The inaugural Consent Agenda format for the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency got significant feedback

FORT PIERCE – The Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency dealt with its first-ever non-discussion Consent Agenda Nov. 9, and for all points and purposes pulled two of the three items, all of which dealt with the ongoing redevelopment of the Avenue D Corridor and the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

City Clerk Linda Cox presented to the new concept to the FPRA Board, whose members she acknowledged were already accustomed to that format when fulfilling their dual roles as city commissioners.

“I know this is new for you, but Mr. Mimms and I talked and decided that it made perfect sense to be consistent with the other hat that you wear,” she said. “So, we now have a Consent Agenda for approval.”

Consent agenda items for most municipal boards are not normally discussed individually but rather voted on as a group because they either don’t meet minimum criteria or the boards have already seen them during a previous discussion. A board member can request the chairperson remove an item if he or she feels it merits more than a simple rubber stamp.

“So, is there any Board member who would like to pull any item?” asked Chairwoman Linda Hudson.

Board Member Curtis Johnson Jr. said he didn’t need to officially pull an item but rather just wanted to make comments on the last two of them. While the first Consent Agenda item deal with $92,575 in funding for professional design services of the rehabilitation of Avenue D from 29th Street to Indian River Drive, the second and third items concerned a $500,000 grant request for the Highwaymen Museum and a request for support and partnership with the Incubate Neighborhood Center for a $2 million grant request to remodel the Means Court Center.

“I want to make a comment on a couple of them, Mr. C. Johnson said. “I thought they were kind of unique, and I think they deserve some public comment, at least from my perspective.”

He then made the motion to approve the Consent Agenda, which was seconded by Board Member Jeremiah Johnson, before continuing his discourse.

“This is really a milestone,” he said, referring to the grant request to refurbish the Jackie Caynon Building at 1234 Avenue D to house the museum. “If it’s done right, it would really catapult us well upon getting that building where we want to get. We hope that these funds will be sufficient enough to do that with the $500,000.”

City Manager Nick Mimms then suggested Special Projects Coordinator Audria Moore-Wells come to the lectern and provide him further clarification.

“She can speak to you about the process, what we’re applying for and also the assessment that was done to identify areas of improvement,” he said.

Mr. C. Johnson agreed that would be beneficial.

“I think we need to understand that, and potentially any shortfalls, per se,” he said.

For her part, Ms. Moore-Wells described her efforts to create a site plan for improving the Jackie Caynon Building by recruiting others with more museum funding experience.

“We have been working closely with the Highwaymen organization as well as another group of individuals who support them,” she said. “We have also met with Ruth McSween from the Navy Seal Museum [and] Mr. [J. Marshall] Adams from the Backus Museum to give us some pointers. Together we’re working with the Grants Administration Division to put together the grant. At this point, we are soliciting letters of support from local leaders [and] our state legislative delegation.”

After that group put their heads together, they settled on several improvements, including the replacement of the heating and air conditioning system; enhancing security both inside and outside of the building, including the installation of a security card entrance system; and installing decorative fencing around the structure, among other cosmetic repairs.

“Our group is working together to come up with a plan to ensure that when we complete all the renovations, it’ll be ready for occupancy,” Ms. Moore-Wells explained. “We’ve also talked about hopefully being ready to have a Grand Opening the weekend of the Highwaymen Festival in February.”

Satisfied with that explanation, Board Member C. Johnson turned his attention to the last item on the inaugural Consent Agenda concerning the complete overhaul of the historic Means Court Center by its primary tenant, Incubate Neighborhood Center. When he asked the Board’s permission to have Canieria Gardner, the CEO of the INC, explain her goals for the $2 million grant, the responses of his fellow Board members brought chuckles to the dais.

“We want to make you happy,” quipped Board Member Thomas Perona.

“Thank you,” replied Mr. C. Johnson. “You’ll still be out by 5 o’clock.”

“You should have pulled the item,” Board Member J. Johnson chimed in.

“I should have pulled it,” Board Member C. Johnson agreed.

Ms. Gardner began her initial description by emphasizing that she’d already developed a relationship with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the entity holding the purse strings for the grant.

“What I submitted was for the business incubator, which is going to be the entire second floor,” she said. “We hope to house at least 30 businesses there through our Commerce Entrepreneurship and Operations Program. With that model, the average business creates about 5.9 jobs. Then downstairs we’re going to put a kitchen incubator to work with about five businesses that deal with food. We’ll provide the training and the space so they can not only start their businesses, but we can help them to scale their business into a brick and mortar [location].”

Board Member J. Johnson then offered the CEO some words of advice, admitting that he’d previous had his own dealings with the EDA, He particularly encouraged Ms. Gardner to mention wanting to work collaboratively with the county’s Sunshine Kitchen incubator on King’s Highway in her grant proposal.

“They’re going to remember that they provided some funding to St. Lucie County for Fort Pierce-area residents for that kitchen incubator,” he said. “This is a great opportunity here but just broaden it and tell them how you can expand into opportunities over there on King’s Highway too. It might provide some benefit because you’re showing that partnership, and they’ve already provided federal funding to the county and the surrounding area. They want to do good, but they’re sometimes a challenging group to work with.”

Mr. J. Johnson also advised Ms. Gardner to ensure her design team planned her construction phases with precision and made no subsequent changes during the project bidding stage.

“They’re very picky, and they want strategic plans and details on how you bid it,” he added.

Ms. Gardner thanked him for his advice and acknowledged that The Small Business Development Center from Indian River State College was lending a hand with her feasibility study.

“They are the ones who mentioned the Sunshine Kitchen and definitely to partner with them,” she said. “They have really good programmatic things we can work with at our property. I believe Treasure Coast Food Bank is the contact, and we are in partnership with them as well.”

Board Member J. Johnson expressed satisfaction with her explanations.

“I think they might help us along the way to get the funding and show that partnership [with] the SBDC,” he said. “They’re wonderful, so good job.”

The Board then voted unanimously to approve the Consent Agenda.

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