Saturday, March 30, 2013

Belle Isle Neighborhood Watch - Now Recruiting!

At the recent City Council meeting, Police Chief Jackson announced that the Belle Isle Police Department now has a trained Community Relations Officer on staff. Her name is Angela Hutschenreuter and she will be working to help residents start neighborhood watch programs throughout Belle Isle.

Neighborhood watch programs are all about organization. You are probably aware of the value of an organized network of citizens in detecting and deterring crime. But you may not be aware that neighborhood watch programs can also be instrumental in preparing for and recovering from natural disasters.

I have been speaking with Ms. Hutschenreuter about volunteering to coordinate a neighborhood watch in my district, covering Conway Circle, Swann Avenue, Idaho Avenue, and Lake Drive from Nela Avenue to Perkins Avenue. Since the districts aren't named yet, I'll call this district the Swann Beach district. Here's a rough map of the Swann Beach district:




Please contact me at contact@belleislesun.org if you are located in the Swann Beach district and interested in volunteering as a block captain. Very little is required of a block captain. It's basically just a commitment to communicate information when needed and it comes with a cool title. We only need one or two block captains to get started.

Want to help start a neighborhood watch in your district? Contact Angela Hutschenreuter at ahutschenreuter@belleislepolice.org for more information on becoming a neighborhood watch coordinator or block captain in your district.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

City Council Special Meeting Summary - March 27, 2013 [UPDATE]

In case you were unable to attend the Belle Isle City Council Special Meeting this morning, here are some highlights:

The Council discussed the Mayor's open letter to the City Manager and City Council regarding cancellation of the Belle Isle fire department project. The Mayor confirmed that the fire department project has been terminated. See a copy of the Mayor's letter dated March 11, 2013 here:


Commissioners Harvey Readey and Eric Spaulding spoke in support of City transparency. They requested that the Council publicly solicit input from the residents of Belle Isle before the City undertakes any major projects in the future. Mr. Spaulding suggested holding open town hall meetings in which residents could ask questions of the Mayor and City Council members. No formal proposal or motion on this matter was made by the Council.

It was announced at the meeting that the City's prior attorney, John Bennett, will no longer be acting as the City's primary attorney. No reason was given for the termination of his contract, although Mr. Bennett will be retained as a consultant on an as-needed basis because of his 40+ years of experience with local Belle Isle matters. The Council voted to approve a contract with a new attorney who will be providing services to the City at the same rate as the services previously provided by Mr. Bennett.

The Mayor announced that Belle Isle was chosen as a "city of distinction" and will be featured on an upcoming television broadcast.

The City Council discussed moving forward with a plan proposed at the last Council workshop meeting to build a new speed bump on Nela Avenue. It will be located before the sharp curve leading up to Seminole Drive.

This is just a small sampling of the issues discussed at this morning's meeting. See the official City Hall minutes for further information. The minutes are typically approved at the next City Council meeting and then posted to the City's official page.

See something important that I missed? Catch a mistake? Email me at contact@belleislesun.org with your thoughts!

Update 3/28/13:  For those interested, the name of our new City Attorney is Frank Kruppenbacher.  Based on the information I have found, Mr. Kruppenbacher appears exceptionally qualified for this position and his rates are quite reasonable. Here is some information about him:

Frank Kruppenbacher Bio - Morgan & Morgan, P.A.

Frank Kruppenbacher - Florida Bar Info

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Open Letter from Sue Nielsen [UPDATE]

I recently received an interesting correspondence from Belle Isle resident Sue Nielsen. It is an open letter from Mrs. Nielsen to the Belle Isle Mayor and City Commissioners.

The focus of Mrs. Nielsen's letter is City Hall's apparent mismanagement of the Belle Isle fire department project. She examines this mismanagement in the context of other questionable decisions made by City Hall over the past years - decisions which have racked up millions of dollars in debt in the City's name.

While Mrs. Nielsen makes many excellent points in her letter, I found section 4 to be especially intriguing.  Mrs. Nielsen calls into question the seeming web of connections between the cities of Belle Isle and Ocoee.  These connections became especially apparent during her investigation of the City's fire department project and include a connection between Butch Stanley, the fire chief hired by Belle Isle City Hall, and Crown Consulting, the consulting company that performed the feasibility study and hired Chief Stanley.

Interested in reading Sue Nielsen's original letter? Access it here:

Sue Nielsen Open Letter - March 26, 2013

Anyone have more information? Drop me a line at contact@belleislesun.org.

UPDATE 3/27/13: This morning, I received the following email correspondence from City Commissioner Harvey Readey to Sue Nielsen:

Sue,

Your open letter was read this morning by me and I concur with many of your observations. The City Council Workshop is scheduled for this morning (March 27 at 8:30 a.m.).

I will asked the Council to enter into the workshop minutes.

By the way only three ( I was elected) of the seven Commissioners now serving  were  elected. The rest were recommended by the Mayor and approved by the Council majority vote as currently required by our City Charter.. I have attempted to change the charter so that when a Commissioer resigns before their term has ended we hold a special election for replacement unless we are within 6 months of the end of the 3 years term. The Mayor and most of the Council have rejected this proposal. That concerns me to this day.

Thanks
Harvey Readey -- Your Commissioner

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Special Council Meeting on March 27 [UPDATE]

City Hall recently called a special meeting on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 8:30 a.m. A special meeting is called whenever the Council wants to vote on something outside of their regular monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of every month.

It is unclear what vote is so urgent that the Council suddenly needs to meet in advance of the regular meeting scheduled less than one week later on Tuesday, April 2 at 5:30 p.m. You can find a copy of the City's agenda here:

I urge all interested residents to attend this meeting. See you there!

UPDATE 3/25/13: According to an email from Vice-Mayor Lydia Pisano, the Council will be voting to hire a new City Attorney and approve his contract. The Council will also be voting on the "Special Events Permit" ordinance initially read at the March 5, 2013 Council meeting. The text of the proposed ordinance can be found in the "Special Meeting Agenda" linked above.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Public Records Request [UPDATE]

On February 27, 2013, I requested a number of records from Belle Isle City Hall. You can see the complete text of the records request here:

Public Records Request 2-27-13.pdf

I have scanned all the documents produced by City Hall on March 19, 2013 . You can always access the Belle Isle Sun's updated repository of public records through the convenient link on the right side of this page or at: records.belleislesun.org

A number of the requested records are missing from the documents produced by City Hall. I have requested that City Hall address this issue by March 22, 2013. These records will be updated as further documents are obtained from City Hall. Please stay tuned.

UPDATE 3/23/13: I obtained 50 pages of additional records from City Hall on March 22, 2013. These additional records have been scanned and added to the Belle Isle Sun's records repository located at: records.belleislesun.org

UPDATE 4/1/13: I obtained 7 pages of additional records from City Hall on April 1, 2013. These records are simply statements that City Hall employees and Commissioners do not have any communications regarding the Belle Isle Gateway project or the City's annexation plans. These records have been added to: records.belleislesun.org

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Happened In Belle Isle?

Also featured in the April edition of the Conway News, in print and online at conwaynews.com.

Over the past few weeks, residents of Belle Isle, including myself, have been left with many questions as we try to sort out exactly what happened with regard to our City’s sudden and unexpected plan to build a fire department.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Belle Isle City Hall made a decision to break its fire/rescue contract with Orange County in favor of building a small Belle Isle fire station to serve City residents. Although this decision was justified as a cost-saving measure, it was apparent from City Hall’s own studies and internal documents that a Belle Isle Fire Department would actually cost the City significantly more than its fire/rescue contract with Orange County while providing a significantly lower quality of service to City residents.

After a huge public outcry from Belle Isle residents, it appears that City Hall finally reversed course on its plans. In a letter recently issued by the Mayor to the City Manager and City Council members, the Mayor recommended immediate termination of the City’s fire department initiative and renegotiation of the City’s contract with Orange County for fire/rescue services.

In the wake of this drama, many residents want to know how they could have been kept in the dark regarding a major City initiative affecting the safety of their homes and families. Although our City Council voted to authorize construction of a Belle Isle Fire Department in November 2012, most residents didn’t learn of the project until after City Hall had already hired a fire chief and begun the process of buying or leasing fire/rescue equipment.

How did City Hall authorize such a huge project and proceed so far towards completion without the knowledge or input of its citizens? Many residents blame the lack of information available on the City’s website, especially in comparison to the quantity of information available on the websites of other small local cities.

But we, the residents of Belle Isle, must accept that the blame also lies with us for not attending regular City Council meetings to monitor the actions of our elected representatives and make our opinions known. With the rumors presently swirling around Belle Isle of other major City initiatives, such as the potential annexation of Taft, there has never been a better time to start participating in your local government.

Belle Isle City Council meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!