The East County Observer looks back at the top stories of the year.
EAST COUNTY — New board members in the first completely resident-controlled Heritage Harbour South Community Development District called for unity and accountability during the first Board of Supervisors meeting Jan. 3.
New board Chairman Joseph Jaudon vowed to change the face of meetings. He joins Joyce Sandy and Michelle Patterson, residents elected to four-year terms in November, and Richard Lane, freshly re-elected to the board.
Jaudon, a two-and-half-year board veteran, earned the chairman position with a 3-2 vote after Sandy nominated him.
Former Chairman Lee Bettes dissented, saying he couldn’t elect a chairman “deficient in his property taxes.”
Jaudon deflected criticism and focused on the new direction of the board.
“(The property taxes) have nothing to do with my ability to chair this board,” Jaudon said. “I don’t like it, myself. But it is what it is. I’m thankful Joyce and Michelle are here to help bring goodwill to the community. This is our community. We need to work together.”
Sandy, a seven-year Heritage Harbour resident, was unanimously elected vice chairwoman.
In an effort to make business run more efficiently, Jaudon proposed letting residents in attendance speak only before the meetings begin, to comment on the agenda or relay any concerns they have. They may also speak at the end of meetings, Jaudon said.
Bettes said he preferred meetings to flow like they had in the past, attendees could interject throughout the meeting.
The new method was put in place during the meeting. One resident questioned the board’s promise to better empower residents, saying he felt muzzled when a meeting runs more than four hours.
Jaudon also called a motion to enact monthly CDD meetings — rather than one every few months — that would take place at 6 p.m. the Stoneybrook Recreation Center. Future dates will be coordinated with the Stoneybrook Homeowners Association. The motion passed 3-2.
In a meeting that strayed heavily from the agenda, Sandy made herself heard.
Calling last year’s board “purely governmental,” Sandy demanded transparency.
She displayed a map of Heritage Harbour South and highlighted three areas that she called “dumping sites.”
The areas, which sit on Stoneybrook Golf & Country Club property but back up to private land, are filled with debris and driftwood, Sandy said.
Sandy called the sites unsanitary and a fire hazard.
Jim Ward, the CDD’s district manager, said he previously knew nothing of the sites. The board voted to have Ward address the issue by Jan. 17.
Board members also voiced concerns with a lake and wetland maintenance project by ECo Consultants.
The board passed a motion to remove aquatic plantings ($6,750), cord grass bed rehabilitation ($16,531) and wetland plantings ($10,085) from the $90,940 contract, for total savings of $33,366.
The board said it would set a workshop for ECo Consultants to explain their plan.
“Big money demands facts, and there aren’t many here,” Patterson said. “We have to handle this issue to where were (the board) not fighting.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].
Kelly Leary of McDirmit Davis & Co. presented the CDD’s audited financial statements for the year ending September.
Leary reported no problems and said debts are down overall.
Assets will decrease in the future because of depreciated capital assets, Leary said. Additionally payments on the CDD’s two debt issues have been made on time so far.
In other financial news, Ed Bullett of MBS Capital Markets recommended Heritage Harbour South CDD look into refinancing its outstanding bonds to reduce debt service payments made by residents in the district.
The 2002 bond for Stoneybrook and the 2003 bond for Lighthouse Cove have 10-year call protection, so their call dates are near. That fact, combined with record-low interest rates, makes today a good time to refinance, Bullett said.
The board agreed, passing a motion to retain MBS Capital Markets to go through the two-month process of refinancing its bonds. Ward said he we would work to set up a meeting with the Lighthouse Cove Homeowner’s Association to discuss the benefits of refinancing now.