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Florida family finds 300-year-old Spanish treasure
week of August 7, 2014

It was sunken Spanish treasure that brought members of local, state and national media rushing to Capt. Hiram’s on July 30.  They’d come to hear about  the discovery of a priceless gold artifact from the 1715 Spanish silver fleet, spotted about 100 yards off the coast of Ft. Pierce in shallow waters – about 15 feet deep – by Eric Schmitt, a salvage diver who captains the “Aarrr Booty” for the Schmitt family’s company, Booty Salvage, Inc.  News of the find was announced by Brent Brisben of Queens Jewels, a Sebastian historic shipwreck salvage company which owns the exclusive salvage rights along the Treasure Coast, including the stretch where the 12-vessel Spanish Silver Fleet, laden with treasure from the New World and bound for the King of Spain, slammed into the reef and went down in a hurricane on July 31, 1715. READ FULL STORY


Disc golf: New attraction for Sebastian park
week of August 7, 2014

What looks like a glorified game of Frisbee and might be the most popular family-friendly sport you’ve never heard of?  It’s Disc Golf, and now Sebastian is taking a serious look at adding the sport to its recreational offerings, which City Parks Superintendent Chris McCarthy feels could be accomplished for under $20,000. At the behest of Sebastian resident and professional disc golfer Bala Haesseler, who spoke at a previous Sebastian Parks and Recreation Committee meeting, City Parks Superintendent Chris McCarthy was asked to research the activity and, on  July 28,  he reported back.  Billed as “a new revenue generator for parks, camps, golf courses, schools and other venues,” and “an environmentally friendly sport that leaves a nominal footprint,” disc golf has similar rules to traditional golf, but uses “high-tech flying discs” (aka Frisbees) and above-ground baskets. The Parks & Recreation Committee liked the idea. “I’m in favor,” said Vice-Chair Matthew Sims. “I just want more research (on) making it an 18-hole course, maybe in the Stormwater Park, because there’s a lot more room.” READ FULL STORY


School Board candidates feud over projects
week of August 7, 2014

The four candidates running for two School Board seats are in agreement on most points – the School District needs to improve in various ways, teacher morale could be better, and Common Core needs to be either severely changed or done away with. But they are at odds over two big projects the current School Board has approved – the new $7.3-million administration complex and the employee health clinic.  Incumbent Karen Disney-Brombach, 56, is facing challenger Shawn R. Frost, 41, for the District 1 seat. Former School Board member Charles Searcy, 66, and Randy Heimler, 56, are vying for the District 4 seat currently held by School Board Chair Carol Johnson who is not running.  Johnson said she is ready for a change. She is finishing her 12th year on the Board, having served one four-year term in the 1980s and two consecutive terms beginning in 2006.  Dale Simchick, who was appointed to fill the District 2 seat after Jeff Pegler resigned, ultimately went unopposed and was automatically elected to her seat at the close of the qualifying period. She had faced one challenger, who later withdrew from the race. READ FULL STORY


New shuttle service to area airports
week of August 7, 2014

North County residents have a new curb-to-curb shuttle service serving Melbourne, Orlando, Sanford, Vero Beach, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale airports and surrounding areas.  The new business operating along the Treasure and Space Coasts that provides typical shuttle service, taxi service and specialty tours is run by Allen Ellis, originally from Elmira, NY, and Virginia Ellis, originally from Lynchburg, VA.  They moved to Sebastian from Melbourne in 2010 because they like the area and because Allen was “always fishing at the Sebastian Inlet anyway.”  Outgoing Virginia Ellis is a natural at promotions, scheduling and customer service, while Allen drives and maintains the vehicles – and the idea for launching their own business was his.  Ellis had been driving for other transportation services for more than five years, and had grown more and more unhappy with what he saw as inadequate customer service. “I knew it could be done better,” he said.  So, last August, the couple decided to take the leap and started A & A Atlantic Coast Shuttle. He would be the driver, she’d handle dispatch and reservations. They started with one vehicle, a Chevy Impala. READ FULL STORY


Fellsmere sees revenue rise, may be hiring
week of July 24, 2014

Property values in the city of Fellsmere have increased by nearly 4 percent over last year, which means the city can lower the tax rate and still hire two staff members.  At a budget workshop with the city council Wednesday evening, City Manager Jason Nunemaker presented his case for rolling back the property tax – millage – rate and hiring an additional full-time police officer and a part-time public works employee.  He is proposing – and the council appears ready to approve – a lower tax rate of 5.5309 mills, down from the current rate of 5.6190. With the increase in property values, property owners can expect to pay about the same in city taxes as last year. If the Council were to keep the current tax rate, owners could expect to pay a bit more given the increase in property values.  “I’m actually optimistic moving forward,” Nunemaker said, explaining that there seems to be an increase in interest in developing in Fellsmere and businesses coming in. He added, though, that he doesn’t know how long the uptick will last due to what’s going on at the state, national, and international level. READ FULL STORY


Sheriff Loar’s budget request is challenged
week of July 24, 2014

July is the month of local government budget battles and this year’s face-off is a familiar one with Sheriff Deryl Loar asking for millions more than the county is willing to spend.  This year, Loar asked for an increase of $2.2 million or 5.6 percent, for total spending of $42.9 million. His department was set to get an increase of $810,185 to pay  for 3 percent raises for employees when commissioners met for budget talks Wednesday last week, but no more than that, according to County Administrator Joe Baird. Baird added that the Sheriff just got $800,000 approved mid-year for new vehicles.  “The Sheriff’s full request is $1.4 million more than the recommended amount,” County Budget Director Jason Brown said.   The 3 percent salary increases will bump two of Loar’s go-to men, Director of Community Affairs Jeff Luther and General Counsel Jim Harpring, up to $102,278 per year, plus benefits. Undersheriff Bud Spencer is set to earn $110,184 in the coming year. Sheriff Loar himself is set to get an even larger salary increase of 5.22 percent to $134,182, as set by state statute based on county population. READ FULL STORY


Top gun industry execs compete at county range
week of July 24, 2014

“They are the gun industry,” said Match Director Russ Thurman, publisher and editor of FMG Publications, as he provided a tour of the 12th annual Shooting Industry Masters event, which took place last weekend at the Indian River County Shooting Range in Sebastian, which was a big deal for the county.  They came from all over the country, 400-plus top execs of the American gun industry, representing more than 80 companies, many of whose names everyone recognizes – Smith & Wesson, Colt, Browning, Winchester, Ruger, SigSauer, Walther and Beretta among them.  The event was closed to the public. The press had to be on “The List” and were asked to wait at the deputy-guarded entrance while credentials were verified. Capt. John Burdock of the Sheriff’s Office shuttled media reps to the site, aboard the Cammo BadBoy super-cart owned by Dr. James Betancort, the county SWAT team medic. READ FULL STORY


Accused murderer pleads poverty, gets a public defender
week of July 24, 2014

Assistant Public Defender Alan Hunt was appointed to represent Michael Jones on the first-degree murder charge for strangling Moorings resident and Sebastian River Medical Center nurse Diana Duve last month after Jones claimed he was $500,000 in debt and had been fired from his job.  On the application for criminal indigent status filed with the court by Jones on June 26, he claimed to have $8,000 in savings, a half-million in unspecified debt and no place of employment, as a hand-scrawled note revealed, “Was employed. Was notified no longer am.”  Despite supposedly working in “wealth management” or as an unlicensed “attorney” at PNC on Ocean Drive, Jones swore to the court on the form that he had zero savings, zero invested in stocks and bonds and zero equity in real estate.  Colleagues in the Indian River County Chamber’s Young Professionals Network group say Jones told them he had massive student loans for undergraduate work and for law school. The University of Georgia was able to confirm that Jones earned a four-year degree in business administration in 2005, followed by a Master of Public Affairs in 2007. READ FULL STORY


Sebastian pharmacist honored in Washington, DC
week of July 24, 2014

Pharmacist Theresa Tolle, owner of Sebastian’s Bay Street Pharmacy, has received two impressive honors in recent weeks, both testaments to her outstanding work as a pharmacist and a community leader.  Tolle has been chosen speaker-elect of the House of Delegates, representing the 60,000-plus members of the American Pharmacy Association (APhA). She will serve as speaker-elect for one year, followed by a two-year term as speaker and APhA Trustee.  “I believe in being a servant-leader,” Tolle told the delegates upon accepting the position, “and returning a portion to the profession which has afforded me so much.”  Tolle is participating this week in the Health on the National Mall event in Washington, DC, as one of the 15 independent pharmacists chosen from thousands across the country to share practical insights into health issues. READ FULL STORY


Higher tax rates approved despite ‘slush fund’ protest
week of July 17, 2014

Despite vehement protests from some members that the city appeared to be creating an unneeded “slush fund,” the Sebastian city council, on a 3-2 vote, has decided to increase the property tax rate from the present 3.7166 to 3.8556. The annual so-called TRIM notices (notice of proposed property taxes) with the higher rate will be sent to all property owners in August. However, last week’s vote does not necessarily mean that property taxes will actually go up. The city council could at a later date still approve a lower budget that does not require any – or a lower – tax increase. The city council had to choose between three different millage rate options, a rolled-back rate of 3.5446 (to generate the same amount of property tax revenues as the prior year); the previous year’s rate of 3.7166, and the higher rate 3.8556, recommended by the Budget Advisory Committee, which would include several new spending projects. City Finance Director Ken Killgore explained that, for purposes of the TRIM notice, the higher rate was the safest choice: if, after all budget meetings and public hearings had taken place, it was found that a higher rate than the one submitted for the TRIM notice was necessary, the city would be required to inform every property owner via registered mail that the millage rate had been underestimated, costing money and likely damaging public confidence. Setting the millage rate “at the most you can stand, the highest possible rate,” said Killgore, “leaves you some wiggle room.” READ FULL STORY


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