Many times when an article is written mentioning the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District, the suggestion is posted on our Facebook page to “get rid of them all the first chance we get!”

Voters will indeed have the chance to reshape the Board in November 2016 as GSCDD Supervisor Seat 1, Seat 2 and Seat 3 are up for election. Those seats are currently held by Vice Chairman Margaret Fineberg, Supervisor Gary Neubauer and Supervisor Pam Gill respectively.

But rather than simply replacing those three Supervisors with anyone who has a pulse, the residents of Gateway should try to replace them with someone who’s an upgrade to the people currently sitting in those seats.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, nor is it a good idea, to just flush out the current Board just for the sake of making a change. Whoever we get needs to be better than the person they’re replacing.

For example, if Stoneybrook HOA President Joe Mikulka wanted to run, then that would not be an upgrade for the community. We’d be better off with any of the current three than Mikulka.

Whereas if Gateway Greens HOA President Ed Tinkle wanted to run, he would be an upgrade over Fineberg and Gill, but Gateway would be much better off keeping Neubauer on the Board in favor of Tinkle.

The bottom line is that in order to get more qualified people on the Board we’re going to have to start by getting more people interested in becoming candidates to run in the elections.

Supervisors serve a 4-year term. Seat 1, Seat 2 and Seat 3 on the Board come up for election during Presidential election years. Seat 4 and Seat 5 come up for election during mid-term election years.

But when you consider that Chairman William Guy (Seat 4) ran unopposed in 2014 while both Fineberg (Seat 1) and Neubauer (Seat 2) ran unopposed in 2012, that means only two out of the five seats were actually contested in their most recent elections.

That’s completely crazy to me, and it needs to change. So if you’re thinking about getting involved and making a run, please do.

You can make a difference in Gateway by becoming a Supervisor. And I can prove it.

Here are just seven examples of decisions made by the GSCDD Board members that maybe you would have done the same, or maybe you would have done it differently:

1) They hired a “Recreation Manager” for $52,069 total cost to the residents. The Sun originally supported this because we believed this person would be responsible for growing the usage of the amenities and generating more revenue (ie: selling advertisements, helping promote the non-profit youth leagues). We thought it would mean more recreation opportunities for our local kids, and bringing more people to Gateway from other neighborhoods who would be spending money here both with the district to use the fields and local businesses to eat lunch or buy drinks, etc. Instead, the role they hired for is basically a maintenance worker.

2) They awarded the landscaping contract to Mainscape instead of Luke Brothers. Not that there’s anything wrong with Mainscape, but there’s nothing wrong with Luke Brothers either. The issue is that the Mainscape contract is costing the residents $105,000 more than Luke Brothers wanted to charge over three years.

3) They voted to spend $3,000 on a grant application without even knowing the full details. This was a pure gamble, brought up out of nowhere, rapidly discussed and approved. Normally these types of things are in the “meeting book” with documents for the Supervisors to review prior to the meetings so they can know what they’re getting the residents in to. That was not the case. It was done on the fly.

4) They voted to relocate the palm trees rather than cut them down, knowing they’ll have to do it all again in 15 years. Cutting down the trees was estimated to be $20,900 (according to a May 8 memo from Operations Manager Scott Connell to the Supervisors) whereas relocating them was preliminarily estimated at $62,700 – making it a $41,800 decision today. Plus when they need to relocate them again in ten to twenty years to make way for the road widening, it’ll be another $62,700 (yes a lot of things can be different but our crystal ball is broken so we’re just sticking with what we know right now). That means it was a $104,500 decision. Many of you may have chopped the trees, many more would have relocated. The point is it was a decision made by five elected officials.

5) They raised assessments paid by Gateway residents and businesses by $220,956.13 next year alone.

6) They hired Joe DeCerbo to provide an “HR audit” and write new job descriptions that … I don’t even want to get in to it. Let’s just say we’re already paying a property management firm to perform those functions, so bringing in an outsider was money wasted in my opinion. $6,000.

7) They voted against having the GSCDD staff pay even $40 per month toward their health insurance premiums. Out of a total of $125,287 in expected premiums, the Supervisors were asked to make the staff share just $5,760 of the cost but his was rejected by the Board.

These are just some of the issues where decisions were made that could have went a different way. They add up to $491,885.13 in just the first 15 GSCDD meetings that have taken place since we began coverage of the district. That’s over $32,000 worth of decisions that some people consider questionable per meeting.

If you add up everything, the district planned to spend $12,714,032 in fiscal year 2015. Divide that by 24 board meetings and you’ve got $529,751.33 per meeting that the Supervisors oversee.

Over half a million dollars, each meeting. Of your money.

There’s a lot of money at stake, and Gateway needs creative people to get involved to responsibly manage it.

This community cannot afford – literally and figuratively – to allow any of the current Supervisors to go unchallenged in the next election.

Being a Supervisor is an important role. It does pay you $4,800 per year and you’ll be working hard to increase home values and make big decisions that impact the district’s residents.

So if you’re interested in local politics, and you are not the current President of the Stoneybrook HOA, please consider running for one of the three open GSCDD Seats next November.

I never thought I’d say this, but … we need more politicians in Gateway.

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

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