Charles A. Tovey Jr. stated the rules apply to everybody, equal rights; they can clean the Lagoon except for the main channels within years’ time; 75 percent white sands; they are doing it in Commissioner Infantini's area, she has been the only one willing participant in cleaning up and saving the Lagoon; and he had brought this over a decade ago, and there is another 10th or 11th meeting he spoke at concerning things. He stated to excuse him for a moment; and by the way, Mr. Knox, if he could excuse the jurisdiction on him and his property, he would appreciate it. He commented he will volunteer his services anywhere in the United States and do the work for free for recovering the environment and communities; and he does have plans and remedies and not at the taxpayers’ expense, no taxes, and no new taxes. He went on the Board has been getting taxes; and he questioned what happened to it, all of these people driving nice cars, with nice homes, and look at the Lagoon, what happened to it; he has been doing it, has videos, and Commissioner Infantini will have all the information he has; and any access will be through Commissioner Infantini. He continued the destroyed springs in Palm Shores is right in the middle of the Lagoon; it is really important; and he reiterated that he will provide all of his information to Commissioner Infantini because it has been used against him and stolen so that other people can get raises and things. He stated this is going to be a 4:1 vote because four of the Board members have been surrounded by the government and the family; they work with these people on a daily basis spending more time with government associates, agencies and the Economic Development Commission (EDC) than with their own families; and he questioned if that is a conflict of interest. He commented that Commissioner Infantini is the only one isolated from this intrusion of government; he will help; and he has results and will do it. He again asked what happened to the money; all this money, taxes do not need to be raised as 75 percent will be completed within a year's time without tax monies; and the communities will all benefit and can make money off of it. He continued the world is a radiator and the County is filling up the core of it, so it is no longer cooling the core; what happens, it is all being run off, first to the Lagoon, then to the ocean; it is Natural Resource's job, why did they let it go; and 10 years ago he presented all of his videos and information and the County did not want to hear it, all it is after is salaries and monies. He stated it is a family of government and that is the problem; people need to work together, it is up to everyone, not just the taxpayer paying for it, and then do nothing; 40 hours a week on the road crews, when they sit there half the day talking and it takes six of them to dig a little hole; he will do it for free and do a better job; and it is being done in Commissioner Infantini's District. He continued Ronald Reagan once said " The closest thing to eternal life is a government funded project;” putting sand on the beach, dredging muck out of the Lagoon, repairing damage to the bridges, putting concrete catch basins in the storm drains to catch people's lawn clippings are four government projects that will go on forever; and he commented these problems and more will never be solved until people understand how the Lagoon has functioned for thousands of years. He stated most of the Lagoon shores were lined with coquina formations; the coquina was underwater and soft, not permeable like the granite being used to fill in that conducts more heat; he has read it takes about two years for coquina to harden once it is removed from the water; and he believes violent hurricanes with high tide ripped apart the soft coquina formations, reshaped them, and piled them high on the shore to harden.
Jay Barfield stated he grew up a good part of his life on the Indian River Lagoon; he has learned a lot and applied technologies to bodies of water; and he heard a very impressive presentation today that he believes will work. He continued he works all over the State, doing some of the things that have been exposed here and certainly believes that it will work; the Plan presented is a good road map to get there; the interesting thing to him is that he is doing work for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Fish and Wildlife in St. Johns at Lake Apopka and just finished a 10 month project, and it is a very sick lake, almost 90-95 percent of the problems mirror the Indian River Lagoon; one is salt and one is not, but the nutrient problem, algae problem, there are ways to correct it, and dredging is one of them; there are non-chemical and non-dredging ways to accomplish the same results; and it may take a little longer but he has been able to reduce the algae counts in 10 months by 40 to 60 percent. He went on Lake Apopka is the only lake in Florida that he knows of where the algae counts have gone down 40-50 percent from the winter which is the low to the summer which is always the high; in the statistics back up, the algal counts by TSS, Chlorophyll A, and several other measures, in other words, if there are three or four things from a water quality standpoint there is going to be algae, period; and if those things are removed or reduced, the algal problems are minimal, they never get to zero in Florida, whether it is Phosphorus, Nitrate, or algae. He offered kudos to everyone for what the County is doing, and hopes that he can be a part of the process because it is his passion.
Commissioner Infantini thanked him for coming and asked how he financed his project at Lake Apopka.
Mr. Barfield replied they had some sweat equity in it, but it was funded by the State.
Amy Tidd stated she is a candidate for State Senate and she has some background in this issue. She continued her history includes the Beach and River Front Acquisition Project which had some problems because there was not enough citizen oversight, therefore, some things were done that wasted taxpayer dollars; later she looked at preserving land, in which she was part of the second Endangered Land Referendum, the first one passed overwhelmingly and was a success because of the scientists that managed the project and made sure tax dollars were not wasted; and in 2004 she ran the pack Preserve Brevard which promoted the second Endangered Lands Referendum that passed by 75 percent. She went on, in Brevard County, people care about where they live, they love the native lands and the waters; she is very pleased to see a citizen's oversight as part of the Plan, it is very important, veto power is also important to keep from wasting money; and she supports the Plan. She thanked Virginia Barker and all those who support the Plan, and stated the time to take action is now.
R. T. Platt stated he grew up in the 50s and 60s, therefore, he was able to enjoy the Lagoon as a child; living in the area of Eau Gallie and Melbourne Causeway, he spent his weekends and summers running around where sea life was abundant, clams were everywhere, there were fish, and sea grass from causeway to causeway; and now there is no sea grass anywhere. He continued he is very familiar with the muck, and when a three-inch minnow swims over the muck, it leaves a trail, so it is easily suspended, and definitely a problem. He thanked Ms. Barker and her team for the Comprehensive Plan and the Board for having the foresight and integrity to attack the problem; he continued he knows this Plan has been kicked down the road for years and feels it is time to address it; he fully supports the Plan; and he believes it is fiscally responsible, it targets the pollutants in a responsible manner, it provides a sustained funding, and has a strong oversight component. He asked the Board to implement the property tax versus the sales tax; he knows it will have a heavier impact on waterfront owners; and he indicated they are the ones who will benefit the most. He stated the sales tax is a little more aggressive; if the property tax was a half a Mill it would be $44 per year for the average homeowners, which is only $.14 a day; he looked up what someone could get for $.14 a day and found a half a cup of milk, a little over one ounce of Starbuck's coffee, a quarter ounce of a New York strip steak, or if saved up for nine days, a crispy taco from the value menu at Taco Bell; and he commented it is only $.14 a day to preserve a part of this community. He continued it will take a dedicated effort for a long period of time, and though this Plan is not the end all, it is a great beginning. He quoted an old Greek proverb, "Society grows great when people plant trees and whose shade they may never sit", and he requested the County spend $.14 a day to Plant those trees, so that future Brevard children and adults can enjoy the Lagoon, like he did as child.
Gail Meredith thanked the Board for all their hard work and tremendous progress since the last meeting. She commented she had seen online where there was another big fish kill; thanked Virginia Barker for all the work her and her staff has done and that it is an excellent Plan; and encouraged the Board to move forward. She continued on her concern is with Commissioner Infantini and that she has repeatedly seen her take an adversarial roll with the Lagoon and with the work of other commissioners; she commented things have changed; and if Commissioner Infantini does that, all the people in blue will be sure she is not elected to her next position. She noted it has been scary to see, and stated Commissioner Infantini has pushed buttons of 10,000 people to get them to come to the meetings, to see her in her own ego; and she advised everyone has to be together on this. She stated she is unsure of what the right option is, but, she believes the Board knows; and she asked the Board to pull all of its energy together to start this Plan as soon as possible, because of the dire shape of the Lagoon. She mentioned a lot of the illnesses in the community are caused by the polluted water; the research is clear that Alzheimer, Parkinson’s, and Cancer are being caused by the organisms in the algae in the water; and if the Board needs more information, she will get it to them. She encouraged the Board to continue to focus, to make this a top priority for the community; and she stated the people in blue will all work to get the referendum passed. She commented they will meet with Commissioner Infantini; and she asked that Commissioner Infantini watch what she is doing because the community is very concerned, and for her to focus and understand the dire consequences of not going forward at this time.
Dominick Montanaro thanked the Board, the County Manager, and the Director of Natural Resources for the outstanding presentation on the Lagoon issues; he stated he is a Satellite Beach City Councilman; and he has been involved with the City for over 25 years. He mentioned he had moved here in 1984 from Fort Lauderdale; the once pristine waterways in Fort Lauderdale were fowled when he left there; and Brevard is now facing some of those same issues. He continued he is a State certified swimming pool contractor and has been working along the Lagoon and its canals for over 32 years; the once clear waters, allowed views of the marine and vegetative life along the 170+ miles of the Lagoon; and he has watched over the years, along with everyone else, its demise. He stated storm water run-off, septic and sewage seepage, pesticides, and fertilizers have fouled the once rich marine environment; this contamination started before he arrived in Brevard County, but he had witnessed the eventual demise that the Lagoon now faces; and the community has watched it happen and were part of its destruction. He stated Brevard County is at a crossroads and needs to make some hard decisions on how to ensure the quality of life the people come here for; the Lagoon's economic benefit provides billions of dollars to the counties and cities along its shores, along with marine life, substance, and recreational venues; and it will not be an inexpensive endeavor and all who use the Lagoon should share in its turn around. He stated options one and two are based on Ad Valorem tax only; option three includes Ad Valorem and grants; and four provides a sales tax to be shared by residents and visitors. He commented the estimated $340 million this option provides could possibly increase based on additional spending in the County; new projects at the Port and around the County will attract more visitors and residents; additional revenue could be used to further the muck removal for other canals not included in the current Plan; and any of the four options available will accomplish the need in cleaning up the Lagoon, however, being a City Councilman he feels option four would better support the residents of Brevard County, because, homeowners are not the only ones who utilize the Lagoon. He stated visitors come to Brevard, people who live in the County and are not homeowners use it, and everyone should share in the cost.
Courtney Barker, City Manager of City of Satellite Beach, thanked the County Manager and his staff for a great plan and everything they have done to get to this point in their coordination with the cities. She stated she had hoped there would be five votes in favor of this plan; if anyone thinks the County is going to find $30 million every year in the County budget to do Lagoon restoration they are sorely mistaken; and the budget will not be re-prioritized to find the money because prioritization has been discussed every year for the past eight years and the Board has yet to find $30 million for the Lagoon restoration. She commented the County needs to always pursue State funding, but not depend on it for this plan; to recognize State funds will address the latest crisis, but can and probably will be, diverted to another purpose in later years; and if the County wants a dedicated funding source for the Lagoon restoration, it needs to depend on itself. She continued this cannot wait any longer, pushing the cost down the road just increases the cost to the residents and generations to come; and it is a terrible and quite frankly stupid, financial decision to wait any longer. She asked for five votes today so the voters can decide their own future of water quality; and if the Board does not support the tax then do not vote for it in November, but do not get in the way of the voters.
Frank Cantino, Mayor of Satellite Beach, stated he has been a fishing guide for 40-plus years; and he is making a living off of the Lagoon. He stated the City Council of Satellite Beach voted unanimously 5:0 to support a sustainable funding source to be placed on the ballot in November so the citizens of the County can vote on the state of the Lagoon and how they want it repaired; the Board has many tough decisions trying to balance needs and wants with a small amount of dollars; to find $30 million every year is going to be quite tough; and he does not think today's vote is to be for or against the tax on the citizens, it is just a vote to let the people decide on how they want to help clean up the Lagoon. He continued on with a story of how he was in a battle with a gentleman who sits here now and is more responsible for his love for the Lagoon than anything else, his teacher in school; this man took him out to the Lagoon and spent a lot of time with him; a few years after he passed his class, they got into a battle, Jerry, his teacher, was with the organized fishermen in Florida and he was a fishing guide; the fishing guides wanted to ban the nets and the organized fishermen did not, the fishermen prevailed; however, the one thing that was common among the two and still is today, is the health of the Lagoon. He stated back then they knew the Lagoon would not last, and now, 25 years later it is in bad shape, a lot has been removed from the Lagoon, but no one worried about the environment. He commented the fish kill was the greatest thing to ever happen to the Lagoon because he does not believe there would be so many people in the audience had it not happened; it was a shock to the people and got their attention on the condition of the Lagoon; it has been dying for a long time; and the County is going to need funding for a long time to make this happen. He continued option four would be his choice; allowing a sales tax would take the burden off all Brevard citizens and spread it out to everybody who comes to the cities; and he truly believes with this tax and the ability to get grants from the State and Federal level, the Lagoon can be repaired.
*The Board recessed at 12:27 p.m. and reconvened at 1:13 p.m.
Mitchell Roffer noted he received his Doctorate in Biological Oceanography from the University of Miami and has been active with the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) issues. He stated he is in support of the referendum for the small increase in the sales tax because this is a real County emergency in terms of the health and safety of the public due to harmful pathogens that are entering Brevard County's water; in terms of the economic engine that provides for all the sectors in the County, in terms of the expansion to the beach problems, where the water from Port St. Lucie traveled out to the gulf and up to Georgia, and now that water is being pushed into Brevard County's water and the water coming from the IRL is going through Sebastian Inlet and will be affecting the beaches; and he stated it is the entire County's responsibility, we all did it, and now we all need to fix the problem and maintain the IRL. He stated he supports the Plan because the sales tax treats everyone equally across the board, meaning everyone pays; land owners, renters, out of County workers, visitors, and tourists all use Brevard County resources, all contribute to the problem, and all benefit from the healthy IRL ecosystem; he loves the Citizen Council idea, but believes the County should hire an outside independent with a strong background in science to oversee the whole project; he supports this with a guarantee that the County Commissioners will not cut the money already allotted for the Department of Natural Resources; and the Plan must have specific priorities, step-by-step milestones so someone in the citizens group and the independent can do checks and balances. He continued he understands the value of changing situations in the Lagoon and will learn much more as the restoration continues; this cannot be another Amendment One, bait and switch; the money must go for fixing the Lagoon and only the Lagoon; he appreciates that Roads and Parks need work and all other parts of the County; however, this is a specific problem and an emergency, so all the money must go to the IRL. He continued he supports this for buying lands for filter marshes, but it should also coordinate and integrate this project with the Endangered Lands Program; the groups could work together to make sure to get the most out of it; and he believes there needs to be new recommendations on agricultural run-off, fertilizer use, ground water contamination, municipal run-off, and municipal dumping of sewage into the waters. He stated he supports the work the County has done; the science is all there; and asked the Board to please place this on the referendum so the citizens can vote for an increase in the sales tax.
Tim Tumulty, Cocoa Beach Mayor, stated he is there to give an update on what Cocoa Beach is doing; in their last meeting, there were three items on the agenda specifically related to the Indian River Lagoon; the first thing done was passing an Ordinance creating a sustainability committee, which was basically modeled after the committee created by Satellite Beach; and during the Space Coast League of Cities Meeting he asked all the other Municipalities to also consider creating that particular Committee to get a voice amongst themselves and across the entire County with respect to the IRL. He continued the Committee also accepted a Combination Grant from St. John's River Waterways, along with the County in over $600,000 to continue a dredging project in Cocoa Beach; the Committee also passed a Resolution for this particular referendum to go through; and the Committee did not specify which option, but is for the money to be generated on a sustained process whether it is over a year or 10 years, whatever the Committee chooses to put on the referendum. He commented the presentation was fantastic and put together very well; he saw a version of the presentation a few months back and it now has a lot more detail; the number of septic tanks has been narrowed down from 300,000 to 30,000 or 40,000; and it gives everyone an idea of what the County is up against. He stated all cities have that same problem with septic, dredging, and stormwater mitigation, it is just a different ratio; Cocoa Beach only has five septic tanks, Rockledge has maybe a few thousand; and the same with Merritt Island and Cocoa. He noted there are storm water drains without filters in Cocoa Beach; but with all the projects going on for decades, the City has been incorporating underground filtration systems to mitigate the run-off directly into the Lagoon; and he appreciates the Commissioners who appeared at the meeting last evening. He noted Commissioner Barfield attends the City Commission Meetings; no State Representatives or Senators come to any of the City Commission Meetings; and he has been a Commissioner and the Mayor of Cocoa Beach for four years and not one Representative or Senator has come to one meeting, so he wonders how they even know what is going on, and his guess is they must not really care, because someone else is telling them what to do. He stated Cocoa Beach's water treatment facility had the lowest nutrient load in the entire County; therefore, the City is doing what it can, and has been for quite a few years; the County has an opportunity in front of it right now, 20 ago it had that same opportunity; there were articles from 20 years ago talking about septic tanks, dredging, fertilizers, and education; and he continued shame on us if this is the same conversation 20 years down the road. He continued what a disservice it would be for this Community not to have or fix the IRL; and he looks forward to the Board voting positively to put this referendum on the ballot.
Commissioner Infantini thanked the Mayor for at10ding the meeting and asked what the sustainability team does.
Mayor Tumulty replied that the Team has not yet been created, they are in the process of creating it, and Satellite Beach already have a Committee they have developed, and it is not just about the IRL. He noted it is about the entire sustainability environment from the beach all the way through to the river, renewable energy sources, a lot of different areas.
Commissioner Infantini stated her second question is about the $600,000 his City received from the State for dredging.
Mayor Tumulty replied no, the City received $600,000 total; $200,000 from St. John's River Water Management; and another $400,000 came from the County which received the money from the State.
Commissioner Infantini asked how much money Cocoa Beach had to put up.
Mayor Tumulty stated the City did not have to put up any money for the Dredging Program; and that it is a continued program where the City currently has a dredging program going on in North Cocoa Beach.
Commissioner Infantini stated she just wanted to point out, because there have been two speakers from communities that have dredging projects taking place and both times, they themselves stated, the cities did not have to contribute any money, meaning their taxpayers did not have to go out to a referendum, instead grant money was received from St. John's Water Management or Brevard County who got it from the State.
Mayor Tumulty commented the City is using their staff and their land in the City for the spoil site; it is not a couple months project, it is a multi-year project, on-going; and the staff works on it on a continuing basis.
George H. Rosenfield commended Ms. Barker and her speakers on an excellent presentation of the admiral Plan; he stated too bad it is now, but better late than never; there were Plans before, however they never got the report that we have now; and noted he modified his original speech because of something that was said earlier. He stated he had a little information on history and geography but it would be repetitious; he already gave Ms. Barker his original copies of what he would have said; and he did at10d her presentation on Sunday at Sam's House in Merritt Island. He commented he understands the need to prioritize the work to be done to restore the IRL; the muck is already being removed; and asked if anyone remembered when he asked earlier to pass the fertilizer ordinance so that the County could get on with the septic tank problem, that is a priority. He went on about being a member of the Marine Resources Council since 1986; helped prepare the first Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the Indian River Lagoon published in 1996; and it is too bad it did not get the at10tion it needed back then. He continued he is an environmental scientist, not an economist, but if he had to make a choice on financing he would include the sales tax method, then not only property owners, but renters, snow birds, and visitors would also contribute to the restoration of the beloved IRL; and he asked about all the other breaks that have been given to developers and industry.
Ron Taylor thanked the Board for letting him speak on the most important issue confronting the community, the health and recovery of the IRL; it is truly the life blood of the County; he has read the Save Our Lagoon Plan from cover to cover; and as a retired Environmental Engineer he commends the professionalism, the science, and the rationale behind most of the recommendations presented in the Plan. He continued on a project of this complexity and political impact it is a difficult task; one of the reasons he supports the Plan is the courage it took to attempt such an undertaking; and as a small boy driving up to Brevard County in the 1950's from Miami to visit, he treasured the memories of fishing in the crystal clear water in the Lagoon and catching Trout that got bigger and bigger when retelling his fishing stories to his classmates. He commented that is the Indian River Lagoon that he will always remember; that is not the reality of the IRL today; and stated he supports the Plan because the condition of the Lagoon has got10 worse until it is now at a crisis point. He commented the crisis point was brought about by over-development in a region of the Lagoon that was unable to bear the impact of that development; Government oversight charged with protecting the Lagoon concerned itself more with draining, filling, and modifying the natural balance of nature to facilitate that development; and the County needs bold initiatives, innovative initiatives, for example: the C1 re-diversion, which the people are proud happened, will undo the damage done by one of the principle drainage projects that empty its nutrient load into the IRL. He continued this action cut the nitrogen load in the Lagoon by 57 percent, that is more reduction than the proposed fertilizer, septic systems, treatment plants, and storm water reduction efforts combined; that is what he calls a bold innovative approach; this Plan costs $302,881,000 million over 10 years and requires the average homeowner to agree paying an additional $44 per year in taxes, or a half-cent sales tax; his preference is the property tax because it is not the aggressive tax, as is the sales taxes; and most of the impact affects the people right along the IRL with higher prices, however, they receive most of the benefit and increase to their property values. He continued the second reason he supports the Plan is because with Lagoon clean-up, the counties must deal with the Federal and State Bureaucratic nightmare and special interests; it gives local control and a means to get matching funds from the Federal and State governments to implement Plans so the Lagoon can be cleaned up; and the final reason for his support of the Plan is because it will go before the citizens in a referendum to decide the future of the Lagoon. He stated it will be a good heated American debate called Democracy in Action; there will be rational arguments and irrational arguments all over Brevard County; and things that will be heard include: "Can we trust our government", "Are we just setting up another expensive government entity", and "Is this Plan just becoming a new source of revenue for already entranced organizations", and Florida TODAY will have plenty of material for the editorial pages. He went on after all the shouting and yelling the citizens of Brevard County will certainly come together as an equal and vote to save the Lagoon and pass the referendum.
Ron Bobay, representing the League of Women Voters Space Coast, stated the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan has been developed with a cost for implementation of approximately $303 million; the League of Women Voters Space Coast endorses and supports the project Plan funded either through a property or sales tax; and encourages placement by the Board on the November ballot. He continued there is a community consensus that the Lagoon, 71 percent of which is in Brevard County, needs at10tion; the Plan developed by Natural Resources is comprehensive in nature and is widely accepted as a responsible Plan; it addresses the multitude of contributors to the degradation of the Lagoon and a Plan for addressing them in an integrated and responsible manner; and he added accolades to Ms. Barker in terms of providing leadership and also the expertise she has surrounded herself with, which is evident by those who have spoken.
Mark Ryan, City Manager for Indian Harbor Beach, commended the County Manager, Natural Resources Manager, and the Board for taking a bold step to develop a comprehensive strategic Plan to address the County's most precious resource, the IRL; this Plan will help restore the Lagoon, it is a natural treasure and this needs to be done; a choice can be made to go down the road and place blame but no one is going to ride in on a white horse and save the Lagoon; this is something that needs to be done within the County; and he learned a long time ago that God helps those who help themselves. He continued perhaps the better approach is what can be done as a once in a lifetime opportunity to clean the Lagoon; this Board can create a legacy of being the Board who fixed the Lagoon and did not kick the can down the road; and each of the Board Members have the opportunity to place the referendum on the ballot for the voters to decide. He went on it is not Titusville's river, Cocoa's river, or Palm Bay's river, it is all of Brevard County's river and they all have a stake in it; what is done for that river helps economically, preserves property value, and is also the right thing to do; and the Board needs to take this opportunity. He commented that the newspaper over the weekend had a guest editorial from Mr. Wayne Mills, former Chairperson of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, in which he talked about what the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, did to help solve their problems and he mirrored that to what is going on today. He commented Mr. Mills congratulated the Board for taking the initiative to create this Plan; and Ms. Barker and her team have created a phenomenal blueprint, and to make it work. He continued the City of Indian Harbor Beach supports the Plan, supports creating a sustainable funding source; and although the Plan came out with a half-cent sales tax after the last council meeting, he strongly believes his council would support that half-cent sales tax because it spreads the cost over not just residences of Brevard County but visitors too. He stated the famous quote from the 1982 movie Star Trek, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one", our river is the one, and we need to make it happen.
Helme Walter commented she definitely wants to save the Lagoon, although taxing is not necessarily always the way to go, especially property taxes because there is less than a million people in Brevard County; she is on a sewer in Merritt Island and uses approximately 1,000 gallons of water a month, sometimes 2,000 gallons, and pays around $300 a year for sewer usage; and septic tank users along the IRL pay zero a year for up-keep and clean-up. She went on if just 2,000 of those septic tank users paid $300 a year, it would bring $600 thousand in one year; according to the information on the Lagoon Project there are 81,952 total septic systems, 59,438 of them are within the Brevard Indian River Basin; and if each of those septic tank owners paid $300 a year, in one year the County would generate $17,831,400 and in four years it would generate over $70 million. She commented the proposed cost for the Septic system removal is approximately $42 million and upgrades are approximately $2 million; it appears from the presentation that the septic tanks provide a lot of the issues to the IRL; and she strongly suggested the County make the septic tank owners pay $300 per year. She stated all the people on the IRL septic tanks pay water bills so the water is on a meter; all the water going into the septic tanks is not being paid for; therefore, she objects to having to pay for the septic tank people who have had a free ride for a long time. She reiterated they should pay $300 per year, it is not all that much; she wants to save the Lagoon and the homes as well; some of them are low income seniors now and have had different things happen in their lives, may have had lots of money but no longer do; 20 years ago she was given six months but she is still here; and this needs to be spread around so the people who cause the pollution should pony up a little bit. She went on she just found out she has aluminum wiring in her house because it was built in 1968 and all the copper was making bullets for the Vietnam War; now if she wants homeowners insurance she has to get that wiring taken care of, the Board is not going to do that for her; those people on septic tanks need to pony up; and the County needs to look for grants. She stated she would support a sales tax, but feels the Board should take the burden off of the property owners, and if that is what is going to happen then the Board should offer a low income senior exemption.
Commissioner Smith reminded the people who suffer from the same mind set and hold on to the fallacy that septic tank owners do not pay anything, septic tanks cost $10-$15 thousand to build, that is not free; if it is an aerobic treatment unit the cost is $15-$20 thousand; on top of that there is a couple hundred dollars a year to the State and local maintenance company to keep it in working order; therefore, septic tanks are not free, and if the Board followed the pattern in Monroe County, everyone on septic would be given an opportunity to pay for their sewer conversion over a 10-year period and the cost would added to the property taxes.
Michael Myjak stated it is clear from the people who are in attendance, the presentation presented that the IRL is or at least was one of Florida's crown jewels, and hopefully can be again; clearly all of us have done a disservice over the last 60 years in this County maintaining this Lagoon; and it is a fragile estuary system that is in need of severe guidance and assistance. He commented one of the things that sticks out in his mind is the $300-plus million fix that is only the start of the Lagoon becoming well, it has a long way to go; the other thing that sticks in his mind is the point the previous speaker had made, this was caused by our community not by those who visit or vacation; and they built the hotels, built the houses, dug the drainage ditches, and dumped the sewage into the Lagoon. He noted the cesspool known as Lake Okeechobee is not really affecting our part of the Lagoon, but there nonetheless; all the nutrients pile into the Lagoon, an estuary of over 1,400 unique and indigenous species, and one of the highest levels of biodiversity in North America; and that is going to start dropping if something is not done. He went on the Lagoon spans over five counties and a myriad of cities, but it is human encroachment; this Lagoon survived for thousands of years without them; but they have done this disservice, so for that reason and that reason alone that he supports the property tax to help pay for it; and he encouraged the Board to look at this as just the beginning. He went on if the County could get matching funds, so be it, add it to what the County is already pulling in; to establish the IRL as a National Marine Sanctuary that will allow the County to draw additional Federal resources; and he proposed the County take that from the western shores of the IRL out to the Ocarina Bank, if that can be done then this County would have the crown jewel back.
Melissa Martin stated the unified voices of citizens, business owners, and established organizations countywide are all saying the same thing, they must take effective and responsible actions now to save the Lagoon; after many days and nights of reviewing the Plan, she was happy to find it both effective and responsible; and the results of the ballot option survey that she had conducted among the Coalition members, only eight percent did not want to pay any type of taxes, 37 percent voted for the sales tax, and more than half preferred a property tax. She noted while each option has its own pros and cons, the Coalition is prepared to support any effective action that moves them closer to saving the Lagoon; regarding the language, the Coalition was tasked to ensure there was no way possible to allow this well thought out Plan to become another Amendment One; it looked for and addressed any potential problems, and as she understands it, the revised language now has both tightly worded funding purposes and has given the right to the Citizen's Oversight Committee to raise a red flag and call for a special public hearing if something does not smell right, which is practically a political veto power; and she stated those two matters were very important and hopes that she is speaking for most blue shirts in the audience that this Plan is now officially good to go with the Coalition. She continued the Coalition looks forward to participating in the development of the rules and control measures to ensure the Plan's process integrity; she stated she has had lots of feedback from and discussions with the community in the past few weeks, whereas, many of the debates started off with, "I am all for saving the Lagoon, but", so to help she has summed up four arguments that came up and provided the answers that seemed to solve or at least quiet the argument which includes, one, finding the money somewhere else, the way she understands it and as it has been explained, there is no play money in the County Budget and no time to waste for the Lagoon, and for those looking for a handout from the State or Federal governmental agencies waiting for someone else to solve the problems, it has been made clear they will not help until they generate their own funds first, they must show they care about their own issues and take personal responsibility for them; two, the County can be trusted primarily because there will be a mandate of transparency, the Citizen's Oversight Committee to confirm it, trust but verify as President Reagan also said; three, the Plan does not do what it should, if anyone has a question why certain projects had priority over others the simple solution is to just ask, Ms. Barker and her team will answer with an articulate understandable big picture explanation and when there is good science-based reasons to shift priorities, however the Plan has the flexibility through the amendment process to make it happen; and four, for those who do not like paying taxes for schools because they have no kids who attend them or do not like paying taxes for emergency services when they have never called 911, to be clear once the Lagoon hits the tipping point the County becomes a waste Lagoon County, property values will fall and not just on the waterfront, foreclosure signs will pop up, doctors warn them of toxic air and hazardous water, to forget fishing, people become sick, businesses die or move away, and when whatever population is left decides to do something about it, it will be too overwhelming, too expensive, and too late. She stated she has not heard any reason to vote against the referendum today; the Coalition would like to see this referendum; and for those unfamiliar with the Coalition, it is there for citizens, businesses, and organizations of Brevard County that need to see the Lagoon bounce back sooner rather than later. She went on in the next few months, collaboration with members and strategic partners, the Coalition will be educating the community on what it needs to know to make an informed vote this November and beyond; the Coalition serves as a hub of information so that it can coordinate efforts to help spread awareness in the right communities, such as the septic smart week coming in September; and it will make sure everyone knows where to go to help out with local cleaning or restoration projects, Lagoon friendly, being sustainable, and living responsibly. She continued it educates people on how they can be effective citizens and make sure they have the information they need to make an impact in their own neighborhoods, cities, and communities; as it grows in numbers and resources so will its reach; and they look forward to providing this community service to Brevard County through all of these educational efforts and more.
Commissioner Fisher asked how many people answered her survey.
Ms. Martin replied they only had three days but 76 people voted.
Commissioner Infantini clarified that she agrees the Lagoon is sick; she does not disagree that it needs to be de-mucked, however she does believe the sewer lines need to be fixed not just the septic. She continued she does not believe the septic tanks are a majority of the problem, but more so leaking sewer line; what she does disagree on is where should the money come from, who should pay for it, and how it will be funded; the reason she is not all in favor of a referendum is because she has watched how elected officials spend the taxpayers money for seven and a half years close and up-front; and she lacks the same confidence as the public in the elected officials with making good decisions spending taxpayer dollars. She noted she does not agree that the Board has the ability to properly prioritize; when two of the Board members were not on the Board, this Board voted to spend $5,000 per Palm Tree that was not indigenous to the community to line S.R. 520, which is just one small example; and the point she is trying to make is that is how the Board is spending people’s money. She stated that when she perhaps votes against this referendum, it is because she disagrees with the funding source; there has already been two speakers who have stated how they had made improvements in their community and they both said they did not go back to the taxpayers they went to the St. John's Water Management and the State; therefore, she is not 100 percent confident that the County needs to go back to the taxpayers first, it may need to, but not until it has exhausted all other resources.
Ms. Martin agreed that the coalition was not confident in the beginning, but on behalf of the citizens and the remarks she had read up on with Scott Ellis' concerns, the coalition incorporated all of those concerns and that is why it had engaged with the issues talked about by County staff; those issues have been resolved; speaking on behalf of the coalition, if the State or Federal government, between now and November, said yes, a person can have $300 million, there would not be a need to go forward; however, until that happens, this County cannot risk the life of the Lagoon any further.
Philip Stasik speaking on behalf of Space Coast Progressive Alliance, stated it is in favor of the IRL Coalition and MRC's support of this Plan; it strongly supports the Save Our Lagoon Project Plan, it is well writ10, well thought out, and whatever Ms. Barker is being paid, it is not enough; she is an expert and has done a phenomenal job; and he offered thanks to Ms. Barker and her team. He recommended the one-mill Ad Valorem funding of the Plan; this is their neighborhood, their community, their Lagoon, and they must take responsibility for it; in taking that responsibility for it they set the stage for matching funds from the State and Federal government and believes it is the County's turn to step up; the Lagoon is loved by all for so many reasons; and he has spoken to the Board members on many occasions and knows that each of them cares about the Lagoon as well and wants to do the right thing. He continued to thank the Board for having the courage to lead the community to do the right thing; he stated being a good leader is often hard; taking the position to raise money will be unpopular with some; but the money must be raised; doing the right thing for the community in the face of adversity is a measure of what kind of leader this Board is; and as a community they have joined together to clean up and protect the Lagoon. He went on volunteers can only do so much, they need the Board's leadership to heal the Lagoon; citizen groups, environmentalists, fishermen, surfers, academic experts, government planners, and even the media have been begging for someone to do something for years, for decades, and now it is the Board's turn to do the right thing; and it knows there is no hidden money in the budget, all of the speakers came to this Board with a goal of doing the best with the least, getting the most bang for the buck. He noted that the Plan has fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability built into it; this Plan has monitoring, citizen oversight and flexibility built into it; he asked so how does the County get here; most denied that there was a problem at all, and many Dolphins died; as people squabbled over who to blame, the Pelicans died; and then someone tried to find money in the budget and it took too long, the Manatee died. He continued now short-sided people complain about taxes and the government, while the fish are dying; one day soon the deniers, the squabbles, and the complainers will have all moved on, and the river will finally be dead; and so the County must act now to save this precious gem. He went on this is the Space Coast and the community knows what these words mean; failure is not an option; and he stated he hoped for a 5:0 vote because the Board will be sending a signal to the citizens of this County, that it wants to do the right thing, and it wants them to do the right thing as well.
Commissioner Infantini asked if he had $8 million sitting in his hand and had a choice to give it to a millionaire to locate into the County or to put it toward dredging the Lagoon, what would he choose.
Mr. Stasik replied it is an interesting hypothetical; the truth is, the County should have weighed those decisions decades ago; and now there is a dying Lagoon that is potentially going to be dead and the Board needs to take immediate action. He continued he believes the Board, the leaders of the community, knows what the right thing is; and he is hoping to bait in wealthy people that will take care of the County is not the correct answer.
Commissioner Infantini commented to Mr. Stasik about the Board knowing there is not a hidden pocket of money in the budget and stated there is about $7 million that can either be spent on upgrades in small areas of the County or attract jobs or use that same $7 million and use it towards the Lagoon. She stressed there are choices.
Mr. Stasik encouraged her to think bigger than that amount of money; the Board as a group debates this routinely, because he has watched it happen; but he is not talking about $8 million, it is more like one-half billion to one billion to fix what needs to be done here; and what is being talked about is real money, and real money does not come easy.
Dr. Leesa Souto, representing the Marine Resources Council, stated she heard Commissioner Infantini wanted a shirt, so she brought one for all the Board members.
Commissioner Infantini stated for the record she used to live on the Lagoon for approximately 16 years and it was absolutely marvelous, and she misses it.
Dr. Souto stated this is an historical moment in time where the citizens get participate in the community's voice, hear different perspectives, get different opinions, and be a part of the democratic process; she commended the Board for taking on the leadership role, being in a tough position, needing a huge amount of dollars, and saving the County's biggest asset, the IRL, which is in a really bad state; and she commented to be fiscally responsible the Board should not just let the community's assets collapse, it is not fiscally prudent. She talked about people's biggest asset being their home, for those lucky enough to afford one, and to maintain the value, homeowners put on a new roofs, make sure everything looks good, and when there is not enough money they sometime may have to dig into a savings account or a 401K, but that is what keeps the assets managed properly or it would not be worth anything in the long run; therefore, the fiscally prudent thing to do is invest as much as possible, as early as possible, manage the asset so in the long run the community prospers. She continued the County staff is phenomenal, the Plan they came up with in such a short time is outstanding; and she pointed out she is one of those scientist who looks for things to nit-pick about and could find nothing. She went on that the Council had been with the community for 30 years and in10ds to stick with it on this, help get the word out, help oversee the Plan, it will help however it can, to make this a success; the Lagoon is so valuable to the community, and worth the investment; and she thanked the entire staff.
Mike Coneen, executive director of Anglers for Conservation, a local non-profit organization, and vice president of the IRL Coalition, stated the organization supports the referendum and would love to see our community have the ability to vote; he thinks there is a hidden agenda and hidden life lesson that is going on; what is quality of life going to; and he noted he had learned a good life lesson 14 years ago when he was found dead in a creek, lying face down with no heartbeat. He continued with his story, how he awoke from that and realized what the environment provides all of us with; and what is out there to enjoy. He stated all of this stuff is free; and through the 14 years he has adapted, he loves that hill, pointing to the center aisle of the room, because he can roll down it; kids sit on his lap and he rolls them around; and he has adapted to curves, he has adapted to life. He went on if we continue to destroy the Lagoon, the community is unfortunately going to adapt to something that is going to become a giant health hazard; and one day we are all going to wake up and say wow. He stated he could go along with everyone else about the lovely childhood he had playing in the Lagoon; he wonders how long the kids who are taught daily, monthly, and yearly, at the Anglers of Conservation will have to fish; and asks himself where is fishing going because as a community we are very slowly adapting to a lesser quality of life because not only is the Lagoon dying, the environment is dying. He noted this is a much bigger picture than the Lagoon; when he went to North Carolina to see his father and was scheduled to float down the Tallahatchie River, but was told it had to be canceled because there was toxic algae festering inside the beautiful mountain river; and so it is not just Brevard County, or Florida, it is worldwide. He stated there is not a body of water in the State that is not impaired by humans; the organization would love nothing more than to see this go to the ballot and really generate some funds; this is a risk vs. reward, it is a risk leaving the house every single day in hopes that there is a reward; and at this time there is no choice, the County must take the risk. He commented to enhance the value of life, will enhance the quality of life and that is what the Lagoon needs, it is not just the river, it is the environment; and he stated the Board needs to act as the leaders and lead by example.
Keith Winston provided a story he felt had relevance, meaning, and may add a little additional light on the subject. He talked about his son George who had spent five weeks in Guatemala, where he worked hard, his Spanish got better, and he received a real life experience working with folks from all over the world. He continued the college professor who ran the program had come to dinner at his house a few weeks later and she had told him a story, that George had told her, that he never realized had made such an impression on his son; she had asked George why we was doing this; and George told her the story about his dad. He went on with the story, how he was in a train station with his dad and a young man had come up to him and said he needed $8.00 to get home, it was really important that he get there and he had no other way to get there; so he had given him the money, and George asked his dad why he did that, why he gives money away all the time; and so he told his son what if he really had a chance to make a difference and he passed on it, what would that say about them, this was a young man with a very specific Plan and he had a chance to make it happen; and that made a huge impression on George. He continued that three years later that young man had sent him $10.00 in the mail, because he had given him his card, as the stipulation was for this young man to pay him back; but the real impact was on George. He stated that the creation of the Brevard Zoo is near and dear to him; 22 years ago, 16,000 people built this zoo and they still own it; and for that reason he would choose for the community to pay for the Lagoon, that way the community will own it, manage it, and respect it. He commented if the State came through with another $300 thousand he would be the first to say take it, but he actually thinks the community has to pay its due; model for the children what the responsible action is, because we really are, the residents about the Lagoon really are, it is a big bathtub, we are the ones polluting it, we are the ones enjoying it, and we should pay for it; he stated he lives in a homeowners association, never lived in a deed restricted community before, so it was a bit of a shock to him at first with all the rules and regulations, it’s not really his thing; but, he pays about $400 a year which gets him access to a nice pool and a clubhouse, but mostly it keeps everything nice and the property values up. He continued he pays it, he pays it himself because it is his homeowners association dues and he owes it; the State does not owe it; the Federal government does not owe it, would be nice if they helped, but if the community does not model responsibility for what happens in its own back yard, for the children, what does that say about the community; and he thinks that if the community owns it, it will be better taken care of, like the zoo. He continued he does not know of other communities that love the zoo, like this zoo because this community built it with its own hands; this is a fantastic opportunity, not only to start to fix the problem for economic reasons, but for moral standing and how we look our children in the eye and talk about all the terrible things in the world today; but we can actually reverse it and show a community that stands up; he really hopes the Board will put this out for the people, and hopes the people will speak; and he thanked the staff for bringing the issue to this point.