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Whole Family Health’s role continues to grow
week of September 20, 2018

Whole Family Health Center has hired an impressive new CEO at a time when the clinic is gaining prominence and importance as a healthcare resource in Indian River County, offering free to low-cost adult and pediatric primary care as well as mental health services. Marie Andress, who has taken the reins, is the former executive vice president and CFO of Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, a low-cost system with 32 locations and 78,000 patients, where she worked for almost 12 years. With undergraduate and graduate degrees in business management and finance from Widener University, she’s also worked as treasurer of a regional hospital system in Ohio, but says it was the experience of working with a large homeless shelter in Naples that opened her eyes to the healthcare needs of the poor. READ FULL STORY


Developer: I will work with Dodgertown
week of September 20, 2018

Lakeland-based developer Mark Hulbert said he’ll provide the overflow parking area Historic Dodgertown needs to accommodate big-crowd events if the Vero Beach City Council sells him the long-idle, golf-course property immediately west of the sports complex. “I’m willing to put it in writing,” Hulbert told Vero Beach 32963 last week, emphatically adding, “for perpetuity.” In fact, Hulbert shared his desire to cooperate with Indian River County, which owns the adjacent Historic Dodgertown grounds, in a Sept. 4 email sent to County Administrator Jason Brown. Hulbert wrote that he wanted to “express publicly my commitment to working out an agreement with the county, should it be necessary to meet the needs of Major League Baseball.” County officials are backing an effort by Peter O’Malley, the former Los Angeles Dodgers owner and now chief executive officer of Historic Dodgertown, to bring in Major League Baseball to take over the facility’s operations. READ FULL STORY


Broad consensus for no new sidewalk, but wider A1A bike lanes
week of September 20, 2018

Island residents, county commissioners and the Metropolitan Planning Organization are now united in their opposition to a new sidewalk along the east side of State Road A1A and in their support for a wider, safer bike lane along the same 6.74-mile stretch of road. Local cycling groups also support improved bike lanes. To that end, county officials have asked the Florida Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit to 45 mph from the current 50 mph on the section of A1A north of John’s Island when the seaside highway is resurfaced next year. Support for the speed-limit reduction and bike-lane widening was unanimous at the MPO’s Sept. 12 meeting. “Based on what was said at the meeting, it was obvious most of the people don’t perceive a pedestrian problem, just a bike-safety problem,” MPO Staff Director Phil Matson said. “The county is 100 percent behind the bike lane widening.” FDOT’s $7.5 million project, scheduled to begin next summer at Tides Road (north of Jaycee Park) and conclude a year later at Coco Plum Lane (near Wabasso Beach), includes traffic-light and drainage improvements, new signage and pavement markings, and – as of now – the addition of a 6-foot-wide sidewalk along the east side of A1A. READ FULL STORY


New marine laboratory coming to Vero Beach
week of September 20, 2018

A new marine laboratory focused on restoring the health of the Indian River Lagoon is coming to Vero Beach. A collaborative effort of the City and the Ocean Research & Conservation Association, the Center for Citizen Science is on track to open next month. Based in the old Coast Guard station on the Fort Pierce Inlet, ORCA frequently conducts research in Vero and has made a name for itself on the island as a leader in the effort to save the lagoon. Operating from the city water and sewer department’s long-vacant 2,500- square-foot environmental lab off Aviation Boulevard, ORCA scientists will teach interested students and other residents how to conduct water-quality testing, survey seagrass beds, analyze sediment samples, and keep tabs on living shorelines made of oyster shells and mangroves – all in an effort to extend its scientific reach and engage the public in protecting the lagoon. The city will not charge ORCA rent, according to Water and Sewer Director Rob Bolton. Bolton said the lab has been closed for about seven years, ever since the city found it more economical to send out water samples for testing at a commercial facility instead of testing in-house. READ FULL STORY


Shores still hunting for a town manager
week of September 20, 2018

Indian River Shores is once again searching for a new town manager to replace the retiring Robbie Stabe, after the Town Council and Tim Day agreed to terminate Day’s employment agreement. Day was set to begin work this past Monday after the council executed a contract with him to manage the Shores for $125,000 per year. Day, who previously was town manager in Melbourne Beach, and one other candidate had emerged as finalists from a field of more than 20 applicants, and he had promised to move his primary residence to the local area within 90 days of commencing employment. The Aug. 23 employment contract had been executed by Day and the council prior to receiving results of a routine pre-employment background check. In a special call meeting on Sept. 11, the Town Council agreed upon a $15,000 settlement to cancel the contract with Day. When asked how the $15,000 figure was arrived at, Stabe said “because he (Day) had already given notice to his current employer and was going to be unemployed, he incurred some expenses. He was asked what he felt was a fair settlement. He offered to settle for half the available settlement included in his employment contract and the Town Council agreed to the $15,000 settlement.” READ FULL STORY


Man arrested after returning to island home to reclaim illegal drugs
week of September 20, 2018

A jilted lover’s luck went from bad to worse when he returned to his ex-girlfriend’s house on the island to demand his belongings. Indian River County deputies called to the scene allowed the man to gather up his possessions – which happened to include a plastic bag containing crystal methamphetamine – and then promptly arrested him. Peter Roy Justin Welsh, 29, of Palm Beach County, was charged with one count of possession of controlled substance, trespassing and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis. No bond was granted. Sheriff’s deputies responded to a complaint at 5:56 p.m. on Sept. 5 that Welsh was trying to break into a residence at 2240 Seaside Street in a subdivision just south of the Moorings. The complainant, Grace Rummel, told deputies she had locked herself in a room because she was afraid Welsh, her ex-boyfriend, would become violent. When they arrived, deputies found Welsh exiting a patio screen door, according to the sheriff’s report. When deputies asked Welsh to fully step out of the patio, he returned inside where he set an object down on a small round glass before complying with commands to come outside. READ FULL STORY


Electric sale continues to edge forward despite challenges
week of September 20, 2018

While Vero Beach’s 34,000 electric customers wait for the fate of the Vero electric sale to be determined in Tallahassee next month, the city is moving forward with legal housekeeping that needs to be accomplished before any closing and transition to Florida Power & Light service. On its agenda for this past Tuesday, the Vero Beach City Council was scheduled to undertake a public hearing on a proposed resolution to declare the city’s eight electric substations and the land they sit on surplus property, “no longer needed by the City for municipal or public purposes,” so they can be sold in conjunction with the transfer of all the other electric utility assets to FPL. City Manager Jim O’Connor confirmed on Monday that this surplus declaration was tied to the sale of the electric utility to FPL and that the resolution would not allow the city to dispose of substations outside the larger sale transaction. Should the sale not be able to close, due to the failure to gain Florida Public Service Commission approval or for some other reason, the surplus declaration would be cancelled. READ FULL STORY


County comptroller critical of school district financial controls
week of September 20, 2018

In July, Indian River County School Superintendent Mark Rendell accused Assistant Superintendent of Finances Carter Morrison of wrong-doing, claiming Morrison transferred $2.3 million out of the general fund without his permission, causing cash reserves to fall below the level mandated by the School Board. Since then, Morrison has been on paid leave while he is being investigated. But a recent public records request reveals Rendell does not sign off on fund transfers, nor does anyone else – meaning there is no audit trail to prove or disprove that Morrison usurped Rendell’s authority. That is a major problem, according to School Board advisory audit committee member Jeff Smith, who is clerk of the circuit court and county comptroller. “Someone should always be approving transfers of any kind within the organization,” Smith told Vero Beach 32963. “This is a fundamental internal control procedure. “In this situation, the transfer was actually a transfer in tentative budgets amounts,” Smith said. “Any change from the tentative budget to the ‘tentative budget book’ should have, in my opinion, had a documented trail as to why the change was made and approved by someone in a higher management capacity, in this case the superintendent. READ FULL STORY


Police nab man for illegally picking saw palmetto berries
week of September 20, 2018

A Vero Beach man who was picking saw palmetto berries without a state permit now finds himself in a jam after trying to run from police while carrying a 150-pound sack of purloined fruit over his shoulder. Jorel Lesage, 47, was gathering berries in a wooded area west of 5th Avenue SW on Sept. 3 when Indian River County sheriff’s deputies spotted him. When he saw the deputies, Lesage made a run for it but did not get far. After a very brief chase the 6-foot-1, 240-pound forager collapsed under a nearby tree and confessed that he did not have a permit to pick the berries. “I signed up for a permit but it hasn’t got back to me from Tallahassee yet,” a winded Lesage told deputies. Lesage was arrested and charged with illegally harvesting the berries. The Florida Endangered Plant Advisory Council added saw palmetto to the Department of Agriculture’s commercially exploited plant list in July and it’s now a first-degree misdemeanor to transport or sell the tree’s fruit. READ FULL STORY


Caregiver charged with stealing from Marbrisa woman
week of September 13, 2018

A 36-year-old Vero Beach woman is facing charges of stealing at least $26,000 from an elderly Marbrisa woman she was hired to care for, allegedly racking up personal charges on the victim’s credit card, forging her name and altering the dollar amount of checks. Fabiola Palominos, 1445 17th Court, was arrested on Aug. 29 and charged with “exploitation of elderly or disabled adult of $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000,” according to her arrest warrant. Palominos, a certified nurse’s assistant, insists that she is innocent and says she plans to enter a “not guilty” plea when she appears before Judge Cynthia Cox on Oct. 2. “All anybody has to do is look at my record and they can see that I’m innocent,” Palominos said. “I’ve never been in trouble before. I’ve received glowing recommendations from previous clients. Nobody has ever made a complaint about me.” This is the second case in recent years in which a caretaker has been accused of stealing money from an elderly resident in Marbrisa, a small north island subdivision that is home to a number of retirees. READ FULL STORY


2 disqualified from Vero Council race; 4 candidates left
week of September 13, 2018

Two of the six people who filed to run for Vero Beach City Council were disqualified Tuesday, leaving four candidates competing for the three seats. But only one seat is now likely to change in November, as two popular incumbents are on the ballot. Vice Mayor Lange Sykes, the other incumbent, did not file for re-election after serving just one term. On the Nov. 6 ballot will be incumbents Tony Young and Laura Moss, plus newcomers Robert McCabe and Robert Brackett. Former councilman Brian Heady and newcomer Linda Hillman filed incomplete paperwork and on Tuesday afternoon were deemed unqualified by the City of Vero Beach. . READ FULL STORY


John’s Island plan for pipeline under lagoon hits snag
week of September 13, 2018

John’s Island Water Management’s plan to build a 5-mile-long, 16-inch-diameter reuse water pipeline that would run under the lagoon for a mile of its length has hit a major new snag. An engineering firm hired by the county to review plans for the pipeline reported that “it is our opinion that this project, as currently presented, does not represent a constructible design and does not assess or provide consideration for mitigation of identifiable construction and design risks.” Now, a start date for the $6 million project has been pushed back from this year until next summer. The project has been under fire from multiple groups, including residents of The Shores subdivision, who claim the pipeline route, which runs along the edge of their property, crosses a fault line as it passes under the lagoon that could cause the pipe to rupture, polluting the lagoon. They also fear vibration from drilling could damage their homes. In addition, Shores homeowners asked the FDEP to supply missing documents in the environmental impact assessment, which failed to detect endangered indigo snakes or gopher tortoises along the route that have been documented in photos taken by Pelican Island Audubon Society President Richard Baker. READ FULL STORY


Be thankful for cold snaps. Not too many iguanas are roaming around here – yet
week of September 13, 2018

Miniature green dinosaurs aren’t exactly overrunning Vero Beach, but when one of these colorful, non-native iguanas takes up residence in your yard – doing its business on the patio or devouring your ornamentals – it can seem like a bad Jurassic Park dream. Jenna Featherstone, who lives just south of the 17th Street Bridge on the oceanside of A1A, chose to just look the other way when a 3 ½-footer became her unwelcome tenant and boldly lounged by her swimming pool. “We just put up with it,” Featherstone wrote in a Facebook post. “I thought it may have been someone’s pet who escaped or something. Either way, I don’t bother him.” Featherstone is probably correct that the nuisance lounge lizard either escaped from its owner’s home or was let go on purpose when it grew too large for the owner’s comfort. While iguana populations are now well established in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and the Keys, where they have become a major nuisance, most of the animals found in Indian River County are believed to be abandoned pets – their numbers kept in check by cooler temperatures they cannot withstand. READ FULL STORY


Three in the running for two Shores Town Council seats
week of September 13, 2018

Three candidates qualified to compete for two seats on the Indian River Shores Town Council in November. Two seats are up for grabs because incumbent Vice Mayor Michael Ochsner’s term is up this fall and Councilman Richard Haverland is term-limited after nearly eight consecutive years of service. Ochsner, who hopes to hold onto his seat, is in competition with Pebble Bay resident Brian Foley and John’s Island resident Jesse “Sam” Carroll. The two top vote-getters in the Nov. 6 election will win spots on the council. Foley applied for appointment to the seat vacated by former mayor Brian Barefoot in April, but the council chose former councilman Tom Slater. While Barefoot said Monday that he would be supporting Carroll and Ochsner in the contest, Slater remained diplomatic, saying Ochsner has been a good vice mayor and the two newcomers are “both excellent candidates.” “Should be interesting on all levels,” Slater said. READ FULL STORY


Ocean Drive parking kiosk idea draws scant support
week of September 13, 2018

An Oceanside Business Association board member said it’s unlikely more than a handful of Ocean Drive merchants will invest in street-side kiosks and charge for parking in front of their stores. “I doubt if more than one or two retailers will do it,” J.M. Stringer Gallery owner Caesar Mistretta said last weekend. “I’ve already spoken to some of the other retailers about it, and their response was, ‘What are you, crazy?’ “It’s a ridiculous idea,” he added. “I pay taxes. I pay a lot in rent. This shouldn’t be my responsibility. The whole thing doesn’t make sense. For something like this to work, you have to do it throughout the Central Beach business district – or at least all along Ocean Drive – or don’t do it at all. “And if we’re going to do something like this, the city should do it.” Cathy Padgett, owner of the Veranda jewelry store on Ocean Drive, asked the City Council at last week’s meeting to allow individual beachside retailers to acquire and install paid-parking kiosks for the spaces in front of their buildings. READ FULL STORY


Jill Jaynes’ acupuncture clinic open, but is she involved?
week of September 13, 2018

The once-booming acupuncture clinic Absolute Integrated Medicine remains open for business, although it’s not clear if owner Jill Jaynes, who is facing multiple charges of fraud and racketeering in connection with its operation, is still involved. When Jaynes was let out on $455,000 bond three weeks ago, Judge Robert Pegg made it a condition of her release that she “not practice acupuncture . . . not return to Absolute Integrated Medicine . . . [and not] be in the acupuncture business.” Despite that order, the business is operating and Jaynes’ name is still on the business license at Vero Beach City Hall. “We are still open for business,” an employee at Absolute Integrated Medicine confirmed in a phone call. The employee, who would not give her name, directed all further questions to attorney Brooke Butler, who is representing Jaynes. Butler previously said she believed Pegg’s release conditions would require Jaynes to shut down her practice. When she asked for clarification at the Aug. 24 bond hearing, Pegg told her that Jaynes is “not to be in the acupuncture business, period.” READ FULL STORY


Pro-sale forces go on offensive in electric battle
week of September 6, 2018

One down, three to go. Now that the Florida Industrial Power Users Group has voluntarily dismissed its challenge to the Florida Public Service Commission’s approval of the $185 million sale of Vero electric to Florida Power & Light, pro-sale legal teams are poised to gang up on the three local obstructors. FPL’s attorneys have already filed a motion to dismiss separate claims filed by Michael Moran, former Vero councilman Brian Heady, and attorney and former Vero councilwoman Lynne Larkin, who asserts that she’s challenging the sale on behalf of 900 unnamed members of the Civic Association of Indian River County. Vero Mayor Harry Howle on Saturday predicted Vero and FPL will ultimately prevail at the PSC, but said the protests have forced the city to push back the sale closing until early 2019, according to the PSC’s published schedule of hearings on Oct. 9 and 10 to consider claims and motions and a final decision by Dec. 31. Howle said he thinks those objecting to the sale “will fall flat on their face, having not met the first burden of proof: How does this action harm you?” READ FULL STORY


Indian River renovates hospital rooms as merger looms
week of September 6, 2018

It’s a visit no one looks forward to, but a stay that gets rated more rigorously than any hotel. That’s because the comforts of a hospital room have ramifications well beyond rest: A patient’s recovery can be speeded by a well-designed room, studies show, lowering the risk of infections and falls, and boosting the immune system with sunlight and serenity. That’s why last summer, as Indian River Medical Center was beginning its search for a deep-pocketed partner, hospital officials dipped into a budget barely in the black and found more than $1 million to begin renovating its rooms. “We thought, don’t wait for a new tower, let’s take care of the home we live in,” said Rick Van Lith, who updated the Indian River County Hospital District Board last week on how renovations are going. Like the proverbially high cost of a hospital Band-Aid, this quick fix was pricey – $1.2 million for the first 96 rooms, with a similar amount being discussed for next fiscal year – but not nearly as pricey as the major patient room addition IRMC had been contemplating. READ FULL STORY


Despite School Board hoopla, little progress here on 1960s federal desegregation order
week of September 6, 2018

When the School Board last month heralded a partial agreement with the local NAACP as a major step to getting out from under a federal desegregation order that has lingered over the county since civil rights days, the Press Journal reported it as a clearing of the path that could have Indian River County free of this half-century-old stigma in just three more years. The NAACP last week, however, had a somewhat less euphoric assessment of the outcome of the court-ordered mediation. “We got what we paid for,” said Dr. Jacqueline Warrior, NAACP education chairperson. Which is to say, since the organization had pro bono legal representation – nothing. The president of the local branch of the NAACP, Anthony Brown, said he agonized over signing the agreement but felt he had no other recourse. If he didn’t sign, then the NAACP would have had to hire a new lawyer to represent them in federal court, Brown said. “We have no money for a lawyer.” The mediation agreement, which still must be ratified by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, frees the School Board from three areas of court oversight. READ FULL STORY


Citrus Grillhouse now hoping to reopen from fire by Valentine’s Day
week of September 6, 2018

When the Citrus Grillhouse finally reopens for business in February, the fire-damaged, seaside restaurant will have been closed for nearly 11 months – long enough, in many cases, to have become an afterthought. But not in this case. “Usually, when a restaurant goes through something catastrophic, like we did, it loses momentum,” Citrus Grillhouse chef/co-owner Scott Varricchio said last week. “But based on the chatter I’m hearing locally and the feedback I’ve received in emails and letters, we might’ve actually picked up steam. “Almost every day, in one way or another, someone asks me when we’re going to reopen,” he added. “So we’re still on people’s minds, still on the radar, and I’m so thankful we haven’t been forgotten. “If anything, there’s a lot of anticipation about when we’re going to reopen.” That was supposed to happen in October, or so Varricchio thought. But the process of collecting from his insurer proved to be more challenging – and take far longer – than he expected. READ FULL STORY


Neuroscience center at Tradition: competitor or adjunct for IRMC’s comprehensive stroke center
week of September 6, 2018

Less than a month after Indian River Medical Center hired away a team of stroke specialists from Lawnwood Medical Center, gaining the capacity overnight to earn the prestigious designation of comprehensive stroke center, Martin Health has announced it plans to open an even larger, more extensive center at its Tradition Medical Center. The development, construction and equipping of the center would cost close to $30 million, according to Martin Health spokesman Scott Samples. “We are looking to develop a neuroscience center, which would encompass our neurosurgeons, neurologists and pain management specialists, as well as ancillary services such as diagnostic imaging and physical therapy,” said Samples. At this juncture, the plan is to build not only a comprehensive stroke center, but a medical complex that would include radiation oncology, spinal and brain surgery, stroke care and rehabilitation, and treatment of patients with such neurological diseases as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Samples anticipates the project could take up to two years once planning and design gets underway and permits are issues. READ FULL STORY


Jimmy Graves sports complex will be ready to open this fall
week of September 6, 2018

The Jimmy Graves Foundation, created to honor the memory of a Vero Beach high school athlete who died in a tragic boating accident, has made substantial progress on its centerpiece effort to build a sports and leadership training facility on 16th Street, across from Vero Beach High school. Joe and Carole Graves started the foundation after their 15-year-old son, a popular athlete who attended St. Edward’s and VBHS and often played on the 16th Street fields, was killed on an outing with friends on the Indian River in 2016. Joe Graves said last week that improvements already made at the 16th Street site include a $30,000 demolition project that removed worn-out dugouts, lights, fencing, baseball fields, utilities and the northwest and southwest fieldhouses; a $130,000 re-sodding project including drainage, irrigation and grading; a $30,000 fieldhouse renovation; and $15,000 in parking lot improvements. Graves said the foundation has received generous monetary and in-kind donations from community members and that, while it is too early to reveal specifics, several “major corporations have shown interest” in supporting the Foundation’s projects and goals. READ FULL STORY


‘Very interested’ restaurateurs eyeing Ocean Drive location
week of September 6, 2018

Several parties have shown interest in leasing the new restaurant under construction on Ocean Drive, according to Vero Beach-based commercial realtor Billy Moss, who said he’s hoping to have a contract signed within the next two months. “There’s nothing final yet, and the property is still available, but we have some very interested suitors and we’re working on it,” Moss said last week. “We’re getting a lot more interest now that the building is taking shape. “People buy with their eyes, and they’re excited about what they see,” he added. “We’re just looking for the right tenant.” Moss, a Lambert Commercial Real Estate agent who specializes in selling and leasing restaurant properties, said he has been marketing the property from Miami to Los Angeles and that he’s getting interest from “individual entrepreneurs and well-known chefs" in Vero and other parts of the country. He would not identify the parties, saying only that he’s using his coast-to-coast connections in the restaurant business to attract potential tenants, all of whom he said probably would serve lunch and dinner. READ FULL STORY