At the December 6th, 2022 Indian River County Commission meeting, under County Administrator matters on the meeting agenda, the County Commission discussed the City of Sebastian Annexation Agreement.
Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Laura Moss wanted to pull the agenda item for the City of Sebastian Annexation Agreement. Moss said she did not have a request from the City of Sebastian through their City Manager to remove the agenda item.
Moss said the draft was sent to the County Government as a courtesy from Sebastian’s City Attorney to the County’s Attorney.
Moss said the contract for the annexation had not been negotiated with the land owner [Graves Brothers Company]. Moss noted the County Government is not a party of the discussion between the City of Sebastian and land owner regarding the property to be annexed into Sebastian.
Moss said any involvement the County will have regarding the annexation will come after the annexation itself. She said the County has already caused issues between the City of Sebastian and the land owner [Graves Brothers Company].
Moss said while the County holds Home Rule in high regard, she said she knows she always asks that the County’s Home Rule be respected at all times, the County should respect the Home Rule of the City of Sebastian and said she “respectfully” requested the agenda item be pulled at that time.
Home Rule is a governing concept that allows local governments to governing themselves based upon authority granted to said local government by the state government.
County Commissioner Joe Flescher said to Chairman Joe Earman “Mr. Chairman I believe the item is on the agenda because there’s been correspondence” between the County Government and the City of Sebastian. He said the County assigns staff to discuss the annexation with the staff for the City of Sebastian to get to a “closer area of understanding.” He continued saying “and in doing so, some documentation has been provided, developed and I understand that the documentation was sent to our County Administrator.
Flescher said the purpose of the discussion at the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting is in anticipation of the December 14th, 2022 City of Sebastian Council Meeting that is going to take place in Sebastian. He said if Agenda Item 11A was to be removed from the agenda, the County would have no understanding of the County’s thoughts on the matter. He said the County is not interfering in any “way shape or form with the annexation understanding with the property owner and the City of Sebastian” by discussing the “understanding of or the anticipation of the needs of such a move.”
Moss replied to Flescher saying “with all due respect by simply having” the Sebastian Annexation on the agenda, the County has already interfered with the City of Sebastian’s negotiations with the land owner. Moss said to continue with Agenda Item 11A on the agenda only further “aggravates the situation.”
Flescher said “I don’t believe that’s the case.”
Moss disagreed with Flescher.
Flescher said “once again this is not an element of support, this is an element of discussion. The citizens of Indian River County are also in the balance, on the hook, as we are, as the citizens of Sebastian are and this is the only way that we can discuss our thoughts on what we need to do, what this group, this body has to do, representing the County residents, the citizens who we have to put first as well. So it’s not a matter of debating Home Rule. Once again, I believe we have no say whether the annexation takes place or not. We’re not interfering. We need to do recommendations to ensure that it is done right and that has been discussion all along. This is in no way shape or form, wagering the intent or the validity of the annexation agreement. It is a separate issue. There are needs and there are infrasturcutre concerns that we need to be able to vet out so that they know what they have at the table.
Moss said “I respectfully disagree that and they don’t believe that. They don’t need us to tell them how to do it right.”
Flescher said “they also may not agree that they need the County for such unimportant things like water and waste, store.”
County Commission Vice Chairman Susan Adams then raised a procedural question, asking for a second to Moss’s motion and Adams did not hear a second to the motion. Flescher agreed.
Chairman Earman then restated Moss’s motion to delete the agenda item about the Sebastian annexation from the meeting agenda. No one seconded the motion and died as a result.
Agenda Item 11a.
Chairman Earman’s Opening Remarks
Chairman Earman said the agenda item regarding the Sebastian Annexation at the December 6h, 2022 meeting is only an “informative item.”
Chairman Earman said the County Commission “honors” Sebastian’s right for home rule to govern themselves as they see fit, such as setting their own density, whether or not to annex land, etc.
Chairman Earman said the County Commission does have to provide utility services to the City of Sebastian since it is apart of Indian River County, emphasizing that it is important for the County Commission to “stay in the loop” as a result. He said it was not “in the purview” of the County Commission to make decisions for the City of Sebastian and the City of Sebastian is more than capable of handling its own matters.
County Administrator Jason Brown Main Remarks on Agenda Item
County Administrator Jason Brown said the agenda item was basically an update for the Board of County Commissioners.
Brown said the item was the County Staff’s last opportunity to get direction from the County Board if there is any further direction to give before the City of Sebastian’s next Council Meeting on December 14th. Brown said to his knowledge, the Annexation agreement will be considered on that day.
Brown gave background about the City of Sebastian Annexation with the Graves Brothers Company from prior to Thanksgiving up to present day.
Brown said the City Attorney for Sebastian provided a draft copy of the annexation agreement to the County Attorney. That draft was subsequently shared with County Staff.
When the draft copy of the annexation agreement was given to the County Attorney, the understanding was that the City of Sebastian was “relatively close” to an agreement to annex the property, according to Brown. Brown said there may be something different here as the City of Sebastian asked the County, according to Brown himself, to not have the discussion about the Annexation. Brown then said the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting was the last opportunity to have the discussion about the annexation prior to the December 14th, 2022 meeting to get any direction from the County Commissioners.
Brown then said from his conversations with Sebastian City Manager Paul Carlisle, the most recent conversations the County Commission has will be from the most recent drafts of the Sebastian Annexation Agreement the County Government current has. Brown said circumstances of the conservation could change with respect to the City of Sebastian.
Brown made clear the discussion with the County Commission was not the County trying to interfere with the City of Sebastian’s annexation. Brown said he found the County Commission’s “basic interest” to be “provision” of water and sewer services to the annexed land.
Brown said the County Government initially sent a letter the City of Sebastian on August 31st, 2022 for their requests for what the County Government would like to see in an annexation agreement.
Brown said he and the County Government Staff had a meeting with Sebastian City Staff on September 15th where there was what Brown thought to be a good discussion in his view. The August 31st, 2022 letter was in two parts.
The first was County Provision of Services, which discussed mainly water and also sewer services from the County Government along with fire rescue and some services that the County would provide within Municipal Cities in Indian River County.
The second part was the suggestions County found to be somewhat helpful for the City of Sebastian’s planning process. Again Brown reiterated the County has no intentions of interfering with the City of Sebastian’s planning process for the annexation. Brown said the recommendations were advisory and “like advise you would give to a good friend.”
Brown said the County appreciates the opportunity the City of Sebastian has given to provide input into the current annexation process.
Brown said there was a lot he and the County Staff liked the annexation agreement and then there were things that the County Government didn’t like.
The things Brown and the County Staff liked were items such as an affordable housing provision, which Brown said was very positive. Brown reiterated that details such as affordable housing are between the City of Sebastian and the property owner (which in this case is the Graves Brothers Company); Brown said the City and property owner working out the details together “is a good thing.”
Other positive provisions included “large track development” and height limitations. Brown said the plan is setup to look like a large master plan opportunity.
Brown had a question for clarity on the density of the property to be annexed into the City of Sebastian, which may change, according to Brown.
Brown said based off of information he has regarding the annexation, the current density is 9,000 residential units, which calculates as a 3.2 units per acre density. Brown said in his “simple non-planning math” 9,000 residential units sounds more like four and a half units per acre. Brown emphasized the density was for the City of Sebastian to determine.
Brown said the County Government was looking for a larger acreage site for a water sewer plant. Brown said that facility was not “itemized” in the documentation obtained by the County Government. He said itemizing a water sewer plant on that property could be something that gets done as the process moves forward.
Brown said he likes what he is seeing with the proposed annexation agreement and finds there can be more done going forward to ensure the County Government can provide water and sewer services to the land going forward.
Brown said it is the intention of the County Government to provide water and sewer services to residents on the proposed land to be annexed.
Brown said at “build-out” the land would have 20,000 residents on that land, which would be adding “another City of Vero [Beach]” as Brown put it. Brown said 20,000 residents being added to the land would not happen overnight.
Brown said to plan for utilities, “many many years” are needed for that process.
Brown said there are many other areas the County Government has to provide water to that are growing, such as Liberty Park and there is a limit to the amount of water the County Government has.
Currently, according to Brown, the County Government is permitted to 12.8 million gallons of water per day and said “the vast majority” of that water is being used each day. Brown said adding an additional 3 million units to the water supply will have to be worked out as the County grows with more housing.
Brown said the County Government “thinks there are a lot of good things” in the Sebastian annexation agreement in the planning process and thinks it looks good. He said the County Government will have more work to do in the planning process and will need to coordinate with the Graves Brothers Company going forward to be able to provide water and sewer services.
Brown said County staff advised a letter be sent stating all the things Brown had just mentioned to the County Commissioners on the water and sewer services and questions the County government has, such as the density. Matters including transportation that is connected to the County road network would be included in the letter as well. Brown asked the Board of County Commissioners to authorize him to send the letter to the City of Sebastian.
Brown said he wanted to get direction from the Board of County Commissioners, including Commissioner Deryl Loar, who has recently taken office.
Brown ended his remarks and “turned it over” to the Chairman, Commissioner Joe Earman.
Commissioners Begin Discussion on Agenda Item
Chairman Earman said the discussion on the Sebastian annexation at the County Commission meeting was only informational and he wanted to keep the dialogue “open on a positive note” with the City of Sebastian. Earman said he wants the City of Sebastian to succeed with successfully completing the annexation of the Graves Brothers Property.
Earman said he also wants to see the County Commission succeed in their role with the annexation regarding utilities.
Earman said the City of Sebastian and the County Government have to work together regarding the annexation.
Earman said from what he can see, there is no “adversarial discussion” about the annexation between the City of Sebastian and the County Government.
Earman said the only discussion about the annexation between the County Government and the City of Sebastian has been questions on the part of the County Government about questions County staff has had about the annexation.
Earman said the County Government will continue to ask their questions about the annexation in a “professional positive manner” with the City of Sebastian doing the same.
Earman said it is his goal to see the City of Sebastian, if they chose to go forward with annexing the Graves Brothers Property, that the City of Sebastian succeeds in doing so and for the County Government to help the City of Sebastian succeed in completing the annexation through services the County Government has to provide with utilities, road infrastructure and emergency services.
Commissioner Joe Flescher said he appreciated the update from the County Administrator.
Flescher then said “as far as the intent of the update, once again it did not discuss the annexation decision. What it did discuss was a need that’s out there, something that was discussed with the City of Sebastian.”
Flescher continued “as far as administration, to ensure that we got closer to reality on what is needed and what is projected” and said he believes that it is all fair information the County Government has received regarding the annexation “that should have been discussed.”
Flescher asked about the annexation “the importance of [the annexation] will be pointed out” as Flescher asked the County Administrator, what the County’s consumptive use is and what is available for use when “looking at the possibility of a development of 9,000 units, whether it is a plan or intent to make such a development, whether it developed under County control or developed under the City of Sebastian’s control.
Flescher said as the County’s population grows, the County itself has to increase its infrastructure.
Flescher said while the County is not interfering with the annexation, the County needs to know how the annexation “is going to roll” and what the needs are.
Flescher then asked the County Administrator to identify the Consumptive use that will be projected or needed on the proposed land to be annexed into the City of Sebastian and what the County currently has available for use.
Brown said the current available consumptive use permit from St. John’s River Water Management District (the governing entity that allows Indian River County to pull ground water out) is 12.8 million gallons per day.
Brown said the “vast majority” of the 12.8 million allocation is being used every day.
Brown said the County Government is currently working with St. John’s River Water Management to possibly expand Indian River County’s consumptive use permit so Indian River County can continue to serve additional development going forward.
Brown said at the current building development of 9,000 units on the Graves Brothers Property, with eventual commercial and industrial uses, would be 2.8 to 3 million gallons of water used per day on the Graves Brothers Property.
Brown said the County Government has to be concerned with serving not only the Graves Brothers Property, but also other areas such as Liberty Park, areas in different phases of approval and other undeveloped property.
Brown also said the County Government is obligated to provided utility services to areas within the urban service boundary area. He said it may be time to make adjustments to the urban service boundary area. Brown said the adjustment would come with the need to provide water and sewer services to areas currently outside the urban service boundary.
Brown said the County is currently using the vast majority of its consumptive use and would need to take the appropriate steps to work with the St. John’s River Water Management District to increase the County’s water consumption limit.
Sebastian City Manager Paul Carlisle Speaks In-front of County Commission
Chairman Earman then acknowledged Sebastian City Manager Paul Carlisle, Sebastian Councilmember Ed Dodd and Sebastian City Attorney Manny Anon, Jr.
Carlisle then got up to speak. He said the City of Sebastian will continue to work with the County Government on the annexation.
Carlisle said “what I expressed to Mr. Brown was ‘this isn’t a final document it’s still under review it’s still under negotiations with the landowner.’”
Carlisle then said “we hope to have document sooner than later.” He said the City is happy to work with the County on the annexation and always has been. He said since the last annexation, the working with the County staff on the current annexation has been very positive. Carlisle specifically mentioned the County planners and County Administrator Jason Brown as being positive to work with. He said working with the County has not been adversarial and does not anticipate it going that way.
Carlisle said there is a lot of work to be done on the annexation agreement and to make sure “we get it right.” He said he wants to make sure the completion of the annexation agreement documents are not rushed “as every has said they do not want to see that happen.”
Carlisle said he wants a “fair deal” for the Graves Brothers Company that is working to annex the land into the City of Sebastian and for the City as well.
Carlisle said, as he mentioned at the last County Commission meeting, it not only effects Sebastian, it also effects Fellsmere and the surrounding properties.
Carlisle said he looks at the overall situation as a partnership and growing the City of Sebastian in a responsible way.
Carlisle said he is willing to talk to staff about their concerns over water and sewer. He said he thinks the City of Sebastian and the County can find an agreement that everyone can find a way to support.
Commissioner Flescher thanked Carlisle for his remarks stating that Carlisle does not find there is any adversarial action between the City of Sebastian and the County Government. Flescher said there not any adversarial action between the City of Sebastian and the County Government.
At the beginning of the County Commission meeting, Carlisle wanted to have the agenda item for discussion on the Sebastian Annexation removed due to the annexation documents being currently incomplete. He said he felt it wasn’t appropriate for the County to weigh in on a document that may or may not be accurate at the current point in time.
Carlisle said the request was not adversarial on the City of Sebastian’s end but rather it was Carlisle wanting the County to make comments on documentation that would be more complete versus the current still being edited and worked on documentation.
Carlisle said the density question that Brown raised, Carlisle would like to have addressed and also said he would like the documentation to have an answer to Brown’s questions on density. Carlisle said the density answer is currently in flux and is still being worked out with the Graves Brothers Company.
Carlisle again emphasized he is willing to meet with County Staff and for City of Sebastian Planners to meet with County Planners and discuss the annexation. Carlisle said ultimately, the City of Sebastian has to have something that works for the City of Sebastian, the Graves Brothers Company and all of the Indian River County residents.
Chairman Earman said he is looking forward to the discussions coming up. He said to Carlisle understands the concerns on the current documentation being incomplete. Earman said when the City of Sebastian gets everything ready of their end, they can discuss more on what the City of Sebastian and County needs to be doing together in the manner that is “healthy for everybody.”
Carlisle assured Chairman Earman that the conversations between the City of Sebastian and the County Government has been positive in every meeting the City of Sebastian has had with County Administrator Jason Brown.
County Commission Vice Chairman Susan Adams asked Carlisle if the final annexation document was on the City of Sebastian’s agenda for December 14th. Carlisle said the final agreement is not on the agenda for December 14th. Carlisle said the agreement has not been finalized.
Adams also asked Carlisle if the intention was for the final agreement to be “discussed and approved” at the December 14th, 2022 City of Sebastian Council Meeting. Carlisle said he does not know if he will have a final agreement in time to have it on the agenda for the December 14th, 2022 City of Sebastian Council Meeting.
Adams wanted to make sure that the County staff was able to ask their questions before the finalization of the annexation agreement. Adams was also wanting to know if the annexation agreement would be finalized at the 2022 City of Sebastian Council Meeting.
Adams asked if the County Commission was to be meeting again prior to December 14th. County Attorney Dylan Reingold said while the County Commission is meeting on December 13th, the County staff wanted to have time between sending the letter and the December 14th meeting with their questions, not deliver a letter at the last minute.
Reingold said County staff wanted to deliver the letter at least a week in advance to give the City of Sebastian time to respond to their questions.
Both Reingold and Adams were looking for clarity on the timeline for the Sebastian annexation agreement for when it will be complete. Adams specifically acknowledged that she understands the timeline for annexation agreements tend to change.
Carlisle said for the annexation agreement to go onto the agenda for the December 14th, 2022 City of Sebastian Council meeting, it would have to have been completed by 12PM Thursday, December 8th, 2022. Carlisle said he did not think the documents could be approved. He said he can ask Sebastian City Council about delaying the approval of the annexation agreement to a later date.
Carlisle notably said the annexation agreement can be approved “pending other items” and questions surrounding this method are currently being explored by City of Sebastian staff. He also said he does not want to see an annexation agreement approved just for the sake of approval.
Carlisle said he and his staff want to make sure they “get it right” with the annexation agreement and address all the concerns of the land owner, what the City of Sebastian can of the County, residents and the Environmental Groups.
Adams said the current draft of the Sebastian annexation agreement is a “great document” and understands the current version is not the final version of the annexation agreement. She also said she appreciates the ongoing communication between the City of Sebastian and the County Government.
Adams asked Reginold and Brown for clarification, what the needed for direction regarding their letter to the City of Sebastian.
Brown said if the Board wanted County staff to send something to the City of Sebastian. Brown thought it would be good to “memorialize” the questions the County staff has, which are mainly the questions Brown asked during the County Commission meeting. Brown said he is willing to meet with City of Sebastian staff.
Brown said the letter is timing. He said the City of Sebastian may or may not have something for the December 14th City Council meeting, making the December 6th meeting the last time the County staff would have the opportunity to ask questions within an appropriate time-span. Brown said he would “prefer to send a brief letter with a couple of issues that the County staff has and “offer to have discussions with” City of Sebastian staff.
Adams said she is happy to support County staff sending their letter to the City of Sebastian and made the motion to send the letter to the City of Sebastian. Commissioner Flescher seconded the motion with discussion.
Chairman Earman then referred back to Carlisle’s request for pulling the agenda item about the Sebastian annexation due to, asking County staff if they wanted to ask questions to a document that was not finalized yet. He said he could be missing something in the point he just raised.
Brown said he and County staff should make their comments knowing there could be changes to the Sebastian annexation agreement.
Carlisle said he recommended any comments from the County, the City of Sebastian should receive the comments “sooner than later” since if the City is going to be working on the agreement and the County has questions, it will help the City of Sebastian to look at those questions and address them if possible and will address the County’s concerns where able. Carlisle said he welcomes the comments.
Adams said “it would be more annoying to get them at the end” as the City works through completing the annexation agreement and then get the questions.
Earman said he was glad to ask the question to make sure everyone involved was clear on whether it was good for County staff to send their letter at the current process of the Sebastian annexation agreement. He wanted to make sure the letter would be responded to the current version of the Sebastian annexation agreement, not a completely new version.
Chairman Earman asked if anyone else wanted to talk about the agenda item. City of Sebastian Council-member Ed Dodd walked up to one of the podiums to speak.
Sebastian City Councilman Ed Dodd Speaks In Front of County Commission
Dodd said he “greatly appreciates the kumbaya moment between” Carlisle and the County Commission.
Dodd said the annexation document that will “come out at the end” is going to be “drastically different” than what the current version is.
Dodd said of the current 30 page annexation agreement document, there are 22 pages of red lines in the current draft of the agreement and will be drastically different.
Dodd said he does not agree with Flescher’s comments on the Home Rule challenge on the annexation agreement.
Dodd said he “wanted to go back on a couple things and set the record straight.” He said:“quite frankly the release of this document and the document that is going to finally come out on this, we’re going to get sued over the two of those and we’re going to be in court over that so I kind of want to set the record straight for this ok, a little bit. We’re probably going to be in a 164 process with the County over that.”
Dodd continued “the email that was transmitted this document to the County Attorney specifically said that this is a draft document and we haven’t negotiated with this property owner [Graves Brothers Company]. Back in August , when we met and Mr. Brown came to the meeting and Mr. Reingold came to the meeting and myself and Council-member McPartlan got into some probably pretty heated discussions with other Council-members about whether we should even care what the County thinks. I think some of you can remember that meeting. It was probably the most contentious we’ve had since the Dynamic Trio go kicked off Council.”
The ‘Dynamic Trio’ Councilman Dodd is referring to are former (and disgraced) Sebastian City Council-Members Damian Gilliams, Pam Parris and Charles Mauti. Each were found guilty of violating the Florida Sunshine law. Specifically Gilliams and Parris were also charged with violating Florida Perjury laws. Gilliams perjury violations were misdemeanors, thus explaining why he sought election again in 2022 for Sebastian City Council.
The ‘Dynamic Trio,’ mainly Gilliams and Parris, were so controversial during their time on the Sebastian City Council, many residents would come to Sebastian City Council meetings to speak out against the two.
Once the infamous April 2020 meeting happened, that gave grounds for the bipartisan Sebastian Voterse Against Gilliams & Parris group to form, which successfully recalled and removed Gilliams, Parris and Mauti from Sebastian City Council.
Gilliams still maintains he is innocent and is currently appealing his verdict in Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals.
Dodd said he and fellow Council-member Bob McPartlan “argued very adamantly that we felt that the County should have input to this process. I asked Mr. Brown personally during that meeting to provide us the input letter which he did, a very judiciously did that. We directed our staff at that meeting to include the County and the Environmental groups that were involved, the information we’d received from those groups that were involved in the drafting of this document. In the spirit of that direction the City Attorney felt that once he got to this point that he should share it with the County Attorney and in his sharing of that he said and this is interesting that “Paul and Lisa [Frazier] are scheduled to meet Mr. Bass [owner of Graves Brothers company] on Wednesday November 30th, 2022 or the 1st of December which was ample time for this not to be in your agenda packet, a phone call would have determined whether we can have this done by the 14th or not. That phone call was not received. So it was included in your packet.”
Dodd continued saying “a draft document that was that we had done by land use attorney, who probably put things in the document that he felt was necessary but the property owner did not. The issue about utilities, that’s between your utility and the property owner to negotiate. Sebastian can’t tell a property owner to give his water away. Sebastian can say to the property owner (which we have in this agreement) that it’s his responsibility; he can’t do build without County water and County sewer and it’s his responsbility to work with County to do that. It’s up to the County Utility to determine in negotiations what that property owner will give up in return for that. City of Sebastian can’t mandate that. Just exactly where in our Constitution does it say that we can tell a property owner to give up his water. I think they’ve had wars in Texas over that.”
The Mr. Bass, Council-member Dodd is referring to Jeff Bass, owner of the Graves Brothers Company, the company that is looking to annex the property into the City of Sebastian.
Dodd continued “this document should not have been in this agenda period. It should not have been on this agenda and it is going to create massive problems for us the fact that it was. And I consider it almost to be…. I don’t know it’s not in the spirit of the cooperation that we didn’t anticipate as a City Council when two of us argued adamantly with three others to make sure that cooperation continued. I consider it to be almost, I don’t know, almost in a front that it was done. It could have been very easily not been done. You do not have the responsibility to get involved in the negotiations which the County Commission has done now. You’ve gotten involved in a negotiation between us and the property owner. I don’t know how much of the redlining was because he knew this was going on ok. And you have by releasing the initial draft of this document you’ve gotten into that discussion with him and you shouldn’t have done that.”
Dodd continued “so that’s my goal here today to say that this was not something we intended to be released. It was delivered to the County Attorney under the spirit there is no reason why a qualified attorney wouldn’t understand when it says in here it is a draft and hasn’t been reviewed with the property owner, but that’s not for release.”
Dodd then said to County Attorney Reingold that he wasn’t questioning Reingold, but said there’s no reason for why it wasn’t understood that the annexation document wasnot ready to be released.
Dodd continued “so I’m saying this, just from the fact that I’m going to be one of five people people and Sebastian now fighting with everybody in the world about why that paragraph is not in our final document and it created… it’s going to create a real problem for us in this regard, and you do not need to be involved in that.”
Dodd continued “I still believe that there needs to be cooperation, I have said every time on the campaign trail this last election, every time, Joe Flescher has been in the audience, what I’ve said every time there is NOT a problem between the County and the City.” Flescher while Dodd was talking said “there’s not” in response to Dodd emphasizing what he had said on the campaign trail to Sebastian residents.
Dodd said the City of Sebastian and County Governments are “two organizations with two objectives, two goals, two strategic things, we have to meet ourselves together. Stunts like this create the problems. This reminds me me of what they do in Washington D.C.”
Commissioner Flescher then interrupted Dodd sand said “wait a minute stunt?”
Dodd and Flescher then had a brief back and forth over what Dodd was saying. Dodd said Flescher can be upset if he wants to be and “throw paper all” he wants.
Flescher said in response to Dodd “I think your choice of words, in all due respect, unfair and inappropriate and when you state that we have interfered I want you to know any document that you send to the County, whether it be the [County] Attorney, whether it be the Chair[man], whether it be any one of us, a member of staff, is subject to public records request.”
Dodd interjected saying “we have a public records request for this document and you have a public records request for this document.”
Flescher responded saying “we don’t need” the public records request. He said “in the spirit of transparent government it most certainly was more respectful to have this before us. It was sent to us by the City of Sebastian to inform us [the County Government] of what had progressed with the administration. It’s more than fair and appropriate. See we believe in transparent government.”
Dodd responded saying “we believe in transparent government also. I’m just telling you that this was a case in where it did not need to be part of your agenda packet because it was not a finalized document. You didn’t need to be discussed. We don’t need a letter from you on this document it’s not the final document. We need a letter from you on the next document.”
Flescher said “we respectfully disagree.”
Dodd said “okay that’s that simple, so I’m just telling you that.”
Flescher said “I think the citizens, have the right to understand and see what is happening.”
Dodd interjected saying “this is not about citizen issues, this is about two organizational structures. I am 100 percent understand the responsibility of citizens have. I’ve met with the [Indian River] Neighborhood Association leaders. I’ve met with the Indian River of the San Sebastian River leaders, the Pelican Island Audubon Society leaders, discussing this agreement, I met with those people. So I understand the requirement for citizen input. I do understand that and I understand the whole thing. I’m being the bad guy to Mr. Carlisle’s good guy but I’m the elected official, so I’m representing the City’s elected body not at their request, by myself.
Flescher responded saying “not arguing it I’m just stating that I find it ironic that all those entities have the understanding and right and sitting down and discussing it and it’s not discussed with the County in good faith in a transparent fashion.”
Dodd responded “well that’s the way it is”.
Chairman Earman said in response to Dodd “Council-member I would tell you that I agree with some of your statements but I disagree with some as Chairman of this Board and nothing was brought to my attention, I’d never received a phone call from the Mayor of Sebastian or anybody of Sebastian telling me and asking me to support pulling this item without the you know before the meeting or anything, so it to me for you to say it was a stunt I think is definitely a wrong thing to say I think it says” Dodd went to respond to Earman and Earman said “let me finish.”
Earman continued “just like I said at the beginning of this conversation I think you all are more than capable of handling your own affairs, we just need to keep abreast, keep an open dialogue, keep talking what we’re talking about, whether and that’s it and then I went on to ask the question of your City Manager and the County Administrator ‘do we need to even have a motion to what Commissioner Adams suggested to talk about this because it’s not a finished document, I don’t want to waste our time and your time on giving you ideas if it’s not something that’s going to help the situation.
We’re not here to derail anything or go to court. I don’t want to go to 164 [process] and all that sort of stuff and I think by us talking about it doesn’t make that a possibility. I’m no attorney but I’m thinking we’re talking about it and we want to talk about it in a healthy and prosperous manner there was no stunt here I agree with what Commissioner Flescher said I think it’s an open transparent once that document got sent to us, it’s open for us to discuss whether you guys like it or not. So we want to discuss it amongst ourselves to give them any direction with County Administrator leaving, he wants some direction, our utilities direction back there wants some direction in the future. Maybe it is a little early to talk about it, but we want to talk about it in a positive professional fashion and we want to help you all succeed in this.”
Earman said he received no information from Mayor Fred Jones, Council-member Dodd, Council-member McPartlan (who was sitting in the audience), Carlisle or Brown about pulling the agenda item due to the item potentially causing problems.
Commissioner Moss thanked Councilman Dodd for being “so straightforward and direct” with his remarks. She said what makes for a good relationship is being straightforward and direct.
Moss said Dodd expressed himself well and being interrupted to have his train of thought interrupted does not help anything.
Moss said the County doesn’t need to give Dodd or the City of Sebastian any letters. She also said the County does not need to be sending any letters to the City of Sebastian at this time.
Moss said while yes the document was sent the County Government and is subject to public record, it didn’t need to be “raised up” and put on the agenda for the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting.
Moss said the Sebastian annexation is a business transaction that the County Government is not a party of and said the Board of County Commissioners has no reason to be discussing it publicly when the business transaction is “still in play.” She said the discussion is still in progress.
Moss said for the Sebastian annexation to be on the agenda for the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting was “inappropriate” at that point in time and again thanked Councilman Dodd for “being so straight forward” and that it is “not adversarial.” She said she appreciates everything he said.
Dodd said his use of the term “workshop” was inappropriate and shouldn’t have used it.
Dodd then said he didn’t know the Sebastian Annexation was on the agenda for the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting until the previous Saturday when he received the agenda via email. He had immediately called Sebastian City Manager Paul Carlisle upon finding out about the annexation being on the County Commission Agenda.
Dodd said once the County Commission meeting agenda went out with the Sebastian Annexation on it, he said there was no way to cure it.
Dodd said the motion to remove the Sebastian Annexation off the agenda earlier in the meeting would not have worked since it was already known that the Annexation would be on the agenda.
Dodd said once the final annexation agreement documents are produced by the City of Sebastian, which he implied would contain probably only half of what is in the current draft of the annexation documents, he said that is where the “issue comes to bear” and when the City of Sebastian will have to handle that problem, which was the point Dodd was making when he spoke at the County Commission meeting. Dodd wasn’t trying to “challenge anybody’s competence or professionalism;” he said if it sounded like he was, he apologized for doing so and said he wasn’t trying to do that.
Dodd said he wanted to set the record straight that when the City sent the draft annexation documents in the “spirit of cooperation,” with indication that the documents were a draft, including mention that the City had not yet met with the land owner [Graves Brothers Company], when it became known the annexation was on the agenda, that was where it would start to cause problems for the City of Sebastian and where the City has to handle that specific issue.
Dodd reiterated he was not challenging anyone in any way when he spoke during the County Commission meeting. He said it may sound like that as he is a very “direct person.”
Dodd said he’s straightforward as a person and never plays politics with people.
After Dodd walked from the podium, Commissioner Adams said the discussion around the Sebastian Annexation was very “robust.”
Adams also said “when I hear my fellow Commissioners reply we should keep things less than open I start wondering about their advocacy for transparency.” She said she was looking forward to the County Attorney’s discussion later on the agenda about the Florida Sunshine Law and Public Records.
Adams called the question on the motion about sending the letter to the City of Sebastian.
Brown said for the letter not all the “stuff” regarding water and sewer will be addressed or has to be addressed in the annexation agreement. He said the County will need to work with the Property Owner [Graves Brothers Company] going forward for the “provision of water and sewer services.”
Brown said the letter from the County will not be “we need this in the annexation agreement” instead the main point to the letter would be for the County to work some of the details out with the Property Owner [Graves Brothers Company] going forward.
Sebastian City Councilman Bob McPartlan then approached the podium.
While there was a motion and a second to vote on whether or not County Staff sends their letter to the City of Sebastian, Chairman Earman let Councilman McPartlan speak.
Sebastian City Councilman Bob McPartlan Speaks Infront of County Commission
McPartlan said he doesn’t worry about his feelings due to having worked for the Department of Child and Family Services for many years.
McPartlan then said, similar to what Councilman Dodd said, the City of Sebastian is going to get into a lot of trouble with the annexation agreement.
McPartlan said one thing he would like to see done is in the agenda, have it agenda item 11A. Changed to say “proposed draft annexation agreement” instead of “annexation agreement.” He said “people are going to pull” the Indian River County agenda “out of the woodwork” that won’t be at the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting and then four other groups will be at the City of Sebastian Council meeting that will say “you had this annexation agreement; this is a working document.”
McPartlan continued “this was kind of like you know attorney-client privilege that’s not done and we wanted to collaborate and we did it but then again you’re right once it’s in an email that’s public record but it wasn’t meant for public dissemination but people are going to look at where it says annexation agreement that this is the annexation agreement and this hasn’t even been agreed to by anybody yet. It’s a working document, it’s a draft.”
Then McPartlan pointed out how the County Commission’s agenda only said “annexation agreement” and continued saying “I can tell you there’ll be at least three people come to the Sebastian meeting pulling out that document and the final one is going to be completely different as it was mentioned 20 pages have been red ink through, it’s going to be completely different from this document but we’re going to get people saying it’s fact it was at the County, annexation” with McPartlan pointing to the agenda in front of him. He continued “annexation agreement is what it says. So that means, any layperson, that’s the final agreement.”
McPartlan said he and the County Commission know it is not the final agreement. However, he said the people who read the County Commission agenda from the December 6th, 2022 meeting will think the agenda was referring to the final annexation agreement when currently, at the time of writing this article and during the December 6th, 2022 meeting, there is no final agreement in existence.
McPartlan pointed out he didn’t even see the word ‘proposed’ anywhere on the attachments with the meeting agenda.
McPartlan said he would like to see the agenda say ‘proposed’ on the agenda item about the annexation agreement.
Brown said on the hyperlink for the agenda, it refers to the document as the annexation agreement. He said the agenda will be changed so that it says ‘draft annexation agreement.’ He apologized for any confusion that the title of the agenda item may have caused.
Brown said in the agenda item itself, it refers to the annexation as the ‘draft annexation agreement’ and the attachment itself has a draft watermark on it, which came with the draft annexation agreement when it was sent to the County. The word draft is listed on every page.
McPartlan said he and the County Commission and County Staff understand what Brown is talking about. However, McParlan said the general public does not understand the draft watermarks indicate the documents are not final.
McPartlan had gone through the previous annexation agreement from 2019 and the misinformation that he said was “thrown out there” he said will continue with the current annexation and again pointed to the agenda saying ‘annexation agreement.’
Commissioner Flescher responded to Councilman McPartlan saying “I believe that it may add a few, a little more time or a few more moments to your meeting because there’ll be a discussion on that but you realize we cannot interpret public information, we cannot interpret 119, we cannot, we can’t subdue information that’s been corresponded to us and decide well that may go and not go if you recall, I did this for many years with the Sheriff’s Office.
McPartlan responded saying “You know I do kind of understand that but the way that we would do it we wouldn’t share anything with you and that’s goes completely against collaboration” which Flescher agreed with.
McPartlan continued “and transparency and as Mr. Dodd mentioned, we been great believers in the whole collaborative effort” which Flescher agreed with.
McPartlan continued “what I’m saying is I’m not even getting into that I don’t want to get into feelings because my feelings don’t matter.” He then said the wording on the agenda about the Sebastian Annexation is on the current version of the agenda is going to cause problems, which Flescher disagreed with.
McPartlan said “I don’t see any of the members that I can reel them off who were going to be at this, they come to every Sebastian meeting,” and said every time the Conuty Commission has discussed the Sebastian annexation, none of them ever come to a County Commission meeting.
McPartlan again reiterated the wording on the agenda about the Sebastian Annexation can cause problems for the City of Sebastian and is the only thing McPartlan was saying. He again restated he is not worried about feelings, said the Sebastian annexation got onto the agenda and appreciates all the work the County Commission does.
McPartlan said he will continue to work with the County Commission no matter what and said the County Commission knows that.
McPartlan said changing the title of the Sebastian annexation agenda item was the one thing he would like to see changed since he said it will create a lot of problems for the City of Sebastian if how the title as written is not changed on the agenda from the December 6th, 2022 County Commission meeting.
Flescher said McPartlan “provided the perfect remedy.”
Brown wanted to say something on collaboration, noting he probably shouldn’t say anything. He said the County sent a letter with their comments August 31st [, 2022] and held a meeting with City of Sebastian staff on September 15th [, 2022].
Brown said there were a few emails “back and forth” which the County asked if they could see the Sebastian annexation agreement when the City receives it. The City said the would send it once they received it.
Brown said the County didn’t get anything regarding the annexation documents until the week before Thanksgiving, with an interest for discussion on the agreement and then expressed no one wants to talk about the annexation agreement. He found the County’s comments on the annexation were positive and doesn’t understand where there were issues.
Chairman Earman brought the motion to a vote. The resulting vote was 4 Yes and 1 No. Commissioner Laura Moss voted No on sending the letter to the City of Sebastian.
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