Editorial: The cheese stands alone

As recounted in the 1820’s German nursery rhyme, after the rat takes the cheese, the cheese stands alone.

In St Augustine, it seems apropos that the sewer rats want the government cheese and the farmer in this dell, county commissioner Joseph “Ken” Bryan, wants to feed it to them.

In what can only be described as ironic, The St Augustine Record published the latest rant from the race-baiting public figure; becoming better known for his hostile, overbearing, arrogant behavior than service to his “constituents”.

In what passed for front-page news for two days last week, both Thursday and Friday, Senior Staff Reporter Peter Guinta chronicled Bryan, who is a candidate for re-election, as he described Mayor Joe Boles’ amendment to an ordinance that would extend city water and sewer to un-served county residents, as a “slap in the face”.

I will be the first in line to criticize the mayor for doing something when it does not appear to be in the best interest of local taxpayers; however, in this case, the 12,000 city residents owe Mayor Boles a debt of gratitude for his protection.

At issue is about two-thirds of an area along West King Street that is outside of the St Augustine city limits — from Ponce de Leon Boulevard west to Holmes Boulevard. Approximately a third of the area is in the city limits, the majority is in St Johns County.

The majority of residents in this part of town are living below poverty level — some are not. Those who want to better their situation are hoping the City of St Augustine will cooperate with St Johns County and make the city services available to them in the county.

I have not heard any of the city commissioners or senior staff comment against reaching out to those in the extended service area to provide sanitary sewer as an alternative to existing underground septic tanks.

I have also not heard the clamor of residents who currently are served by working septic tanks who are now interested in paying the estimated $6,000 in hook-up fees required to deliver those services.

So, this begs the question, who should pay? City residents divide the cost of operating the city utility department through the payment of their mandatory water and sewerage bill. That enterprise fund should be self-sufficient. To the extent that excessive repairs, maintenance or expansion costs exceed the collections from the utility customers, which includes churches and non-profits, by the way, then the City looks to the general fund and reserves to cover that cost — in other words the taxpayers who own property inside the city limits.

What the mayor included in his amendment to the ordinance was not designed to delay, or, as County Commissioner Bryan said, to resist providing, “infrastructure to the poorest folks in the county”. It simply clarifies, and, rightfully so, that the county, not the city, should financially administer the system.

Moreover, the COUNTY is supposed to provide infrastructure to “folks in the county” — not the CITY.

The St Augustine City Commission approved a plan Monday night wherein the city will bill and collect from city residents, provide utility service to the expanded area in West Augustine, but the COUNTY not the CITY is responsible to bill the county residents through their own utility department.

I have heard it said that a clear conscience is a sure sign of a fuzzy memory.

In the Thursday rant, among other things, Bryan accuses the City of St Augustine of committing a “violation of our agreement”.

I seem to remember the “conscientious commissioner” on October 11, 2010, as he stood in front of the city commission, threatening to renege on St Johns County’s interlocal agreement to maintain the Willie Galimore Center, saying, “Contracts have escape clauses”.

The traditionally African-American Lincolnville neighborhood was shocked to witness the commissioner “turn his back on his own people”; as one Lincolnville resident commented.

So maybe “ironic” is a bad choice of words to describe Commissioner Bryan’s most recent attack on the City of St Augustine in which he lives — maybe “hypocritical” is better.

Of course, as a side note, Commissioner Bryan does not live in either Lincolnville or West Augustine. He has a custom home in Pelican Reef on Anastasia Island, nestled behind a security gate and served with all the comforts of public utilities.

As he held his “run-for-the-pension” re-election campaign party Thursday night, atop the San Sebastian Winery, surrounded by political allies, former county commissioner Ben Rich, outgoing commission chairman Mark Miner, city commissioner Bill Leary, beach commissioner Undine Pawlowski, former beach mayor Ed George, and others, I wonder if he looked west, across the river, and thought, “let them eat cake.”

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