Jeremy's Notebook

The How of the Y – video added

March 15, 2013

The Pensacola City Council formalized their approval last night of locating a new YMCA at the Maritime Park—in concept, with lease details to be worked out—but not before a conversation about how the deal came before them.

“I agree, I think, with almost everyone up here,” Councilwoman Megan Pratt said, “we had a really flawed process.”

Council was particularly interested in how the YMCA lease came before them prior to being present to the Community Maritime Park Associates board. It was a continuation—albeit, a deeper dive—of the three-hour conversation council had earlier in the week during its Committee of the Whole.

“I just had a question about how the lease was developed,” Councilman Charles Wingate said.

“I’ll chime in briefly,” said City Attorney Jim Messer. “I’m not aware of the process of how it got to my office, maybe someone else has some information on that, I don’t.”

“Does that do it for you, councilman?” asked Council President P.C. Wu.

Wingate wan’t satisfied.

“Councilman Wingate,” Mayor Ashton Hayward said, “the process is the city council approves leases or the sale of real property, that’s why we’re discussing it.”

Wingate still wasn’t satisfied. He said the process, in this instance, had been “backwards.”

“Maybe I’ll take a shot at straightening this out, Councilman Wingate, because I think I understand what you’re driving at,” Messer said. “I don’t believe anyone is taking the position that the CMPA doesn’t have the right to negotiate terms and conditions of the lease and bring it to us, don’t misunderstand me, I think they do have that right, my point is, in this particular case, for whatever reason I have no knowledge about, and probably wouldn’t understand if I did, they didn’t, and so it was brought to the city … no one on the CMPA held up their hand and said, ‘hey, here we are, we want to do this’ … now, how it got to my office I can’t help you out with, but no one’s saying they don’t play a role. My position is they didn’t choose or weren’t able or didn’t want or whatever to play a role, so somebody had to do it. Is that a little clearer?”

“No, it’s not any clearer,” Wingate said, asking the attorney to “name somebody that was responsible for doing this.”

“Councilman, I’m gonna continue trying to answer your question because you deserve an answer,” Messer said. “I don’t want to throw Mr. Reynolds under the bus because honestly there’s probably seven or eight leases every two weeks that come through my office, but I suppose if you were going to put me under oath to testify I’d say probably Mr. Reynolds said, you know, ‘we’ve got a lease coming up at the CMPA, go take a look at it and I did, but I honestly can’t, it just doesn’t work that way, it just, I can’t identify a specific person, I’m guessing he probably did, we talk about leases and contracts every day and —”

Following Messer’s explanation, the council heard from Ann Hill, a member of the CMPA board. She relayed how the YMCA had made a presentation at a committee meeting, but that CMPA Chairman Collier Merrill had told the board there would be no action taken at that time.

Hill said she had expected to see the issue come back to the CMPA, but that she then read in the newspaper that the matter was on the council’s COW agenda.

“That was the first I heard that we had been taken out of the equation,” Hill told the council.

John Daniels, the YMCA’s attorney, also addressed the council last night. He said the organization thought it was following the correct process as per the city.

“We made inquiry—‘what’s the process, who do we start with?’” the attorney said.

Daniels also mapped out a timeline for the council. He said the YMCA conferred with Mayor Hayward and Chairman Merrill in early December.

“We discussed how to bring this lease to both boards, the council and the CMPA, and the conclusion was, we were told, bring it to the city, work through Mr. Messer …”

Daniels said that he had worked through “seven or eight drafts” of the lease with Messer, before requesting that the matter be placed on the COW agenda. The attorney disputed earlier characterizations that the lease was “flawed or incomplete.”

“It was a complete, well-drafted, well-thought out proposal to the city council,” Daniels said.

Councilman Charles Bare later clarified the bottom line with the YMCA attorney.

“Who exactly told you to take this to the city first?” he asked.

“Chairman Merrill and the mayor,” Daniels said.

Process aside, the council again approved the concept of a Maritime Y, this time by a 6-3 vote, with councilpersons Bare, Myers and Vice President Jewell Cannada-Wynn dissenting.

The Messer part of the discussion begins about the 25:45 mark:

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  • and it is so March 18, 2013 at 6:52 am

    CC has been dead on with his assessment of the Port – he just cuts through the hype put out by the port promoters and staff and provides a hard look at the actual numbers and realistic view of business conditions. Just the facts. The recent demise of the cold storage operation is confirmation of his predictions. His assessment of the CMP and impact on city finances is equally as dead on. Just the facts.I pity the next mayor who inherits the budget shortfall heading this way in 2014. But hey, the local bigwigs will be laughing on their treadmills as the financial tsunami rolls ashore.
    Note to Joe – it is the Studer pr machine that is intimidating city council, not the Y although now the 2 are joined at the hip.

  • joe March 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    It is good to see Elebash Phd, retired, feared and respected former innstructor at UWF posting here again.

    Smart money would say he’s correct now as he has been all along on this project.

    My question is what does the Y have that can intimidate the City council? Of course the Y doesn’t want to lose Studer’s 5 million dollar contribution and Studer may be telling collier Merrill “If you don’t help me i’m going to take my ball and go to some other hick town” where people are even more stupid, err, I mean poorer than Pcola.
    They should call Studer’s bluff.
    Collier Merrill may be able to do a good job, maybe not, if he’d divest himself of other Boards he sits on because CMPA is falling apart.
    This is on Mayor Hayward on Merrill. It may be years in the future but Rick will have a sit down and eat some crow from CC Elebash….the man’s called it correctly the entire time.

  • Not Abe's Kin March 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    “The Attorney General’s Office has concluded that a single member of a board who has been delegated the authority to negotiate the terms of a lease on behalf of the board ‘is subject to the Sunshine Law and, therefore, cannot negotiate for such a lease in secret.’ AGO 74-294. Accord AGO 84-54. P.19 Delegation of Authority. Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual, 2012.$file/2012-SunshineManual.pdf

  • C. C. Elebash March 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Ms. McALpin is confusing the baseball team’s success with big losses for the maritime park. Thanks to a generous stadium lease, the baseball team is prosperous.

    However, the maritime park is $millions “in the red”. The City pays $2.5 million annually to retire park bonds. In addition, the City pays hundreds of thousands of dollars for park utilities, maintenance and public safety. City Hall is curtailing city-wide “housekeeping” in order to operate and maintain the maritime park. The City Finance Director has forecast a City budget deficit of $2.0 to $3.0 million in 2014.

    Also bear in mind that minor league sports provide little or no positive economic impact. They just transfer local spending from existing restaurants and entertainment venues to the stadium. Almost every independent study concludes that municipal stadiums are a lousy deal for local taxpayers.

    Meanwhile, the City cannot afford improvements that would make Pensacola a more attractive, clean and safe community. These are the attributes that attract people and businesses to come here.

  • Ames March 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Thank you, Mr. Elebash.

  • wayne March 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Betty, the past city staff would not allow it to be sold. Someone may build something that blocks their view of the water. Yes it is a nice park, but if you think the CRA tax district is going to be able to pay the debt you are dreaming. How many different projects can this money pay for if everyone gets a tax break to do business in the city. Don’t tell fibs to the other tax payers since they are also going to be paying for the park.

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