On April 28 the Flagler Beach City Commission voted 3-2 to approve a $420,500 bid to rebuild the garbage-dumpster pad adjacent to the Funky Pelican, the former Pier Restaurant that operates from the city-owned facility.
What four of the five commissioners and the mayor did not know was that the project was not merely to repair and replace the pad, but to nearly double the space, creating storage and dumpster space–and further blocking the public’s view of the ocean on the north side of the restaurant.
All six were interviewed since. All but Commission Chairman Ken Bryan said they voted thinking that they were approving a repair, not an expansion–just as the commission had discussed doing for years, when it had discussed the matter, which was not often, and never as an agenda item with documents readily available for either public or commission inspection, records show.
Even Bryan, in his comments at the April 28 commission meeting, spoke of the project as a repair to the existing structure, not an expansion: “I’ve been out there under the structure, walking around, and I’ve been in the dumpster area, and I’ve also talked to the tenant and first thing he told me, he wanted to expand, and he showed me all the grandiose things he wanted to do. And I said that’s great. How much money do you have? Because we’re not paying for it.”
The April 28 background material for the commission on the dumpster project (which starts with an error: the meeting date on the item is listed as April 22) was scant. But even that item was titled “Pier Restaurant Dumpster Enclosure Renovation.” It doesn’t refer to an expansion of the enclosure anywhere. It unflatteringly refers to former City Manager Larry Newsom, who died in August 2020: “For unknown reasons Mr. Newsom chose not to bid the project for repairs to be made.”
The reasons are not unknown: the pandemic upended numerous projects, as did Newsom’s failing health, and renovation designs were conducted on Newsom’s watch. But again, the memo refers to repairs, not expansion.
The background memo also notes that City Manager William Whitson was in discussion with the contractor to perform a kitchen expansion Funky Pelican Owner Ray Barshay has been seeking for several years.
No one, including the commissioners who voted against the project on April 28, disputes that the dumpster enclosure is in dire need of repairs. It sits on pylons that have rotted out. It’s unsafe. Its interior’s floor is buckled and it’s not environmentally sound. The two commissioners who voted against the project–Eric Cooley and James Sherman–find the cost too high, and were looking at alternative ways to store the restaurant’s garbage. But even then, they were not aware that the project included an expansion.
Commissioners were shocked to discover that it did, and only after former City Commissioner Marshall Shupe pointed out to Cooley that last he knew–Shupe left office in 2020–the project was slated for $200,000.
“What I recall is that Larry in the meetings I was in was not to expand the pad, but to replace the pad, as it sits, which meant new pylons and so on,” Shupe said in an interview. “That’s my recollection from meetings that I was involved with. Expansion of the pad now, whether moving of the wall or putting interior space, maybe that’s what they’re looking at. I haven’t seen the plan. But originally, all Larry Newsom had planned on doing was tearing down the pad and replacing the pad, period. That’s when I recall Ray [Barshay] saying he wanted to expand the kitchen.”
There is little question that the very few times the commission has discussed the pad publicly, it has done so as a repair, never as an expansion.
At an Oct, 24, 2019 commission meeting, Barshay was present and the matter was on the agenda. “Newsom reported the city is looking at the same space currently used and hopes to
incorporate a space in the same area for the washing of the mats,” the minutes state, with no objection noted from Barshay.
At the February 13, 2020 commission meeting, during the approval of a budget amendment, “Discussion ensued regarding the condition of the dumpster pad and how the restaurant appears to be using the area as storage,” minutes state. “The Elected Officials reiterated the repair is for the dumpster pad, and not improvements for storage.”
At the end of a commission meeting on January 28, 2021, then-Interim City Manager Rick McFadden “reported on the issue with the dumpster pad at the Funky Pelican, advising we need to repair it as soon as possible,” according to the minutes. There was no mention of an expansion.
By January 2020, records show, Joseph Pozzuoli, the Flagler Beach-based architect, was hired by the city to draw up plans for the job. He has been paid $36,450 so far–four times more than what the commission originally approved on February 13, 2020, when it agreed to pay him $9,000 “to design structural drawings for a new dumpster area for Funky Pelican Restaurant.”
Pozzuoli submitted a scope of work with two possibilities. “Alternate 1” was for replacing the existing 18 by 18.6 foot space. “Alternate 2” was to add an additional 200-some square feet to the space.
The two options never went before the city commission, either for discussion or a decision.
On May 14, 2021, two weeks after Whitson took over management of the city, Pozzuoli sent another contractual letter, still addressed to McFadden as interim manager. The scope of work showed only one option: the one with the expansion. But the commission had never made that choice, which appeared to run counter to its intentions every time it had discussed the matter.
Shupe was in Cooley’s 7-Eleven store the day after the April 28 meeting, discussing the item, and prompting Cooley to text Whitson: “Are we changing the size of the dumpster pad or just repaired?” Cooley texted at 1:48 p.m.
“To my knowledge, no change in the size,” Whitson texted back three minutes later.
Cooley thanked him, saying a citizen (meaning Shupe) told him it would be larger, and that he couldn’t decipher what the plans indicated: Commissioners had insisted on receiving some documentation about the plan before the meeting and received drawings only the day before, but the drawings were difficult to interpret since they did not delineate existing versus new space. (See those plans, sent to commissioners at 11:27 a.m. the day before the April 28 meeting, here and here.
In an interview on Tuesday, Whitson said the plan the commission voted for was, in fact, for the expansion. “We’ve had the plans out there multiple times,” he said. “Belhumeur knew all about it.” Whitson was referring to former City Commissioner Rick Belhumeur. Whitson brought up the name unbidden, apparently because Belhumeur, after speaking with Cooley, sought numerous records and has raised questions about the April 28 vote.
“All of that conversation took place before I came on board, all I did was carry forward the plan that was safe, that’s the bottom line,” Whitson said. He said he would not discuss “who said what.”
“I’m not gonna comment on what they thought they were voting on,” he said. “There are safety issues and I listened to my professionals who deal with safety,” he said. “The plan is there, it was bid, it was for safety improvements to improve the building, it’s our building, and we have an obligation.”
Belhumeur, who was also interviewed for this article, said he met with all five commissioners, and all five, including Bryan, told him the same thing: “I spoke with all five, none of them knew about the expansion,” he said. He also emailed them in detail about the differences in scopes of work between 2020 and 2021.
Belhumeur, who is a builder, said the doubling of the cost is a result of having to drill in six new pylons, among other necessities of expansion. “The dumpster enclosure needs to be replaced. That’s never been in question,” he said. “They made fun of me and my signs about extravagant spending. This is extravagant spending. You can build a house on A1A for that kind of money and have concrete pilings 35 feet in the ground, a dozen of them,” plus other amenities in the house. “This is absurd, absurd kind of money.” (Belhumeur was referring to his campaign signs during the election season, when he accused fellow-commissioners of endorsing “extravagant” spending. It did not sit well with colleagues.)
“I thought it was the replacement,” Commissioner Jane Mealy said Wednesday. “If Ray Barshay wants an expansion, I made it clear years ago, maybe as far back as ‘16, when we discovered how bad the dumpster area was, he jumped on that, naturally being the businessman that he is, as an opportunity to expand the kitchen. I’m not opposed to him expanding the kitchen. I’m opposed to taxpayers paying for him, and I told him that.” Mealy, like other commissioners, visited the site, walked underneath the dumpster area, and evaluated the dismal conditions for herself. She also did not dispute that the kitchen is very small, considering the volume of service it handles.
“If we can do both concurrently, OK, I’m good with that, as long as it’s clear he pays for his part, we pay for ours,” Mealy said. But again, that would be about repairing, not expanding, the dumpster area at taxpayers’ expense, and kitchen renovations at Barshay’s.
But Mealy wasn’t ruling out a larger dumpster area, either, if that’s what it comes down to. She is awaiting Whitson’s explanations. “We should be providing the right area for the dumpsters,” Mealy said. “If the old area was too small, with new regulations or safety issues that have come up–don’t forget how old that building was–I don’t know that I would be opposed to it depending on how it would be explained to me. I am at a loss being able to answer specifically, without having heard what city manager has to say.”
Sherman and Phillips also confirmed in separate interviews that their votes were for a repair, not an expansion. Mayor Suzie Johnston did not have a vote, but she said she was under the same impression.
And Bryan, who said he knew the vote was on an expansion, nevertheless conceded that the matter lacked clarity. “I was voting on the area that “I had looked at before which included the expansion,” he said. “It didn’t really come before the city commission. There’s been several plans out there and a lot of discussions about it for the previous four years.” Bryan joined the commission in 2020, the year Shupe was defeated.
“It may have been a mistake on whoever’s part it was that the expansion wasn’t included or explained as a replacement,” Bryan said of the April 28 vote. “But the replacement was discussed as increasing that area. The description could have been clearer. Hopefully everything will be explained a little more clearly Thursday night.”
Though the commission has already voted, the matter is returning to the panel at Thursday’s meeting, at Cooley’s request.
“This item was clearly listed as a repair,” he wrote Whitson about four hours after Whitson had told him as much. Cooley was requesting that his note be circulated to other commissioners. “In all discussions surrounding the structure there was only talk of this being a repair. Never once was it mentioned that this is [an] almost 50% increase to the size of the structure (pad) with intent for expansion of the building that was never approved or agreed upon by commission. None of the documentation I [received] was it clearly defined this to be a much larger project than a repair. The plans I had to ask specifically for that I [received] just 24hrs before the meeting were never printed to be considered under the item on the dais with the packet available to commissioners or the public. In the interest of transparency, city finances, agreements with tenant, ALL information must be presented in order to make a informed decision and the item needs to be reconsidered [preferably] next meeting.”
E, ROBOT says
Have garbage picked up daily and reduce the size of the dumpster.
They should try cleaning that greasy stained concrete with a degree of frequency.
Robjr: It’s about time someone spoke up about this, I use to question myself is it me or are people are just blinded cause they go and sit on a deck. You are so right, that sidewalk not only looks disgusting with grease stains that look like piss stains but also stinks of foul odor when you walk by it, this says alot about the place itself looks like no one cares to do some daily cleaning on that sidewalk they only care about making money, the way a restaurent is taken care of on the outside says alot for the inside. The owners should take some pride in their surroundings, just because they are beachside doesn’t cut it if it looks filthy on the outside.
I just have one question; if the plans/drawings that were submitted to the commissioners were too difficult for them to interpret, and we’re sent to them with too little lead time, then why didn’t they ask for clarification or request to table the issue until they were all able to correctly interpret the materials?
Deborah Coffey says
I’m sorry but, this is a real LOL. Republicans voted to spend $420,500 and didn’t bother to study what they were voting on. Typical…and shameful.
80% correct… Commissioner Jane P. Mealy, affiliated with the Democratic Party, spoke in favor of and voted to approve as well.
I couldn’t agree with you more…From the looks of it, after reading this article, there seems to be a GLARING example of non communication on the city council…No one seems to have clear cut answers..
Should always get 3 bids and carefully review bid documentation. Public input appropriate given location on beach. OSHA inspection of entire facility needed.
Have Saw will Travel says
Seriously…. $460,000 to add 8 -new wood poles and 12 – 4 x 10 x 12 for the flooring. A box of stainless steel wood screws and 2 days labor ?
These Commissioners were, at the time, deeply involved in scheming a way to vote themselves a gigantic raise. They couldn’t pay attention to the public’s interests.
They are not as competent as someone making more money – they mistakenly thought otherwise.
History has a way of repeating itself; Captain’s BBQ, Green Lion, and now the Funky Pelican.
Maybe they really need not to receive a salary.
The commenter is confusing Palm Coast council members, who did vote themselves a raise in April, and Flagler Beach commissioners, who have not done so in years.
None of them deserve it !!! Palm Coast or Flagler Beach !!
By the Sea Bob says
Pay attention… pay raises were for county commissioners… not the beach folks
No, they were for Palm Coast city council members, though county commissioners by law get an annual pay raise that they do not themselves set.
So, I’m confused.
They didn’t know it was almost a 50% expansion of the current pad for a cost of $420,500 to taxpayers, but we’re willing to spend the same amount on a repair to the current pad’s footprint?
Rick B. says
Ridiculous as it sounds, that is exactly what happened. Extravagant spending at its best!
I’m confused as a powered commercial compactor dumpster is around 40000. To lay a new pad and fence should be less then 15k to rin electrical less then 4k so are we to.assume we will be paying approximately 360000 for upgrades to the pelican? The food and service is not that good.
Eric: you are right, it is not like it was going back 15 years ago the place was awesome, good food, great service with a smile, it’s become a tourist trap with inferior food, hiked up prices on adult drinks, the people who go are the tourist travelling on A1A who want to have a burger and a cocktail on the deck and to get out of their cars to stretch their legs. We went there several months ago and we will never go back, everyone who lives local knows its become a tourist trap. Also sounds like the owner was trying to pull a smooth one by not putting the other intension for reno out there for the commissioners to decide upon.
I don’t understand the basic premise. Why would a privately owned business get $400 thousand from the city in order to do repairs? That’s what business loans are for.
The Funky Pelican is in a building owned by the city. The city is responsible for maintenance of the building, including the dumpster pad enclosure. It is not responsible for interior renovations the restaurant owner wishes to make. The question here is whether the expansion of the dumpster enclosure crosses the line from maintenance to a benefit that would, for example, indirectly help the interior renovation of the kitchen area, at which point the expansion would have an element of taxpayer subsidy attached. The administration argues the expansion is necessary for safety. The commission will decide tonight whether it has the evidence to make that determination, or whether the claim is a veil for an expansion at taxpayers’ expense.
Thank you, I did not know it was city owned.
The City Manager and Commissioners were sleeping on this one for sure. Rick Belhumer was right. Wasteful spending. Time for one of them to ask for reconsideration on this vote.
The dude says
This is what you get when your county and cities are run by only republicans.
They vote themselves big fat raises, renege on deals made to bail them out, build trash pads for 500 large, apparently without even knowing what they were voting for.
Those republicans are making it rain with our tax dollars.
So what will you central Florida rubes and dullards do in response?
Re-elect them of course!!!
S Dalley says
Need to review the whole project.
Present facts to the taxpayers prior to vote.
Compactor idea sounds good?
Failed planning and discussion.
Sad part in all of this, how much of that is going to be replaced as the new concrete pier anyway ? This dumpster expansion is Flagler Beach’s moldy FCSO Facility scandal. Incompetence in Government, anyone over there paying attention when they go to work ? There really isn’t much going on in Flagler Beach, the sun rises & sets daily, the tides cycle from low to high tide. The dumpster, fireworks, a fire truck. The errors just keep compounding with failed leadership. Maybe distracted by the dune rebuild project and trying to get the holdouts on board ?
Even at $200,000 that’s ridiculous, you can build a house for that much. I agree with Eric above, even if the cost went to $50,000 it’s still cheaper. Send it back to the Board and have them come up with realistic replacement plans.
I could be wrong but it sounds like City of FB is getting ripped off on that outrageous price to repaid a dumpster pad.
“Eyes Wide Shut”. . . Our commissioners should be greatly ashamed. . . voting to spend hundreds of thousands with little to no due diligence and public input! I am very disappointed in our commissioners. . . every single one that voted for this!
STOP with the mindless “rubber stamping”! Start Over Again. . . and, think beyond the end of your noses! Do this the professional project management way, or stay home and let someone else take your position!
They really know how to piss away our hard earned tax dollars. Staly just bought another boat to patrol from Marineland to the 100 bridge – $250.000 +
Land of no turn signals says says
Just paid $4.59 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas wish a Republican was running the country now.
President does not set the gas price, no matter who’s in charge. You, me, our relatives, neighbors etc. are all responsible for usage. As long as the investors and companies know you want it the price will stay high.
The dude says
Ummm… republicans run the entirety of Flagler county and all the cities in it.
And you want to scale this incompetence and malfeasance up to the national level?
That’s way above and beyond monetarily for what needs to be done Tell you what I’ll do it for 25m take it or leave it.
Larry Newsome’s PR Guy says
d. miller says
one of the ones that voted for it needs to pull their vote and start over. this should have been a shared cost between tenant and city. the city repairs the existing area and the tenant pays for more frequent dumping so it doesn’t accumulate. if tenant wants bigger space and he will use it for a bigger kitchen also, he pays his share.