Gateway Sun

If I had a dollar for every time someone said “there are cheaper ways to fix the ponds” at yesterday’s Gateway District meeting …. I could probably pay for the Lake Bank Restoration Project myself.

Essentially, here’s how the lake restoration portion of yesterday’s meeting shook out:

Chairman Margaret Fineberg and Supervisor Ed Tinkle let the world know are completely on board with spending $25 million of your money to improve Gateway’s ponds, whether they need it or not.

Vice-Chairman Bill Guy and Kathleen Flaherty – actually, that’s Supervisor Kathleen Flaherty to you and me – recognized the fiasco that the board was ultimately responsible for, and did everything in their power to slam the brakes on the out of control pond spending.

That left Supervisor Doug Banks to break the tie. Actually, two ties.

Tinkle made the motion to approve the repair of Chairman Margaret Fineberg’s pond, known as Lake 60, for $481,758.95 as well as Lake 110 for $449,469.80. Fineberg seconded the motion – which drew audible boo’s from the audience. (Yes, people actually boo’d Fineberg. It was great.)

Conversely, Bill Guy received cheers and applause when he lambasted all involved for the out of control financial state of the pond repairs.

Obviously, Guy voted against Tinkle’s motion.

For her part, Flaherty got Tetra Tech on the record admitting that there were no outstanding orders from the South Florida Water Management District to fix any of Gateway’s ponds. Flaherty then also voted no.

Well, more accurately, she voted: NO.

After hemming and hawing a bit, Banks reluctantly sided with Fineberg and Tinkle and the motion to repair Lakes 60 and 110 passed 3-2.

But then Tinkle made the more important motion, which was to re-bid the remaining ponds and essentially authorize Tetra Tech, the staff, and himself to carry on with the Lake Bank Restoration Project as it is currently being managed. Once again, Fineberg seconded the motion, while Guy and Flaherty each gave a firm no.

Banks visibly struggled with this decision as well. While discussing the motion, Banks simultaneously acknowledged and dismissed our recent reporting, and made it known that he felt the Board of Supervisors needed to look past the distractions and the noise and make the best decision possible for all Gateway residents.

When it came time to vote, Banks voted no, meaning the motion failed 3-2.

So while about $1 million was approved in spending, another $1 million was not. But more importantly, Tinkle and Tetra Tech no longer have approval or authority from the Board of Supervisors to carry the project forward.

At this point, approximately $5 million has been spent (or is authorized to be spent) to fix 7 ponds.

But after Lakes 60 and 110, the future of the pond repairs is unknown. As of now, the project is not moving forward any further.

The board must now decide whether to direct the staff to seek cheaper alternatives, or whether to wait and do nothing unless compelled to by the South Florida Water Management District. But even if the SFWMD does get involved, it seems now that the days of spending $200 per foot are over and the staff and engineers must find a less costly route.

break-line

A few interesting tidbits from yesterday’s meeting…

Tinkle thought he was being clever when he told the room that he contacted the contractor who performed the work at Walnut Creek, but he ended up making my point for me. I felt as though he was throwing it in my face, even though I purposely published the company’s name and phone number, and published the Walnut Creek article a day earlier just to give him enough time to call them.

Anyway, Tinkle said that American Shoreline Restoration’s fix at Walnut Creek was with “geo-tube”. And according to Tinkle, the owner of ASR had visited Gateway and told Tinkle he would “never” use geo-tube in Gateway.

But, get this… Tinkle also announced that “we used geo-tube at Lake 104 and it failed!”

Exactly my point.

The guy who knows what he’s doing over in Walnut Creek wouldn’t dream of using geo-tube in Gateway, and yet our people somehow thought it was a good idea.

Sums it up right there.

Additionally, there was an awkward moment with Tetra Tech’s Tyler Wainright accusing GSCDD Public Works Manager Michael Tisch of lying to the board. Wainright then proceeded to waltz around the room with a stack of 100-page documents, apparently containing evidence that Tisch … is a liar? Wainright gave a packet to each of the board members. He actually came to the meeting prepared with them. It was unreal.

In my opinion Wainright came across as the jerk in the dispute. Not Tisch. But whatever.

In a separate incident, Tinkle also seemed to question Tisch’s truth-telling. Tisch has said that he spoke to a key vendor over the phone, but Tinkle said the vendor told him that conversation never took place.

Tisch had an alibi, however, as District Manager Chris Shoemaker was right next to Tisch when the conversation with the vendor took place.

All in all? A very good and very cost effective day for the residents of Gateway. We are extremely fortunate that enough Supervisors were willing to do the right thing.

And oh, hey, Chris? I’ll have a turkey sub on white bread with mayo, lettuce and cucumbers. Thanks.

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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