City manager hush-hush on hiring another consultant

In the latest incident of “do it now and tell the taxpayers later” City Manager John Regan has been discovered doing his favorite thing — hiring yet another outside consultant to do the work of city staff. This time Regan awarded a private consultant in Fernandina Beach a five-year contract, with a five-year renewal, to act as administrator for St Augustine’s two community redevelopment areas.

Although the contract provides for increases and other specified reimbursements, during the first year of operation, the city will pay T. Brown Consulting Group, LLC a total of $47,500.00 under purchase order 20180774-00.

On Monday, Historic City News was provided a copy of a press release from City Hall stating that, while working with both the Lincolnville CRA and the Historic Transportation and Parking CRA, most of Tony T. Brown’s responsibilities will center on the Lincolnville CRA.

The award letter to Brown, for the potentially 10-year relationship at more than $47,000 annually, was signed by Regan and dated February 15, 2018. Why would the city manager wait until October to reveal the city’s obligation? Brown has already been receiving payments and the contract commencement was 15-days following signature, making it a FY-2018 contract while October 1, 2018, is the first day of Fiscal Year 2019.

Regan’s more than 6-month overdue announcement claims the Brown relationship “strengthens administrative support of the Lincolnville CRA”. Why was city staff in the Planning and Building Department not able to manage one, and a part of two, long established redevelopment areas? And, who is going to manage most of the city’s responsibilities on the Historic Transportation and Parking CRA?

The Lincolnville CRA plan, created in 2013 and amended last year, identifies three main responsibilities for the use of Community Redevelopment Area funds:

• Preserve African American heritage and retain long-term residents
• Preserve Lincolnville’s historic character
• Improve neighborhood infrastructure and beautification

The source of repayment for the money advanced to the CRA is that portion of tax gained by the taxing authority in the blighted area which can be attributed to the improvements and enhancements that are made by the community redevelopment committee.

In seeking forgiveness instead of permission, Regan offered that Brown specializes in “transforming economically distressed areas into vibrant communities by devising capital solutions for community advancement, developing local real estate, and implementing small business initiatives”.

A citizen steering committee appointed by the City Commission leads the work of the Lincolnville CRA. The steering committee’s meetings are open to the public and are held on the first Monday of every-other-month at 7:00 p.m. at the Willie Galimore Center, 399 Riberia Street.

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