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October 31, 2008

Flagler Beach residents voice opposition to city hall bid


FLAGLER BEACH -- The decision to build a new City Hall complex may ultimately lie
with one of the most powerful groups in Flagler Beach -- voters.

City commissioners voted 4-0 at a meeting Thursday night to put the proposed $6.2
million project on the ballot in March if the board decides to move the project forward
after a series of workshops. Commissioner John Feind was not present.

Prior to the meeting -- which was moved from City Hall to the Disabled American
Veterans Chapter 86 building because of early voting -- a group of residents picketed the
project with signs and passed out literature.

At times during the meeting, tempers flared as residents and members of the commission
exchanged heated words.

Many residents expressed their dislike for the project, saying the difficult economic times
warrant the commission to focus its attention -- and the city's coffers -- on more
important matters, like the city's streets and stormwater system.

"The people that pay the taxes and pay all the city salaries, they have the right to vote on
major issues," resident Dick Ricardi said.

Commissioner Joy McGrew said she didn't object to putting the issue on the ballot.
But residents must do their part and attend upcoming workshops to learn more about the
project, she said.

"The people need to learn the same information the commissioners have learned," she
Mayor Alice Baker agreed.
"Every resident needs to be interested," she said. "I suggest you come to the workshops."
But residents aren't misinformed about the proposal, resident Rosemary Bates said.
"Please stop underestimating the public," she said. "We can educate ourselves."
Commission workshops, however, are "not always productive," JoAnne Ricardi said.
"If you're going to do this, don't slant this one way or another," she said. "Just present the
The complex would include City Hall, the Flagler Beach Historical Museum and a
community center at South Flagler Avenue and State Road 100.

Interim City Manager Bernie Murphy told commissioners in August it would cost Flagler
Beach about $4.3 million to build a new City Hall, while the museum and community
center each are more than $950,000.

A combination of money from the city's infrastructure tax and utility reserves, the sale of
the existing City Hall and state and federal dollars could be used to finance the project. It
would cost close to $5.3 million to build just the City Hall and museum, while tagging on
a community center bumps the price to $6.2 million, Murphy said.

Either scenario would not affect the city's tax rate, he said.