Council Watch 

All was not as it appeared beneath the swaying geometric chandeliers of the city's check-signing club this Monday. Sure, there was your standard pre-show hobnobbing, some audible giggles from the commissioners lining the dais, a few disgruntled citizens without day jobs a-poutin' and that choking, stale air specific to the theater of politics.

But there was also an assault!

District 3 commissioner Robert Stuart, a lovable and tall man of God, approached this journalist with a misleading smile and rattled out some gibberish about a correction on a story published in this paper. Following my assurances that all feathers had been smoothed textually in some manner, Stuart did the unthinkable: He punched me. In the leg. Right in front of God and police chief Val Demings and everyone. This, dear readers, is illegal.

Item: The city approves an agreement with HNTB Corporation for supplemental post-design-phase services related to the Mills Avenue pedestrian improvements at Marks Street and Lake Highland Drive.

Translation: This little stretch of old downtown Orlando loosely known as ViMi was once a gay hotbed. Since those glorious amyl days, Mills Avenue — like gay culture — has upscaled to include hair salons and boutiques, while maintaining a bit of its rustic charm (hello, Wally's!) along with every variety of Vietnamese soup known to man. The city has been working toward its postcard gentrification model of pedestrian friendliness and "streetscaping" — planting pretty trees, sometimes in medians — for a one-mile stretch of the area. With $7 million in help from the Florida Department of Transportation, the city hopes to undertake this endeavor this month, and as such they need an engineer there to make sure that things happen exactly as planned. HNTB, at a cost of $41,109, will be on hand for consultations, drawings and meetings.

Item: The city approves a purchase from Applied Spectrometry Associates Inc. of one wall-mounted ChemScan Model UV-6101 process analyzer.

Translation: This week in wastewater, it's time for an upgrade. Citing the age of its present outmoded equipment (10 years old!), the city is ready to purchase a brand-new chemical scanner for Water Conserv I at a cost of $64,400. The city already employs some ChemScans from Applied Spectrometry and argues that uniformity is a must in these situations. Doubt them at your peril.

Item: The city approves continuing its service authorization for mechanical and electrical service by Milan Engineering Inc. and Staley Consulting Inc. regarding the Lake Eola fountain evaluation study.

Translation: As the city's financials tank, its "jewel," the fountain at Lake Eola, continues to spit up water 30 feet into the air for nobody to see. Apparently, that fluid height is a sign of aging in the 51-year-old blue-green swan-scaring icon. The city is hinting that it's time for a replacement (it was last updated 20 years ago), but in order to attract grants from people who know water features, they need to give the fountain a once-over. So they're employing consultants at Milan and Staley with liquid assets of about $25,000, tossing coins, making wishes and crossing fingers.

Item: The city approves a funding agreement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city of Orlando for its neighborhood stabilization program.

Translation: Forget the people living in their beat-up cars after being evicted from their homes. The real problem we're all facing is the houses they're leaving behind: algae-green pools, weeds, that sad Big Wheel turned upside-down with its front plastic tire spinning, spinning, spinning. The city approved an application to HUD to receive a grant totaling $6.7 million to "stabilize" these homes back in November 2008. Now, because of a "scrivener's error" — some clerk misspelling like "fourclosure," possibly — they're having the agreement redrafted. Everything should be fine by March 12. Yay!

Item: The city approves a purchase from Ring Power of a Caterpillar 320DL hydraulic excavator.

Translation: What this city needs, see, is something to rip out all of the failed ideas and cobwebbed mixed-use storefronts lining its intersecting paths to ruin, so that we can all start over again. A civic clean slate would be nice, and this giant yellow piece of machinery — featuring a "138 HP CAT 3066 engine, 5.700 mm monoboom, 2.900 mm stick with hammerlines, a hydraulic quick coupler with CAT GP bucket with teeth" and a bunch of other things you can only say with a dirty beard and no ass — could be just the trick we're looking for. Because of some deal we share with the Florida Sheriffs Association, the city can get it cheap, too: only $182,211 for that kind of power. Tear down that strip mall!


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