Monday, September 19, 2011

Billboard Money - Parade of Thievery

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The Billboard blight has been a fiasco since the day that Interstate Outdoor Advertising, Inc. contacted our city and told us that they were going to install billboards on our property along I-95. It was sometime in 2007. They filed the necessary applications and were subsequently denied because of our sign ordinance. Interstate then filed suit.

Lake Worth defended its action and hired outside counsel with the firm of Johnson, Anselmo, Murdoch, etal. Interstate told our city attorney at the time, Larry Karns, that they would resolve their lawsuit and settle with us rather than going to court saying that they had won these cases and it would cost the City a lot in legal fees. The City capitulated and rolled over petrified about another lawsuit. The deal offered was as follows:

  • A 20 year lease minus 1 day
  • Interstate was allowed to install 3 billboards on the west side of I-95 on private properties.
  • Interstate was allowed to install 3 billboards on the east side of I-95 on city owned property.
  • They offered a one time payment of $2,650.000 after approval was given, alternative #1.
  • The second alternative was paying the City $2,310,000 upon approval and pay the City $4,250 a month for each of the 3 signs located on City property with an increase beginning in year 16 to $5,000 a month. Under this deal, the payments to the City would total $3,975,000 over the life of the lease. The City agreed to this deal in spite of our city attorney advising otherwise. It passed on a 3/2 vote with the gruesome threesome, Clemens, Vespo and Lowe, taking the deal. Jennings and Golden said "nay." They did not want this blight in our City at all.
At the June 19, 2007 meeting residents spoke out against billboards but the Mayor said he wanted it because then we wouldn't have to worry about several million when we decided to build our community center. The idea of a new City Hall complex was his dream. The money was specifically earmarked for this project and was to be deposited into the CIP for that purpose.

City Manager Baldwin approved Alternative No. 2. City Attorney Larry Karns encouraged Alternative No. 1. (grab the cash and run, a much more sensible idea in the scheme of things). A motion was made by Commissioner Vespo, seconded by Commissioner Lowe, to approve the settlement agreement Alternative No. 2 for $2.31 million up front plus payments resuming with the caveat that the money be allocated to a new City Government Fund; and approve a lease agreement to place 3 signs on City property.

We never did receive all of the money. There was some sort of another "settlement agreement" because Interstate had assigned some billboards to CBS Outdoor Advertising and they wanted an LED billboard. We don't allow LED billboards either. But you know how that goes in Lake Worth...the bullies always win and the company won this round as well. We ended up receiving a check in the amount of $1,240,000 on February 24, 2010 and it was authorized to be deposited into the CIP account. When reading the paperwork which is difficult to follow, on September 8, 2008, we received an additional $305,000 of which $5,000 was for tree beautification somewhere. So, we were short changed around $765,000 for the upfront costs and the city thought this wonderful. After all, there would now be no law suit. I have no idea if the company is paying us monthly money per the original Lease as it can't be found on any line in the Budget and it is NEVER discussed.

All in all, the residents of this City got royally screwed when the City elected not to defend its rights when Interstate first contacted us and decided to sue.

In the CIP--Public Services:
The decrease between the FY2011-2015 and the FY 2012-2016 CIP for Public Services is the completion of $1.85 million in stormwater and $2.7 million in facilities management projects. In addition, $1.8M in billboard revenues reflected in FY 2011 budget were more appropriately reclassified and removed from the CIP.

I want to know why the billboard money was moved. I want to know when it was moved. I want to know where in the operating budget it was used. I want to know under what authorization was this money moved and/or spent. And I want to know exactly the amount of monies that were spent and on what as well as the balance of that fund.

Steve Carr, Finance Director, said at the FAB meeting on 9-14-11 that $250,000+ of the billboard money was used to replace an air conditioning system and other renovations for Compass. The City Manager has said on more than one occasion that she believes it is the City's responsible to maintain our leased property, not the Lessee. I guess there is no such thing as lease negotiation either. Because it is our building, will we next be paying the a/c bill too? That is probably why we took out a highly questionable loan for Compass because, for heavens sake, they spent too much money renovating our property.

No wonder our shuffleboard court building got trashed beyond recognition and we ended up spending hundreds of thousands on it only to want to demolish the courts because it was only Seniors who used them.


Anonymous said...

Mayor-maybe you had better START reading blogs so that you will know what is going on in Lake Worth. The rest of the Commissioners? What do you people have to say about this? Staff is playing with taxpayer money on WHO/WHAT authority?!?

Anonymous said...

Anyone know how to knock these things down? What would it take? They are there to stay for eternity, not just 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Is this perhaps something that the inspector general could look at?

Anonymous said...

Jennings and Golden did not want to see BLIGHT in the city.
That is the funniest effin thing I've read in a long time

Lynn Anderson said...

Jennings and Golden voted AGAINST billboard blight in our City. So keep on laughing.

Anonymous said...

I hate these billboards, why in the world did we roll over? The one with LED is especially dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I am much more concerned right about now with the misuse of funds.

Anonymous said...

I think this is "Terrorism" on the Tax Payers Dollars....Call Homeland Security!

Seriously this is sad and just another example how our hard earned portion of running this city is moved, misused and taken for granted.

Like the poster above...Maybe our elected should start reading blogs....

Anonymous said...

Compass! 99 year lease, loan from the city and now we're paying $200,000 for air conditioning! One hand washes the other and Compass continues their defense of Stanton and her outrageous statements! Where is the Inspector General?

Anonymous said...

This situation was doomed from the beginning. The public knew it and the commission and especially the sitting mayor did not listen. The company threatened to sue if the city did not put up the sign and then did not pay as agreed. Check the mother company out on line – this is their M.O. They were whores then and they are whores now.