City manager instills false hope in Anastasia Island residents

St Augustine residents turned out by the dozens last night, only to have their hopes dashed after city manager John Regan’s sophomoric attempt to boost support for his “pet commissioner” Nancy Sikes Kline and a thinly veiled attempt to save his job. Regan’s poor management and poor decision-making in the highly-paid position has been challenged by social friend and vice-mayor Commissioner Todd Neville as well as Mayor Nancy Shaver, putting Regan’s job only one vote away from termination.

Sikes-Kline, who initially served a partial term of two-years followed by two full four-year terms, is seeking to be re-elected in November for an additional four-year term; since the city’s charter has never been updated to impose term limits on city commissioners. Fourteen years in office at the city commission table by someone who is little more than a parrot for whatever the city manager wants to do, cannot be good for “checks and balances” in city government — or the 13,000 citizen taxpayers who live here. But it’s a pretty sweet deal if you are the city manager who is approaching $200,000 in annual salary with his recent pay raise, extended vacation, enhanced family health insurance, mobile communications, automobile allowance, free city-wide parking, free gasoline, free car insurance, and a continuing list of direct and indirect perquisites.

“For a city manager in St Augustine, it is a matter of being able to count to three,” political pundit and Historic City News editor Michael Gold said in a statement today. “The vote of three city commissioners can make you one of the most influential and highly paid employees in St Augustine; however, at any time, the vote of three can also send you to the unemployment line.”

Michael Gold, BPA

Instead of spending time accomplishing already delegated yet uncompleted tasks set out for Regan by the city commission, he squandered time and money, assigning unnecessary work to Grants Administration Coordinator Corey Sakryd, ostensibly at the behest of Sikes-Kline, paving the way for her to stand on his shoulders, once again, and look like a hero by introducing a resolution for the city to purchase the privately owned property on Fish Island which is destined for residential and commercial development.

There is one small problem. Fish Island is not for sale — to the city or anyone else. It is still under contract to a nationwide homebuilder, D. R. Horton, who has expressed publicly their intention to move forward with the development of the land according to existing rights, if necessary. The company’s original application for exceptions under a planned unit development were rejected by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board. However, although the time to appeal that decision has past, there is nothing to prohibit Horton or the property’s owners, Fish Island Development LLC and Fish Island Village LLC from submitting a modified plan for consideration.

Regan’s strategy failed, as it often does, when he prematurely added a high velocity item like this to last night’s commission agenda. The result was what anyone of reasonable sense would expect.  Every emotional stakeholder, in and out of the city, got it in their head that the city should pony up the money to buy Fish Island.

And why shouldn’t they? Regan had inappropriately used the city treasury to speculate on real estate in the past. He did in the case of the Norbert Tuseo car wash on Ponce de Leon Boulevard at King Street, taken off the tax rolls and retained as a park that is never used, the M&M Market on Bridge Street, sold at a loss to developer David Corneal, the 7-Eleven property on San Marco Avenue, sold to the Department of Transportation at a loss, and many others, always losing city taxpayer money in the process, because of Regan’s underlying lack of ability to negotiate anything.

Fish Island must be purchased for conservation to be permanently protected — and we need your help. The City Commission will review funding opportunities for land conservation at their next meeting, and we need you to come out and show your support urging the Commission to commit to the conservation of Fish Island.

What: City of St. Augustine Commission Meeting
When: Monday, September 24 at 5:00 P.M.
Where: St. Augustine City Hall – Alcazar Room
75 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

If you are not able to attend the meeting, please email the Commissioners

Save Fish Island member Patty Scott, Palm Coast

On Sunday, the day before the commission meeting where everyone would be looking for their free slice of government cheese, courtesy of commissioner Sikes-Kline and city manager Regan, the phone calls, constituent e-mail to the mayor, commissioners, and city staff reached a “no longer deniable” fever pitch; prompting this too-little-too-late retraction attributed to Regan:

The City would like to issue a clarification regarding our agenda item for Monday night.   The staff presentation on Florida Forever program is not a discussion of Fish Island.  It is the City’s current understanding the property remains under contract to D.R.Horton.  The agenda item is in response to a request from Commissioner Sikes-Kline in July to understand more about Forever Florida and other funding sources for acquiring lands for conservation.  It is purely an informational presentation, but any of these sources require a willing seller which at this time, seems not to be the case with Fish Island.

John Regan’s published “retraction”

The official agenda of the city was modified to read:

Review of state and federal funding opportunities under The Florida Forever Program, the Land and Water Conservation Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and others, presently available to acquire property and easements for various reasons or for land conservation via grants.

City of St Augustine agenda 10(a)

Despite the “clarification” which was recited by Mayor Shaver prior to public comments, a group of citizens trying to stop the development are pushing for the land to be purchased by the city and preserved. Several supporters from the group, called “Friends of Fish Island”, addressed the commission giving a wide variety or reasoning in support of their cause.

On the website change.org, a petition titled, “Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River” has received 3,179 supporting signatures. Jen Lomberk, the Matanzas Riverkeeper, is leading the way in support of this movement.

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