Council Watch 

Billy Manes pays attention to local government so you don't have to

This week’s municipal mood-swing came with its share of unplanned public tears: The suspicious death of local mega-minister Zachery Tims in a New York hotel over the weekend was probably not what Mayor Buddy Dyer had in mind when he laid out his pale-linen-suit-plus-cheeky-plaid-blouse number in preparation for a breezy jaunt through local transportation politics. But, as you do, the mayor got on with his post-prayer brave-facing of civic minutiae, including a proclamation honoring the community service of coke-girl collective, Rollins College. In case you didn’t know, Rollins is the best at everything. This is a fact.

Item: The city approves an amended and restated interlocal agreement by and between the city of Orlando and Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) relating the Downtown Circulator Expansion Alternatives Analysis study; the LYNX Orlando Trail Project (also known as Gertrude’s Walk); the Creative Village – Moving Parramore Forward Project; and the Downtown Orlando East/West Bus Rapid Transit New Starts Project.

Translation: While you were sleeping – or presumably immobile in whatever yoga position your lifestyle affords you – the city has been hard at work parsing facts, figures and grants with which to make your stationary existence into a darting sprint of productivity. Back in June 2009, the city convened with the round-and-round bus wheels of LYNX to come up with a study that would ultimately suggest a more dignified and dynamic take on public transit. In other words, you should be somewhere else, and quickly. The 2009 interlocal agreement (LYNX serves the city, Osceola and Orange counties) allowed for exploration of “alternatives” and needs with regard to facilitating its “live, work, play” downtown mantra; that kind of thinking was lubricated with a $7.9 million earmark in April 2009 intended to expand the free LYMMO bus service into the very similar neighborhoods of Thornton Park and Parramore. (The city had to come up with a $2 million match, natch, with $644,000 of that coming from the downtown property tax fountain known as the Community Redevelopment Agency.) This amendment to the original deal comes on the heels of a couple of other grants, including $10 million from the federal government to pump up rapid transit in Parramore (with a $2.5 million local match) and a $1.2 million “livability” grant to fund Gertrude’s Walk, which is basically an urban wandering path from South Street to Colonial Drive where ladies carrying parasols are bound to faint at the very thought of the “vapors.” The core of the deal, though, is the expansion of the LYMMO service, a 3.5-mile bus haul that is expected to benefit 4,500 riders daily. Soon you will go nowhere for free.

Item: The city approves the subordination of utility interests (parcel 862.3) for the Florida Department of Transportation for the Florida Hospital commuter rail station.

Translation: Now that high-speed rail is most certainly not our next Hoover Dam public-works project, the city and the state are working in concert to dress up this SunRail situation like the prettiest lipsticked pig you’ve ever seen. Back in 1998, the friendly Adventists of Florida Hospital signed over a parcel of land for just $10 to the city, basically because it was a collection of “irregular shaped” railroad-track easements that offered no convenience in conveying the good word of the Lord. Now, seeing as Florida Hospital is going to be the preeminent stop on the SunRail line – ambulance carriage, ahoy! – the city is signing the right-of-way over to the Florida Department of Transportation so that it can construct a rail station for sick people and those who love them.

Item: The city approves an amendment to the city’s contract with Rural/Metro Corporation of Florida for emergency transport services.

Translation: Speaking of sick people and transport, there’s about to be fewer ambulances to serve a little sliver of Orange County known as the West Orange Healthcare District, which includes a tiny segment of Orlando proper. Health Central Hospital recently joined forces with Orlando Health and, in doing so, will cut off its own ambulance service to the area beginning next month. The city estimates (based on previous history and an acute sense of schadenfreude) that this will amount to approximately 432 missed ambulance transports annually. Though the city has insourced the bulk of its severe ambulance services to the fire department, it still utilizes Rural/Metro for basic life support calls and will allow the private company to pick up the slack in this case. At about $700 a pop, Rural/Metro should bank about $302,400 a year on the deal.

Item: The city approves the use of State of Florida purchasing program disaster contracts for emergency operations for a variety of goods and services required in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Translation: Disaster! Emergency! The city is staring into its crystal ball of doom and wondering exactly how it will handle the next stroke of bad Florida luck to befall it. Naturally, it will get a better deal on crisis items – your food-grade ice, potable water, first aid and, gasp, Internet technology disaster recovery services – if it utilizes already existing state contracts. Of course there’s no predicting just how much of any of these things will be necessary, but the city estimates that each contractor could make up to $100,000 annually. Hurricane party, anyone?

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