Palm Bay Police-
Official Police news release:
On December 25, 2022, at approximately 2030 hrs., officers responded to the area known as “the Compound” in the southwest section of Palm Bay after a citizen called in reference to a report of a deceased body found in the wood line. On arrival, it was determined the deceased suffered from at least one gunshot wound. A second deceased body was located suffering from gunshot wounds as well. Both victims were juveniles, ages 14 and 16 years old. The families have requested their names and information not be released under Marsy’s Law.
All available resources are being dedicated to finding the motives and person(s) responsible for this crime.
This is an ongoing and active investigation. Anyone with information is urged to call the Palm Bay Police Department at 321-952-3456, or contact Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.
By Kevin Vaccianna
Palm Bay Live
Brevard Public School Board met on December 8 for a special session after a press conference on November 28th led by Sherriff Wayne Ivey announced “a brand new day” for discipline at the schools. The press conference presented a united front from School Board Chair Matt Susin, Business Representative from the Local 1010 IUPAT, Delores Varney, and Brevard County State Attorney Phil Archer to present a new priority of addressing discipline issues within the schools and busses at local schools. The press conference was held at the local jail and served as a point of concern for many parents and local leaders. The board meeting had dozens from the community in attendance. The passionate discussion turned heated on occasion as the board filled over seven hours discussing discipline issues with the community.
The meeting opened with a welcome and presentation of the agenda from Board Chair Matt Susin. Although several items were listed for discussion on the agenda, the board voted to end the meeting at 4 pm, and discipline issues were the only business discussed. Other issues will be presented at the December 13th board meeting and work session. The order of business for the discipline issue was broken down into the following points: Why, Public Comment, Before the Incident, During the Incident, After the Incident, and Community Involvement. Matt Susin opened the discussion with a panel of community members gathered around the table to discuss their concerns and reasons “why” they felt the meeting and subsequent need for addressing discipline issues had reached a critical point at Brevard Schools.
Members of the community invited to speak included a wide variety of staff and union members to speak on behalf of teachers, bus drivers, IA’s, and parents at Brevard Public Schools, Sherriff Wayne Ivey, and representatives from the NAACP.
Feedback from the President of the Brevard Federation of Teachers, Anthony Colucci showed a stark list of incidents reported citing discipline infractions ranging from classroom elopement to distracting cell phone use and continuing to assault of staff, sex acts in the classroom, and drug use as well as more significant threats to the schoolwide violence. Although most teachers and staff reported that the issues came from a small number of offenders, the growing number of violence issues is a lingering and exhausting concern. Tracie Arzola, Co-Chair of Local 1010 and a parent, shared her concern, “We spent millions on security; we got SROs on site. We spent millions to keep danger out; all we’re doing is caging it in.”
Board member, Jennifer Jenkins, denounced the video press conference as inappropriate, unauthorized, and not previously discussed by the board and challenged the agenda of lacking specificity for a plan of action on policies. Katye Campbell confirmed her frustration of not understanding the proposed methods of policy restructuring in advance of the meeting. The meeting was opened for public speaking at approximately the three-hour mark.
During public discussion, parents, guardians, and community members each received three minutes at the podium to voice their concerns with the board. The level of frustration varied from thanking the board for their service and commitment to the community to asking Chair Matt Susin to “please resign.” Some highlights and targeted issues of those speaking included addressing staffing issues such as training and adding additional staff, concern about SROs and threatening demeanor of the sheriff’s department and police in schools (including new uniforms that include larger rifles carried on the chest of SRO officers daily in school), traumatizing children with a police presence in the school, corporal punishment, distrust of Brevard policing and the school board, prioritizing mental health over policing discipline, and many felt the actions of the press conference leaders were embarrassing to the Brevard community overall and one accusing Chair Matt Susin of “pandering to the Sherriff.”
After public comments, the board discussed actions and steps the district could implement before an incident that would support staff and administrators. Staff, administrators, union leaders, and board members agreed that additional training opportunities would advance discipline policies for the district.
With twenty-two minutes left in the allotted time for the meeting, Matt Susin regrouped to articulate directives for Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Thedy. On the list of items to “start immediately”:
- “Culture of change” to empower staff and administrators to open discussions and be able to discuss and push back on referrals.
- Form a discipline committee of diverse citizens in the community, including the Sheriff’s Department, members of leadership and unions at the school, and the NAACP.
- Work towards building three additional professional development days into the school calendars and teaching contracts. (Note: with the 23-24 calendar year set for approval on December 13. This initiative is expected to be implemented in school year 24-25.)
- Define assault and battery in a socially appropriate way so that teachers and staff will understand that their administration and the district support them.
- Strictly enforce the current cell phone policies.
- Further communicate that buses are equal to the school and that all policies apply equally.
- Evaluate and clean up the referral process.
The close of the meeting brought forth additional heated disagreement between board member Jennifer Jenkins and Chair Matt Susin. Still, the meeting was appreciated by school staff and the community as a starting point for further discussion. Although little progress was made and the general feeling of the room was frustrated, the hope that future discussions would lead to positive changes was evident. Several were thankful to be invited to the discussion, and one staffer seemed to share a common thread of respect for the process ahead, “I’m excited that we are all in this room together right now. Whatever it is that brought us together, I hope we can move past that because what we have in common, right now, is a love for students, is a love for school, and a need to make things better.”
The next meeting of the Brevard Public Schools Board of Directors is December 13th. An agenda is available on the school website. Here is a link to the Palm Bay Live recording of the Special Session of the board.
By Kevin Vaccianna
Voters in the Palm Bay area were offered a stark choice between the candidates running for the fourth City Council position during what was meant to be a debate on the issues on Wednesday: deputy mayor Kenny Johnson and an empty seat.
What was meant to be a debate between Mr. Johnson and his opponent Nathan White on Wednesday evening, October 26, turned into more of a discussion as Mr. White opted at the last minute not to attend, after being interviewed on Tuesday.
The moderators adapted to the situation and stuck to the pre-written questions they had prepared for Mr. Johnson, while also allowing audience participation as the evening went on.
Mr. White opted instead to answer questions during a Facebook Live presentation that occurred at 6 pm on Thursday evening. Mr. White’s platform revolves around ending what he sees as government waste and restoring trust between the citizenry and the council itself, following what he characterized as some shady dealings between the government and contractors over the previous four years. He mentioned providing additional funding for first responders and ensuring that Palm Bay’s infrastructure could handle the city’s growth, namely the roads.
Offering clarification on his last-minute decision to forgo the debate, Mr. White pointed to what he felt was a conflict of interest, in that he’d heard David Jones, one of the moderators, and the deputy mayor were friends, and that there was a potential for an “ambush” of sorts.
During Mr. Johnson’s pre-debate interview and at the quasi-debate itself, the deputy mayor pointed to what he considers the accomplishments he and the council have achieved in the previous four years. Updating the badly outdated Palm Bay comprehensive plan, providing additional material support for police and firefighters, and ensuring current and future development don’t negatively impact families and residents in their neighborhoods were among the successes Mr. Johnson listed
Mr. Johnson also touted his ability to communicate across all levers of the local government apparatus, mentioning time and again the budget’s aim to maintain current employees and attract new talent to the ranks, while also stating he believed the package could go further to financially incentivize the city’s workforce. He also touted the “innovative ideas” being discussed on the development front, particularly with areas of the waterfront due for renovations.
In many instances, the candidates spoke of similar issues while highlighting similar difficulties. What to spend money on, and whose money to spend, appear to be the central questions as the campaign draws to a close.
The City of Palm Bay to host HUBZone Webinar in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration
The Melbourne City Council has approved a conceptual plan to make changes to city code that will help reduce costs and provide additional incentives to encourage more affordable housing development in the City of Melbourne.
The City of Melbourne currently has many incentives in city code to encourage affordable housing, such as the deferral of impact fees for the development of affordable housing units dependent upon the household income level. However, the need for affordable housing units is great, and Council has set a goal to increase the supply of affordable housing as part of a greater plan to reduce homelessness in the City of Melbourne.
The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and City staff recently completed a thorough review of the city’s current affordable housing incentives to determine what was working well and what could be improved. This study led to the following proposed changes to city code that were presented to Council at the September 29, 2021, meeting:
- Allow a carport in lieu of an enclosed garage for single-family units.
- Reduce required parking for one-bedroom multifamily units to one parking space.
- Allow all multifamily residential parking spaces to be 10 feet in width.
- Allow a decrease in the minimum living area for single-family units from 1,000 square feet to:
o 550 square feet for a one-bedroom unit,
o 650 square feet for a two-bedroom unit,
o 800 square feet for a three-bedroom unit, and
o an additional 100 square feet for any additional bedrooms.
- Allow accessory dwelling units on lots greater than 14,520 square feet instead of the current one-acre (43,560 square feet) requirement.
- Reduce building setbacks for multifamily structures over one story in height.
- Reduce the buffer area requirement for multifamily development from 50 feet to 30 feet and allow an opaque fence instead of a masonry wall when abutting single-family units.
- Allow single-family infill lots to utilize the affordable housing development standards.
- Allow residential development within a C-1 zoning district without requiring a conditional use.
- Remove required thresholds for a minimum number of units in each income level to allow a development to be directed at one or multiple income level thresholds. (City Code currently requires 30% to 40% of the units from all three income categories.)
- Allow a streamlined occupancy timeline for affordable units: 50% completion of affordable units when the overall development is 50% complete and then 100% completion of affordable units when the development is 100% complete.
- Provide a minimum affordability timeframe of 20 years for the use of the development standards and to be incorporated into the Land Use Restriction Agreement.
Council gave conceptual approval of these changes and directed staff to return with an ordinance for future City Council review. The plan also calls for an allowance for a density bonus for the development of affordable housing units that will need to go to the Department of Economic Opportunity for review before it can be incorporated into city code.
For more information:
- Watch the presentation by Community Development Director Cindy Dittmer and City Council’s discussion during the September, 29, 2021, City Council meeting.
- Read the agenda memo from the September 29, 2021, City Council meeting.
- Call Community Development — 321-608-7500 — if you have questions about developing affordable housing in the City of Melbourne.
City of Melbourne Awarded State Grant to Fund Innovative Downtown Stormwater Treatment Project
he City of Melbourne has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Program to fund a new stormwater treatment project that will transform existing landscaped features in Downtown Melbourne to planted landscaped boxes that can capture and clean polluted stormwater. In addition to keeping polluted stormwater out of the Indian River Lagoon, the project will help alleviate standing water that remains in the curbs after heavy rains.
The new treatment boxes will be installed within existing landscaped islands on the corner of New Haven Avenue and Municipal Lane and on the corner of New Haven Avenue and Vernon Place. Stormwater will be diverted into the boxes from the curb and filtered through layers of vegetation and treatment media.
The project will include use of two types of media, including a new media not previously used in the state of Florida. After the project is constructed, a team from the University of Florida will study and monitor the effectiveness of the different types of treatment media used. Results may help determine which type of media is most effective in removing pollutants, such as excess hydrocarbons, that are a particular problem in urban commercial areas like Downtown Melbourne. Lessons learned could help inform future projects in similar areas statewide.
The $200,000 grant will be used to construct the boxes. The City will contribute $25,000 for design and surveying services. Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2022.
The City of Melbourne is offering $50 rebates to homeowners who install the following water-saving features in their homes:
Residential water customers who reside within the city limits of Melbourne are eligible to participate in the city’s rain barrel rebate program. Qualifying customers will receive one $50 rebate for installing a new 40-gallon or larger rain barrel. A rain barrel can save approximately 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months. Rain barrels also help protect the Indian River Lagoon by reducing the amount of rainwater entering the stormwater system. More information about the Rain Barrel Rebate program is available on the city’s website.
All City of Melbourne residential water customers who get their water bill directly from the city can receive a $50 rebate for replacing a toilet that was installed before 1994 with a new WaterSense certified high-efficiency toilet (flush rate of 1.28 gallons or less). A family of four replacing a toilet from the 1980s could expect to save approximately 25,000 gallons of water per year by installing a new WaterSense toilet.
Residential customers who live within the city limits of Melbourne can receive up to a $50 rebate for purchasing and installing a composter that has at least a 30-gallon capacity. Adding compost to your landscaping creates healthier soil that retains water and nutrients better and reduces the need for increased lawn irrigation and the use of fertilizers that can wash into stormdrains and pollute the Indian River Lagoon. More information about composting and the Composter Rebate Program is available on the City of Melbourne website.
How to Apply for a Rebate
Rebate application packets are available by calling the Environmental Community Outreach (ECO) Division at 321-608-5080 or e-mailing email@example.com. Rebates will be available until budgeted rebate funds are depleted or until September 30, 2022, whichever comes first. Only one rebate will be provided per account and/or per address with the same resident throughout the duration of the City’s rebate programs.
West Melbourne-When you turn off your car, it can easily take only 10 minutes for the inside of your vehicle to raise by 20 degrees. On Friday, August 13th West Melbourne Police responded to the Walmart on Palm Bay Road due to a two month old puppy which was left in a hot vehicle and in distress. When the officer arrived on scene he discovered the puppy in the back seat weary and panting. The outside temperature was 92 degrees. The windows of the vehicle were cracked open but not enough for this helpless puppy to maintain a safe temperature. The officer was able to reach his hand through the window, unlock the door and remove the puppy who had been inside the vehicle for nearly 30 minutes. It would be another 5 minutes until the owner, Gary Cooper would walk out of the store where he was greeted by officers. Cooper was arrested and charged with Felony Animal Cruelty.
The puppy was turned over to Brevard County Animal Services, and Cooper was later released from the Brevard County Jail on a $5,000 bond. Dogs in hot cars can suffer from potentially fatal heat stroke in as little as 15 minutes. Dogs die in hot cars as they can overheat very quickly and struggle to cool themselves down, even when a window has been left open or water has been left in the car.