Leases, leases, leases
A quick review of the City Commission’s recent agendas and subsequent results leads one to conclude that they are more interested in spending our tax dollars as opposed to curbing spending and thus reducing taxes. A glaring example is the city's lax attention to its leases.
While running headlong down this illogical tax and spend road, our current commission continues to ignore the problem of city leases so creatively brought to our attention in the Spring of 2009, by the fiscal disaster called the Angler’s Club lease.
But the Anglers Club, while the poster child of lack of civic fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer, remains unresolved some 12 months after Harvey T.R. Mitchell’s "white paper" was delivered to former Mayor Sally Mackay.
Making it worse is that the City has lost over $50,000 in lost potential revenue from this lease since last June. But the Anglers is just one of many problem leases in our fair city.
So what about the rest of the leases; you remember the ones that every candidate during the recent election said needed a fiscal and documentary review? We still see no progress, costing us untold dollars of rent every day. Unfortunately, they seem more comfortable allowing the Marine Discovery Center to hang out on city-owned property for $15 a year.
Like the Anglers and the MDC, there is another poster child that may be even more insidious and that is the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce that holds court in a historic building on Canal Street that they pay the grand sum of $1 a year to rent. That is the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce, not the New Smyrna Beach Chamber of Commerce. You know, the one we have yet to see any benefit from, although I understand they throw a great Christmas party.
In the chamber, we have a squatter that is not even dedicated to the City. Making things worse is that the lease expired over two years ago and has not been renewed.
To add frosting to this fiasco, this ineffective, out-of-town chamber now wants the City of New Smyrna Beach to back, with public monies, a renovation project to the building that will exceed $500,000 when it is complete.
They will tell you not to worry, it’s from ECHO funds and we just need to match the “grant.”
Where do you think the grant money came from?
The same place the City matching funds will come from and that is your tax dollars. So while it is true that nothing is free in this world, that fact disintegrates when you are a special interest group in New Smyrna Beach and have a city commission that could care less about watching out for the taxpayer’s wallet.
Gosh, the City Commission evidently has no idea we are in a recession based on their lack of fiscal constraint. As one commissioner recently said, “It’s only $10,000.”
Finally, in addition to the previously mentioned there are over 50 other leases in NSB that, with the exception of the commercial property at the airport, are also leased for next to nothing to special interest groups, ranging from the Women’s Club to the Boat and Ski Club.
While many of these may have some public service merit, there is little documentation within the city government to support that line of thought, much less, in many cases, actual copies of the leases themselves.
Heck, in many cases the city staff, as evidenced by their own list, has no idea what the lease conditions are. If you think this is an acceptable way to run a property management firm, then don’t get into the leasing business as you will go bankrupt quickly.
The city needs to assign specific responsibility for the management of this vast array of potential income to the city from taxpayer owned property, update all of the legal and management records and then conduct an open, Sunshine re-evaluation the monetary lease arrangements for each parcel.
However, a critical first step would be to get a current appraisal for teach property and then adjust the rent to market values as required by their fiduciary stewardship of the Citizen’s money. And I suggest they start with the Anglers Club and the Chamber of Commerce, the poster children of New Smyrna Beach.
It is time the City Commission accepted the fact that the voters spoke clearly last November that they were looking for fiscal conservatism in 2010 when they marked their ballots.
Editor's Note: Mr. Wilson is a member of the Boat and Ski Club and the Kiwanis Club, though the latter does not have any connection to city properties or leases.
About the Blogger
Palmer Wilson, a retired policeman, lives in New Smyrna Beach with his wife, Diane.