Flagler Beach commissioners want you to think that the Friends of A1A burst unannounced upon the city to install unwanted wayfinding signs. NOT SO!!!
PALM COAST, FL – April 25, 2016 – In the misguided belief that there is no such thing as bad press, the Flagler Beach Commission magnifies its reputation by playing Keystone Cops against the Friends of A1A’s project to install wayfinding signage along the scenic coastal highway.
In the political version of “The dog ate my homework” excuse, the commissioners want you to think that Friends of A1A volunteers burst unannounced upon the city to install new wayfinding signs. NOT SO!!! It is not another war of northern aggression (from St. Johns County). It was simply Flagler Beach’s commissioners caught asleep at the wheel again.
FlaglerLive.com commented (full story) on the latest controversy, saying Flagler Beach’s entrance sign could read, “Welcome to irony.” GoToby.com observes that “iconic” and “ironic” differ by only one letter.
The A1A National Byway applied for a federal grant back in 2010. The purpose was to beautify the National and Historic A1A route along the coast in St. Johns and Flagler counties.
The beautification goal for the grant was twofold:
- Add beautiful wayfinding (directional arrows) signs identifying parks, sites along the Byway; paid with tax dollars
- Reduce the total number of signs to minimize clutter along the Byway; e.g. one sign with four sites and arrows as opposed to four separate signs.
When the grant was applied for in 2010, there was ample input from all municipalities.
The award was announced in 2012. The Friends of Scenic A1A National Byway, a private non-profit group, comprised of volunteers and elected official appointees from municipalities along A1A throughout St Johns and Flagler counties, had won the grant, bringing Federal tax dollars back home. Apparently some politicians, new and old alike, have lost sight of that vision.
Flagler Beach Commission meeting – March 24th
During a prolonged March 24th meeting, commissioners excoriated the scenic A1A group, literally for hours, pandering to a standing room only crowd. At the crux of their harangues was the assertion that they had been left in the dark.
Flagler Live reports;
“LeighAnn Koch, who lives on A1A and whose property is slated to be host to one of those signs—which may be anywhere from 3 to 6 feet wide, and several feet long, depending on which drawings are looked at: the A1A group was not precise with those numbers—found out about the coming signs by chance: a neighbor had seen a surveyor, asked, and been told about the impending project. Koch immediately contacted city officials, all of whom were floored. They knew nothing about it. [emphasis added]
Flagler Live again;
”This is being crammed down our throats,” Rick Belhumeur, the commissioner who barely an hour earlier had been sworn in, said. “That requires public participation. Somebody dropped the ball,” he said. [emphasis added]
When formed, the scenic A1A group (all volunteers) designated one of its Board seats to a Flagler Beach commissioner, presumably to keep the city commission in the loop. Initially, commissioner Kim Carney occupied this position. She is reported by Flagler Live to have claimed that she “attended all but one A1A committee meetings for a year without once hearing about this project.”
More from Flagler Live;
Mayor Linda Provencher, the local vice-chairman of the A1A Committee’s Flagler Beach branch (the so-called A1A Ocean Shore Corridor Management Entity) had never been told of the plan until a resident called her. She was “a little angry” and punctuated the end of the discussion: she said the A1A group had done wonderful things, but she hoped it would recover from this mistake, especially as she, for one, was no longer inclined to be part of the group.
Provencher had said earlier in the meeting,
“It was never communicated to us that this was getting started,” she said, describing the process as “horrible.” The last time the commission had heard of the project was in 2010…..”
Flagler Live writes of Jane Mealy:
Commissioner Jane Mealy, who’d just been named chairman of the commission, called McClure’s (A1A interim president) presentation “nonsense” and spoke of the A1A committee’s process in devastating terms (she prefaced her remarks with a warning: “I’m not going to be as nice” as her colleagues, she said). She questioned the committee’s claim that local “stakeholders” were included or that the committee’s meetings on the issue were properly noticed. She said she felt like a charitable organization was telling the city what to do (the A1A committee represents a non-profit organization).
Mealy scores a perfect ten on her promised, “not going to be as nice.”
So, how was the Flagler Beach Commission left so much in the dark in spite of the following?
- The A1A committee reserves a seat on its Board for a Flagler Beach commissioner. Commissioner Kim Carney occupied that seat until approximately the end of 2014. When she claims to have attended all but one meeting in a year, she apparently was not referring to the most recent year. Score Carney a perfect ten for her lack of honesty and candor.
- The Flagler Beach Commission failed to appoint a replacement for Carney. It’s pretty hard to blame the A1A committee for that. (See also, #5 below.)
- The scenic group’s past records show that the sign project was on every monthly agenda over the past year. The project was discussed at length.
- The A1A committee’s newsletter is sent monthly to Flagler Beach commissioners. The August newsletter highlighted the sign project. Email records show that each commissioner opened the newsletter attachment.
- In an email to an A1A committee Board member, Jane Mealy writes, “Yes, it's a shame that the City did not have a representative on the Board; however, no one has shown any desire to serve on that board and commissioners cannot be forced to do so. Knowing that there was no representation from Flagler Beach, Board members should have communicated with the Commission directly, especially about a project of this dimension.” [emphasis added] Mealy scores another ten for making the commission the victim here.
- In St. Johns County, there was no conflict over sign placements. A few residents expressed a desire for signs to be placed up to 20 feet in one direction or another from the originally planned location. These requests were satisfied with no conflict. Apparently, the residents were alerted in advance by their respective public representatives.
Yes, the A1A group could have done a better job of communicating. Bill McClure, interim A1A president admits this. But, he adds, “We didn't expect, however, one local municipality, to denounce the sign project, rather than simply ask for a few signs to be moved this way or that way.”
Following earlier city stumbles handling the paid parking and Sea Ray parking lot issues, Flagler Beach commissioners forge ahead yet again in the mistaken belief that while two wrongs don’t necessarily make a right, three wrongs most certainly do.
It turns out that The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight is not the subject of a novel. They are alive and well, living here in Flagler Beach.