Apopka Task Force on Violence Report paved with good intentions

Recently, a group of concerned citizens gathered together to start examining reasons for and solutions to the crime and violence problem in the south part of Apopka FL, aka South Apopka. After months of meetings, focus groups and more meetings, an ambitious, bold and as it turns out costly plan was formulated and presented to the Apopka City Commission. A holistic plan of attack was presented that included: Job creation, educational opportunities, government accountability, crime prevention initiatives designed to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.  And at the end of it all, a request for $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer money, to be funneled into and dispersed via a “high quality and reputable not for profit organization”, who at this point, is still nameless. The plan is long on theory and solutions are presented as a word salad of up to the minute feel-good about ourselves buzz words and plenty of blame placing. Several of the suggestions in the report are variations of programs that already exist or will be started shortly.

Only a couple of sentences in this 40 page report talk about accountability or getting the community to  buy-in to the theory and proposed solutions. Plans like this are filled with good and noble intentions; however, plans like this also tend to not only see blacks as helpless victims that can only be lifted up by  good deed doers, but can enable a mind-set of self-pity among the black community. The War on Poverty has been fought for decades, with little measurable economic, educational, or employment success; what does that tell you about the chances of success of plans like this one.

So,what is the answer? More money? More costly programs with few measurable metrics to gauge success? Blacks must ultimately help themselves; they must WANT to take the lead in solving their own problems and re-inventing their communities and their lives. They must take ownership of the conclusions and solutions, and take pride in their communities. Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery and fought his way out of it to become a Great Statesman and freedom fighter said, “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us. If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, let them fall… All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs”. Douglass recognized the limits of government benevolence and that it would be up to blacks themselves to ready themselves to meet the challenges of improving their lot in life.

Just this past week, I dialogued with one of the chief authors of this plan, who apparently took exception to my daring to challenge this plan. When I told him my questions and comments were too involved to do via text, I was asked not  to waste his time as he is very busy and involved. So I won’t. He suggested I come up with my own plan. So, I plan to explore each aspect of the Apopka Task Force on Violence Report, in detail in the coming weeks.  Again, while I applaud the efforts of all involved in this task force, including this very busy, self-important gentleman, I question the blame placing, conclusions and amount of money necessary to accomplish the lofty goals of the Task Force, or whether the goals are even attainable. The plan, in its many phases is full of good intentions, no doubt; but we all know what road those can pave.

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Apopka Task Force on Violence Report paved with good intentions

Did Apopka Leaders sucker-punch a Good Business Partner?

The City of Apopka is once again in the news, this time for ongoing, serious problems at it’s aging water treatment facility. Anuvia Plant Nutrients in Zellwood Florida, produces fertilizer utilizing a new method that produces biosolids as a byproduct that must be disposed of. The City of Apopka, after a series of discussions entered into a partnership with Anuvia to accept the waste and process it through the water treatment facility. Agreements were drawn up, over $1 million was paid by Anuvia,  permits were signed and all went well for a time.

In December of 2016, it was reported the Apopka Wastewater treatment facility was running into possible environmental problems. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection got involved and in January made a report of the various issues at the plant. Now, aside from technical and environmental  violations, note was also made of some plant management issues, as well as the age of the facility itself.  The City was fined by the Florida DEP for these violations and ordered to clean up the mess. A clean-up company was called in to begin the cleanup of the bio-solids and removal of sludge from the facility, at a cost of about $100,000.00 to the City. I realize this is a vast oversimplification of the situation but the exact timetable is not the question. The City handling all this is most troubling.

A 3 page fact sheet put out by the City regarding this situation, dated 2/14/17, provides an excellent summary of the issues at hand. Two bullet points in the Fact sheet relate to Anuvia and the future of their relationship with the City. One point reads, “The City considered shutting Anuvia off from our system, but determined that doing so would significantly affect their business operations”. Another point acknowledges  that while there were no violations of the original permit by Anuvia, perhaps the “company’s original discharge permit limits were not stringent enough. These discharge permits are being renegotiated” and new limits might be necessary.  Nonetheless, “Apopka is committed to being a good business partner. Shutting Anuvia down completely would have hurt their business, and prevented a proper evaluation of the problem.”

Fast forward to Friday March 3rd, when in fact Anuvia was presented an updated permit by the City for consideration, as the existing permit would be expiring on Monday March 6th. THEN, on Monday March 6th, Anuvia is served a cease and desist order from the City, forcing the company to suspend their operations. A meeting between the City, Anuvia and the Florida DEP yielded little and the company will be shut down at least another 10 days.

Questions that arise from all this: First, what exactly happened between Friday March 3rd and Monday the 6th to cause the City to go from extending a new proposed permit to issuing a Cease and Desist order. City Administrator Glenn Irby stated, “The plant went into an upset condition”, but did not elaborate what that meant. So, I’m asking, what does this mean exactly? If Apopka is such a good business partner, as stated in the fact sheet from 2-14-17, why did they pull the rug out from under Anuvia, resulting in a shut down of operations, which the City stated would not happen? Whose responsibility was it to not only see if the original permit limits could be met, but to continuously monitor these limits from the start  and to warn of any potential problems or risks to the Facility? Exactly how much money will this policy reversal  on the part of Apopka cost Anuvia? I’m willing to bet millions.. If this is how Apopka is willing to treat their good business partner Anuvia, how will the City treat other good business partners? Especially with the explosion of growth going on all around our City? Can or should anyone trust what our City leaders tell them? The City taxpayers deserve to know the truth behind this Cease and Desist order which  comes only from the very top.

So where does that leave Anuvia? Scrambling, looking for a business partner that won’t sucker punch them. By all accounts, Anuvia did not violate the terms of the original permit, and if the limits were not strong enough, whose fault is that? In the end, this whole situation could result in lawsuits, costing the City taxpayer millions to settle. This could also cost the City the good will of potential new businesses offering the kinds of  good paying jobs leaders say they want. All because the left hand does not know what the other left hand is doing.

 

Did Apopka Leaders sucker-punch a Good Business Partner?

Sludge and Scoreboards in Apopka Begins and ends with an A.

Just some random thoughts about all that has happened in Apopka this week..

Seems like our City is withdrawing over $60,000.00 from our Reserves to buy scoreboards for the NorthWest Recreation Complex. Apparently, a deal of lifetime that just could not wait till the 2017-2018 budget, Mayor Joe believes these works of beauty will attract sports tournaments to the Complex. Excuse me, but I would LOVE to meet the Tournament director whose criteria for a location for their tournament is a scoreboard.. Really!

Another $63,000.00 will be spent by the City to clean up the mess left by Mayor Joe’s friends at Anuvia Fertilizer. Apparently, the method of creating fertilizer introduced by Anuvia causes some excessive biosolid waste that was being run through Apopka’s aging water treatment facility, more than the treatment facility could handle. Now a firm has to come in and dispose of the excess biosolids, and also the removal of sludge buildup. YUCK!! According to Anuvia, the City agreed they could handle all this when they signed off on the permit 3 years ago, and after Anuvia paid about $1.5 million in impact fees. Guess someone did not read all the way through what they were signing off on, huh? Also, although some of these problems can be attributed to poor management at the facility, Mayor Joe’s insistence that this was the fault of the previous administration (gee, where have we heard THAT before) does not hold water (even the yucky kind going through the water treatment facility).

One other thing that made me laugh this week was reading the account of the latest meeting of the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District Board of Directors. Apopka’s own Mayor Joe is on the Board of Directors and apparently balked at granting a salary increase and bonus to the District’s general manager. Joe stated at the meeting, “we should endeavor to establish benchmarks, targets .. so we know how close we are to performing our goals. That would establish a more transparent way of measuring performance as opposed to just a list of accomplishments”. THIS from a man who thinks nothing of giving tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a friend of his to run “Apopka Begins and ends with an A”, a program with ZERO measureable goals or benchmarks, just a lot of liberal feel-good phrases and empty promises.

Sometimes it seems like our City leaders are more like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Seriously though our City will face some major budget issues sooner rather than later unless we tighten the belts NOW and stop trying to please everyone and every liberal cause out there. Budget and property tax rate setting time is right around the corner; I wonder what we are in store for.

Sludge and Scoreboards in Apopka Begins and ends with an A.