Editorial: Mr Regan, have you earned the public’s trust?

Editorial: Mr Regan, have you earned the public’s trust?

Michael Gold, Editor
St Augustine, FL

I learned early on that you can buy a lot of things, but trust must be earned. In the matter of the 91-93 Coquina Avenue land grab, St Augustine City Manager John P Regan Sr and his hand-picked accomplices have betrayed the public’s trust through concealment, half-truths, and outright lies.

The experience has been awkward, at best. Regan has lost favor with people who once supported him. Even though they tried, they say that they can find no “plausible deniability” in his actions. Regan knew, or should have known, that the city already owned two separate marsh-front lots further down Coquina Avenue — one at Menendez Road (already designated a city park) and one at Old Quarry Road.

He has worked for the city since May 26, 1998 and is paid $173,479.47 each year plus enhanced benefits. Don’t you think he knew, or should have known, how construction easements work?

Regan holds a professional license that will go with him when he leaves. He is a professional engineer. Wouldn’t you expect him to understand the limitations of budgets in engineering projects like the city’s storm water sewer system? How do you justify making a half-million-dollar land purchase, that will cost taxpayers another half million dollars to build, when the capital purchase was not in the budget, not in the strategic plan, and, until the Christmas break, no one had ever heard about?

Given that, what do you tell the stakeholders who went through the proper channels to have their projects vetted, approved and receive budget approval after at least one public hearing? Those projects received affirmation from the commission to be funded. Now there will be no money since Regan is trying to steal it right out from under them.

After learning that I had been lied to about the original announced purpose of this budget-busting land grab and that it had nothing to do with easements, I wanted to know more about the second version that supposedly was necessary to achieve proper storm water drainage.

The harder and faster Regan and Commissioner Leanna Freeman tried to push this white elephant through the back door, the more I felt compelled to slow down long enough to at least measure the front door and find out what else I was not being told (or, being told incorrectly).

Regan’s new claim that the land purchase could ensure the reduction of “sunny day flooding” for residents of Coquina Avenue and south Davis Shores, backed up by his unilateral hire, Public Works Director Michael Cullum, also a licensed professional engineer, and a resounding “me, too” from freshman Commissioner John Valdes, a building contractor, roofing contractor, master plumbing contractor, and building inspector, seemed too good to be true; so, Historic City News contacted our own expert who has no ties or obligations to me or the city to see what they could determine.

Here’s what I learned.

Issue One:

Two main culverts which are comfortably located within the city’s 18-foot right-of-way. The two 36-inch plastic culverts are capable of massive flows. They were functioning well during recent 20-hour rain event on January 27, 2019 while observed at high tide.

Arricola catch basin outfall pipe and associated double 36-inch plastic culverts appear to be functioning well during several high and low tide visits; including, but not limited to, recent northeast wind high tide. In general, the culverts are well maintained with associated “bagged ” head walls. Recommend remediation, immediate installation of a tide flex valve on the Arricola outfall. The “weakest link” and “lowest point” currently in the drainage system is the Arricola catch basin. This will prevent backwash flooding at the catch basin. This recommendation is an inexpensive and simple solution at this location.

The Morrows report that the system has been well maintained over the last 20 years and that the necessary “heavy equipment ” needed to install and maintain the culverts has had no issues with access.

Issue Two:

North upland berm along marsh and critical outfall disbursement watershed marsh area should not be constructed due to the confluence of the outfalls in conjunction with the sensitivity of the natural marsh watershed.

A berm at this location will certainly flood the Morrows, cause the street to flood and severely impede the flow and drainage of the Coquina creek and Coquina neighborhood basin in general.

Issue Three:

East Coquina road frontage berm would prevent public access, ADA access, parking etc. Any opening for access in the berm would render it totally ineffective.

Issue Four:

South side berm would serve no purpose whatsoever.

Issue Five:

West “waterfront” berm will force high water to migrate around the berm to adjoining properties on both sides, especially on storm tides with high winds. The volume of water forced towards the neighbors both north and south would cause their properties to severely flood. In addition, this berm can only extend to a final point northward as it must terminate at some point where it encounters the jurisdictional line leaving the marsh and creek open to the tides.

Issue Six:

A waterfront berm would also interfere with the vital outflows from the coquina creek culverts, and the associated Coquina creek neighborhood drainage basin on the northernmost end where the critical outfalls are in the event of a highwater drainage flow. After studying the culverts and the ditch and the associated high and low tides and after consulting with some of the neighbors, my initial report is complete.

In closing, I find that no immediate problems exist with the Coquina ditch, culverts and associated outfall. In general, buying a park at this location will have no net effect on the basin.