Council Watch 

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

An unexpected flourish of public-relations posturing launched this week’s bipolar municipal moodswing, with both the Orlando Police Department and the Orlando Fire Department trotting out their finest to highlight the fact that, though “We’re not perfect,” as OPD Chief Paul Rooney allowed, sometimes our public servants are awesome. A full Law & Order reenactment of a police action that tied two recent 7-Eleven robberies together – they even brought the K-9 “Raptor” out for show – came with almost enough bells and whistles to obscure a current state investigation into police brutality. Commissioner Daisy Lynum even suggested they send their story into television stalwart 48 Hours. Awesome.

Not as awesome was the fire-rescue story that followed, if only because Lynum took it as an opportunity to talk about this one time, at fire camp, when she basically fell over herself in a training exercise.

Item: The city approves the Amway Arena demolition agreement.

Translation: Let the demolition derby begin! Although the city has so far been unable to recoup the $90 million price tag for the old arena with which it decorated the creative financing of the $480 million Amway Center, it will instead throw $2 million at a reasonably absurd plan to demolish the old lady in what the city says is a “green” fashion (like a money bonfire, then) commencing on Dec. 15. Here’s how it will work: The already stripped arena will be broken down into little concrete balls which will be placed in the dream-sized hole the arena leaves; thereafter, it will be covered with fabric and seeded for grass growth until the concrete can be unearthed and used to create the magical yellow brick roads of the proposed Creative Village. Another facet of the recycling imbroglio involves the stripping of miles of copper from the demolition site – which would be irony (metal fans) if it weren’t copper, seeing as the city has been so outspoken on matters of secondary-metal pawning – and then selling it as scrap with the profits being fed back into the questionable enterprise of the nearby Nap Ford charter school. This perfect mess is set to take place in two stages, with the city fronting its share of the cash after the completion of the initial teardown. The Craig Ustler-led Creative Village Development LLC will then have until 2016 to start easing on down the little bits of road that will lead to the next development pipe dream to befall the city that doesn’t know how to say no.

Item: The city approves the Geico Garage vertical transportation agreement between Kone Inc. and PCL Construction Services Inc. and authorizes the assignment and assumption of the agreement to the city of Orlando. The city also approves a software subscription agreement with T2 Systems Inc. for the Geico Garage parking control system.

Translation: Speaking of arena politics, the city is scraping together its propriety for the Amway Center-adjacent Geico Garage, a $34 million gift to fans of sports and overblown events that really isn’t so much of a gift when you consider that it can cost $20 just to park there. PCL Construction Services, which was contracted to build the behemoth, totally bought in to four additional years of warranty services totaling $54,037 for its “vertical transportation” components, or elevators. The city is supposed to take control “upon garage completion,” which is odd considering that the garage is already complete. Meanwhile, the garage’s parking system – your rising and lowering bars, your cash exchanges – is already under the city’s ownership, so it will be paying $83,889 to keep up maintenance on all of that.

Item: The city accepts a deed for acquisition of one parcel of land from the United States Department of the Interior National Park Service along the southeast corner of Lake Druid. Translation: The ancient druids that mysteriously pushed all of the Naval interests out of Orlando – leaving us with something called Baldwin Park on one side of town and a rundown dump on the other – have finally conspired with the federal and local governmental authorities to turn over their last 6.63-acre parcel, creepily known as Area C, so that it can be used as a public park for those who like to ride bicycles in mud that might still have lead (or worse, bombs) in it. This is the part in Poltergeist where you slip into the unfinished pool and die, right?

Item: The city approves the sale of the former OUC administration building by the city and OUC to GDC Properties LLC.

Translation: Just two months ago, the city approved another development deal with New York-based GDC Properties to develop a mid-rise mixed-used nightmare at the corner of Marks Street and North Orange Avenue, a development that was reported at the time to be GDC’s only Orlando concern. Now, by some serendipity, GDC is looking to take over the sad old 11,000-square-foot OUC building where you used to take your lost-in-the-mail power bills and cry. The city wants to make it clear that this $2.8 million transaction, which is slated to bring a rather large hotel into the City Hall concourse (think of DPAC!), is not its business, even though it co-owns the land with OUC via our municipal utility deflection scheme. But the city does care enough to argue that $2.8 million is a really good deal, especially considering that the other high bidders quietly dropped out of the running. This doesn’t sound fishy at all.

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