Council Watch

The city got a toy train for Christmas and it was all anybody wanted to talk about at this week's civic knitting circle. While most comments from the commissioners included a brown-nosing caveat of congratulations directed at Mayor Dyer's great crevasse, the SunRail deal did elicit a couple of performances from some of the most self-endeared on the dais. Notably, Daisy Lynum lamented her tortured history with old light rail, saying that SunRail was nice and all but it won't get us to Disney. Patty Sheehan took the occasion to woe-is-me back-pat on the subject with a "but when we do it right, we don't get credit" clause, because, well, ME!

Budding comedian Sam Ings, concerned with all of his eating engagements, had other things on his mind. "I've got to maintain my precious little figure and all that," he said. Cute!

Item: The city approves a conduit sales and use agreement between Bright House Networks LLC and the city of Orlando regarding the Amway Center telecommunications duct bank.

Translation: For those of us who like to think of the underground as something more than polluted soil and occasional dead bodies, this little peek into the city's submerged aspirations should come as a treat. For the service of its own "corporate network," the city constructed a system "comprised of underground vaults and multiple conduits" in the Amway Center—adjacent realm of Church Street and Division Avenue at a cost of $1,150,418. The vaults are intended as an off-site infrastructural mitigating factor in the development of the surrounding region, and are presently to be utilized by the city and the Florida Department of Transportation as a means of controlling what lights up and what doesn't. The city went ahead and built three segments in its duct bank, knowing full well that it only really needed one to house its own wiring. As a result, there is now available capacity in segments two and three and they are for sale to private interests. Bright House is the first to bite, promising $207,518 for its share of the underground pie; that money will be applied to the city's building costs. To be clear, though, a purchase of ducts within the duct bank in no way entitles any private business a stake in the Amway Center. You may be connected, but you are not connected.

Item: The city approves the use of its contract with Central Environmental Services Inc. for demolition of residential and commercial structures.

Translation: If it seems like the city has been puffing its cigar cough in the general direction of the old McCoy Annex/Southport site — that former Navy stronghold by the airport that succumbed to transient blight — for a long time now, it has. Three years ago, the commissioners approved a contract to three separate companies to tear the mutha down in order to construct a mixed-use paradise. The good news was it would only cost the city $150,000 to do the demolition. In August 2008, that cheap deal got a little less cheap when the ante was upped to $400,000 for Central Environmental Services to bring out their bulldozing brigade. Now, as somebody realized that the place was riddled with asbestos, the city has its hands tied and must sign a check for $848,250 just to get rid of the eyesore in accordance with the standards of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Item: The city approves a loan agreement and promissory note to the Orlando Science Center in the amount of $1.2 million to be used for capital improvements to the facility.

Translation: The futuristic dome-and-skywalk architecture of the current Orlando Science Center has seen better days, despite its 207,000-square-foot upgrade back in 1997. While it may still be a great destination for those wishing to traverse the mucus-lined walls of the digestive system, the structure's circulatory system — or its HVAC air conditioning ducts — has run afoul 12 years on and is in desperate need of replacement. Unfortunately, the cost of doing so is estimated at $2.5 million, and OSC has only been able to alchemize $1.3 million of that through county and city grants. The city is stepping in with a $1.2 million loan to get the job done, provided that OSC agrees to submit to a five-year operating forecast, a space-utilization study and a 10-year capital investment plan, and to pay off the loan in semi-annual $100,000 payments every February and November at an interest rate of 4.75 percent. Within the loan payments is a $22,754 stipend to be used exclusively for capital improvements, like lasers you can eat. The city is a serious loan shark.

Item: The city approves the subgrant application for the fiscal year 2010 Florida Department of Transportation highway safety funds grant "Let's Walk & Roll!" program.

Translation: FDOT is trying to get parents to force their kids to either walk or ride their bikes to school, because that's healthy (and it will mean less traffic around the three elementary schools in the trial program), and it's offering the Orlando Police Department $18,600 in grant money to make it happen. Unfortunately, rock & roll puns are being incorporated sans sex and drugs, meaning it won't take. Your kids will be fat forever.

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