasn’t, and the county has an obligation to its other municipalities, too, especially in the North County. READ FULL STORY

County set to crack down on use of recycling bins for garbage
week of August 8, 2019

County residents who are discarding trash – including soiled diapers and dead animals – in their recycling bins are threatening the viability of the countywide “blue-bin” recycling program, officials say. In response, the County Commission is considering implementing mandatory garbage pickup for households in unincorporated areas of the county – including pockets of the barrier island – to curb contamination of blue bins with trash, while other county officials promise a crackdown on offenders. “This is very serious. We are ready to move aggressively on those folks,” County Administrator Jason Brown has said, referring to residents who use their recycling bins as garbage cans. County officials for weeks have warned that residents who are contaminating the recycling system are jeopardizing the entire program. Recyclable items need to make up at least 80 percent of what goes in the blue bins for the system to work, but in April, Fort Pierce-based Tropical Recycling – the county’s vendor that sorts its recycling loads – reported a 34 percent contamination rate. If Tropical Recycling gets fed up and cuts ties with the county because of high contamination rates, that could cause other vendors to shun the county, said Sue Flak, the county’s recycling coordinator. READ FULL STORY

School Board set to pass new bylaw after meeting confusion
week of August 8, 2019

After a confusing and embarrassing series of events related to a special April 16 meeting that was not properly noticed to the public and that no one wanted to admit having called for, the School Board is amending its bylaws in hopes of avoiding a repeat performance. According to Florida statutes, special School Board meetings can only be called by the district superintendent, school board chairman or a majority of the board members and must be announced to the public two days ahead of time. The notice requirement seems not to have been met for the April 16 meeting and it has never been clear who was involved in calling the meeting – deficiencies that triggered investigations by the Florida Department of Education’s Inspector General’s Office and the Indian River County Sheriff’s Department that are ongoing. Meeting records initially stated that Vice Chairman Tiffany Justice and board members Jackie Rosario and Teri Barenborg called for the special meeting which allowed now-departed Superintendent Mark Rendell a last-gasp attempt to pressure the board into awarding him a severance payout. READ FULL STORY

New school district CFO inherits ‘a financial mess’
week of August 8, 2019

New school district Chief Financial Officer Ron Fagan says poor record-keeping and a lack of oversight have created a confusing financial mess at the district. Still in his first month on the job, Fagan has had to try and sort out that mess while simultaneously leading the effort to craft next year’s proposed $298 million school district budget. The process has included discovering unknown chunks of cash tucked away in unlikely places, including $25,000 Fagan recently came across in the district’s food service and operations account. Turned out the money had mistakenly been placed there even though earmarked for other bills. “We knew that we had reserves, but we just didn’t know where they were,” Fagan told Indian River County School Board members during a recent budget workshop. Much of the problem stems from the district operating for a year without a CFO, Fagan said. Former CFO Carter Morrison was suspended by former superintendent Mark Rendell several months before he himself left under a cloud in May. READ FULL STORY

Number of osprey nests at Blue Cypress Lake down from last year
week of August 8, 2019

The total number of osprey nests counted at Blue Cypress Lake in western Indian River County this spring and summer is higher than five years ago, but lower than 2018 when a toxic blue-green algae bloom was first detected in the once-pristine water body. Volunteers from the Pelican Island Audubon Society in Vero Beach have been counting the raptors’ nests annually in the 6,500-acre lake since 2014 to help gauge the health of one of the world’s largest osprey nesting populations. This year, they counted 300 occupied nests in the cypress trees that gave the lake its name – down from 327 in 2018. The volunteers also found the highest number of non-occupied nests ever – 15 to 17 believed to have been destroyed or damaged by storms. “Last year was a banner year before the Microcystis was noticed,” Audubon president Dr. Richard Baker said, referring to the toxin emitted by a blue-green algae bloom in the southern part of the lake in the summer of 2018. The 2018 blue-green algae bloom was the first of its kind detected in the remote lake and it produced toxin levels hundreds of times higher than are considered safe for human contact. READ FULL STORY

‘Very old’ human bones found at condo construction site in Shores still being studied by experts
week of August 8, 2019

Human remains found at the Blue at 8050 Ocean condo construction site in Indian River Shores on June 5 are still being studied by scientists, but the Shores Public Safety Department has been told “the preliminary report regarding the bones is that they are very old and the person, more than likely, died of natural causes. “The final report will be released in a few weeks after they get done dating the bones,” Shores Public Safety Chief Rich Rosell said. “Very old” is no more specific than the assessment of the crime scene specialists who carefully unearthed the near-intact human skeleton and handed it over to the 19th Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner and state archaeologists. “They still believe it’s a very old skeleton,” Rosell said. “One more thing – he was young to middle age and male,” Rosell added. Initial speculation was that the remains might be those of a sailor from the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet that went down offshore from Vero, or maybe even a pirate. READ FULL STORY

Shores beefing up its rainy-day financial reserves
week of August 8, 2019

It’s customary for local governments to keep a tidy sum in reserves for the proverbial rainy day, but this budget season the Town of Indian River Shores seems to be girding itself financially for a 100-year storm. In a recent budget workshop, the consensus of the Shores Town Council was to keep reserves equal to 50 percent of the town’s annual operating expenses, to have on hand in the event of a major hurricane or other natural disaster. That $3.3 million would supply up-front cash to hire contractors for immediate repairs, cleanup and debris removal. It could also float budget overruns in the Public Safety Department should extra staffing be needed and overtime bills start piling up. Council members referenced hurricane damage in the Florida Panhandle from Hurricane Michael and the municipality of Mexico Beach being “wiped out” as the reason to keep enough money to operate for months, if need be. “The reality is that we do sit on a barrier island, subject to storms that can put us in a very bad place,” Vice Mayor Bob Auwaerter said. READ FULL STORY

Ocean Grill icon, ‘Pops’ Mitchell, passes at 83
week of August 1, 2019

Eddie “Pops” Mitchell hadn’t returned to work since a customer’s car ran over his foot in January, but, even at age 83, the Ocean Grill’s longtime parking attendant refused to retire. “He enjoyed the job,” said Mitchell’s son, Wilbert, “greeting the customers when they arrived and helping them park, then talking to them when they came out. That was tough on him, not being able to go to work. “He had been out for a few months, but he was definitely planning to go back.” Two Sundays ago, however, the younger Mitchell stopped by his father’s home to check on him and found him lifeless in his recliner. “He was gone,” Mitchell’s son said, adding that Mitchell had not been ill, and his death was unexpected. “He must’ve died in his sleep.” Last week, the Ocean Grill announced Mitchell’s passing in a Facebook post that told readers he had worked at Vero Beach’s iconic seaside restaurant since 1969, starting as a cook and becoming a pastry chef before moving to the parking lot in 2001. READ FULL STORY

Longtime Community Church ministers to retire
week of August 1, 2019

Nearly a century after the founding of Community Church, two of the most dynamic ministers who have served and led the congregation, Bob and Casey Baggott, will step down in January and move back to Minneapolis where their large family awaits and, the couple hopes, volunteer opportunities abound. The Baggotts leave a congregation of well over a thousand shaped by cultural change they have nudged along. Their leadership and co-conceived sermons have advanced the rights of women to be ordained; gay couples to marry; and faiths to co-exist. Those ideas resulted in waves of worshipers leaving, and new waves arriving, as some members of more conservative churches in town left those congregations to join the traditionally tolerant Community Church. And the storms they endured went well beyond social shifts. Buffeted by the winds of twin hurricanes that battered Vero Beach just months after the Baggotts’ arrival in 2004 and strained by the national economic collapse that began four years later, the church and its mission not only survived but got stronger, the couple said. READ FULL STORY

Top broker leaves Morgan Stanley while under cloud
week of August 1, 2019

A Vero Beach investment executive who had been nationally recognized as one of Morgan Stanley’s top young producers left the firm last month while under internal review, according to multiple sources, including an industry news website. reported July 12 that Michael Kanner departed after the firm “put him on leave” earlier in the month for what one of the website’s sources said “may have involved relatively small indiscretions, including modifying a client’s already-signed signature page with a date.” However, two local industry sources – both longtime financial advisors, speaking on the condition of anonymity – told Vero Beach 32963 last week it’s unusual for brokers, particularly top performers, to be suspended for such minor violations. “You don’t do that type of review for correcting a date, so I’d be surprised if there weren’t more to it,” one source said. “I’d be more surprised if they weren’t doing an audit of his business practices. “Suspensions are rare,” he added, “and when they happen, it’s a big deal.” More unusual, the sources said, is for investment brokers to leave firms where they’ve been wildly successful – especially without taking with them members of their teams. READ FULL STORY

Differences between Vero and Shores over reuse water price have widened
week of August 1, 2019

Even as they head to mediation, the distance between the opposing positions of the City of Vero Beach and the Town of Indian River Shores in their dispute over reuse irrigation water rates seems to have widened. Vero officials are essentially asking for a do-over, seeking to impose new rates and new customer classes onto a seven-year-old franchise agreement with Indian River Shores because Vero can’t cover its costs under the terms it agreed to in 2012. At the same time, Shores officials assert that Vero needs to stick to the 2012 franchise agreement and match Indian River County Utilities rates like the city promised – even if the city negotiated a bad deal. The franchise in dispute was agreed to when the Shores had competing offers on the table to provide the town with reuse irrigation water from both Vero Beach and Indian River County. Shores officials were leaning toward leaving Vero Beach Utilities and going with Indian River County Utilities, but in some 11th-hour horse trading, Vero neutralized its competition be offering to match Indian River County rates. READ FULL STORY

School District will spend more than $1.1 million to put police in all schools
week of August 1, 2019

Indian River School District will spend more than $1.1 million to station police officers at each school in the county during the 2019-20 school year. That amount will be matched by the participating law enforcement agencies. The measure is part of a broad effort to beef up security at school campuses, school officials said. School resource officers have several duties, such as monitoring who enters and leaves school buildings and referring troubled students to counseling to address delinquent behavior, including drug abuse, according to school officials. The agreement calls for the district to provide office space at each school building where officers are assigned. In return, the law enforcement agencies cover half the program costs, including the cost of training officers to serve in schools. “We started doing this after the Margory Stoneman Douglas shooting last year in Fort Lauderdale,” said Board Chairman Laura Zorc. This summer the district also is spending more than $10 million to install single-entry security fences around school campuses. READ FULL STORY

School Board considers replacing costly general counsel
week of August 1, 2019

The School Board is looking for a new attorney – or a better deal from its current general counsel, Suzanne D’Agresta. After being informed that the district has doled out more than $3 million to D’Agresta since she was hired fulltime in 2007, the School Board directed Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley to work with other administrators to figure out the best way of getting qualified competitive bids for the job. In just the past four years, D’Agresta and the Orlando firm Brown, Garganese, Weiss & D’Agresta have been paid more than $1.6 million. D’Agresta collects a $264,000 annual retainer along with additional money for disbursements, travel and other expenses. During the same four-year period, the school district paid out another $1.22 million to other law firms and legal subcontractors hired by D’Agresta or the board to help D’Agresta handle the district’s legal work. “I think to be fair we need to look at other options,” board member Teri Barenborg said. “We don’t want to lose quality, but we owe it to taxpayers to get the best deal. “We are paying way too much money right now.” READ FULL STORY

Beachland, under new principal, is again top school
week of July 25, 2019

Of all the schools in Indian River County, Beachland Elementary, the island’s only public school, showed the most improvement during the past school year. Not only did its overall state grade jump from “C” to back to “A,” according to the 2018-19 report recently released by the Florida Department of Education, but the school racked up its highest overall point total ever – 497 out of a possible 700. In another first for the school, all Beachland third-graders passed to the fourth grade this year. The dramatic rebound for what had long been an “A” school before it slipped to a “C” in 2015 is credited by many School Board members to the leadership of Beachland principal Dr. Colleen Lord, who took over at the school two years ago. But not surprisingly, Lord insists it has been a “school and community effort. “It starts with the classroom,” Lord says. “Our teachers have implemented strategies that reach every student. We provide a curriculum that challenges students and provides assistance to those who need it.” READ FULL STORY

Mersky sees St. Ed’s future as ‘incredibly bright’
week of July 25, 2019

St. Edward’s School’s top administrator, Mike Mersky, has a final year to go as headmaster before retirement. But the head-of-school search committee is already heading into the final stretch in its months-long process to find his successor. Monday, as Mersky returned from vacation to an island campus teeming with summer campers, the search committee was poring over applications, in hopes of whittling them down to a list of semifinalists by August. When Mersky was hired a decade ago, he was one of nearly 50 applicants. Mersky announced last November that June 30, 2020 would be his last day as head of school. A search committee, chaired by board member Wendy Porter, was formed, and in February the committee hired Carney Sandoe and Associates, a private school search firm, to conduct a nationwide search. Just before spring break in March, Carney Sandoe spent two days meeting with St. Ed’s staff, students and parents, and then sent out 5,000 surveys to everyone from board members to grandparents. The surveys were intended to provide input for a profile of the position and its requirements that was drawn up to give prospective candidates a sense of what the school offers in terms of opportunities and what it is looking for in a head of school. READ FULL STORY

Former Sebastian River CEO hired as No. 2 at Lawnwood
week of July 25, 2019

If Lawnwood Regional Medical Center wants to make inroads into Indian River County, it has found an insider for its C-suite. Kelly Enriquez, former CEO of Sebastian River Medical Center, has been hired as the Fort Pierce hospital’s new chief operating officer. Enriquez led the Sebastian hospital from March 2014 until last October, when she was asked to resign, a year and a half after Steward Health acquired Sebastian River and two hospitals in Brevard County. At the time, Steward’s regional president, Daniel Knell, declined to further characterize the departure. Enriquez was replaced by Kyle Sanders, who remains as Sebastian River’s CEO today. According to multiple sources, Sanders has overseen a spate of significant forced departures in the last few months, with more than a half-dozen leadership positions vacated in critical areas. Last week alone, seven upper- and lower-level staff members were let go, and more layoffs were rumored to be coming. The sources, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said that the departures have saddled remaining staff with additional responsibilities. READ FULL STORY

Cleveland Clinic sees admissions surge
week of July 25, 2019

Dr. Greg Rosencrance last week offered an upbeat assessment of the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital’s first half-year under its new ownership that included a 10 percent increase in patient admissions as well as surgeries fueling a $1 million head start over last year’s budget, year to date. One Indian River County Hospital District trustee called it the best report he’d seen in 20 years. “People are seeking our care in record numbers,” the CEO told the District Board. It was the first public report from Cleveland Clinic Indian River. A requirement for semi-annual reporting was included in Cleveland’s lease with the Hospital District. Along with increased patient volume, there was a substantial decrease in readmissions, from 12.4 percent to 7.8, an important quality metric that will be reflected in safety scores. Infection rates will be reflected in safety scores, too, and Rosencrance noted those rates are at or below target in two measures, but that the hospital still needs to do better controlling C. difficile, a bacterium that can cause life-threatening colon inflammation. A new handwashing campaign is expected to help rein in that bug. READ FULL STORY

Council considers building new City Hall at Centennial Place
week of July 25, 2019

What started as a casual, joking remark about relocating Vero Beach’s nearly 60-year-old, deteriorating City Hall could become a reality. A conversation among City Council members at a budget workshop earlier this month about the need for more than $1 million worth of repairs and renovations to the aging, partially vacant municipal headquarters, located at 1053 20th Place, took a serious turn as a majority of the council agreed with Councilman Robert Brackett when he joked that constructing a smaller building elsewhere could be more cost effective. “Why don’t we postpone the roof work and build a new City Hall?” Brackett quipped after hearing a new roof for the old building could cost between $750,000 and $1 million. The rest of the council agreed with Brackett and asked City Manager Monte Falls to scout for a new location, potentially at the former postal annex on the 35-acre riverfront property at 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard known as Centennial Place. READ FULL STORY

More than 100 may testify in Michael Jones murder trial
week of July 25, 2019

Nearly 125 people have been deposed over the past five years as prosecutors and defense attorneys prepare to bring accused killer Michael David Jones to trial for the premeditated murder of 26-year-old Moorings resident Diana Duve. Jury selection in the trial is set to begin on Oct. 2. Jones, 36, was indicted by a Grand Jury on Aug. 26, 2014, on a first-degree murder charge, which in Florida could mean the death penalty if jurors find him guilty. Circuit Court Dan Vaughn, who took over the case from Judge Cynthia Cox in January, has set aside four weeks for the proceedings. In preparation for trial, attorneys have met regularly to argue motions on the admissibility of evidence, limits on the scope of testimony and general procedures. On July 9, Vaughn filed an order on a defense request that video testimony be taken from Jones’ 89-year-old grandmother, to be used in the sentencing phase should Jones be convicted. “The parties further stipulate that Ann McDonald Clark is unavailable and that the testimony is admissible,” the order said. “The perpetuation of testimony of the aforementioned witness shall take place in Macon, Ga. at a date, time and place to be determined by the parties.” READ FULL STORY

Leisure Square pool closure not final yet
week of July 25, 2019

The Vero Beach City Council last week told impassioned protesters that the decision to pull the plug on the Leisure Square swimming pool isn’t final. At a 2020 budget workshop the prior week, the City Council decided to close the money-losing swimming pool at the city’s Leisure Square recreation complex on Jan. 1 and build a skate park there instead. Council members said the pool costs the city about $194,000 annually but generates only $25,000 in revenue. The decision sparked an angry social media frenzy and more than 100 protesters packed council chambers to try to save the swimming pool. In response, the council told dissidents the decision was not final and could be reversed when the 2020 budget is up for final approval in September. Proponents of keeping the pool open spoke for about three hours, claiming the pool is therapeutic for elderly citizens with arthritis and other ailments, important for young children learning to swim and vital for the Special Olympics and Vero Beach High School, whose swim team practices there. READ FULL STORY

How city spent money from sale of Vero Electric
week of July 18, 2019

The city of Vero Beach pocketed only about 22 percent of the $183.3 million it got from Florida Power & Light when it sold its electrical utility late last year, and that money is already spent or encumbered. After paying off debts and other obligations to the Florida Municipal Power Agency, the Orlando Utilities Commission and bondholders, the city walked away with $39.1 million from the December 2018 sale of its electric power infrastructure and customer base. “The sale was very much like any kind of other property sale or real estate sale like a closing on a house,” said Cindy Lawson, the city’s finance director. “There was a sale price, there were some minor adjustments and then there were disbursements of the sale price to various entities.” Budget documents and deliberations last week showed that the city has since spent or committed the entire net sale proceeds of $39 million plus a few million more to retire old debt, fund pension obligations and bolster the general fund, which for years was subsidized by millions transferred from the profitable electric utility. READ FULL STORY

Can an inflow of ocean water clean up Bethel Creek?
week of July 18, 2019

County commissioners are hoping to persuade a Melbourne-based university to study whether flushing a stagnant and dirty offshoot of the Indian River Lagoon with ocean water can clean up the perpetually murky mess. The commission voted 3-2 to ask Florida Institute of Technology to include Bethel Creek as one of the study sites in a research project intended to determine if polluted areas of the lagoon far from inlets can be cleaned with an inflow of ocean water. The university was awarded $800,000 by the state legislature for the project. Commissioner Tim Zorc is behind the charge to clean the notoriously noxious dead-end area of the lagoon located in northern Central Beach. When he ran for county commission in 2012, ridding Bethel Creek of its stale, murky water by opening some type of connection with the ocean was a prominent part of Zorc’s platform. Talks about how to refresh the creek ramped up in 2017 after a sewage main along State Road A1A burst, dumpling roughly 3 million gallons of raw sewage into the creek that November. Minimal tidal flushing in the creek, which is located more than 10 miles from the Sebastian and the Fort Pierce inlets, left the water dirty for months. READ FULL STORY

Two local nursing homes don’t have generators for hurricane season
week of July 18, 2019

As the season’s first hurricane made landfall on the Gulf Coast last weekend, two Vero nursing homes – Sea Breeze and Consulate – were months away from completing a state-mandated emergency power plan that includes installation of a backup generator able to cool the entire facility for 96 hours. Another nursing home, Florida Baptist, was still installing weatherproofing around the already-installed generators. And an assisted living facility, Harborchase, was waiting on the registration of its fuel tank so that diesel could be delivered to its portable generator. The state began requiring backup power in nursing homes in the fall of 2017 after a dozen residents in a Broward nursing home died due to heat after Hurricane Irma knocked out electricity for three days. According to state figures, Vero’s six nursing homes house close to 500 people. More than 1,000 others live in the county’s 21 assisted living facilities. Independent senior living facilities are not included in the new law requiring backup power. Currently 78 percent of residents in Vero Beach nursing homes and assisted living facilities are assured of staying cool in a power outage, which puts Indian River County well ahead of some surrounding counties. READ FULL STORY

Historic house completes move to Indian River State College
week of July 18, 2019

The three partially dismantled structures were hulking, barely discernible shadows as dawn broke over the island. The historic Laura Riding Jackson homestead – a 110-year-old Cracker house and pole barn – was about to embark on its final journey from the Environmental Learning Center just off the Wabasso Causeway to its new home at the 140-acre Vero Beach campus of Indian River State College. The fragile house’s kitchen, porch and bedroom wings had made the trip a week before. The final pieces – the main section of the house, roof and rangy pole barn – rested on painstakingly placed bases awaiting first light. Brownie Structural Movers chose the time, a Sunday morning, and the zig-zagging northeast-to-southwest route, with only two major highway crossings, to avoid as much traffic as possible. A trio of sheriff’s officers would escort the convoy and control traffic flow. At dawn, the deputies took positions at either end of the Wabasso Causeway bridge and the parade eased out onto the road: In front was the pole barn, weighing 8,000 pounds, on a trailer pulled by a backhoe operated by Kim Brownie, the company’s highly-experienced owner; then the main house, weighing roughly 40,000 pounds, behind a Mack truck, with Brownie’s son James at the wheel; and finally the roof, behind another Mack. READ FULL STORY

Somerset Academy moving ahead with plans for new 1,700-student charter school near Pointe West
week of July 18, 2019

Somerset Academy has been granted tentative approval to open a new K-8 charter school that will eventually enroll 1,700 students in Indian River County, despite a long-running effort by the School Board to block the Texas-based company from opening a school here. The new charter school will be built on a 14-acre site located at 7645 16th Manor, adjacent to the Pointe West development. No beginning construction date or projected opening has yet been announced. The county’s technical review committee was scheduled to go over the school’s application on July 17, an initial step to make sure construction of the school adheres to county construction and building codes, said John McCoy, chief planner of current development for Indian River County. “Somerset Academy’s plan is to build the school in three phases,” McCoy said. “The first phase will include room for up to 600 students for students K-6; the second phase, expansion for 600 seventh graders; and the third phase will add up to 500 eighth grade students. READ FULL STORY

Accused murderer gets another trial delay
week of July 18, 2019

Asbury Lee Perkins, who has thus far avoided going to trial to face charges of premeditated murder in the 2015 shooting death of his estranged wife at a house in South Beach, has found yet another way to delay facing a jury. This time Perkins, who has been deemed indigent, convinced the court to pay for a new specialist, Sheila Rapa, a Fort Lauderdale psychotherapist who will receive $200 an hour to aid in Perkins’ insanity defense, according to court documents filed by Perkins’ court-appointed attorney, Valerie Masters. Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn on July 9 also approved a request by Masters to postpone the case until at least September 18, so she can continue to work on Perkins’ defense. Perkins, 61, was arrested Nov. 4, 2015 and charged with the shooting death of Cynthia Betts, 63, at her home on Seagrape Drive near The Moorings. Deputies said at the time that Perkins – who had rolled his wife’s body up in a rug – admitted to killing her because she nagged him and took money out of a bank account. But he later pled not guilty and has been housed at the Indian River County jail since his arrest. READ FULL STORY

6 local schools, including Beachland, get better grades
week of July 18, 2019

Academic achievement at several Indian River County schools showed improvement this year, but schools with large African-American and Latino student populations continue to falter, according to the 2018-19 school grades released by the Florida Department of Education. Beachland Elementary showed the most improvement, with its state grade leaping from a C to A in one year. Beachland, the island’s only public elementary school, received A grades every year until recently. “We are very pleased with our school grades, as we know it takes the work of many dedicated individuals and the persistence of our students to make this possible,” interim Superintendent Susan Moxley said in a written statement after the state scores came out. “We will continue to work hard, while celebrating our success and overcoming obstacles, to improve our individual school grades each year and meet our district goals.” Overall, Indian River County School District received a B rating for the 2018-19 school year, the same grade it has received every year since the 2015-16 school year. There are 24 schools in the district. READ FULL STORY

Capt. Milo Thornton promoted to high-ranking position
week of July 18, 2019

The highest-ranking black law enforcement officer in the 94-year history of Indian River County, Sheriff’s Capt. Milo Thornton, has been promoted again. Thornton last week was promoted to major, making him one of the agency’s highest-ranking members – with the same rank as Eric Flowers and Selby Strickland – behind only Sheriff Deryl Loar and Undersheriff Jim Harpring. Loar already has announced his endorsement of Flowers’ 2020 candidacy to succeed him as sheriff, but he said Thornton also possesses the background and leadership qualities necessary to run a law-enforcement agency. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see Milo as a police chief someday,” Loar said last weekend, “or in a few years, even run for sheriff.” A black sheriff in Indian River County, which has never elected a black county commissioner or constitutional officer? “Why not?” Thornton said of the possibility, adding that such a run could be in his future. “That’s probably going to scare some people, but I’d be lying if I said the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. READ FULL STORY

Green sea turtles seen nesting on our beaches in record numbers
week of July 18, 2019

Last year saw a plunge in green sea turtle nests in Indian River County, with just 235 counted, the lowest number in more than a decade, but county officials expect a record resurgence for the endangered species this year. The turtles have a cyclical nesting pattern – lots of nests one year, few the next – and just as last year was exceptionally low, this year's nesting season is anticipated to be the best since the county starting keeping records 15 years ago, surpassing the record set in 2017, when more than 2,600 nests were counted. As of June 28, the number of green sea turtle nests had already doubled, with 487 counted so far. Green sea turtles grow up to 4 feet long and weigh up to 350 pounds, living as long as 60 years. County officials are also expecting a good year for loggerhead turtles, the most prevalent species to frequent local beaches. Last year, 5,734 loggerhead nests were recorded and 3,580 have already been counted this year. In 2016, loggerheads experienced a record year with 7,197 nests, the most since numbers have been kept. READ FULL STORY

School district wasted $750K on deseg fight
week of July 11, 2019

During the past three years, the school district under Superintendent Mark Rendell wasted three quarters of a million dollars on a failed attempt to get Indian River County out from under a federal court desegregation order that has been in effect in various forms since the 1960s. The money went to Husch Blackwell, a national law firm that specializes in protecting businesses facing federal litigation, where partner John Borkowski charged the school district what he characterized as “a discounted hourly rate of $540.” The spending spree began in 2015 after Rendell was hired as school superintendent. Facing questions from the School Board about his plans for dealing with the long-running federal order, Rendell hired Husch Blackwell for $150,000 to conduct a study of the district’s past and future desegregation status with the aim of convincing the court the district was in compliance. On the advice of Husch Blackwell, the board kept the report’s findings secret while continuing to pay the firm additional legal fees for three years, sometimes at a rapid clip, according to invoices obtained by Vero Beach 32963. READ FULL STORY

New rail bridge seen diminishing Old Florida ambiance
week of July 11, 2019

It’s hard to imagine anyone in Indian River County being more affected by the Virgin Trains USA passenger rail project than Tony Wood, whose Roseland home overlooks the historic railroad bridge that has carried trains across the St. Sebastian River for more than 90 years. Construction could start by the end of the year on a massive concrete replacement bridge and a second track to handle the addition of 32 passenger trains per day to the roughly 20 freight trains that pass his house daily. Wood is among the Roseland homeowners who fear the modernization of the railroad bridge and tracks will diminish the Old Florida ambiance of their rustic, heavily-wooded, riverfront community. “This is what drew us to the area; it’s still kind of Old Florida,” Wood said last week in the backyard of his home on 83rd Avenue. “The old historic Flagler bridge jibes well with that theme. Certainly this new Virgin railway doesn’t.” READ FULL STORY

Lawnwood undertakes $100 million expansion
week of July 11, 2019

Lawnwood Regional Med-ical Center is getting a major infusion of funds that could speed up construction of its Vero Beach freestanding emergency department. HCA East Florida is allocating more than $100 million to Fort Pierce’s Lawnwood Regional Medical Center that will significantly expand the hospital’s surgery department, add an adolescent behavioral health program and fund the $10 million emergency department in south Vero, a project currently under construction on U.S. 1 near Oslo Road. Lawnwood, a Level II trauma center with neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, shares part of its market with Cleveland Clinic Indian River and to a lesser degree, Sebastian River Medical Center, owned by Steward Health. Lawnwood’s new Vero emergency room seems destined to siphon off patients from Cleveland Clinic Indian River, if not Sebastian, which is further to the north. It’s unclear how much the rest of the improvements will affect consumer choices in healthcare, with Sebastian River nearing completion of a new patient tower and Indian River having recently completed renovation of half its patient rooms, with $250 million more in the pipeline from Cleveland Clinic, slated to be spent on improvements over the next decade. READ FULL STORY

Computer crash forces doctors to cancel entire week of appointments
week of July 11, 2019

Hundreds of island residents had their doctors’ appointments canceled last week after a computer crash almost completely shut down Primary Care of the Treasure Coast, the largest independent medical practice in the county. Starting Friday, June 28, and stretching into the Fourth of July weekend, the patients of Primary Care’s 19 providers were notified that their appointments had been canceled and could not immediately be rescheduled. That included school physicals, wellness checkups and ailments that could wait a week. Doctors did see patients with acute problems, said Primary Care’s CEO Mike Luton. But for the first two days, they weren’t able to log in on their laptops to review the patients’ records. They also couldn’t enter notes from the visit into the system. The crash, which shut down access to everything from lab reports to medical records, was due to a hardware malfunction, and was not the result of a hack or ransomware, Luton said. There was no breach of data, he added. Luton blamed the crash on a failed disk array, a storage system that distributes data across multiple disk drives. “It went back and corrupted all of our servers,” said Luton. “We had backups so nothing was lost, but we had to rebuild everything.” READ FULL STORY

School anti-violence program will be expanded in the coming year
week of July 11, 2019

A dogged effort by leaders of the Mental Health Association has resulted not only in renewed funding but expansion of a school anti-violence program that proved successful in its first year. Dr. Nicholas Coppola, who took over as CEO of the Mental Health Association in January, and his clinical director, Jeanne Shepherd, shared the news Friday morning with the school district's mental health facilitator, Dr. Sharon Packard. The program in the coming year will be expanded to reach nearly three times as many county students and will include a suicide prevention component. “We had a great meeting with Dr. Packard,” said Coppola. That was in stark contrast to a meeting earlier in the week when Coppola went before the Indian River County Commission to make a last-minute plea for funding after the program was turned down by the county's Children’s Services Advisory Committee. That volunteer board, which met last month over the course of three days, had voted not to recommend funding for the program, questioning among other things why the school district wasn’t funding the program. READ FULL STORY

Proposed Sebastian annexation is opposed by county officials, environmentalists and IRNA
week of July 11, 2019

County officials, environmentalists and the Indian River Neighborhood Association are up in arms over proposed annexation of a 1,118-acre property to the city of Sebastian where more than 3,500 homes could ultimately be built, along with commercial and industrial development. Opponents say the proposed development amounts to urban sprawl and would have a negative impact on area waterways and roads, increasing traffic and pollution. But development review documents produced for the City of Sebastian say the proposed site is a “very advantageous location which supports urban development.” Much of the controversy revolves around whether the thousands of new homes will be tied into county sewer lines or have septic systems. “We’re very concerned because our water issues are very, very critical,” said IRNA board chairwoman Honey Minuse. “We’re not sure where they’re headed as far as planning for water and sewer. That is a really big deal. Are they going to be able to be supplied through the county? That doesn’t look really very optimistic at this point in time. READ FULL STORY

Laura Riding Jackson house is on the move, heading for new home
week of July 11, 2019

History was on the move last week as sections of poet Laura Riding Jackson’s 110-year-old Florida Cracker house left the Environmental Learning Center on the Wabasso Causeway, where it has been located for 25 years, and headed for what will likely be its “final resting place” on the Vero Beach campus of Indian River State College. The fragile structure had been painstakingly disassembled over a period of weeks. On the morning of the move, “a bedroom; portions of the front porch and a study, the back porch with kitchen; and the smaller part of our pole barn” were loaded onto three tractor trailers, said Laura Riding Jackson Foundation Board member Jacque Jacobs. The tractor trailer convoy began its 11.6-mile journey around 10 a.m., escorted by Indian River County Sheriff’s deputies with lights flashing, “four of our board members’ vehicles and Eric Crockett of Proctor Construction,” Jacobs added. The route was carefully planned to avoid as much traffic as possible, rolling west on the Wabasso Causeway, across U.S. 1 onto CR 510 to 58th Avenue; then south on 58th to 77th Street; west on 77th to 66th Avenue; south on 66th across State Road 60 to College Lane; and east on College to the campus, to a .71-acre site in the field behind the Brackett Library that will be the historic house’s new home. READ FULL STORY

Schools spend $10 million to beef up security
week of July 4, 2019

The school district is spending more than $10 million on security this summer, with much of the money going to complete installation of single-entry security fences around 19 school campuses in the county. The new fencing, which will make it easier to prevent intrusion and monitor who enters school grounds, will be in place by the time school resumes on Aug. 12, Jon Teske, assistant superintendent of operations, said during a recent School Board meeting. Fencing has already been completed at more than half of the county’s schools. “After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting last year, the board decided to put all other capital projects on hold and make school security our priority,” said Board Chairman Laura Zorc. “The fencing is only one of many security improvements we’ve added during the past three years.” In addition to the new security fencing, the school district is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars this summer to install keyless door pads in all buildings, Teske said. Employees will be provided with cards they will swipe to gain entry, creating a record of who enters and when. READ FULL STORY

Virgin Trains faces challenge with downtown crossings
week of July 4, 2019

Virgin Trains USA plans to start major reconstruction work on railroad crossings and tracks in downtown Vero Beach for its higher-speed passenger rail service late next year, city officials said. Designing crossings to minimize traffic delays on U.S. 1, which is just 6 feet from the railroad right-of-way in some spots, is a crucial aspect of the project, said City Manager Monte Falls. The addition of a second track in the Florida East Coast Railway right-of-way will require Virgin Trains to build up the track bed and widen the railroad crossings to the west, Falls said in an interview last week. The crossings should be designed to reduce the slope between the railroad right-of-way and the roadways, particularly at 23rd and U.S. 1, Falls said. That would lessen the chances of a tractor trailer getting hung up on the crossings – something that happened recently when a car carrier blocked the tracks for an extended period. In addition, Virgin Trains should install fencing along the east side of Pocahontas Park to keep children from wandering onto the tracks, Falls said. READ FULL STORY

Jones Pier property being restored to take visitors back to Old Florida
week of July 4, 2019

The county is restoring a property formerly owned by one of the barrier island’s first pioneers so that residents and visitors can travel back in time to experience what Old Florida was like at the turn of the 20th century. The roughly $1.6 million facelift to the 16-acre historical Jones Pier Conservation Area along Jungle Trail includes construction of a replica of the Jones family’s iconic fruit stand, which became a popular tourist destination that was once visited by Walter Cronkite among others. The project also includes restoration of the family’s cottage that will serve as a museum, and the addition of a one-mile walking trail, community garden and four-acre salt marsh to filter water before it enters the Indian River Lagoon. The site will also include restrooms, a pavilion and parking. All the improvements to the area, which will be open to the public, are expected to take between 18-24 months to complete. The county acquired the property for historical preservation in 2008, paying $6.9 million. Jones Pier itself, which was built by the family in 1907 to facilitate shipping farm produce by water, is believed to be the oldest pier on the barrier island. It was restored a few years ago and is open to the public, county officials said. READ FULL STORY

New texting while driving law seen very difficult to enforce
week of July 4, 2019

A new Florida law that went into effect Monday allows police to pull over and issue citations to motorists they see texting and driving. However, local law enforcement representatives say they don’t expect to write many tickets. The reason? Motorists stopped for texting and driving aren’t required to show police their phones, making it impossible for officers to confirm at the scene that an offense occurred. “It’s a good law with good intent, but it’s going to be a tough law to enforce,” Vero Beach Police Department spokesman Darrell Rivers said. “We can pull them over, but without seeing their phones, we’re probably not going to issue citations. I doubt many drivers are going to let us look at their phones?” Police could try to obtain warrants to compel motorists to hand over their phones, but local authorities say it’s unlikely such action would be taken – unless the drivers were involved in accidents resulting in substantial property damage, serious injury or death. Barring those circumstances, most motorists pulled over locally for texting and driving can expect to get off with a warning, possibly only a verbal warning about the dangers of distracted driving. READ FULL STORY

Judge to make recommendations for new teacher contracts
week of July 4, 2019

Representatives of the school district and the teachers union quarreled angrily for eight hours over proposed pay raises for teachers, increasing insurance costs, employee grievance procedures and whether the district should continue reimbursing teachers for classes they must take to become recertified every five years. They found little they could agree upon. In fact, Attorney Mark Levitt, chief contract negotiator for Indian River County Public Schools, openly mocked and belittled proposals made by representatives of the teachers union. Liz Cannon, president of the Indian River County Education Association, publicly called the district’s counterproposals “bull ----.” Now it’s up to Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Tom Young, who listened to both sides make arguments supporting their negotiating positions, to make recommendations he hopes both sides can live with. The union requested the June 26 special hearing before Young after it became clear the district and union could not break their 15-month contract negotiation impasse without help. Both sides have until Aug. 5 to submit briefs outlining their positions, Young said. He hopes to release his contract recommendations by Aug. 16. But the process likely won’t end there. READ FULL STORY

School district finances are in better shape than expected
week of July 4, 2019

Thirty teachers facing possible layoffs will retain their jobs for the 2019-20 school year after a relieved School Board learned during a recent budget workshop that the school district is in much better financial shape than expected. Since arriving in Indian River County, Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley and two associates have pored over the district’s finances, trying to sort out confusion that developed during a year-long period when the schools had no chief financial officer. After hearing from Moxley, the School Board now expects to end the current school year with an $8.5 million surplus in the district’s general fund. School administrators are projecting a $9.3 million surplus for the 2019-20 school year. Without a CFO, administrators were not sure how much money the district had, and the School Board had feared it would be facing a budget deficit. “I’m very happy to learn that our budget is stable,” Board Chairman Laura Zorc said. “It’s a relief. Before it was constant guessing and it was impossible to get anything done because we had no idea how much money we had to work with. READ FULL STORY