Council revisits boat lift controversy
The first City Council meeting of 2013 at times had the feel of a meeting from 2012, as the controversial Ceitus boat lift was again front and center Monday at City Hall.
The council voted to have Mayor John Sullivan represent the board at a mediation hearing regarding the boat lift, despite objections from Councilmember Kevin McGrail.
City Attorney Dolores Menendez said the county was about to start the mediation process regarding the boatlift and that the Board of County Commissioners was going to bring Commissioner John Manning to represent the county, and that council would have the opportunity to appoint a council member to represent the city.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz nominated Sullivan, while McGrail nominated himself, saying nobody knows more about the boat lift than he.
He also said the only thing mediation would do was lead the city straight to litigation.
“Neither representative can bind the bodies. My concern is that mediation will bind us to the process,’ McGrail said. “If mediation fails, the next step is litigation. I hope we can deviate from this path.”
In the end, council voted 7-1 to have Sullivan represent them, then voted unanimously to send the mayor to the Chapter 164 meeting.
Chapter 164 creates a governmental conflict resolution procedure to provide an equitable method for resolution of conflicts between governmental entities.
The mediator has been chosen. Menendez said the mediation would take place in February or March.
In other business, Police Chief Jay Murphy asked the council for the expenditure of federal asset sharing funds for a SWAT vehicle for police.
The city’s current vehicle is 30 years old and has been deployed many times, including for a grow house last week.
“This is an insurance policy for the police and our citizens,” Murphy said.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said that while the need of an armored vehicle worried him as a citizen, as an elected official he would never turn it down.
The money, which would come from confiscated money made in drug busts, is available now for that purpose, and Murphy warned the money may not be there again if they instead used the money to, say, replace more of its aging fleet.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail made that suggestion, as well as one that, with two wars in the Middle East winding down, the city could get a surplus armored vehicle from the federal government for pennies on the dollar.
Murphy said he wanted a city-owned vehicle, and added that using the county vehicle was too risky.
“I don’t want to roll the dice on the County SWAT car and have it be in Lehigh instead of using bad guy money and have our own vehicle,” Murphy said. “They aren’t just for barricades. We use them for little events you don’t know about.”
In other business, the council made its first vote during a workshop meeting by appointing Planning and Zoning Commissioner Dan Read to serve as an alternate on the Burnt Store Right-of-Way Committee, and Fire Chief Bill Van Helden made several consent requests, including one to start a CPR program for area residents, which would be paid for through a grant.
He also requested a new Custom Pumper at the cost of $459,512, which they could get by piggybacking the Florida Sheriff’s Association.