Council Watch 

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

In addition to the usual sounds of wet palms slapping stiff shoulder blades, this week's boredom parade featured some drama (and we're not even talking about Commissioner Daisy Lynum's recent rediscovery of Italian sausage!). The dais paid mouth-watering homage to "hottie" firefighter Jessie Salas for saving two lives and a car from an oncoming downtown train during NBA All-Star Weekend. Coincidentally, he's on the cover of this year's city firefighter calendar!

"In addition to saving lives, you could have saved the economic impact to Orlando from the All-Star game," Mayor Buddy Dyer said, not at all callously.

Speaking of near catastrophes, it should be noted that the old Amway Arena is set to be imploded at 7 a.m. on March 25, something bound to rattle you from your hangover slumber or hooker bed. It's not the end of the world; it's just the end of another expensive mistake.

Item: The city approves a valet parking license agreement for Lot 10 and the Jefferson Street parking garage between the city and Tremont.

Translation:Stop us if you think that you've heard this one before. Orlando is envisioning an upscaling of the old-timey Church Street Station via its current owner, TSLF Church Street Retail LLC, aka Tremont, which became the owner by default after two fat men failed at envisioning an upscaling of the old-timey Church Street Station. Coupled with the fact that as recently as 2009, Tremont was trying to unload the 260,000 square feet of old bricks and mortar for upwards of $43 million (which was purchased two years earlier by Cameron Kuhn for $34 million before his belly-shaped balloon popped, leaving Kuhn owing Tremont some $51 million after interest and fees) and the fact that we're still buying the economic-development line of SunRail, the Amway Center and whatever else is supposed to save Church Street, repackaging the historic midway as something glamorous totally seems reasonable. There are no real specifics about Tremont's plans yet – other than "upscale restaurant and lounge uses" – but this item seeks to make certain that whatever Tremont does, it will have the valet parking ability required for such exclusivity. Over a period of 20 years (!) Tremont will pay $7 per day per spot (for at least 12 days a month) for 47 parking spaces in the lot underneath I-4, which the city estimates will bring in a minimum of $47,376 a year. Additionally, Tremont will have access to 100 spaces in the Jefferson Street garage for just $5 per space per day, bringing in an additional $72,000 annually. How much do you suppose Tremont will actually charge for valet parking to make this venture worthwhile? Twenty dollars, probably, which is about what you'll pay for a glass of water just before the upscaling hits the ceiling that forces your lounge back down to the reality of closure.

Item: The city authorizes litigation against Continental Holdings Inc. relating to the former Orlando manufactured gas plant in downtown Orlando.

Translation:In dirtier downtown news of yore, the city has been trying to get its environmental head around the potential impacts of willy-nilly gas production on West Robinson Street since 2004. Orlando has pinned the potential of rehabilitative responsibility on a number of companies that operated in the area throughout the 20th century, namely Florida Power Corp., Atlanta Gas Light Co., People's Gas System, Continental Holdings and some guy named Blaine Pierce. Continental has recently started making noise that it doesn't belong in that coalition of polluters because it says its hands are clean of whatever muck-making the Houston Corp. (doing business as Florida Gas Co.) did in the 1950s, despite their apparent affiliation. The other named companies disagree, as does the city, so now they're all going to take Continental to court to rub the noxious fumes back in the company's face. The city has signed on to cover 3 percent of the cost of litigation, or approximately $15,000.

Item: The city approves a not-for-profit fee assistance program agreement between Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida Inc. and the city of Orlando.

Translation: Perhaps it's a sign of the times that the region's largest anti-hunger organization is looking to build a new $16 million dollar headquarters to replace the one it already has in city limits. In its last fiscal year, Second Harvest distributed an alarming 33.9 million pounds of food for the needy, and seeing as that number's not about to magically decrease, they'll be moving to a 100,000-square-foot warehouse erected on Old Winter Garden Road. The city aims to assist the move by taking care of half of the transportation and sewage impact fees, which means Second Harvest will save about $50,000 on the move.

Item:The city approves the fifth amendment to its community educational facility funding, construction, lease and operation and maintenance agreement at the Orlando Science Center.

Translation:In case you didn't know, the Orlando Science Center – which has been many things to many different species during the 52 years of its operation on city land – is also a daycare center presently allowed, via a three-party agreement with the school board, to host more than 40 kids. In 2008, the kids were allowed to wander outside into a small play area; now, that play area is being expanded by an additional 2,251 square feet. Here's hoping the land isn't full of 60-year-old gas rot, even if that would make an awesome science fair project.

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