At the February 3rd Village of Palmetto Bay Council meeting there was a vote held to approve spending $250,000 on four batting cages. Two are to be located at Coral Reef Park and two at Palmetto Bay Park.
This expenditure was approved 4:1 with Mayor Shelly Stanczyk, Councilwoman Joan Lindsay, Vice Mayor John Dubois and Councilman Tim Schaffer voting for this waste of $250,000. Councilman Patrick Fiore was the only one with the common sense to vote against it.
I expected the Mayor and Councilwoman to vote for the expenditure. They have had the time of their lives wasting our money from village coffers during their tenure, so another quarter million bucks is just another drop in the bucket. What was unexpected was the vote by John Dubois and Tim Schaffer.
Councilman John Dubois was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility. In voting to spend $250,000 for batting cages, he aligned himself with the irresponsible spenders who dominate the council. Dubois’ vote couldn’t be any farther from the fiscal responsibility he promoted and promised on the campaign trail.
Councilman Tim Schaffer also voted in the affirmative. If he stopped admiring himself for five minutes he may have considered the fact a 2,000 square foot house can be built in Palmetto Bay for what the batting cages are going to cost taxpayers. Houses have walls and roofs and floor materials and plumbing fixtures and appliances and electrical systems and air conditioning and a whole host of other things that cause them to cost a quarter million bucks.
Both John Dubois and Tim Schaffer were misled by both City Manager Ron Williams and Parks Director Fanny Carmona. This being the same city manager that I feel would be a perfect fit if they were casting someone to replace Jim Carrey in a sequel to the hit movie Liar Liar.
Spending $250,000 in taxpayer’s money to build batting cages is totally irresponsible – especially at Coral Reef Park. I’m sure we can all recall that there is no longer any organized baseball at Coral Reef Park (besides Palmetto High which has its own batting cages) since the Village terminated our relationship with the beloved Howard Palmetto Khoury League several years back.
So the baseball fields where the batting cages are to be placed by aren’t used. You can be sure that the $125,000 worth of batting cages won’t be used either because Palmetto Sr. High certainly won’t walk across three-quarters of the park to use them when walk five feet from their dugout and use their own.
Spending $125,000 at Palmetto Bay Park is even murkier. The women who play softball do need batting cages but not at a cost of $125,000? These cages could be erected at a cost of less than $75,000, including the storage units they wish to have at the park.
Rather than overspending aimlessly for big ticket items, the Council needs to focus on saving money for some sorely needed deferred maintenance items at Coral Reef Park. These expenses will have to be dealt with within the next six months, and from what I observed, they will be a rather large. I doubt the village has budgeted current or reserve revenue sufficient to cover these costs.
So why wasn’t there a more intelligent conversation on spending the $250,000? I can’t tell, maybe someone from village hall can enlighten us. There have been numerous special council meetings over the last couple of months to discuss spending similar sums for various reports required to advance downtown redevelopment.
There have been presentations to the council and to residents, spending hours and hours on the redevelopment and associated costs. But, the council can find only ten minutes on a quarter million bucks for batting cages? One can only wonder why the same amount of money is treated so differently.
You would think that village officials and politicians would have learned something after spending a million dollars on an over-designed, over-built, over-bearing, under-utilized concession stand in the worst possible location in Coral Reef Park.
You may know it by its friendly name “The Million Dollar Hot Dog Stand.” [SDM Comment: Didn’t Mr. Dubois coin this term?] The cost might be justified if it was functional enough for the village to peddle hot dogs for a buck each. But it’s not even useful for that and it has been sitting vacant and shuttered for years as a symbol of an ongoing lack of leadership and vision.
How to stop wasting taxpayer’s dollars should be the theme in this year’s election. The first step, as I’ve tried to convey so many times in so many ways, is to the terminate Village Manager Ron Williams. The Village Manager and Mayor Stanczyk continue to push irresponsible spending by and it must stop.
Maybe if their heads were ‘clunked’ together ala Groucho Marx they might realize their constituents would rather pay less real estate taxes over out of control spending on the local level.
My only hope is that John Dubois and Tim Schaffer lost their way for just this one night. Maybe they had a temporary lapse of judgment, or fell off the wagon just this once.
Next time I hope they will ask pertinent questions like: “What groups will use these quarter million dollar batting cages?” and “When will these groups use these quarter million dollar batting cages?” and “How many people are projected to use these quarter million dollar batting cages and over what time period?” and “What are the costs to maintain these quarter million dollar batting cages?”
If those questions had been asked then the expenditure would have been voted down. There are no realistic answers which would support this type of expenditure for four batting cages, two which will be infrequently used.
How about it John and Tim, can you please get back on the right track?