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Small Government’s Price: No Sidewalk Money, City Says in Wake of Boy’s Death on Seminole

| August 30, 2011

The small roadside memorial where Kirt Smith was struck, on Seminole Woods Boulevard. (© FlaglerLive)

The small roadside memorial where Kirt Smith was fatally struck, on Seminole Woods Boulevard. (© FlaglerLive)

In 2009 Flagler County eliminated a pilot’s position for its Fire Flight operations, the helicopter used to fly trauma patients to hospitals. That’s the helicopter that couldn’t be used last Friday night, when 15-year-old Kirt Smith was struck by a pick-up truck while bicycling down Seminole Woods Boulevard. The helicopter, which sat a short distance from the accident scene, couldn’t be used because its shift had ended at 8 p.m. The accident took place less than an hour later. Smith was taken to Halifax Hospital by ambulance. He died Monday afternoon.

Year after year for the last three years, the county commission, like other local government agencies, has been thumping its chest to taxpayers over the number of positions it has cut and the money it has saved.

The county’s savings from cutting out the pilot position: $58,350 in salary, $31,142 in benefits, $3,645 in clothing, $9,865 in pilot training and travel.

The Palm Coast City Council has been doing likewise, announcing at every opportunity how it’s reduced positions and maintained a low property tax rate without cutting services. The last is a matter of definition. The city has decided not to provide certain services residents have been demanding for years (as they did again in neighborhood planning meetings held in 2009), including sidewalks, in order to keep its tax rate low. The city has been able to build some sidewalks since 2010, but only because it used federal dollars from the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package.

The city administration boasts of diminishing its ranks in the last couple of years to around 380 positions. But that’s the same number of employees it had in 2006, at the height of the city’s building boom. It only looks like the city cut back because it kept adding positions, peaking at 436 in 2009 (when it added fire stations). But it did cut back in infrastructure improvements such as sidewalks. The matter came up again today at the end of the Palm Coast City Council meeting, and in light of Smith’s death.

Mayor Jon Netts said he’d received emails asking why bike paths were going up elsewhere in the city, but not on Seminole Woods.

“The next one on our list is Seminole Woods,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “It doesn’t have funding right now. We’ve had the agreement with the state, the local agency agreement for funding, but they haven’t actually put funding in that pot for Seminole Woods.” For now, the city’s sidewalk construction is focused on Belle Terre, which includes a planned extension to U.S. 1.

“You can only do so much,” Netts said.

“We are doing a lot,” Landon said. “We’re getting it done as quickly as we can.”

Frank Meeker, the city council member who received at least one email referring to the death (Meeker said the author was a bidder on a project that he didn’t get) vehemently disputed any cause-and-effect connection between the boy’s death and the absence of sidewalks. “What makes you think he’d even stay on the sidewalk?” Meeker said in an interview, describing numerous bikers who choose to ride on the shoulder along Colbert Lane, for example, instead of the sidewalks provided along that road.

The county, meanwhile, is budgeting for an additional part-time pilot for Fire Flight beginning Oct. 1.

“The part-time pilot will provide initially extended hours for the helicopter, and they’ll also provide relief for pilots who are sick, can’t come to work, or who are on vacation, so we can maintain the 8 to 8 hours,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. Fire Flight is on duty daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be attempts to extend the helicopter’s duty time to midnight, “If we had a full-time position we’d be able to do it most of the time, but with sick, and personal and vacation, I don’t think we’d be able to do it every day,” Petito said.

Palm Coast’s Planned Sidewalks

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33 Responses for “Small Government’s Price: No Sidewalk Money, City Says in Wake of Boy’s Death on Seminole”

  1. Layla says:

    Folks, early voting started yesterday at the Palm Coast Library for the Mayor’s primary race. I volunteered for a couple of hours today outside, passing out election info. 90 percent of the people passing by were going to the Library were not aware there EVEN WAS an election and had NO INTENTION of voting, AT ALL.

    We have to do better than this. Low voter turnout always favors the incumbents. Help us get some new people into office here in Palm Coast.


  2. Yogi says:

    Freedom is a wonderful thing. You are free to start a memorial fund to collect money for a pilot for the helicopter and for sidewalks. You don’t have to wait for the government. When will you start?

  3. Liana G says:

    …”Frank Meeker, the city council member who received at least one email referring to the death (Meeker said the author was a bidder on a project that he didn’t get) vehemently disputed any cause-and-effect connection between the boy’s death and the absence of sidewalks. “What makes you think he’d even stay on the sidewalk?”…”

    Mr Meeker, we definitely wouldn’t know that now, would we?

    And while you may be able to take comfort in that, us parents and citizens cannot. I leave my house at 6:30am every school day to take one of my kids to her bus stop which is a few miles away. At that time in the morning, with no street lights and sidewalks and now that fall is approaching, it is very difficult to see the kids walking and riding their bikes to get to their schools and/or bus stop. Yep, that’s right – our lazy, spoiled, goof off, up to no good kids who I am sure would much prefer to be in bed safe and cozy and sound asleep.

  4. steve wheeler says:

    Palm Coast doesnt have jobs to support us, the economy dictaites what we can do. Palm Coast doesnt want to attract employers so where does one work. Trust me we all would do what you have suggested…… if we could, In this town we are lucky to be surviving. Stop the other projects Big Money Palm Coast and put up thise need street lights onSeminole Woods Boulevard and South Belle Terre. Now. Its cheaper than getting your____ in a lawsuit and having to face your citizens when this happens again. Don’t continue to be Fools.

  5. Shane says:

    Why does Belle Terre need sidewalks on both sides of it when there are areas of the city that have none. Like a comment said it the original article about the accident, they build parks with no ways for the kids to get to them. This is a tragedy that Kirt had to die. It is even more of a tragedy that the city doesn’t seem to care about it and throws out excuses as to why they can’t do it right now. Guess what, they can move money around from different line items and make the funds available now to fix the problem and repay those funds when the money comes in. As for the helicopter, yes we have one in this county. Now it is staffed for when they think the busiest hours are. They called for Volusia’s Air One to come up, but it was down due to a maintenance issue. That is not their fault, if the helicopter is broken, it is broken and I’m sure they were trying to get it fixed. There are other helicopters they could of called. Why they didn’t, I can’t answer that because I wasn’t there. To wait for another helicopter (approx. 20 mins) would of meant waiting another 20 mins for it to get there when, as they did, the went by ground which put them at the hospital in about that 20 mins. We used to rely heavily on the helicopters from Jacksonville before we got Fire Flight here in this county. The issue with that is that we had to always remember to call for them early on in the event to save time and not wait on scene for them to get there. As learned here and many times before, 8am – 8pm is not the only time that emergencies happen. The delay of getting him to the hospital was not what ultimately caused his death. The lack of city caring and attempting to make a fix to a problem instead of excuses on why they can’t , seems to me like Kirt’s death was in vane… Way to look out for your own citizens City of Palm Coast….

  6. Gary says:

    “Frank Meeker, the city council member who received at least one email referring to the death (Meeker said the author was a bidder on a project that he didn’t get) vehemently disputed any cause-and-effect connection between the boy’s death and the absence of sidewalks. “What makes you think he’d even stay on the sidewalk?” Meeker said in an interview, describing numerous bikers who choose to ride on the shoulder along Colbert Lane, for example, instead of the sidewalks provided along that road.”

    Meeker makes the point for improvements on Seminole Woods blvd. without even realizing it. People choose to ride on the shoulder on Colbert lane because they HAVE a shoulder. There is NOTHING on Seminole Woods blvd. Zero shoulder. On a 55 mile per hour road in a residential area. As far as his comment about “what makes you think he’d even stay on the sidewalk”…that was way out of line. We will never know because he didn’t have a choice. Why have stop signs? What makes you think anyone would heed them? You can take that argument to the absurd. What an ignorant comment. Vote him out.

  7. Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

    Layla… Yesterday 130 votes were cast at the library. As of noon today, another 100 had cast their votes. Yes, it is not a good indication of a large turnout. But that was one of the items brought up, when the City said for “cost savings”, we were cutting down the locations, only advertising it on their web and a short note in utility billings. I think it was a well planned effort to keep the voting volume low……. There were alternatives to installing additional sidewalks on Belle Terre. The new walks there are on the opposite side of already available paths. You would have though, that getting sidewalks on one side of the street in Seminole and South of SR 100 on Belle Terre would have been a better decision. Once you have walks on one side, for all locations, then start the second sides. The reason , the bikers use the small bike lane on Colbert is that the sidewalk is usually covered with sand., as it is mostly below street level and when it rains, all the water runs down over the walk. Not exactly safe. …Since I do alot of bicycling, I am always alert to traffic. No ear plugs, reflective vest after dark with lights and always riding with traffic, and in the far right lane. I never assume, the driver is looking out for me. I have had some come within 6-12 inches of my handlebars, and ended up in the ditch..But defensive driving is best.. I am sorry for this young man..

  8. Bella says:

    How tragic. May this young mans soul rest in peace. I pray from his family.

  9. Jojo says:

    Maybe Obama can start a WPA in this country and put people to work on projects and infrastructure like this throughout the country. It’s desperately needed.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    All commissioners that have approved the firing of one pilot and denied funds to repair the emergency management helicopter, the councilmen also that approved the incredible amount of lights unneeded in the Matanzas parkway too many …in the town Center luxurious infrastructure, all the commissioners that chose to waste our tax dollars in all these county administration lavish structures “that I call monuments to themselves” via bonds that we are still paying in our home taxes and all our tax dollars wasted until now benefiting only the developers and elite in control and not invested in at least two lights per block in these 4 lane roads instead, are somewhat responsible for this child’s death. The taxes we pay are supposed to pay for the services and infrastructures we need in our communities and not for special interest benefit. Our local government needs to stop wasting our tax payers dollars in favor of some big corporations, like the never arrived super Walmart in Old Kings South at a cost of 6.5 million in the Old Kings Rd South widening and landscaping., Holland’s Marineland’s Marina for a developer benefit @ 150,000, Holland’s 880,000 to Peggy Hiser for supposedly tourism promotions… in this pathetic economy where people is broke to take vacations.?
    5 million or more for the Town Center CRA that hardly anyone walks or rides for miles of lavish infrastructure. Of course we can afford the sidewalks on Seminole Woods Pkwy and Belle Terre, with just a partial of the funds spent above. Yes Mr.meeker it can be done…and I will contribute also if a fund raising will start, to show how much we care.

  11. Richard Hamilton says:

    I wish people would not use this tragic accident to indulge in finger pointing. Kirt wasn’t to blame and doesnt deserve to be used. Neither was the driver to blame; and the city wasn’t to blame. what we need to work out is how best to stop another great kid being involved in a similar accident.

    Here’s a few suggestions.

    1) There are few local organizations that like to raise money to provide bikes to kids at Xmas. This year let’s raise money to provide safety equipment to all existing bikes — lights, reflectors, helmets. Many families can’t afford the extras.

    2) Ask the FPC student council and student problem solvers to come up with some proposals that actually will work for students rather than have us older guys try to impose something.

    3) Palm Coast has already adopted a comprehensive bike path plan (shown in the website). Lets support the Council if they actually appropriate a few extra cents on our property tax to make it happen.

    4) Investigate what would it take for the Flagler Hospital be able to take care of accidents like this, instead of trying to transport victims 30 miles away? 5 minutes and Kirt could have been in our local Hospital without a helicopter.

    5) For the amount of traffic i see on Seminole Woods I wonder whether it would not be better to make one of the two lanes each way into bike lanes, at least until the economy turns around and more people move in.

  12. blondie says:

    I’m sorry this young man chose to ride his bike without a light on a dark road at night. However, I don’t quite understand why people chose to live in an area with no streetlights and/or sidewalks, and then later demand them. If this was of great concern to you, there are areas available with both.

    My neighborhood does have sidewalks; however, I find that 95% of the people walking in the area choose to walk in the road!! This includes dog walkers, bicyclists, people with baby strollers.

  13. beta says:

    Frank Meekers’ comment, “What makes you think he’d even stay on the sidewalk?” Meeker said in an interview, describing numerous bikers who choose to ride on the shoulder along Colbert Lane, for example, instead of the sidewalks provided along that road.

    This comment is not only inconsiderate, but also very wrong. Any bicyclist knows the only people who ride on the shoulder or the road instead of the sidewalk when one is provided are adult road bikers. In my 15 years of living and biking here, I’ve never seen any child or teenager ride in the road when there is a sidewalk next to him/her. Meeker should get off his butt and maybe ride a bicycle, and accept some responsibility.

  14. w.ryan says:

    My sympathy to the family of this young boy. My 16 yr old son also rides from his activities late. The street lights aren’t friendly to bike of foot traffic. It’s a shame that when needed help in this situation was not there. There are far too many blowhards that can’t get it right. Improvements should follow regardless of whether sidewalks were there or not. This is progress! Government exists to help their citizens. Why else do we pay taxes. Unfortunately government has not fully lived up to their responsibilities. Hopefully this will change. Getting out to vote is the way.

  15. mara says:

    We need to get to the root of this issue. It sounds to me like what we really need to be questioning is exactly WHY IT IS that “for the last three years, the county commission, like other local government agencies, has been thumping its chest to taxpayers over the number of positions it has cut and the money it has saved…the Palm Coast City Council has been doing likewise…..”

    Exactly WHO is demanding that we cut these jobs to save all this money? Let’s ask these council members. And let’s ask them to define ‘services’. If any of these people are actually on the record saying “services haven’t been cut, after all the ‘overhead’ (read: peoples’ JOBS) has been cut”, they’re lying through their teeth.

    If there’s no money for a 24/7 lifeflight helicopter, with all these houses and all these people who now live here and how many state-of-the-art hospitals in a two-county area–let alone no damned money for things like STREET LIGHTING, then I want to know exactly who to hold to account and why there’s no revenue to do these basic things.

    I pay taxes, gladly. It is money well-spent if it buys CIVILIZATION. I wish everyone in our country felt the same way, instead of letting state-sponsored propaganda demonize the concept of “government”, turning it on its head like it’s some kind of business, allowing the people at the top of it to sleep at night even as they amass more, use the same resources we all use, and then pay even less for the privilege of doing so than the rest of us pay.

    There is a reason government was never intended to be run like a business. This story example is exactly why. Government has been gutted to the bone for the last couple of decades, and we are now–all of us–paying the price for it in a million ways (small and large)–while a relative handful of people get ever-more-obscenely rich.

  16. palmcoaster says:

    Dear Blondie many families choose to live in Seminole Woods because in that area housing is less expensive wether for buying or renting and affordable then. What has to be done now is stop the approved second set of unneeded sidewalk in Belle Terre (in order to further benefit the Town Center Developer and their CRA) and buold the one set vitaly needed in Seminole Blvd for the kids to ride safe from Town Center or the Schools to their homes. Also any other approved project for sidewalks widening now needs to stopand instead build the ones needed were there ar NONE! Common sense Mr.Meeker Pc Council and Holland,Peterson and the other Commissioners and also rehired the pilot we need 24-7 for our life saving emergencies other than goving the full 880,000 of TDC top Peggy Hiser and the Flagler Chamber of Uncommerce. just about 10 percent of that will pay for our missiing pilot. And for being TDC funds utilized supposedly for Tourism attraction related spenditures….remember that the smae emergency helicopter can save tourist lives as well Commisioner TDC Board Chair Ms Milissa Holland, Bob DeVore, Mrs Mitchell, Mr, Shubers and Co. How our potential tourist wouldlike to know that if a life threatening accident take place they will only have a chance to by transported by ambulance 30 miles or so that may mean life or death? Shame on all elected officials for curtailing on our backs the services that we all pay upfront in advance in our taxes while spending our tax dollars to benefit the elite.
    @ Mr. Richard Hamilton as head of our Flagler Auditorium Governing Board becomes easy in your writting to defend the powers that be, for the lack of community service compliance and help them to dodge the critical residents complaints here against the controlling elite circle that he shares as well.. Including 15 realtionships with Priscilla Nettts (PC Mayors Jon Netts wife) heads of Palmco Development…? Maybe some conflict of interest here…? What does Palmco Development does in so over developed PC in the last 8 years? Too much expansion without sufficient infraestructure to protect our kids? Please all get informed in the links below and learn what things are the way that are wronfully approved bt the ones we elect and fiercely defended ( Councilman Meeker) they way they do. Please do no accuse me of having an agenda..just informimg reality here. Miss information is what keep our country doomed.

  17. palmcoaster says:

    To all; sorry for my typos above, as my comment escape to FLive by error, before I had the chance to proof read. I wear too many hats in my daily hard working life to be able to make my decent living and I am terrible at typing. I don’t mind to be called a fool here by the experts for that, as I do this on a hurry on a small free window of time and on the hopes that my research can be a positive eye opener to most.

  18. elaygee says:

    How about a voluntary tax to pay for the helicopter to be available 24 hours a day but it can only be used if you paid the tax. If you didn’t pay the tax, you die where you lay or when they get you to a hospital by ambulance.

  19. Kat says:

    I live in seminole woods. People drive way to fast in this neighborhood. If the city does not have enough money for sidewalks then how about lowering the speed limits untill we can get sidewalks put in. Seminole woods has a posted speed limit of 55, so people tend to do 65. On Sesame Blvd. we have a park that the kids go to. The speed limit on that road is 45, and angain most people do over that. It is time the city steps up and does something. This is a cheap fix. What do you say city of Palmn Coast?

  20. Liana G says:

    @palmcoaster – your typos do not bother me and don’t let that stop you because I can understand perfectly what you’re trying to say, and I do enjoy reading your comments.

    @Mr Ericksen

    …” when the City said for “cost savings”, we were cutting down the locations, only advertising it on their web and a short note in utility billings. I think it was a well planned effort to keep the voting volume low……. ”

    Mr Ericksen I have to agree with you….I do not receive a paper utility bill so I did not get the not and though I believe FlaglerLive may have mentioned it in one of their news reporting, the lack of proper and deserving advertising erased the event from memory. Then add a very busy mom of four who suffers from decision fatigue and who has become an enemy of father time now that all schools are back in session and you get the picture.

  21. Karen says:

    Frank Meekers’ comment, “What makes you think he’d even stay on the sidewalk?” Meeker said in an interview, describing numerous bikers who choose to ride on the shoulder along Colbert Lane, for example, instead of the sidewalks provided along that road.

    This comment was definitly way out of line by Mr. Meeker. I have known this child for 7+ years and I know for a fact that he would use a sidewalk if there was one. Why you cant move the budget around to find a place to provide a sidewalk and some streetlights. If someone does decide to do a fundraising event to raise money for sidewalks and street lights in Seminole Woods area, I will contribute, even though I do not live there any more. I definitly feel for the family and friends of Kirt. This is a very hard tragedy for anyone who knew him.

  22. some guy says:

    This was nothing more then a accident. To try and put blame on the city, the County, the driver or the kid is for the most part wrong. As Meeker was trying to say “if” there where multi use paths along that road we have no way of knowing for sure he would be on it. I see kids and grown ups all the time on roads that have multi use paths on them. Just a short time ago on A1A we had that guy walking for a Free Tibet hit by a car and just on the other side of the road a pathway. WE do not need to speend lots of $$ to keep us safe we just need to use common sence. Like useing pathways when they are there or following the rules of the road or making suer our kids know them and follow then. If this kid did follow the rules of the road it might have not happend. If he had head gear and or a light it might not have hapend.

  23. Guest says:

    Even though sidewalks are placed throughout the city, people still fail to use them. Driving through town everyday I always notice people riding their bikes or walking on the side of the road when a sidewalk is about 10 feet away from them. We complain we need them, but then no one decides to use them?

  24. Student says:

    I am a 17 year old resident of Seminole woods .I am currently attending college. I have lived here most of my life. The one thing I remember the most about growing up in this section of Palm Coast is that if I ever wanted to do something I needed to travel to the other side. There is not much out here for a younger person.
    Back in December I bought a road bike to do triathlons with. I had saved my money for a long time, the bike cost me around 800.00. I measured out a course to ride on and started to practice. It lasted less than a week. While riding my bike I obeyed all laws and stayed to the right shoulder of the roads, Seminole woods and sesame. During that week, I had bottles thrown at me, given the finger many times, cars that would slam on their brakes because of another car coming. That was a scary sound to have behind you. People do drive way too fast on these roads, and do not want to slow down for anything. At the end of the week I told my dad I just couldn’t do it anymore because I was in fear of my life. We contacted the Flagler County Sheriff’s office about the incidents, and we also contacted the city of Palm Coast. We talked to the traffic engineering dept. We were told that they were monitoring the area with the speed control devices; you know the ones that tell you how fast you are going. Most people do speed on these roads. It is public information. Flagler Live should check into this. The solution that the city told me was to bring my bike to the bike path off Belle Terre. What the city did not take into consideration is that I had to travel down Sesame and Seminole woods to get to the path. Being a high school student I didn’t have the extra money for gas to travel to the path. I just wish that the city would have done something about this.

  25. Wulfy says:

    Kirt Was A Fellow Classmate Of Mine, And He Will Be Surely Missed At Flagler Palm Coast High School.

  26. Seminole Resident says:

    What if the speeders running 65 in a 55 were ticketed and the money used for side walks and lighting?

  27. K says:

    Thank you Palm Coaster for exposing Hamilton’s ties to Netts.

    I guess spin control is in full force.

  28. BEEBob says:

    What about Matanzas Woods? We have no sidewalks and no park. Lakeview, London and Laramie are all well travelled. Won’t be long before someone is hit.

  29. Dede S. says:

    Mr. Meeker, that had to be the most moronic statement I’ve ever heard!! Well, WHAT IF HE WOULD HAVE? Problem is, HE WASN’T GIVEN THE CHOICE! “Numerous” doesn’t apply to the unknown? Mr. Smith is gone, so we cannot ask him, but a good question to ask yourself is, “Why did I (meaning you) ask such a moronic statement?

    What makes you “think” the million dollar plus tennis arena (that I understand is unused MOST of the time) was a better idea than providing safe travelways for your citizens? Or, how does a “beautification” project take precedence over providing safe travelways for your pedestrians and cyclists?

    Palm Coast, in my opinion, has their PRIORITIES way out of line!! Elections are approaching folks, time for a change in Palm Coast/Flagler County!!!

  30. Layla says:

    Elections are not only approaching, the Mayor’s election is NOW. Early voting began on Monday at the Public Library on Palm Coast Parkway and will continue through the end of next week. PLEASE VOTE!

    Don’t you find it odd there has not been much news about this election? Have not read anything in the papers until the Observer endorsed John Netts today. NOBODY knows this election is going on NOW. Was that intentional? Why the silence?

    Please use this precious right to put new people on this Council who will LISTEN

  31. Layla says:

    Priorities have been out of line here for a while now. Please don’t let the status quo continue. Netts has been in office since 2001. Want to be heard? Vote in a new Council.

  32. Michael Murphy says:

    I wonder how many side waiks that $500.000 in tax money and that $150.000 in bed tax money that Holland and her clan gave Marine land and a private builder would have built.People question how they spend OUR money.What will we gain by building a marina that is privately owned? You tell me…..
    My daily rant…..

  33. May God be With You says:

    I have been reading all these posts on here about what reflecters and lights were on bikes, Especially to SOME GUY: Who must of been at this accident, cause SOME GUY knows what he was wearing and weather or not his bike was equiped with the proper lighting or not.
    So for all of you that are making post about kirt and weather or not the bike had reflectors, or if he was wearing the proper clothing, and weather he was riding in the street at night or not, it sickens me, none of you know what really happened at the time of this accident, because none of you were there.

    All I can say is: I pray that this family will eventually find out exactly what really happened that night.

    R. I. P. KIRT

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