Editorial: Your idea of local and my idea of local

Clarifying a characterization of two of the three private companies that have submitted their qualifications to manage St. Augustine’s Colonial Spanish Quarter as “local”, and segregated Orlando Dinner Entertainment, Inc. as “not”, when the fact is that all three of the companies who want a shot at managing the Spanish Quarter are headquartered out-of-town.

To me, a local attraction owner is someone like John Fraser and his family who have owned the Fountain of Youth and Oldest Wooden School for generations, or David Drysdale who owns the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or Chuck Ponce who owns Fort Menendez and the Old Florida Museum — those are local attractions.

In the St. Augustine Record today, Historic Tours of America, Inc., one of the “locals” is actually located at 201 Front Street, Ste 224 in Key West.

Likewise, Pat Croce & Company, the other “local”, only recently moved their pirate museum from Key West and the company is actually located at 402 West Lancaster Avenue in Haverford, PA.

However, Pat Croce did have the foresight to hire local mayor Joe Boles to incorporate his limited liability company; and, continues to have him serve as registered agent, according to records available from the Secretary of State.

Not to be outdone, the brothers from Barcelona Spain who own Orlando Dinner Entertainment had the shrewdness to submit a “new” map of the Spanish Quarter with their proposal — done by none other than Halback Design Group Inc. of St. Augustine.

Halback is the planner who brought you the “free” design of the Andrew Young memorial in the plaza and the fizzled-out and unpopular “Reconnecting the Castillo” design for the bayfront — another “freebie” for the city that was little more than an opportunity for Halback to burn up tax money earmarked for “planning” under a federally funded grant program.

Also misstated in The Record article following last night’s City Commission meeting, is that Key West based Historic Tours of America, Inc., “runs the Authentic Old Jail, the Oldest Store Museum and Red Train tours”. I am sure that Vancouver, British Columbia based Jim Pattison Group, who actually operates St. Augustine’s Red Trains, got a kick out of that. See, Ripley’s, the red trains and Sugar Mill aren’t local, either.

While we’re picking nits, Peter Guinta asked a good question in the article — “Will the University of Florida — which owns the Quarter — accept whatever decision the city makes?”

Here’s the nit — The University of Florida does not own the Spanish Quarter, it is owned by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. When the University of Florida assumed management of 34 state-owned historic properties in St. Augustine, including the Spanish Quarter Museum, it created a direct service organization to operate them.

Notwithstanding the error, I find the question interesting. From my reading of the “Memorandum of Understanding” between UF and the city, our continued presence and tenancy on the state’s Colonial Spanish Quarter property, will only be sustained so long as the City meets certain financial and historical performance standards “that shall be audited at least annually”.

Is the city meeting those standards with the properties closed?

The University says it intends to audit the city on maintenance, custodial care and a matrix of both qualitative and quantitative measurements, according to the memorandum.

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