LANGD Controversy Remains Despite 2014 Rate Agreement

A war of words has erupted in Apopka in the last couple of weeks,  between our Mayor and the Chairman of the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District. For some undetermined reason, Mayor Kilsheimer wrote a letter to Chairman Ann Dupree of LANGD which started rather rudely, “What is the continuing purpose of the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District? .. I have yet to see one benefit that accrues to the City of Apopka as a co-owner of Lake Apopka Natural Gas”. Mayor Kilsheimer read this letter during the 2/17 Commission meeting, expressing concern and demanding accountability to Apopka citizens, not 10 minutes after reading from a prepared statement,  chiding several citizens who dared bring up accountability issues of one very well compensated lobbyist/consultant to our City. Selective concerns, I guess. Several days after this meeting, the LANGD Board of Directors held their monthly meeting, where several Nursery growers expressed concerns over rising gas bills and the impacts felt on their businesses. Chairman Dupree wrote back, inviting Mayor Kilsheimer to discuss his concerns in an open format. Mayor K wrote another letter, rephrasing his question above, seemingly digging in his heels further

Just a couple of questions. It appears that the growers use natural gas mostly in the colder months to keep their plants warm; that’s about 4 months out of a 12 month period.. Do these growers not build this expense into their budgets? One grower stated they have to sell about $150,000.00 worth of product to pay the gas bills.. Aren’t you in business to sell your product? It also appears that after growers expressed concerns from 2012 – 2014 over rising gas prices, an agreement was worked out that apparently put some controls over the price increases until at least 2019. And one of the Directors states that he does not expect any huge increases after 2019.

So why is this all being raised now, just a couple weeks ahead of our City Elections and in the middle of Apopka’s wish list process, aka the Visioning Process. In Mayor K’s revised letter to Chairman Dupree  he asked if it would be beneficial to Apopka to simply sell our 2/5 shares of LANGD to a private concern. This letter states in part to think about what selling our shares (about $10 million dollars) could bring to Apopka: Community pools, recreation centers, workout and gathering spaces, and skate parks, all things mentioned that residents want to see via the lengthy visioning process. Coindence? I wonder. The money for all these projects will have to come from somewhere. One Commissioner correctly pointed out during the 2/17 meeting that the City Budget sure could use the influx of cash that would come from selling our shares.

Another revealing fact is the most recently released contributions report for our Commission candidates. One of the candidates reports a total of over $3000.00 in contributions from various nurseries in our area, including $2000.00 from the Mercer family. This candidate shares campaign management services with sitting Commissioner Ruth, who strongly defended the nursery growers during the 2/17 meeting. Am I connecting imaginary dots, or is something else going on?

Again I have to ask, why is this issue being raised now? An issue that seems to have been partially resolved in 2014 with the pricing agreement between the LANGD and the nursery growers? Perhaps I am over simplifying here, and I expect that will be pointed out to me. This is not a rhetorical question: What is the real issue here?

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LANGD Controversy Remains Despite 2014 Rate Agreement

City of Apopka Gets Taken

As the City of Apopka celebrates its city taxpayer funded  Old Florida Festival, some surprising news was reported. Stop me if you are shocked, but it turns out that Apopka’s $22,000.00/month PAID Lobbyist/Consultant is NOT REGISTERED to lobby for the City of Apopka. As reported in the Orlando Sentinel,  Richard Anderson, public trough feeder extraordinaire, has been collecting $11,000/month for Lobbying services (the other $11,000/month is for “consulting” services), for 15 straight months, but is not registered to lobby on behalf of the City in either in Tallahassee, FL or in Washington DC. He is still listed as a lobbyist on the home page of Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm he joined right after “leaving” the City, with offices across the State. Mr. Dave Mica, Chair of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists confirmed that Anderson is not a member of the organization, but would not comment further.

Recall that in September of 2014, the City spent close to $400,000.00 on Anderson’s “retirement”, $350,000.00 on accumulated comp time; his 2nd pension with the City, and the lucrative “consulting/lobbying” contract. The Anderson package was passed during the evening meeting of the Commission, after hours of emotional testimony from dozens of citizens about the Sandpiper Project. The Mayor shoved this package down the throats of the Council and taxpayers by simply not allowing a public hearing or discussion on the matter, due to the lateness of the hour, demanding only a vote be taken; the package passed 4-1.To counteract the Mayor’s  demand, all the Council had to do was request a delay in the vote, or tabling to the next meeting, but they did not. Since then, despite repeated requests from Council and citizens, we have seen only 9 reports, largely one page summaries that are identical to each other and providing few details. Commissioner Sam Ruth, the lone NO vote, stated that Anderson’s reports “do little to describe what the City is getting from Anderson”.

And your Mayor’s reaction to this news? “Richard’s status and business practices as a lobbyist are his business.”. REALLY, Mr. Mayor?? At $11,000/month for lobbying, I would say this is the CITIZENS Business as Much as Mr. Anderson’s. Mayor continues, “I never felt like I had to get into how Richard conducts his own business”. Again, Mr. Mayor, at $11,000/month, you make it OUR business by getting into his business and  protect the City’s interests, NOT Mr. Anderson’s. It is up to YOU to demand an accounting of what Apopka is getting for it’s money.  While never addressing the fact he is not registered to actually lobby for the city, Anderson defends himself, “The City hasn’t given me any legislative priorities on what they would like to see thus far”. Not that he’d be able to do anything about it anyway, ethical issues aside. Anderson and the Mayor both use the work being done bringing the Town Center to Apopka as a smokescreen and an excuse for Anderson’s continued misappropriation of at least $11,000.00/month of taxpayer money.

What should the City do? One: Demand the IMMEDIATE return of the  $165,000.00  ($11,000.00 X 15 months) by Richard Anderson (or sue him for the money if he won’t return it); Two: the City of Apopka terminates immediately the entire lobbying/consulting contract and any other relationship with Richard Anderson. Three: The City Attorney (or some entity) launch an ethics/fraud investigation to determine which laws Anderson has broken by taking this money under the false assumption that Anderson is a registered lobbyist for our City. This entire matter must be dealt with NOW, as soon as this week’s City Commission meeting. Four: Mayor Kilsheimer is NOT off the hook here and should be questioned closely why he did not feel he had to account for paying someone $11,000.00 a month to someone who was not even registered to perform the services he was hired to do. Richard Anderson has managed to help himself to literally millions of Apopka taxpayer dollars; it’s time for the City to let Mr Anderson know his time is up here.

 

 

City of Apopka Gets Taken

Experience Counts in Apopka Seat 4 Race

The City of Apopka is at the precipice of a growth spurt, the likes of which we have not seen in decades. On one end of town, we have the Wekiva Parkway area; another boasts the building of the new and exciting Florida Hospital and the opportunities and challenges presented there. And, after more than a decade, we are seeing the most serious movement towards making the Apopka Town Center a reality. Also, our population and housing continues to grow as young families, professionals and other population segments desire to call Apopka home. The need for experience and steadiness in our City leaders has never been greater. For Apopka City Commission, Seat 4, that experience and steadiness will come from Commissioner Bill Arrowsmith. Commissioner Arrowsmith has always presented that steadying influence and the voice of reason in his 39 years in the Seat. Yes, 39 years. And while many cry for term limits and new blood to lead our City, Commissioner Arrowsmith has always been available to his constituents to answer questions, provide guidance and be the checks and balances as the fiscal needs of our City continue to grow. Never mind old and new Apopka, we are ONE City, we are all residents of Apopka Florida, and as we continue to move and grow, experience will guide us through the rocky patches and the clamoring voices. That experience is Commissioner Bill Arrowsmith.

Experience Counts in Apopka Seat 4 Race