It's an interesting time in the city of Ormond Beach, said City Commissioner Dwight Selby.
A parks and recreation master plan update and new impact fee study are in the works. The city could receive as much as $9 million dollars of federal funds. Conversations regarding the relocation and construction of a new joint police department and emergency operations center are coming soon.
With several issues, many impacting Zone 1, which Selby represents, the Ormond Beach Observer spoke with the commissioner on Monday, June 14, to get his opinion on some of the latest hot topics. From the church at 56 N. Beach St. to reclaimed water, here is what Selby had to say.
Is there are a project that you're hoping is included in the upcoming budget?
Dedicated funds for police and fire vehicles. A dedicated millage rate or a dedicated revenue source. Right now, we have 60 police cars and we’re buying about six a year. That means, basically, we don’t get rid of a car until it’s 10 years old. We shouldn’t be asking police to be out in a 10-year-old cruiser.
We ordered two new fire engines last year, and it turns out that we’re supposed to have six in service at all time. When we ordered those, I think we only had four in service at that time, or at least four of the regular service duty engines, and we had a couple of backup engines that were pretty old. We also found out that there was a lot of equipment on one of those engines that was old and it needed to replaced.
That’s something that I would like to see. I think public safety is too important to mix up with vehicles that are used for the other operating departments in the city.
What is an issue you're keeping an eye on in your zone?
The single biggest threat to quality of life in Ormond Beach right now is Avalon Park, and while it’s not directly in my zone, it will impact the entire city. There’s still a lot that I don’t understand about the city’s responsibilities. I’ve seen the preliminary plat and that only causes me to have more questions, so the thing I’m keeping my eye on is Avalon Park. I’m working diligently and met with the city manager recently and staff is waiting on a couple of consultant reports before they’re willing to call the first workshop on that. I’m looking forward to that.
Recently, a group of residents attended a commission meeting to speak against a supplemental environmental assessment for the airport runway extension. Why did you vote in favor of it?
The primary reason is it’s good for economic development. I ran on that. Every time that I’ve run, I’ve run on having the City Commission be in a position where it supports the creation of high-paying jobs. One of the greatest challenges for continuing to make Ormond Beach a healthy community is to create good paying jobs so that our educated kids don’t have to leave the area in order to find a good paying job. It’s a piece of that puzzle that will encourage more business jets and business aircraft to utilize our airport, which has the ability to attract owners of companies that could set up shop in the area and create those jobs that our educated kids need in order to be able to stay here and not have to move to a big city.
What are your thoughts on relocating the police station and building an EOC?
This a multi-prong topic, but let me just say the EOC I think is really critical. Had we gotten the storm surge that was anticipated from one of the recent hurricanes, our EOC would have been underwater. Our police station would have been underwater. Hard to imagine, but that’s the case. So we had to move it out of the police station. We moved it to the fire station on Nova Road, and that’s OK there, but it really isn’t adequate. I just think the citizens of Ormond Beach deserve better.
Once you start talking about, "OK, are we going to build an EOC and where should we build it?" it really brings up the conversation which Zev Cohen and Associates looked into about relocating the police station, and then of course, building training facilities that could also be used for the fire department.
When you start looking at all of that, you go, "OK, well this needs some significant conversation."
Another issue is the repurposing of the existing site. It’s not the highest and best use of that site. It’s got a lot of frontage on Granada and then behind it of course is a parking lot part of the police station, and there’s that huge public parking lot that fronts on Tomoka [Avenue]. When you factor all of that in, you have a large site in the middle of our downtown that fronts on three streets. I just think that there’s a commercial use that could be a huge asset to the downtown. So that’s a secondary benefit of considering the topic of relocating the police station.
Is the demolition of the 56 N. Beach St. church a done deal?
The latest is that the contractor is doing an asbestos study, and they also need to do a rodent elimination and that’s like a 30-day process.
That pushes the time table into early July before the actual demolition could begin. In order for the demolition not to commence, somebody who voted for demolition would have to make a motion to reconsider and a special meeting would have to be called for the consideration of that because our next City Commission meeting is July 20.
With more growth coming to the North U.S. 1 corridor, is the city preparing its infrastructure? How so?
We’re underway right now with an expanded sewer line and water line up U.S. 1, and my understanding is that water line loops through Ormond Crossings. That's always good — you don’t want dead-end water lines, you always want them to loop.
Also, new sidewalks are going in with that U.S. 1 beautification project and the new interchange at I-95 and U.S. 1. It’s in its Planning Design and Environmental (phase) which I had been pushing on that for years at the TPO and with the help of Maryam Ghyabi, we got that moved up dramatically.
The other issue that may need to be addressed is stormwater and I understand there’s a master stormwater plan for that area, but I haven’t been briefed on it. All in all, I would say we’re doing a really good job. We’re not way ahead of the growth, but I think we’re ahead of it.
What is something that you'd like to get accomplished in the next year?
I’d like to see us get to a point where we have sufficient reclaimed water storage where we don’t pump one gallon of water into the Intracoastal Waterway. We’re still permitted for up to a million gallons a day, and during the dry season, we don’t do any. It’s all used to irrigate lawns primarily. But in the rainy season, we are pumping it into the river because we don’t have enough above ground storage.
So I’d like to get us to the point where we have sufficient storage where we don’t have to pump any reuse into the river. Even though it’s one notch below potable, it’s not there. I think we can get there. I think we’ve got to be really diligent about it.