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32963 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Top global planning firm helping shape future of Centennial Place
week of November 28, 2019

The Vero Beach City Council, which gets new members – and sometimes changes courses – every year or so, has a history of fumbling the ball in big games. From the decade-long absurdist drama of the electric utility sale to the recent whiplash reversal over closing the swimming pool at Leisure Square, the council often fails as a model of municipal effectiveness. So, there is no reason to be super confident the city will do a good job coming up with and implementing a plan for Centennial Place – the 30-plus acres of prime waterfront land flanking the Alma Lee Loy Bridge – which has transformative potential to give Vero Beach an area with some of the same appeal as attractive riverfront districts in other towns from Stuart to Cocoa. But so far things are looking encouraging. After first deciding no consultant was needed to create a plan for this exceptional property, the council smartly reversed itself and hired one of the most accomplished city planning firms in the world, DPZ CoDesign, which has created hundreds of masterplans on six continents – nothing in Antarctica so far – ranging in extent from two to more than 160,000 acres. Included in that portfolio are successful plans for the downtown areas of Naples, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. READ FULL STORY


New Lawnwood Hospital ER opening in south Vero
week of November 28, 2019

Starting the middle of next week, some local residents in need of emergency medical care will have a new 24/7 option available toward the southern end of Indian River County. Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, a Level II trauma center in Fort Pierce, has spent the past year building a satellite freestanding emergency room in Vero Beach. The $10 million facility, near South Vero Square at Oslo Road and U.S.1, is expected to open Dec. 4. Last week, officials were still waiting for signage, with nothing more than red block letters marking the ambulance entrance hinting at the purpose of the beige single-story structure. Inside, an equally unadorned waiting room is smaller than the average private practice physician’s office. That’s because arriving patients will be taken to an exam room immediately after checking in. There are 10 such rooms at the new Lawnwood ED, including one equipped for pediatric patients. There’s also a large resuscitation room where multiple practitioners can tend to a severely ill patient, along with a secure “safe” room for mental health emergencies. READ FULL STORY


Virgin Trains USA reveals construction plans for extending service through Indian River
week of November 28, 2019

Virgin Trains USA expects to spend more than $20 million and take more than two years to replace the 93-year-old St. Sebastian River Railroad Bridge linking Brevard and Indian River counties. The bridge is a vital link in the company’s proposed Miami to Orlando high-speed passenger rail service – one of many construction challenges Virgin Trains must deal with. In fact, VTUSA is deploying construction teams to build 55 bridges between Orlando and West Palm Beach as part of the $2.5 billion expansion of the passenger rail line. A massive construction crane towering over the Taylor Creek railroad bridge construction platform on the south side of Beachline Expressway/State Road 528 provided the backdrop for a Virgin Trains media briefing on Nov. 21 about how the bridges are being built. Lessons learned on relatively shorter railroad bridges along SR 528 as tracks are extended from Cocoa to Orlando will be applied to longer bridge replacement projects at the St. Sebastian River, St. Lucie River and Crane Creek, said Michael Cegelis, VTUSA executive vice president for infrastructure. READ FULL STORY


Justice for Duve family took more than five years
week of November 28, 2019

Prosecutors were disappointed that convicted killer Michael David Jones was not sentenced to death under Florida law. But if there is any consolation, it is that, instead of becoming a death row celebrity, Jones will soon be an anonymous inmate, locked away for life with no parole in some oppressive, nondescript state prison. Jones will not be anyone special, and his advanced degrees will not matter. He will merely be a number in the Florida Department of Corrections roster. There will be no candlelight vigils, no 11th-hour pleas to the governor for clemency, no well-intentioned efforts to save his life. Soon, very few Indian River County residents will remember Jones existed. Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said he had the utmost respect for the time, attention and energy the jury put into the Jones case. But Bakkedahl says it “really p---es him off” that it took so long to get justice for the family of the woman Jones killed, 26-year-old Moorings resident and Sebastian River Medical Center nurse Diana Duve. Bakkedahl and co-counsel Assistant State Attorney Brian Workman were involved with the case from the very beginning in the summer of 2014, when Duve was reported missing and foul play was suspected. READ FULL STORY


Jones confessed Duve slaying to defense witness
week of November 21, 2019

Michael David Jones, convicted four weeks ago of the slaying of nurse Diana Duve, confessed the killing to a medical expert who testified in his defense and “also said that he put her in a trunk and left her in the parking lot of a Publix,” the witness testified at Jones’ sentencing hearing. The jury deciding whether to sentence Jones to death or life in prison had not rendered a verdict by press time Tuesday, but after long days of tedious medical testimony, they heard this surprise unscripted statement during cross-examination of a defense witness, Dr. David Ross. Radiologist Ross said he found Jones had brain damage and gave his take on Jones’ mental state at the time of 26-year-old Duve’s death in June 2014, saying, “He was drunk, he was brain damaged and he committed a violent act.” Ross characterized Jones as having what doctors previously called “Episodic Discontrol,” which he said means “where people are going to act out of uncontrolled urges” but he caged that by saying it’s episodic because it doesn’t happen all the time. READ FULL STORY


Cleveland Clinic takes over nearby research center
week of November 21, 2019

Cleveland Clinic Florida’s takeover last week of the former Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute in western Port St. Lucie capped an amazing year of expansion in Florida for the world famous medical center. The 107,000-square-foot building at 9801 SW Discovery Way, which will be renamed “Cleveland Clinic Institute for Research,” was Cleveland Clinic’s third major acquisition on the Treasure Coast this year. On Jan. 1, the Clinic took over Indian River Medical Center and Martin Health System, including its flagship Tradition Medical Center, near the VGTI lab. “Cleveland Clinic is committed to expanding clinical research capabilities in the Florida region by creating a translational vaccine and immunotherapy institute that will advance therapies in many areas such as cancer, neurosciences and infectious diseases,” Angela Dickens, vice president of marketing for Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, told Vero Beach 32963. The 7-year-old high-tech laboratory will be the Clinic’s first research facility outside of the Lerner Institute in Cleveland and accommodate partnerships with Florida International University and Vaxine Ltd., of Perth, Australia. The Clinic envisions hiring 200 scientists in conjunction with FIU and Vaxine to develop therapies for cancer, allergies, infectious diseases and neurological issues. READ FULL STORY


New superintendent comes with record of transforming schools
week of November 21, 2019

David Moore has made a career of getting rid of bad schools in the massive Miami-Dade school district – not obliterating them, but fixing them so that students get better grades and educations. As principal of Miami Southridge Senior High School, Moore led a turnaround that transformed the school from an “F” to an “A” institution in 2012, as judged by the State of Florida’s school grading system. In 2017, he led an effort to turn around six other failing schools in the district that were in danger of being closed by the State of Florida. That track record was a main reason the School Board on Saturday chose him as the new superintendent of schools for Indian River County. Pending a successful background check and negotiated contract, Moore, 48, said he hopes to begin his new job as early as Dec. 2. Currently an assistant superintendent in the Miami-Dade district – the fourth largest district in the nation – Moore said his first 90 days here will include reviewing the district’s finances, student academic achievement, internal and external communications and curriculum to get a better grasp of the district’s problems and priorities. READ FULL STORY


With Fort Pierce out, nearest Virgin Trains stop looks like Stuart
week of November 21, 2019

Indian River County residents apparently will have to drive at least an hour to get to a Virgin Trains station after Fort Pierce city commissioners rejected a downtown development proposal submitted by the high-speed rail company. Since Vero will not have a station, a Virgin Trains station in downtown Fort Pierce – just 15 miles from Vero Beach – would have been fairly easily accessible to island residents wanting to travel by rail to either Miami or Orlando. But the Treasure Coast station now seems more likely to wind up in Stuart after the Fort Piece City Commission last week rebuffed Virgin Trains and selected Audubon Development’s proposal for a mixed-use project on prime Fort Pierce real estate along the railroad tracks near the Indian River Lagoon. Since Virgin Trains won’t be able to cash in on transit-oriented real estate development in Fort Pierce, as it has at its South Florida stations, the company seems unlikely to develop a Fort Pierce station, some officials said. “With Virgin Trains not being selected as the developer, my opinion is that will significantly alter Fort Pierce’s chances of getting a station for the worse,” said Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc. READ FULL STORY


Corporate Air expanding again to keep up with increased general aviation traffic
week of November 21, 2019

Corporate Air is expanding again at the Vero Beach Regional Airport, trying to keep up with increased general aviation traffic carrying passengers to or from the island. The flight service company – which provides fuel, maintenance, storage and other services to private planes – broke ground last week on a $2.6 million ramp and two 12,000-foot hangars to meet increased demand for space. The private jet travelers who use these facilities predominantly live on the island, said Corporate Air founder and owner Rodger Pridgeon. “They’re mostly John’s Island, Windsor, Moorings and Riomar residents.” The latest investment comes on top of a multimillion expansion in 2018 that included construction of a new ramp and new hangar outfitted with luxury amenities. Pridgeon, who has been in business at the airport for more than 30 years, said air traffic doubled over the past year, necessitating more landing and storage space. The additional hangars can house roughly five mid-sized jets each, he said. The project is slated for completion in March. READ FULL STORY


School Board hires new staff to help comply with desegregation order
week of November 21, 2019

The Indian River County School Board is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to finally complying after a half century with a federal court desegregation order. The board is backing up its vow of compliance by funding two new positions in the school district’s Equity Department. The board voted Nov. 12 to immediately begin seeking a fulltime data analyst, but wanted more details about a teacher on assignment position, where duties would include working with teachers and principals in various schools to correct inequity. “The teacher on assignment role does require some sensitivity and some awareness and training in the particular issue,” said board member Mara Schiff. Schiff’s concern was echoed by other board members. Job duties for the data analyst will include gathering and studying data to determine the effectiveness of the district’s efforts to improve African-American student achievement and recruit, hire and retain more African-American teachers, officials said. Achieving those goals is a requirement of a desegregation order the district spent decades fighting. READ FULL STORY


Scientist pinpoints seasonal variations in beach sand loss
week of November 21, 2019

A new report by a Florida Institute of Technology professor synthesizing decades of data confirms what many 32963 beachgoers have observed – that beaches are wider in summer and shrink down to a thin strip in late fall. These seasonal increases and decreases in beach width and sand volume are due to sea level changes and associated sand loss and gain caused mainly by the location and flow of the Gulf Stream along our coast, according to Dr. Gary Zarillo, FIT professor of ocean engineering and marine sciences. “Rising sea level corresponds to a period of sand loss and receding sea level corresponds to a gain,” Zarillo said. “It’s a good piece of information for managing our sand resources. No one should panic because we have a regional sand loss because it will be regained by sea level falling.” Zarillo said he based his findings, presented in his 2019 State of the Inlet report, on long-term data collection he’s conducted for the Inlet District, which is charged with keeping the inlet channel open for navigation and managing sand and other natural resources in and around the inlet. READ FULL STORY


Orchid Island imports golf director from Firestone Country Club
week of November 21, 2019

Florida’s favorable, year-round climate wasn’t the only reason David Champagne decided to leave the famed Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, to become the new director of golf at the Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club. It was also because he wanted to return to a privately-owned club where he could interact more with members – something his administrative duties prevented at Firestone, which has hosted more than 65 consecutive years of tournament golf, including three PGA Championships, and is currently the home of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship. “This is more like the members-owned clubs I worked at in the past,” Champagne said after starting his new job earlier this month. “I like the area, and I heard such great things about the club here. “I’ve been here only a couple of days, and the people – the members and staff – have been tremendous,” he added. “I’m very excited to be here.” Orchid Island General Manager Rob Tench said Champagne, who spent the past 11 years as Firestone’s golf director and was the 2017 Northern Ohio PGA Golf Professional of the Year, was selected from a pool of more than 60 applicants. The list was culled to 20 and then to the eight finalists who were interviewed by the club’s selection committee. READ FULL STORY


ONE Sotheby’s buys brokerage from Thorpes
week of November 14, 2019

Treasure Coast Sotheby’s International Realty, a leading island brokerage that did nearly half-a-billion dollars in business in 2018, has been acquired by ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, a south Florida brokerage founded by Mayi de la Vega that handled $2.5 billion in residential real estate transactions last year. Both parties describe the acquisition in glowing terms as a win-win for all involved. For ONE Sotheby’s, the deal, which closed Friday, Nov. 1, extends the rapidly expanding company’s reach all the way from its Miami origins into prime real estate markets in Indian River and Brevard counties. “Treasure Coast’s knowledge of the Vero Beach and Melbourne markets is second to none, and we couldn’t have found a better affiliate to strengthen our forces and expand our presence north,” ONE Sotheby’s President Daniel de la Vega said. For Michael and Kimberly Thorpe, co-owner-brokers at the local Sotheby’s, the transaction allows them to pass the business they created on to a highly successful company they believe will continue to grow the business and help its 100 or so agents and other employees achieve increased success. READ FULL STORY


Sebastian hospital safety rating falls; downgraded to ‘C’
week of November 14, 2019

After a remarkable recovery, jumping from an F safety grade in 2018 to an A this past April, Sebastian River Medical Center has circled back to a C – the same grade it had when Steward Health bought the hospital in 2017. The C was announced last week by the national hospital ratings organization Leapfrog Group, which aims to promote hospital safety with its semi-annual report card. Neighboring hospitals’ scores remained unchanged: a B grade for Cleveland Clinic Indian River and a C for Palm Bay Hospital. Sebastian River’s latest grade makes the A from last spring as much an outlier in the hospital’s rating history as the F it got in spring 2018 – one of only two F grades in the state and 22 in the nation. Apart from those extremes, the hospital has wallowed in C’s and D’s since 2016. Other local hospitals appear to be putting less emphasis on the Leapfrog scores, answering fewer questions on the Leapfrog voluntary survey, as was the case with Cleveland Clinic Indian River; or not responding at all, as with Health First-owned hospitals in Brevard County. READ FULL STORY


State funds study of how to clean up Bethel Creek
week of November 14, 2019

Scientists from Florida Institute of Technology are undertaking a sophisticated computer-model study based on data collected in Bethel Creek to see if the stagnant inlet on the Indian River Lagoon can be cleaned up by flushing it with ocean water. The university was awarded $800,000 by the state legislature for the first phase of the project, which will study the Vero Beach creek – which starts near the Village Market on the barrier island and curves through residential neighborhoods to open into the lagoon near the Vero Beach Municipal Marina – as well as two sites in the Banana River. Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc – who has led the charge to clean the murky, dead-end Bethel Creek – celebrated the announcement as an important step forward in cleaning up the lagoon, which has been plagued with nutrient pollution, algae blooms, marine mammal deaths and seagrass losses. When Zorc ran for the commission the first time in 2012, ridding Bethel Creek of its stale water by opening some type of connection with the ocean was a prominent part of his platform. READ FULL STORY


Vero Beach Country Club undertakes multimillion-dollar revitalization effort
week of November 14, 2019

Vero Beach Country Club, a venerable institution founded when Calvin Coolidge was president, is gearing up for a multimillion-dollar expansion to help it keep pace with changing times, according to General Manager Tim Straley. The country club, located at 800 30th Street and established in 1924, is known for its beautiful, gently rolling golf course surrounded by attractive homes. It also offers putting and chipping ranges and has an 22,000-square-foot brick clubhouse with a variety of dining options from fine to casual. Other than golf and dining, though, the club has not had much else to offer its 480 members. But that is about to change. The club has submitted a site plan to the City of Vero Beach and will be seeking building permits from the county for a 3,021-square-foot resort-style swimming pool with a beach entry, 1,500-square-foot Key West-style tiki bar with a food menu, 450-square-foot snack bar and a 4,500-square-foot fitness center. The $3.8 million expansion on roughly two acres leaves open the possibility of further construction atop the fitness center, where a rooftop event area could be situated, Straley said. READ FULL STORY


Centennial Place could give Vero the vibrant riverfront that it lacks
week of November 14, 2019

Ever wonder why Vero Beach doesn’t have a lively historic riverfront with restaurants, shops, docks and lodging like towns up and down the coast from Stuart to Cocoa? With efforts underway to devise a plan for redevelopment of the city-owned riverfront property known as Centennial Place – 30-plus prime acres that flank both sides of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge – the question naturally arises. Vero has by far the nicest oceanfront along this stretch of coast, with 4-star resorts, fine restaurants and high-end boutiques in its postcard-perfect seaside village, but it has nothing remotely like the thriving riverfront dining, entertainment and business districts in Stuart, Fort Pierce and other towns to the north and south. Why not? The simple answer is the railroad. The Florida East Coast Railroad tracks run much further back from the water in Vero than in the other towns, and the railroad determined the city’s location. But there is more to it than that. Henry Flagler’s engineers laid their tracks along an ancient geographical feature called the Atlantic Coastal Ridge to keep the rails as high and dry as possible, while still sticking close to the shore of the Indian River Lagoon where a few small scattered settlements had already taken root. READ FULL STORY


School Board narrows superintendent search to 6 semifinalists
week of November 14, 2019

The Indian River County School Board has selected six semifinalists for the district’s vacant superintendent position, including a former inner-city teacher who rose to the rank of regional school superintendent in Palm Beach County, the 10th largest district in the nation. Other candidates range from a veteran superintendent from Georgia to longtime assistant and associate superintendents vying for an opportunity to be the top leader in a school district. The board will interview the semi-finalists on Thursday and Saturday. “We’re very pleased with the quality of applicants we have to choose from,” said Board Chairman Laura Zorc. “We have some excellent candidates.” The district’s nationwide search attracted 36 candidates, offering an annual salary of up to $178,000. Two of the semifinalists would be taking a pay cut if offered the job. READ FULL STORY


10-year plan to clean up the lagoon approved by the EPA
week of November 14, 2019

The Indian River Lagoon Council's 10-year roadmap for restoring the ailing 156-mile-long estuary to good health has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The comprehensive conservation and management plan put together over the past year or so now has the official green light to engage all 38 cities, five counties, and some 1.6 million residents along the lagoon to reduce pollution flowing into the waterway and begin to get rid of contaminants and sediment, including heavy loads of nitrogen and phosphorus that feed destructive algae blooms. The Lagoon Council’s $2.25 million annual budget comes from the EPA, the five member counties, and state water management and environmental agencies. Currently, the council is backing more than 50 projects along the lagoon to treat wastewater and stormwater, restore habitats on land and in the estuary, and convert septic tanks to sewer hookups. Nine lagoon-enhancing projects completed recently were showcased at the meeting, including phase two of Indian River County's West Wabasso septic-to-sewer conversion. READ FULL STORY


New Vero City Council members emphasize public input
week of November 14, 2019

Political newcomers and island residents Rey Neville and Joe Graves, who won seats on the Vero Beach City Council in last week’s municipal election, will enter public office with similar objectives. The men, who finished at the top of a crowded field of eight candidates in the nonpartisan election in which approximately 4,400 ballots were cast, both emphasize the importance of public input in decision-making. The current City Council in recent weeks garnered criticism and attracted protestors at city hall after making a hasty decision to close the popular swimming pool at Leisure Square without sounding out the community first, only to reverse its decision following public outcry. Both newly elected council members, who will replace outgoing Mayor Val Zudans and Councilman Harry Howle – neither man sought re-election – have pledged to keep the pool open indefinitely and protect other city assets. Graves, 56, a well-known local attorney who touted his position as a fiscal conservative during the race, won overwhelmingly with 1,144 votes or 26 percent of the ballots cast, according to unofficial results from the Indian River Supervisor of Elections. The city has a total of 12,260 registered voters. READ FULL STORY


School Board to develop plan for deseg order
week of November 7, 2019

The Indian River County School Board says it will begin developing a plan this month – possibility including busing students to different schools than the ones they now attend – to comply with a 52-year-old federal desegregation order. The board made that promise to the NAACP during a special meeting on Oct. 30. “We know there’s work to be done,” Board Chairman Laura Zorc told NAACP members. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” The dramatic change of heart comes after years in which the school district fought the NAACP in court to try and get out from under the federal order, claiming that it had complied or was complying with key elements of the plan. At a nearly four-hour-long meeting last week, the two sides reviewed and discussed a report released by the district’s Equity Committee that gave the district failing marks for its efforts to recruit, hire and retain more African-American teachers and adequately address the needs of African-American students, who consistently perform far below their white classmates. READ FULL STORY


Piper unveils plane that can land at push of a button
week of November 7, 2019

A new generation of Piper’s top-of-the-line M600 airplane will be equipped with a safety system that will make it the first single-engine general aviation plane able to land without any assistance from a pilot, the Vero Beach aircraft manufacturer announced last week. Once engaged – either automatically or by a passenger – the HALO Safety System will calculate wind, time, fuel range, glide path, weather conditions and terrain in finding the most suitable place to land. It then will assume control of all the systems necessary to land the aircraft on the best-suited runway, communicating with passengers and air traffic control facilities to determine new flight-plan routes and estimated time until touchdown. Once the aircraft lands, the braking system will activate and bring the plane to a full stop. The HALO technology is expected to save lives in the event pilots become incapacitated. Deliveries of the self-landing aircraft, which Piper has been developing and testing for the past three years, are expected to begin later this year through the company’s global dealer network. The selling price will be $3 million. READ FULL STORY


Sebastian River Medical Center a chronic ‘late pay,’ according to its local vendors
week of November 7, 2019

Sebastian River Medical Center’s out-going president, Kyle Sanders, claims patients are finally coming back to the hospital, after state records show admissions last year were at their second-lowest point in a decade. That turnaround, should it prove true, would be good news for the hospital, one of 36 in a for-profit national chain. But will it mean the hospital will start paying its bills any faster? According to multiple businesses and government entities, Sebastian River Medical Center has developed a reputation for maddening delays in paying invoices, delays that have agencies issuing fines and vendors refusing them services. Some vendors say they have considered legal action but are fearful of scaring off new customers. Others say they grudgingly take on new projects for the hospital without having been paid for prior work, including some who say they are owed for work from six months to a year ago or even longer. After being informed about this story, a spokesman for Sebastian River late Monday acknowledged the slow-pay problem, and attributed it to new owner Steward Health Care’s rapid growth and systems integration issues. READ FULL STORY


Sand replenishment starts at Tracking Station Beach Park
week of November 7, 2019

A massive project to replenish sand on Vero's critically-eroded beaches began Monday at Tracking Station Beach Park. Dump trucks and excavators could be seen at the beach park – which closed Friday – dumping tons of sand for the 3.1-mile project. The area designated for sand replenishment extends from north of the Seawatch Condos in Indian River Shores south through Central Beach to the Riomar Golf Course. The $6 million replenishment will infuse more than 200,000 cubic yards of sand along the stretch of beach known as Sector 5. The project will occur in three phases with Tracking Station Park, Jaycee Park and Humiston Park used as access points for trucks carrying sand onto the beaches as work moves south. County officials previously said Tracking Station Park would be closed until the end of the year, but the county’s new public information officer, Brian Sullivan, said the park now is expected to reopen right after Thanksgiving. Closure dates for beaches at Jaycee Park and Humiston have not yet been announced. READ FULL STORY


School Board says search firm it hired is a $50K flop
week of November 7, 2019

After hiring a Chicago-based search firm in August for $50,000 to help find a new school district superintendent, the Indian River County School Board has decided that the firm is a flop and not up to the task. Rather than allow the firm to lead the final stages of the superintendent selection process, the board has decided to do its own vetting of the 36 applicants for the position. Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates’ “presentations to the board have been sloppy and disorganized,” Board Chairman Laura Zorc said. “We haven’t seen the professionalism that we had hoped for. “Mr. [Bill] Adams, who has been leading our search, has been very condescending at times. When a board member says something that he doesn’t agree with, he rolls his eyes and tries to dismiss their point.” The Board voted 4-1 to hire HYA in August because of the firm’s experience in leading national job searches. Board member Jacquelyn Rosario voted against hiring the firm because she was concerned about documented cases in which it badly botched other districts’ superintendent searches. READ FULL STORY


Mental health testimony seen key in sentencing of Jones
week of November 7, 2019

When jurors return to court next Wednesday to decide whether convicted killer Michael David Jones will be sentenced to death or to life in prison, the defense team is expected to focus on Jones’ shaky mental health – but jail records show Jones has been a model prisoner. At least two medical experts have examined Jones and will testify about mitigating factors that might help explain what was going on in Jones’ head around the time that 26-year-old Moorings resident and Sebastian River Medical Center nurse Diana Duve was killed in June 2014. A hearing about medical experts last week – with the jury not present – suggested Jones’ lawyers may claim he suffered some sort of blackout. A doctor is set to testify that Jones has brain damage which affects his behavior and impulse control. Two days after Duve’s death, Jones went from working in his Ocean Drive PNC Wealth Management office and enjoying business lunches and cocktail hours to living in a jail cell, eating meals served on mess hall trays and being told which days he can shave and shower. READ FULL STORY


Tradewinds restaurant project seen dead in the water
week of November 7, 2019

Three years after unveiling ambitious plans to transform the former Dockside Grille into a 1950s-style steak and seafood restaurant dubbed Tradewinds, owner Tim Girard’s project at 41 Royal Palm Pointe appears dead in the water. The vacant building, where no work appears to have been done in some time, has become an eyesore, languishing behind a chain-link fence propped up by sandbags, getting shabbier with each passing month. The current building permit for the project, taken out in 2018, has been extended five times and is due to expire in two weeks. According to the county building department, if Girard applies for another extension, it will be up to the plans examiner assigned to the job to determine if a sixth extension can be granted. Vero Beach city officials say Girard will be back at square one if the building permit expires, required to reapply for site plan approval. The Dockside Grille closed in 2015 with promises by its then owner that it would open again in the fall, but the restaurant remained permanently shuttered. Before becoming Dockside in 2008, the eatery for many years housed the restaurant Ellie’s and before that a fine-dining restaurant known by its street number, 41. READ FULL STORY


Sheriff and deputy found not liable in death of Susan Teel
week of November 7, 2019

A federal judge in West Palm Beach has dismissed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by Vero Beach physician Dr. Dudley Teel after his wife was shot and killed by police responding to a 911 call to the Teel home. United States District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks ruled on Oct. 17 that neither Sheriff Deryl Loar nor Deputy Jonathan Lozada were liable for Susan Teel’s death. Deputies were called to the home by Teel’s daughter, saying that her mother had attempted suicide. When Lozada arrived, court records show “he spoke briefly with Mrs. Teel’s husband, Dr. Dudley Teel, while standing in the doorway of their home. Dr. Teel explained that Mrs. Teel was upstairs and was trying to kill herself with a knife” and he observed blood on Dr. Teel’s clothing. Records show Lozada walked upstairs to find Susan Teel holding a knife “pointed down over her own head” but then, according to Lozada, she walked toward the deputy holding the knife and taunting him to kill her. READ FULL STORY


Local ISIS supporter who threatened attacks in Vero unfit for trial
week of November 7, 2019

A local ISIS supporter who threatened attacks in Vero Beach to gain notoriety as the world’s first deaf terrorist to inflict casualties in America has been deemed unfit to stand trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Shaniek Maynard declared Charlton La Chase, 29, incompetent to participate in court proceedings after reviewing a psychological evaluation performed earlier this year on the Fort Pierce resident. La Chase, who was arrested in late May hours after his release from a federal prison in Georgia where he served time for prior threats of mass murder, has several mental disorders, a court-appointed psychologist concluded. “The defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his own defense,” Maynard wrote after reviewing La Chase’s mental health evaluation. Shana Williams, a forensic psychologist fluent in American Sign Language, in July evaluated La Chase and determined he suffers from Bipolar I Disorder with psychotic symptoms and possibly other mental disorders, according to federal court documents. Williams also concluded La Chase experiences “persistent delusional thinking and paranoid processes” that leave him unable to assist his counsel in his defense. READ FULL STORY


Tracking Station park set to close for beach repair
week of October 31, 2019

Tracking Station Beach Park will be closed Friday for the rest of the year as a major beach replenishment project gets underway, according to county officials. The 3.1-mile project, which extends from north of the Seawatch Condos in Indian River Shores south through Central Beach to the Riomar Golf Course, will occur in three phases. Tracking Station Park, Jaycee Park and Humiston Park will be used as access points where loads of sand will be trucked onto Vero’s critically eroded beaches. Closure dates for the beaches at Jaycee Park and Humiston have not been announced. The $6 million renourishment project will infuse more than 200,000 cubic yards of sand along the stretch of beach known as Sector 5. That area, already impacted by hurricanes Matthew and Irma, lost an average of 5 to 8 feet of dune during Hurricane Dorian, which spared the county a direct hit but produced big, destructive surf for several days. Prior to the erosion caused by Dorian in early September, the Sector 5 project was slated to consume about 150,000 cubic yards of sand. The storm created a need for 50,000 more cubic yards and added $1.25 million to the project cost, according to County Administrator Jason Brown. READ FULL STORY


Patient volume a focus; hospital CEO replaced
week of October 31, 2019

Only a year after taking the helm of Sebastian River Medical Center, Kyle Sanders has announced he is leaving his post as president effective Nov. 19. Daniel Knell, president of Steward’s central division, said in a statement he was sorry to see Sanders go and expressed appreciation for his leadership and “valuable contributions to our mission.” Sanders’ exit comes at a pivotal time for the 154-bed for-profit hospital. It is wrapping up a $65 million expansion that will open in February with 24 patient rooms – half the 48 originally announced. While on the way out the door, Sanders provided 32963 with numbers which – if accurate – suggest that Sebastian River patient volumes may finally be recovering from what state figures show has been a steady decline since Steward Health Care took over the hospital in mid-2017. The importance of patient volumes in the current healthcare environment was illustrated anew by the announcement this past week that a Steward-owned hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., St. Luke’s Medical Center, was closing its doors due to an insufficient number of patients. READ FULL STORY


Palazzo Di Mare, aka ‘barcode lady’s house,’ again up for auction
week of October 31, 2019

One of the most well-known houses on the barrier island is up for auction again, two and a half years after it sold in an earlier auction for $8.8 million. The massive oceanfront home known variously as Palazzo Di Mare and “the barcode lady’s house” was purchased in June 2017 by a limited liability company with a Vero Beach-based managing partner for $8.8 million. After an 18-month renovation that dramatically transformed the property, the owner listed it with Cindy O'Dare and Richard Boga at Premier Estate Properties for $17 million in March. When the property had not sold by September, the decision was made to offer it at auction to achieve "a defined date of sale." The no-reserve online auction was announced on Oct. 3 and bidding will begin at 4 p.m. on Nov. 5, continuing until 4 p.m. on Nov. 7. Bidders have to put $100,000 in escrow in order to participate in the sale. Whoever has the high bid will be required to increase their deposit to 10 percent of the sale price by 5 p.m. the day after the auction and close by Dec. 6. READ FULL STORY


Jones’ sentencing to take place amid new concern over Florida death penalty
week of October 31, 2019

Convicted killer Michael David Jones’ sentencing next month will take place against a backdrop of mounting legal, political and religious controversy over Florida’s death penalty. Florida is set to execute its 100th death row inmate since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. The execution may be delayed until after Christmas, but it could go on as scheduled Nov. 7 should Florida successfully appeal a temporary stay ordered by a federal court. Executions are always a media circus, with protests and candlelight vigils outside the Starke, Florida penitentiary gates, plus passionate pleas to the governor for clemency. But this upcoming execution is newsworthy for a couple reasons. Besides the number 100 being a morbid milestone, James Dailey’s guilt is in question since another man formally confessed in 2017 to the crime Dailey was convicted of. Dailey, 64, has been on death row for 32 years for the 1985 murder of a 14-year-old Pinellas County girl. As the Dailey case indicates, it takes decades of waiting in prison to be executed in Florida, so even if 36-year-old Jones is sentenced to death, it’s likely he would be in his 60s or even his 70s when executed. READ FULL STORY


Most Vero candidates see need for more beachside parking
week of October 31, 2019

There’s a consensus among seven candidates running for two open seats on the Vero Beach City Council that something needs to be done to relieve parking congestion in the Central Beach business district. Only Brian Heady, a gadfly who runs in every election but won only once a decade ago, doesn’t think there is a problem. “If they want to spend money fixing something, don’t you think it should be broke if you’re going to fix it?” Heady said. “It ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They had a consultant and the consultant said that even on the busiest days, there’s excess parking.” Despite Heady’s view, oceanside shop and restaurant owners have long complained about losing customers because of parking shortages near their businesses. The seven candidates who acknowledge the problem generally like the preliminary solutions suggested by planning and design consultant Kimley-Horn, which was hired this year by the city at a cost of $71,000 to analyze the parking problem and identify potential fixes. They also have ideas of their own. READ FULL STORY


Virgin Trains: More counties want aging bridges replaced
week of October 31, 2019

Virgin Trains USA’s proposal to replace the historic St. Lucie River Railroad Bridge in Martin County with a $100 million high-rise lift bridge has prompted requests for new railroad bridges in St. Lucie and Broward counties. St. Lucie County Commissioner Cathy Townsend Friday asked Virgin Trains to replace the outdated Taylor Creek Railroad Bridge, which currently is set for rehabilitation. Broward County officials similarly called upon Virgin Trains and Florida East Coast Railway to replace the New River Railroad Bridge to allow more commuter, passenger and freight trains through Fort Lauderdale. Virgin Trains has long planned to replace the 93-year-old St. Sebastian River Railroad Bridge, which links Indian River and Brevard counties as part of creating the infrastructure of its planned passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando. When service starts – in summer 2022 if Virgin Trains stays on schedule – 34 passenger trains will zip through Indian River County each day at speeds up to 110 mph. Currently, about 20 freight trains per day travel 40-to-60 mph on the FECR tracks. READ FULL STORY


Environmental Learning Center expansion underway
week of October 31, 2019

The Environmental Learning Center is finally moving forward with its multimillion-dollar expansion master plan. According to Board Chairman Don Barr, a $1 million donation for an education and event pavilion earlier this year and a more recent $100,000 donation for a pontoon dock have made it possible to get those projects underway. “We hope to complete both within 12-18 months,” Barr said. The nonprofit’s board sent RFPs for work on the education and event pavilion to five architectural firms, interviewed two and, last month, selected local architects Edlund-Dritenbas-Binkley to design the pavilion. According to Barr, Coastal Tech, a Vero Beach engineering consulting firm, has evaluated the existing pontoon dock’s condition and will design the improvements, develop cost estimates and obtain any needed permits, “all pro bono.” Dock improvements will include new railings, solar-powered lighting, seating at the dock entrance, a kayak launch and a mechanism for moving wheelchair occupants from the dock into and out of the pontoon boat. ELC board member Tim Buhl is coordinating both projects. READ FULL STORY