2 letters: Fuel farm issue shouldn't be politicized, former candidate issues endorsement

What are your neighbors talking about this week?

  • By
  • | 12:00 p.m. July 9, 2024
  • Ormond Beach Observer
  • Opinion
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Don’t politicize fuel terminal relocation

Dear Editor:

Jason Leslie misrepresents himself and the facts when he claims the fuel farm relocation is an ongoing Ormond Beach issue worthy of inclusion in his campaign platform. It’s disappointing that any candidate would politicize the fuel terminal crisis, now resolved, for self-promotion and political gain.

This complete timeline fills in the blanks in Mr. Leslie’s account:

In early July, 2023, resident Tim Grigsby spotted an obscure legal advertisement in the Hometown News seeking a state “air” permit to release traces of toxic petroleum fumes into the environment. Mr. Grigsby alerted his Zone 1 Commissioner Lori Tolland, who raised questions about the proposed fuel terminal location on the public record.

At the Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 City Commission meetings, Ormond Beach citizens packed the chamber and over two dozen spoke.

A unanimous City Commission took the following subsequent actions: Official correspondence appealing to the fuel terminal corporation, a request to County Council to schedule a special public meeting, a decision to not provide city water and sewer services to the fuel terminal (on county land), and a vote to commit more than $100,000 to legal costs to fight the fuel farm location in court.

Mayor Partington urged citizens to attend the Aug. 23, 2023, special County Council meeting in DeLand, and over 400 did so, filling the council chamber and two overflow rooms. None of the residents were confused about the issue, as Mr. Leslie asserts. During the meeting, Ormond’s County Council representative Troy Kent showed great leadership and statesmanship.

Commissioner Travis Sargent’s research revealed county planning staff had signed off on the fuel terminal site in May 2023; Commissioner Susan Persis wrote a timely opinion piece in the Observer, “Not here, Belvedere”; Commissioner Harold Briley referenced the close proximity of the homes of 5,000 residents, our world class recreation complex, and the Tomoka River.

On the state level, Representative Tom Leek began work on the problem immediately, and the $10 million allocated for fuel terminal relocations has been in the state budget for months, recently approved over the governor’s signature. We can thank Rep. Leek and his good offices in working with the Department of Commerce and state officials in resolving the fuel terminal crisis.

Jason Leslie’s Tallahassee communications occurred long after the fact. Ormond Beach residents have never been more unified, the City Commission never more responsive in rallying our community to protect the city we love.

Jeff Boyle

Ormond Beach

Editor's note: The Observer gave mayoral candidate Jason Leslie a chance to respond in 200 words or less.

Jason Leslie: The fuel farm issue is not resolved. Mr. Boyle is as wrong about that issue now, as he was when he and Carl Persis served together on the Ormond Beach City Commission, where they both did nothing on the zone change that led to this debacle. 

Last August, I was one of more than 400 residents who attended the special County Council meeting. Susan Persis did not attend. She was busy at another event where she hoped to polish her new Republican credentials. Her response to residents was to blame the county for this mess that her husband Carl was part of in 2006 as a County Councilman in our district. 

Some residents have wondered why I recommended relocation instead of abandoning the project. I elaborated, specifically referencing property rights. Susan Persis’s opinion piece was too little, too late. 

As I speak with voters, the concerns about the lack of leadership includes the fuel farm, but it doesn’t stop there. Mr. Boyle’s letter attempts to rewrite history and gaslight voters, presumably to distract from the legacy left to Ormond’s residents by him, and by both Carl and Susan Persis in their service to the City. 

Editor's note: Susan Persis and Jeff Boyle were each given a chance to respond in 200 words or less.

Susan Persis: For decades, my husband Carl and I have respectfully served Volusia County adults and children. Whether as educators or elected officials, we have never criticized anyone publicly. During political campaigns, we have positive messages and talk about our records, service, and vision to make the school system and the city even better.

Imagine our shock to read the hateful attack lashed at us from newcomer Jason Leslie who moved to Ormond Beach three years ago. He does not know Carl or me. Unlike us, he has never served the public, nor did he grow up in Volusia County.

During Leslie’s three years in Ormond Beach, he never volunteered to help the city, asked to serve on an advisory board or attended a commission meeting until he decided to run for office.

My roots run deep in Ormond Beach. When I was the principal of Pine Trail Elementary School, my door was always open. I loved engaging with children, parents, and grandparents. As your city commissioner, I have always been available and listened to the public. As your mayor, I will continue to be open, honest, positive and energetic. Most importantly, I will be prepared to make you proud.

Jeff Boyle: My letter responding to Mr. Leslie's claims offered a documented, factual chronology of the Belvedere fuel terminal crisis, which has now passed.

The company is working with the Florida Department of Commerce to find another fuel terminal site, thanks to the hard work of city, county, and state elected officials, and hundreds of Ormond Beach residents who stood up for our community's safe quality of life.

Their victory was always about citizenship, not politics.

A former candidate's endorsement

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter to state my endorsement of Jason Leslie as our next mayor of Ormond Beach.  Our city government and the people of Ormond Beach would benefit from Jason’s leadership. His prompt response to push for a relocation of the fuel farm away from the proposed Hull Road location demonstrates the kind of leadership Ormond Beach needs as our new mayor in November 2024.

As a former candidate for Ormond Beach City Commission Zone 1 in 2022, I ran on a platform to promote development that protected our old growth trees and wetlands, reasonable housing density, properly designed storm water runoff, and improved roads that minimized traffic congestion.

I campaigned for fiscal responsibility to taxpayers but saw the need for needed wage and benefit increases for law enforcement and firefighters.

Like the majority of the citizens of Ormond Beach, including Jason, I am against the proposed development of the Belvedere fuel farm located on Hull Road near Ormond Beach.

Joseph Valerio

Ormond Beach


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