Gateway Sun

Looks like the casino at 13240 Griffin Drive may be back in business, if only for a day.

With Gateway residents facing continuously escalating costs to operate the district, the Board of Supervisors will be presented with the opportunity at the GSCDD meeting on October 15, 2015 to hire a Tallahassee-based lobbying firm who will try to get state funds to help ease the financial burden of the Lake Bank Restoration Project.

It’s a gamble, but if Gateway wins it could be a 6 or 7 figure jackpot.

The lobbyist under consideration is Ramba Consulting Group LLC, whose fee is $2,000 per month and they require a 1-year contract – so $24,000 total, plus normal expenses. Apparently, they come highly recommended by former Gateway consultant Joe DeCerbo.

Supervisor Rod Senior brought up the idea of hiring Ramba at the October 1, 2015 GSCDD meeting. Rather than make a decision right away, Chairman William Guy told Senior to have Ramba supply the board with a resume of sorts that would explain why they’re worthy of $24,000 to perform some very specific, but very part-time work.

Ramba complied and presented a document introducing their key personnel, as well as a list of 5 local government entities they represent. Ramba also supplied a list of 5 state funding awards secured by their firm for their local government clients. Exactly one award for each of their clients.

So either Ramba was a perfect 5 for 5, or they only provided the list of the local government clients that they were successful for.

Are there other local governments that shelled out cash to Ramba for no results? If so, how many are there? Perhaps Senior can provide that information at the next GSCDD meeting.

If that was the complete list Ramba is always successful it would seem foolish not to hire them. Of course, it would also be foolish for them to only charge $24,000 if they’re that good.

According to Senior, Ramba would try to get Gateway some money from the BP oil spill settlement, as well as from excess sales tax the State of Florida collects and shares a portion of with local governments, and also from the $593.8 million Water & Land Legacy fund which Senior says is for “storm water related projects and water quality improvement initiatives”. That last one actually does sound promising given Gateway’s current situation.

Often when it comes to politics, it’s not what you need – it’s who you know. The GSCDD doesn’t know anybody in Tallahassee, but Ramba knows enough people that they got $3,440,000 in state funds for their local government clients in the FY2015-16 Florida State Budget.

Their accomplishments include: $1,500,000 for Longboat Key Beach restoration, $250,000 for Sarasota County to help replace their septic system, $500,000 to Spring Lake Improvement District (where DeCerbo is District Manager) to help repair a pump station. Ramba also secured $1,000,000 for “Daytona Beach Sewer River Crossing Main” which sounds like an infrastructure project. Most relevant to Gateway’s situation, Ramba got $190,000 for the City of South Daytona for stormwater pond improvement.

Is it worth it to shell out $24,000 for a lobbyist? It’s hard to say.

One one hand, there seems to be no chance the GSCDD will get any of that money from the State of Florida if they don’t use a firm like Ramba Consulting.

Given the problems we have in Gateway, it certainly can’t hurt to start getting the district’s name out there in the state capital. Senior also says that Ramba Consulting has “strong connections” to our area’s State Representative Matt Caldwell and State Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto. So that should help, too.

But on the other hand, the community has already spent money attempting to secure grants and other sources of funds from the government with no positive results as of yet.

Since the Florida State Legislature is beginning their next session in January, the GSCDD Supervisors will have to make a decision about hiring Ramba soon.

We may know by Thursday if the Board is willing to roll the dice again with the residents’ money.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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