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Council Watch 

Thank heavens for the beautiful weather outside (or so said chaplain Ragan Vandegriff), because the inside of this week's city counseling session was a whole heap of crazy. To celebrate the city's annual "Week of the Family," a theme was announced — "An Evening at Home: Starring the Family" — which basically means "We ain't doing nothing because we're broke, kid."

Then the masked Phantom from Phantom of the Opera gate-crashed with a song tweaked to reflect fundraising efforts to save the Lake Eola fountain. "It may not be the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty," offered Ron Legler, president and CEO of the Florida Theatrical Association, "but it is to us." Sigh.

Commissioner Daisy Lynum warned of a scourge of wild chickens in Parramore, while commissioner Tony Ortiz's mustache warned that, based on his performance at last week's State of Downtown address, the mayor might leave us for the bright lights of Hollywood. He's a star!

Then it was back to the fountain. Rick Namey, manager of his son's band Biteboy (aka gurgling pool of awful), threw a Hail Mary permitting pass assisted by commissioner Patty Sheehan to try to put on a battle-of-the-bands fountain fundraiser on Halloween. It worked. Namey, who's rubbed bellies with Lou Pearlman just like the city, engaged the council with his local classic rock CV before ascending into a fluorescent velvet painting (along with Pearlman and Cameron Kuhn) of Orlando's fat-man failures.

Item: The city approves an option agreement for the sale and purchase of land located at 512, 522, 528 and 538 E. Washington St. and 20 N. Eola Drive, adjacent to the city's Lake Eola Park, in favor of the city for property to be acquired from the Trust for Public Land.

Translation: Last year's ill-fated entry into the small-town development stakes — wherein proposed giant buildings teeter in the civic angst of petition-waving residents — appears to have met its logical conclusion. Those who pay attention will remember that Eola Capital had intended to erect a 200-foot behemoth right on the edge of Lake Eola, one that historically-minded homeowners in the area feared would cast a menacing shadow on Lake Eola Park's playground. Well, following a couple of dick moves at Municipal Planning Board meetings — Eola Capital pulled out twice — the city is considering a new scheme to deal with 1.36 acres of precious property. The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit specializing in conserving "open space for people to enjoy," will buy up the five parcels from Eola Capital for a sweet $8.5 million, allowing the city — which will pay $3 million to secure this option — four years to come up with the money to buy it back; they'll do so by requesting grants from philanthropic groups and the Florida Communities Trust. In the meantime, Eola Capital will continue to lease the old buildings to add money to the city's pot. The ultimate goal, according to the city, is to square off Lake Eola Park's boundaries and "create more public land for the benefit of our citizens and future generations." However, if the city is unable to come up with the money, the Trust for Public Land will sell the property in four years — when the market is back, back, back — and this whole ordeal shall begin anew.

Item: The city approves the purchase of Google Apps Premier Edition licenses and service from Daston Corporation of McLean, Va.

Translation: Tired of its clunky old Lotus Notes e-mail and calendar infrastructure, the city is ready to hop on the Google train with 3,000 new licenses for the company's more intuitive Premier Edition. Unlike your standard Gmail account, this tech upgrade is not free; the city will pay an estimated $136,500 annually so that staffers can sync their coffee breaks. The city is getting a deal through the U.S. General Services Administration that promises an annual savings of $13,500, or about 10 percent.

Item: The city approves an amendment to its annual agreement with Lasercraft Inc. for red light violation cameras and citations systems.

Translation: On April 1, 2008 — with nary a mention of "April Fools!" — the city went ahead with the installation of its controversial red light cameras at 10 intersections. Now, seeing as the program has risen to "self-funded" status (all monies gained allegedly go back into the program), it's time for Phase Two: seven more cameras. The city presently spends — and, of course, makes up — $503,400 a year to keep its current crop of space-age ticket writers in working order. The new cameras will up the annual ante to $855,780.

Item: The city approves an award to Pat's Pump & Blower LLC for the purchase of a sewer cleaning truck.

Translation: Mmmm, sewage. Pat's Pump & Blower — insert puerile joke here — has boasted "customer service is our number one priority" since its formation in 1985. The city's fleet management division is in need of service now, specifically in the area of "boom rotation" on a new $241,310 vehicle. Included in that price, the city will pay an extra $17,500 to make that baby spin a full 360 degrees (up from a buzz-killing 180 degrees), thereby ensuring that the party goes on all night. Pat is amazing like that.

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