After yesterday’s article about the Lake Bank Restoration Project, a handful of people contacted us to offer comment. Some were unflattering toward Supervisor Ed Tinkle, while one man said from what he remembers Tinkle was right about Gulf Harbor.
And one came from an engineer who wanted to know who we had been speaking with.
“Banks Engineering, Hole Montes, Morris Depew? Every engineer I’ve spoken to at these firms say the same thing you’re saying. There is no need to do this. It’s a complete waste. Keep voicing the sham and hopefully more people begin to understand,” said the highly respected Gateway resident.
I’m not qualified to call the pond repairs a “sham”.
But that person is, and that’s what they called it.
The GSCDD has proven they are predisposed to fixing the lake banks irregardless of the effect on assessments. For that reason, I would like to see independent verification from the South Florida Water Management District before any more money is committed.
But there’s a second concern about the Lake Bank Restoration Project that involves ethics.
The GSCDD didn’t just repair the first five ponds. They made them look like they belong on a PGA Tour golf course or a picturesque “wish you were here” postcard.
They made them absolutely idyllic. So much so that they almost certainly ended up raising the property values of the homes on those ponds.
And that’s a problem.
What that means is that the thousands of homeowners in Gateway who aren’t on those five pond banks all took money out of their own households and paid for improvements to the few hundred homeowners who do happen to be located on those ponds.
Tinkle told me this past weekend that people in Gateway Greens are calling him left and right asking “When is my pond going to be done?”
Gee… I wonder why.
Of course they want their pond banks done as soon as possible. It takes the money from the general tax base in Gateway and delivers it straight to them by way of increasing their property values.
Those people contacting Tinkle probably want their ponds done before the rest of Gateway wises up to what’s actually happening.
And there are several other Supervisors who live in Stoneybrook who stand to personally benefit as well if things keep heading in their present direction uninterrupted.
But before you go lighting torches and marching to board members’ homes, understand that most of them have probably never thought of it that way.
But they need to.
So even all five of the repaired ponds were genuinely in need of fixes, exactly why did that include upgrading the aesthetics for those specific homes at the expense of the taxpayers?
I believe the public is owed an explanation.
Tomorrow the Board of Supervisors will be asked the approve a $56,000 payment to the district’s engineering firm, Tetra Tech, to oversee the repairs of the next 6 ponds.
Those 6 ponds are currently out for bid.
Now as I wrote yesterday, a facilities plan has been submitted and approved for those 6 ponds as part of the initial 13. So I’m honestly not sure if it’s a good idea to draw a line in the sand over the initial group. It may be too late.
But what I’ll be reporting to you after tomorrow’s GSCDD meeting is how the $56,000 payment request plays out.
If the Board of Supervisors seem content to bury their heads in the pond water and ignore the realities of this situation in order to appease Tinkle, then it may be time for the community to have a serious discussion about replacing people.
I’m not saying fix the ponds, and I’m not saying don’t fix the ponds. I have no right to make that call for the entire community. But neither does Ed Tinkle.
What I am saying is that there are enough serious questions surrounding the Lake Bank Restoration Project that the board members should be demanding independent verification before proceeding with any ponds beyond the first thirteen.
This is the largest and most expensive project in Gateway’s history, and there are plenty of people who don’t like the smell of it.
The smell just got a lot worse this week.
I’ve already been asked in private more than once about what it would take to recall the Supervisors in order to slam the brakes on the spending. So here’s the basic mechanism:
In the 2016 elections there were 6,528 registered voters in Gateway. And just for the sake of discussion, let’s assume there were 2,000 in Pelican Preserve. If someone wanted to initiate the recall process in the Gateway Services District, they would need 10% of the registered votes to sign a petition. So roughly 850 people.
Included in the initial petition you have to cite the reason you’re seeking the recall. There are seven acceptable reasons, most of which don’t apply to the Gateway board members, but incompetence is one of the seven allowable reasons and I’d say total mismanagement of tens of millions of dollars would qualify.
After the signatures have been verified, the target of the recall is afforded the opportunity to file a statement of defense within 5 days. At that point, the people heading up the recall are given an official document called a “Recall Petition and Defense” petition containing (as the name suggests) both the reason for the recall attempt, and the statement of defense.
Then the final step to solidify the recall would be to take that petition and acquire signatures from another 15% of the registered voters (about 1,200 between Gateway and Pelican) within 60 days.
Do that, and your elected official is recalled.
Now… between my two Gateway-based platforms, I suspect I could have 850 signatures by the end of the weekend to get things started. So while we’re just at the “hey let’s wake up the board” stage, it’s actually quite doable and always has been. It’s just that in spite of the mean spirited decisions, self-serving decisions, violation of the Sunshine Laws, etc., there’s never been a reason to even consider it up until now.
Nevertheless, I actually don’t mind taking the opportunity to remind the board that they serve at the public’s pleasure and that their spots in the big chairs at the front of the room aren’t as secure as they seem to think.
The cost of the recall or special election would probably be saved if we delayed even just $1 million in spending for 1 year. So I wouldn’t worry about the cost because we’d actually save money. (And if you’re new to reading the Sun, I am a Canadian citizen, not American. Therefore I am not eligible to be a Supervisor so I’m not talking about all this just to put myself on the board, in case anyone out there was suspicious about that.)
But let’s hope that the other board members are able to reign in Tinkle and Tetra Tech. There are, after-all, four of them all with an equal vote. If even three of them said “enough” then the Lake Bank Restoration Project could go in whatever direction they wanted.
Independent verification from the SFWMD is the only way we can be 100% sure of what we’re doing. And as I said yesterday, if the SFWMD refuses to help Gateway and come take a look at anything, then they won’t be in a position to enforce anything either.