Welcome Back: Summer Recap

By: 
Nov. 11, 2010

Summer is officially over, but the stories that made headlines from June through October certainly heated up the months while some residents were away visiting grandchildren or checking items off their bucket lists.

Read on for top headlines of the summer in our Welcome Back section. You’ll also find the most bizarre Cops Corner items we could find, including the entry David Letterman read in October on “The Late Show.”

As we cruise into fall, we’re also freshening up our pages. Readers will find a new banner on the front page, along with new looks for Cops Corner and Letters to the Editor.

The next element making its way to The Palm Coast Observer: a website.

Look for www.palmcoastobserver.com to be up and running in the next couple of weeks. But don’t worry. You’ll still be getting a good old-fashioned copy on your driveway.

JUNE
+ Coffey assailed, but rehired
With a 3-2 vote, County Administrator Craig Coffey kept his job for one more year.

Despite an hour-long critique, led by County Commissioner Melissa Holland’s accusations, Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey will remain in his position for at least another year.

Commissioner Bob Abbott proposed the motion not to renew Coffey’s three-year contract, and Holland agreed. The motion failed, however, Monday, June 7, at the regular meeting of the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

+ Palm Coast No. 1 in U.S. for city growth
Weeks after Fortune magazine brought the national media spotlight to Palm Coast, CNN Money has added to what Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon calls “free advertising.”

In an online article posted Tuesday, June 22, Palm Coast was identified as the fastest-growing metropolitan statistical area in the U.S., with an increase in population of 84% since the last census was taken in 2000.

The article also states that total population is estimated at 92,000. It mentions that ITT Corp. developed the area as a retirement community, and says, “Palm Coast is a throwback to Old Florida, before the post-war population boom made it the fourth largest state by population and permanently altered much of its pristine natural beauty.”

+ Booking firm sees 50% spike in rentals
Steve Milo, founder and CEO of Vacation Rental Pros, books vacations in 280 properties in the state, including 180 properties in Flagler County.

The company’s revenue is up 50% from last year at this time in the county. Some days, Milo said, the company receives as many as 700 e-mail inquiries. The website was projected to tally 60,000 hits in June.

While it’s still early to analyze, Milo said he was finding new customers because of the oil spill.
Milo said more evidence that points to the oil spill having an impact is that he’s seeing a decrease in business for his properties on the west coast. Milo books dozens of properties in Sarasota and Venice, but revenue is down 20% there.

In Flagler County, Milo can’t keep enough inventory to satisfy demand.

JULY
+ City confirms truck code
The complaints have come rolling in, according to City Manager Jim Landon. Neighbors are concerned that commercial vehicles parked in residential areas might reduce property values all around.

Despite complaints, the majority of the City Council agrees residents should not be allowed to park commercial vehicles at home.

At the June 29 City Council meeting Landon talked about the blurry lines associated with the current code.

Landon said vehicles on the cusp, like neat and orderly pickup trucks with ladder racks attached to the bed, are never sought out by code enforcement and are only cited if a neighbor complains. But the calls have been coming in regularly, he said, and code enforcement has been left with no choice but to issue the violations.

+ Leashes required; pets must be tagged
Yelling out to Fido will no longer do. If you want to take your dog for a walk, a new city ordinance governing animal control would require you to keep the dog on a leash.

The ordinance represents the first city-specific code on animal control. The city has previously used the county’s ordinance, which states that when pets are off their owners’ property the pets must be kept under control by means of either a leash or voice command. The city ordinance has removed the voice command option, and a leash will be required.

The ordinance also requires animals to be licensed and tagged so that they can be entered into a database. The cost of the tags is $5 for neutered or spayed pets and $10 for unaltered pets.

AUGUST
+ Flagler district earns 'A'
Flagler County Public Schools ranks among the top districts in the state, according to the Florida Department of Education’s 2009-2010 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results.

Flagler earned an A grade as a district. At the school level, four earned As, three Bs and one C.

The school with the most significant gains was Imagine School at Town Center, which improved from a D to an A. The K-8 combination school increased from 434 overall points in 2008-09 to 545 in 2009-10.

AUGUST
+ McLaughlin edges Abbott; Tucker holds seat
Nate McLaughlin won the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners District 4 seat in the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 23, trumping incumbent Bob Abbott 53% to 47%.

McLaughlin will take over the District 4 seat following the Nov. 2 general election, and will sit on the County Commission for the first time at its Nov. 15 regular meeting.

Also decided in the August primaries was School Board District 3 seat.

Incumbent Trevor Tucker beat out his challenger, Marc Ray 56% to 44%.

SEPTEMBER
+ K-9 takes down two suspects in one weekend
Blu’, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, is the four-legged better half of the K-9 unit with Dep. Jon Welker of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Blu’ also was the paws behind apprehending two suspects over the weekend of Aug. 27.

Both burglaries took place along the Belle Terre Parkway corridor, and in both instances, the two suspects were treated for bite wounds at Florida Hospital Flagler.

The first incident took place around 8:30 a.m., Friday, Aug. 27. Blu’ and Welker brought down Jeremiah Harris, 20, of Bunnell, who was charged with two counts of burglary, two counts of resisting arrest with violence and grand theft in relation to the burglary at 149 Rae Drive.

The weekend wasn’t over for Welker and Blu’. The team apprehended Markis Flourney, 18, of Daytona Beach, Sunday, Aug. 29. Flourney was charged with armed burglary to an unoccupied dwelling, grand theft and resisting arrest. He, too, was transported to the Flagler County Inmate Facility. Additionally, there was a second suspect involved, who, as recent as the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 1, is still at large.

+ City, county and school budgets set
The Flagler County School Board held its final hearing for the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year Tuesday, Sept. 7.

The millage rate will increase from 7.768 for the 2009-10 school year to 8.013 for the 2010-11 school year, a .245 increase.

The county millage rate has been set at of 5.5905 — a 14% increase compared to last year.

The county budget rounded out at $138 million, which includes salaries for 287 county employees.

The Palm Coast City Council also voted unanimously to keep the tax rate at 3.50 mills, which is the same rate as last year.

+ City Council OKs Old Brick and Neoga
The Palm Coast City Council approved on Tuesday, Sept. 7, the changes to the comprehensive plan that should allow the Old Brick Township development to proceed within the next five years.

Old Brick Township, which will be located in the northwest region of the city beyond U.S. 1, will be built on a 5,273-acre parcel, with at least 2,700 acres eventually designated as preservation area. The developer will contribute land for a fire station, parks and a school as well as fund road, sewer and potable water improvements.

Construction must commence within five years of the latter of two conditions: the final approval from DCA or the acquisition of Mantanzas Woods Parkway Extension right of way.

City Manager Jim Landon reiterated it was only the commencement of the construction that had a five-year deadline. The development as a whole was designed as a 20-year project.

The City Council also approved the advancement of Neoga Lakes, a 6,378-acre parcel west of U.S. 1 and just south of Old Brick Township.

Plans for Neoga Lakes provide for a maximum of 3,032 acres of preservation land, 7,000 residential units and 2.4 million square feet of non-residential uses, including civic uses, retail and office space, and a school site.

+ Hospital to invest $50 million
CEO and President of Florida Hospital Flagler David Ottati said he’s planning to add 200 parking spaces at the hospital by the end of the year. It will cost $1 million, and it’s just the beginning of a four-year plan that will involve an investment of about $50 million and could add 150 jobs to the area.

In the next year to 18 months, the hospital will spend another $15 million to build more office space on Palm Coast Parkway. In the next two years, another 40,000 square feet will be added in the form of a medical office plaza on the hospital’s property on State Road 100, for a price tag of $10 million more.

Finally, as long as the population grows at a good rate and the economy supports it, the hospital will increase its count of licensed beds from 99 to about 130 by constructing a $15 million four-story building that could expand to eight stories and 120 feet in height in a decade. Ottati said each licensed bed, complete with private room and high-definition TV, costs about $350,000.

However, the City Council opposes the hospital’s proposal of an electronic sign. Mayor Jon Netts said that, despite the hospital’s value to the community, the city couldn’t make an exception to the land development code. If so, other businesses could sue the city for the right to also post electronic signs.

+ Sea Ray lays off 100
Citing a sales slowdown, Sea Ray confirmed layoffs Tuesday, Sept. 21, of about 100 employees, 75 of which were temporary employees.

Sea Ray is part of the Brunswick Boat Group, which is a division of the Brunswick Corp.

As recently as the end of August, the Palm Coast plant employed about 460 people, including temporary employees.

Sea Ray has been one of the county’s largest and highest-paying private employers, which Mayor Jon Netts emphasized just one week prior upon the release of the Florida Fish and Wild Life Commission’s report. The FWC indicated it would extend slow-speed zones in the Intracoastal Waterway, potentially clogging sea Ray’s prime boat-testing area.

+ Cyber-bullying sparks awareness
With more than 500 million active users as of July 2010, Facebook is the world’s most popular social networking website. That number means one in every 14 people have an account on the site.

Two cases of online bullying occurred within one week in September. School officials say the school resource officers will work to resolve the problem.

With the recent instances of a few cyber bullying cases, Sheriff Donald Fleming is launching another campaign to distribute “Computer Cop,” a DVD that allows parents to monitor their children’s use of social networking and the Internet.

Fleming said this new edition of the DVD enables parents to receive e-mail alerts about what their children are doing on the Internet and reveal if they are being tracked by sexual predators.

+ Sheriff’s Office closes Script Club
The U.S. Marshals, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Tri-County Narcotics Task Force, Jacksonville Police and Flagler County Sheriff’s Office worked together to serve close to two-dozen warrants Thursday, Sept. 16, to break up the Script Club, a loosely organized group of traffickers, sellers and users of Oxycodone. It was the biggest operation by the FCSO in about one year.

+ New park opens to public
Waterfront Park officially opened to the public Saturday, Sept. 25.

The ribbon-cutting event featured a bike tour from the Community Center to the park. The bike trail has been designated a Great Florida Birding Trail.

Waterfront Park, located off Colbert Lane, offers more than 20 acres of nature with a fishing pier, pavilions, a playground and nature trail.

The park also features a footbridge that connects Waterfront Park to other trails and walkways.

OCTOBER
+ Mistrial in Gregory case
On Oct. 11, a judge declared a mistrial in the double-homicide case against William Gregory, the man accused of shooting Skyler Meekins and Daniel Dyer in 2007 on John Anderson Highway.

If convicted, Gregory could face the death penalty.

At the request of the defense attorney the case as been moved out of Flagler County and reassigned from Circuit Judge Kim C. Hammond to Circuit Judge William A. Parsons, in Daytona Beach.

+ BMX track to come to Palm Coast?
Promoter Renny Roker hopes to bring a BMX complex to Palm Coast.

The Palm Coast City Council heard the possibilities Tuesday, Oct. 26, and told promoter Roker, who owns JAG BMX, it all sounded exciting. But the City Council was left with some important questions unanswered: Who will pay for the promotion? Who will pay for construction of an intricate racing track? How much will it cost? Where would the track be built?

City Manager Jim Landon said that in December his staff would deliver a presentation with possible answers to those questions.

He and Roker repeated that the track itself would not be very expensive to construct, and the main material (dirt) was readily available to the city, after all the swale work that has been done over the summer.

+ Fischer secures board seat
John Fischer defeated Raven Sword in the District 5 School Board race with 58% of the vote.

Fischer accumulated 16,684 votes this time around, after nearly closing the door in the Aug. 24 primary. He said his key to success all along has been staying genuine.