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Council Watch 

It was a week for living dangerously. With Mayor Buddy Dyer on a SunRail business trip to Tallahassee — though he did phone home — the lunatics took over the asylum. Tony Ortiz took the occasion to debut a beard (on his face!), Daisy Lynum made vague references to football (the Florida Classic) and sausage (homeless pork), while mumblepuss Sam Ings grew wistful in reflecting on the opening of a new fire department headquarters.

"I was hoping that Mayor Dyer would come down that golden pole," Ings said as his eyes welled up. Us, too.

Item: The city approves a service authorization for continuing professional mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection services for the Lake Eola fountain rehab project.

Translation: Unbeknownst to most of those just trying to keep their families fed in the City Beautiful, the city had already approached the Lake Eola fountain situation long before that dastardly bolt of lightning struck this summer. Milan Engineering Inc. submitted a study to city staff back on April 30 detailing the technical ins and outs of downtown's ornate blowhole and just what kind of financial backing would be required to fortify its spit-stream. Surely some of those involved balked at the prospect of merely restoring the fountain rather than turning it into a fancy aquatic headdress, in spite of these tough economic times. What would help the situation would be a televangelist ordering a natural disaster to make certain that our jewel of denial got the extreme makeover we and it deserved. Let there be lightning! So last month the city agreed to continue its consultations with Milan (along with Matern Professional Engineering) to come up with a plan for our brave new water feature not to exceed $2 million. Now the city, Milan and Matern are ready to move forward, allowing a minor exchange of $32,318 to secure the "design criteria" assistance of the two engineering firms in issuing requests for proposals. Soon we will all be happy and poor.

Item: The city approves grant awards of $43,671 for special units equipment, $83,694 for technology improvement projects and $57,870 for drug tip award projects, all from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance grant program, 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida JAG Countywide.

Translation: It seems that no matter how much money you throw at the police department, the crime numbers just get worse. This latest round of (requested) handouts should succeed in its goal of expending ink on press releases created for slow news days, but considering how expensive maintaining the appearance of successful crime prevention actually is, it won't do much more. Let's see: $43,671 will go to more shields, batons, helmets and a trailer (beauty); $83,694 is earmarked for "access control," photo storage and fingerprint work stations (tedium); $57,870 should help pay off a couple of narcs (buzz killers). Do you feel safer?

Item: The city approves utilizing Orange County contract Y9-1087 with Motorola Corporation for the purchase of 115 portable radios and accessories.

Translation: Not unlike the pouting teens who will be lining up at Sears on Boxing Day to return that clunky MP3 player that the clerk assured their grandparents was "better than an iPod," the city takes its electronics seriously. Unless the portable radio in question includes "better spectrum utilization," multi-band compatibility, agency interoperability, "backwards and forwards capability" and a bitchin' GPS system, you might as well just go for the gift card. This purchase of 115 Motorola APX7000s at a total cost of $665,928 marks just the first phase in a complete overhaul of the city's telecommunications and falls in line with the county's controversial decision to drop $9 million on more Motorolas last month. Orange County public safety director — and former Orlando police chief — Michael McCoy rebuffed media inquiries about the fact that other manufacturers could provide similar upgrades at half the price, saying that he only "trusted" Motorola in matters of policing. Anyway, because this is Orange County's contract with their corporate bedfellows, Motorola — and because the cost is meant to be covered by a traffic surcharge from a now-defunct interlocal agreement — the city will be reimbursed by the county for the cost. So it's sort of like hand-me-downs, only brand-new!

Item: The city approves a purchase from Sutphen Corporation of one Sutphen fire pumper truck.

Translation: The city has been relying on Sutphen since January 2001 for all things red and hosey, although it's been nearly three years since the last time the mayor pulled out the city checkbook to acquire three new firetrucks at a cost of $1.1 million. It's all part of the Orlando Fire Department's "standardization program," one that probably made its way to the back burner as the loss of actual firemen took precedence. Still, hot firemen will be hot firemen, and somehow one of their fleet was recently "totaled," making this the perfect time to lay out $371,833 for a replacement. That's $2,269 less than the previous unit cost! We can totally afford it.

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