News Updates


Hollywood OKs lawsuit over cop's entry into defunct retirement program

posted Aug 8, 2012, 1:03 PM by Freddy Suastegui

By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel

9:19 p.m. EDT, July 18, 2012
HOLLYWOOD—

It sounds weird, a police sergeant approved for entry into a now-defunct retirement program, but that's the issue that came before the City Commission on Wednesday.

Despite voter approval last fall to abolish the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), the Hollywood Police Officers' Retirement System authorized Sgt. Lyle Bien's admission.

As a result, city commissioners on Wednesday gave City Attorney Jeff Sheffel the go-ahead to sue the police officers' retirement board.
Video: Lauderdale cops seek ID of ninja-like armed robber

"It is troubling that the board would approve an application that so clearly violates the plan," Deputy City Attorney Alan Fallik wrote in a July 11 letter to the board. "The city does not recognize Sergeant Bien's entry into DROP."

DROP allowed longtime municipal employees to "retire" and receive a pension that was held in a tax-deferred savings account even while they continued to work and collect a paycheck. After a set period, the employee could collect the money from the pension account in a lump sum.

Last September, nearly 55 percent of Hollywood voters approved drastic pension changes, including eliminating DROP, as a way to save the city $8.5 million. In the view of police and firefighters, those changes weren't lawful, and they are suing the city as a result.

"The elimination of DROP was not legal," said Steve Cypen, attorney for the board. "Once a member of a retirement system reaches normal retirement status, all the things that go with that status — all the benefits, all the rights, all the entitlements — are fixed and cannot be taken away without that person's consent."

Bien, 52 and with 22 years' service, is the first Hollywood officer eligible for the program since it was officially ended Sept. 30.

In their lawsuit pending in Broward Circuit Court, police and firefighters contend that the city failed to fulfill its obligations under a 2006 bargaining agreement and used prejudicial ballot language and an improper public relations campaign when it took the pension issue to voters. The city's motion to dismiss the suit is scheduled to be argued in September.

"Obviously, [Cypen] is advising the boards that they can continue to act as if they are governed by the unmodified pension ordinance," Sheffel said. "Their whole position is that the voters didn't have the right to say, and since they didn't have the right to say, they don't have to be listened to."

More generally, the argument over DROP turns on the fine point of whether it is defined as a "retirement benefit" or an "employment status."

"It comes down to a rather simple issue, is DROP a benefit or not," Cypen said. "The city says it's not and we say it is."

The city disagrees.

"The right to enter the DROP is not a retirement benefit," said Fallik. "It's a change of employment status, because you're still an active employee of the city. You haven't retired. It even says 'deferred retirement.' Doesn't that sort of imply that you haven't actually retired?"

At Wednesday's commission meeting, Hollywood Commissioner Heidi O'Sheehan said the city is not insensitive to those like Sgt. Bien, who were on the threshold of DROP when it was eliminated.

"Something can be done about it, but that can be done at the negotiating table," O'Sheehan said. "I encourage the bargaining units to speak about those matters with our negotiating team."

In fact, the possibility of a "phased retirement program" as an alternative to DROP has been discussed during negotiations with the city's fire union, City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said.

Such a program, she said, would allow employees to receive their pension money and invest it themselves into a fund with no guarantee of whether it would make money or not.

In the midst of financial urgency and facing a $38 million budget gap, Hollywood city leaders last fall said pension changes were crucial.

The changes approved by voters also increased retirement ages and the number of years needed to work before being eligible to retire, eliminated automatic cost-of-living adjustments, altered formulas that calculate pensions and excluded overtime and vacation pay from the plans.

Cities nationwide have struggled to fund their pension programs. To address its pension-funding challenges, Pembroke Pines tweaked its DROP program over the last several years.

Hollywood votes to give Margaritaville reprieve on deadlines

posted Aug 8, 2012, 1:02 PM by Freddy Suastegui

By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel

4:37 p.m. EDT, July 18, 2012

HOLLYWOOD—

The long-awaited and much-ballyhooed Margaritaville project has been thrown off course by lack of financing and property-boundary evaluations required by Broward County.

As a result, the City Commission on Wednesday voted to suspend enforcement of any deadlines for the stalled $138 million project until a new financing plan and time frames can be worked out.

A new financing scheme for the 17-story, 349-room beach resort won't likely be in place until September when the commission returns from a month-long break.

Developer Lon Tabatchnik is negotiating with undisclosed investor groups for the more than $70 million needed to complete the Jimmy Buffett-themed venture.

He is also asking the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to lend $23 million instead of an initial $10 million.

And in the latest unexpected glitch, the county is requiring the developer to precisely define boundaries and how the project affects public rights of way, roads and services. That process could delay the project by at least four months.

Officials optimistic on resolving Hollywood’s police shortage

posted Aug 8, 2012, 1:00 PM by Freddy Suastegui   [ updated Aug 8, 2012, 1:07 PM ]

While the force is down 38 officers, and departures are outpacing new hires, public safety is not being compromised, the chief said.

Despite hiring 16 officers this year, the Hollywood Police Department is still short 38 officers — with 20 of those positions frozen for the past two years — meaning it takes longer to solve crimes, the city’s top cop told commissioners Wednesday.

But he said 911 responses have not been affected.

Police Chief Chad Wagner told the City Commission that his department continues to hire, but the new officers have been more than offset by retirements and resignations.

The department, which is supposed to have 334 sworn officers, has 296. That means it is down about 11 percent. This year alone, 23 officers retired and eight resigned, Wagner said.

“I know there is a real sense of urgency amongst all of us,” he told commissioners. “I think what I want to do is relieve that sense of urgency for all of you.”

To date, the city has received 936 applications, which Wagner said is a good sign.

“We have applications coming in continuously,” he said.

Being down officers does not mean there are that many fewer officers on the street, said Wagner.

The patrol division is down only eight positions, while the criminal investigations division is down 17 and the special operations division is down 11.

The cuts in the investigative unit have made it more difficult to solve crimes quickly, he said, but responses to 911 calls have not changed.

“I know we are covered,” Wagner said.

Police union President Jeff Marano said after Wednesday’s commission meeting that making do with fewer officers means “both the officers and citizens are suffering.”

Marano said recent salary and pension cuts make Hollywood less attractive to new recruits. In September, voters approved by referendum an increase in the number of years an officer must work before collecting his or her pension. The referendum also changed the way retirement pay is calculated.

Officers’ starting salaries also were affected by the changes commissioners made to help close the city’s $38 million budget gap.

While Hollywood officers start at about $42,500 a year, in Fort Lauderdale the starting pay is about $54,800; in Pembroke Pines, $48,800; and Miramar, about $49,300.

“We are going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel,” Marano said.

Commissioners, however, said they were optimistic.

“We have done a lot of work in terms of hiring,” said Mayor Peter Bober. “But of course there is always more we can do.”

In other business Wednesday, commissioners unanimously agreed to give the Margaritaville Beach Resort’s developer more time to build the beachfront complex, and they set the city’s tentative property tax rate at the same level as last year’s: $7.45 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. They kept the fire assessment fee at $189.

Even though the tax rate is unchanged, many property owners will pay more in taxes because of increases in their assessments.

Two public hearings, at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12 and Sept. 20, have been scheduled for comment on the proposed $176 million general fund budget.

As for Margaritaville, the commission postponed finding the developer in default for missing key construction and financing deadlines. The developers recently learned that Broward County wanted them to go through a process to remap the land, which could take six months. The developers also needed more time to secure the more than $130 million needed to build the complex after a plan to get foreign investment failed.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/18/2901886/officials-optimistic-on-resolving.html#storylink=cpy

A day at the beach is no picnic in Hollywood

posted Jan 9, 2012, 8:29 PM by Freddy Suastegui

BY CARLI TEPROFF The Miami Herald 


Going to the beach in Hollywood isn’t as simply as you might think. Already there is a rule on the books prohibiting food and drink on the beach. Soon, commissioners will talk about limiting tents.
 
The Hollywood Commission is considering regulating the kind of tents for shade that can be set up on the beach, and where they can be put up.

There are two things Michele Carbon said never goes to the beach without: her four-poster tent to shade her family from South Florida’s heat and a cooler with juice boxes for the kids.


One of those is already illegal, and the other might be soon.


According to a little known Hollywood ordinance, eating or drinking anything on the beach — including water — is illegal. 


And placing a tent on the beach may soon get tricky, too, as the commission considers ways to regulate shade structures to prevent “tent cities.”


“We have gotten some complaints from people who live on the beach,” said Chuck Ellis, the city’s acting assistant city manager, saying four-sided canopies can be dangerous, as well as block the view to the ocean. “We are looking at our options.”


On a busy weekend, dozens of colorful umbrellas, camping tents and shade screens lined the beach. Sprinkled throughout were individual four-poster tents, including Carbon’s, which was propped only feet from the ocean near Johnson Street.


“How can you come to the beach with kids and not have shade,” she asked, adding she understands there may be a problem if they block the lifeguard stand. “Most people just to the beach to have a good time and not be bothered.”
The city is currently talking about restricting how many tents can be side by side, and where they can be placed on the beach.


“I don’t see why we have to have big tents on the sandy beach,” said Commissioner Linda Sherwood. “It ruins it for everyone else.”


Other municipalities, including Miami-Dade, Boca Raton and Dania Beach, restrict where the tents can be placed, said Jack Mathison, assistant director of parks, recreation and cultural arts. However, neighboring Hallandale Beach does not have any restrictions.


Nothing has been decided, but Ellis said the item will be on a city agenda in the near future.
Hollywood Beach Civic Association Vice President Frank De Risi said he supports restrictions for the tents, saying tents take up more space on the beach.


“Umbrellas are a better way of sharing the beach than tents,” said De Risi. And as for eating on the beach, even some city commissioners didn’t know about the decade-old prohibition.


Commissioner Heidi O’Sheehan was shocked to learn about the city ordinance. “I am embarrassed that we even have that on the books,” she said.

O’Sheehan said the city should not be telling people they can not eat on a public beach.

But the other commissioners said they were less worried about coolers filled with sandwiches and beverages than they were about barbecue grills and Sterno heaters.

If anyone wants to picnic, they are supposed to go to designated spots.

While Hollywood is not alone in having rules limiting where people can eat and drink — Fort Lauderdale also has an ordinance on the books — Dania Beach and Miami-Dade don’t have the same restrictions.

Carbon, who brought a blue cooler with juice boxes and water to the beach, called the ordinance “ridiculous.’’
“If they told me I couldn’t have [the cooler] they wouldn’t even get my money in the meter,” she said.

The city does not break out types of violations, but last year there were about 500 citations issued on the beach for everything from open container violations to skateboarding on the beach. Violating the beach ordinance comes with a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 for a second offense and $200 for the third time.
As to prohibiting drinking water on the beach: “It’s not something we enforce,” said city spokeswoman Raelin Storey.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/06/2577257/a-day-at-the-beach-is-no-picnic.html#storylink=cpy

Hollywood puts off Welcome Center plans

posted Jan 9, 2012, 8:26 PM by Freddy Suastegui

BY CARLI TEPROFF The Miami Herald 

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com

Citing the high cost of renting, Hollywood delays plans for Welcome Center.

Visitors to Hollywood Beach will have to find their way around the city without a welcome center, at least for a little while longer. 


Citing the high cost and a lengthy lease, Hollywood Commissioners — acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency board — on Wednesday voted to hold off on renting a building to serve a one-stop-shop for transportation offerings and vacation brochures.


“I just don’t see it being worth that,” said Commissioner Heidi O’Sheehan, of the $12,5000 a month rent. “If we think it’s that valuable I’d rather buy it.” 


Under the lease, the CRA would have paid about $1.1 million over seven years to rent the ½ acre property at 525 N. Ocean Dr. The building, which used to be a car rental agency, would cost more than $4 million to buy, CRA Director Jorge Camejo said.


Camejo told the board Wednesday that the spot would be visible to drivers on busy AIA. It would also show off Hollywood as a tourist-friendly city.


“It’s not just the building, it’s the location,” he said, adding that the layout is perfect because it has a relatively small building, more than 60 parking spots and a large surface area for the trolley.


Currently, the city only has a kiosk on the beach that offers information about water sports, local attractions and transportation options including the water taxi. The city’s trolley stop is located near Johnson Street, an area that will soon be under construction for the new Margaritaville Beach Resort.
Though several commissioners said they agreed the beach could use a

tourist center — and a spot to encourage the use of public transportation — several said seven years is a long time to commit to one location.


“I’d like to see other options,” said Commissioner Beam Furr, saying the most he would consider is a two-year lease.
But Vice Mayor Patricia Asseff said with all of the improvements on the beach including Margaritaville, the costs for prime property are only going to go up.


“This happens to be a very prominent spot,” said Asseff. “I think it has so much potential.”
In other news:


• The commission — acting as the CRA board — agreed to spend up to $130,000 to demolish the Mirador Motel at 901 S. Ocean Dr. The motel was built in 1955 and has long been abandoned. The owners of the property, GSK, sued the city in 2005, saying zoning changes had affected their rights to develop the property. Litigation is still pending, but commissioners said in the meanwhile the standing motel is an eyesore and needs to be torn down.
• Commissioners are still seeing bills from November’s major sewer pipe rupture on Taft Street. At Wednesday’s meeting, the commission approved a nearly $340,000 tab to Everglades Waste Removal Services for the environmental cleanup of the canal and surrounding neighborhood. Last month, the commission approved about $150,000 in expenses. Interim City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said there will be more bills that will come before the commission.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/04/2573825/hollywood-puts-off-welcome-center.html#storylink=cpy

Holocaust Center's longtime education director retires

posted Jan 9, 2012, 8:23 PM by Freddy Suastegui   [ updated Jan 9, 2012, 8:24 PM ]


By David A. Schwartz Florida Jewish Journal

9:19 a.m. EST, January 4, 2012

Merle Saferstein, director of educational outreach at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Hollywood, has touched the lives of survivors, students, staff and people in South Florida's Jewish community during her 26 years with the Center.

Saferstein, 67, retired at the end of December after planning and coordinating another successful Student Awareness Day, when about 900 high school students spent several hours with Holocaust survivors at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Last week, the North Miami Beach resident looked back on her more than a quarter century of work with the Center.

In the early 1990s, Saferstein said, the Center did "the only conference in the country on the treatment and care of the aging Holocaust survivor. It was an amazing conference."

In 1995, about 5,000 survivors gathered at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach in "villages" from the countries and major cities that they came from.

Soldiers carried flags from the units that liberated the concentration camps after World War II, she said. "It was very emotional."

About 1,000 survivors coming to the Broward Convention Center for the unveiling of an unrestored German rail car also was a significant event, she said.

"The biggest thing in this decade has been the rail car and its unveiling and the dedication of this building," Saferstein said.

But it was putting Holocaust survivors and students together during Student Awareness Days that was the most fulfilling part of her job, she said. "It's almost magical to see how students change right before their eyes."

Holocaust survivor Lisl Bogart of Delray Beach has participated in student events. She thanked Saferstein for "understanding and helping us, the survivors, bring our stories to the students."

"In every respect, she was just most helpful and accurate in everything she did," Bogart said.

Ralph Kingsley of Aventura, rabbi emeritus at Temple Sinai of North Dade who has known Saferstein for more than 30 years, called her a "delightful human being full of energy and ideas" who is dedicated to young people and to Holocaust survivors.

Kingsley said Saferstein related to children in a very special way. He praised her for her work with children at the synagogue and for her creation of the Holocaust Center's student awareness days. The event, he said, is "life-changing for the students."

Rita Hofrichter of Sunny Isles Beach has been at the Holocaust Center for 31 years and is coordinator of its documentation department. Hofrichter said she worked with Saferstein on documents and memorabilia and as chair of the Center's student awareness days.

"There's no question that she'll be missed," Hofrichter said of Saferstein. "It was her dream to write and pursue other interests. I'm glad for her that she can follow her dream," she said.

Saferstein said retirement will give her more time for morning walks on the beach and for writing.

She said she will write the novel she has been researching for years and a nonfiction book with excerpts from some of the more than 350 journals she has compiled.

She also plans to visit one Holocaust survivor every week.

"I'm really curious about their resilience. How did they pick up the pieces and start a new life?" she said. "I'm also curious about the loss that they suffered. They didn't have time to mourn."

Saferstein also wants to write a book about the old Hollywood Beach Hotel, with chapters from different time periods in the hotel's history.

But she isn't ruling out a project for the Holocaust Center.

"It all depends on where my writing goes," Saferstein said. "But I'm not closing any doors. It's hard to give up something that is touching lives in a significant way."


Merle Saferstein, director of educational outreach at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Hollywood, retired at the end of December after 26 years with the center. (Staff photo/Janeris Marte / December 30, 2011)


Hollywood seeks public input before altering voting districts

posted Jan 9, 2012, 8:21 PM by Freddy Suastegui

By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel

12:16 p.m. EST, January 9, 2012

HOLLYWOOD—

In a quest for public input, the city has extended its redistricting deadline until Wednesday and will hold a public meeting Tuesday evening.

A population increase of 1 percent — or 1,411 residents — is prompting the change in boundaries for two City Commission districts.

The public is invited to weigh in at a Tuesday meeting at City Hall, hosted by commissioners Beam Furr and Heidi O'Sheehan who represent Districts 2 and 3, respectively. The 6 p.m. meeting will be in Room 215.

District 2 primarily runs between Federal Highway and Interstate 95, east to west, and Sheridan Street and Pembroke Road, north to south.

District 3 lies between 26th and 56th avenues from east to west, and Sheridan Street and Hollywood Boulevard from north to south.

To learn more and make recommendations online, go to http://www.hollywoodfl.org. Below the "Hot Information" heading, click on the "redistricting" button to find an input form to fill out.

Hollywood Picks New City Manager

posted Jan 9, 2012, 8:19 PM by Freddy Suastegui   [ updated Jan 9, 2012, 8:20 PM ]

7:06 p.m. EST, January 6, 2012
HOLLYWOOD ——

Looking to hire a new manager who would help the city shed its recent history of financial problems and scandals, city leaders on Friday sought a fresh face.

At the age of 40, Doug Hewett had the freshest.

Hewett, most recently an assistant city manager in Fayetteville, N.C., topped out five other candidates vying to be Hollywood's top executive.

"He is a rising star. Is it risky to go with someone so young and who has never been a city manager?" asked Commissioner Heidi O'Sheehan. "Sometimes risks pays off and I think he is a perfect fit."

City officials will now start salary negotiations with Hewett before he is officially hired. If a deal can be hammered out, Hewett will replace former City Manager Cameron Benson, who was resigned under pressure in June under a storm of financial woes and controversy.

The six finalists on Friday took turns giving final power-point presentation on themselves in front of a room full of elected officials, city staffers and a handful of residents.

Hewett's energetic presentation on what he plans to do on the first 90 days on the job seem to have garnered the most attention and questions from city leaders.

Among the main questions for Hewett and immediate challenges: how to turn the city's finances around; how to fix the city's rocky relationship with the unions and how to combat blight in neighborhoods plagued with foreclosures.

But it was Commissioner Linda Sherwood who finally asked how such a young man will be able to solve the problems others much older and experienced have failed to fix.

"Unfortunately, there is a new normal we all have to live with. The resources are simply not there to do business as it was done before," Hewett answered. "My age allows me to be more adaptable and flexible to deal with that new normal."

Five of the seven commissioners selected Hewett as their top candidate. Most cited his youth and charisma as a main reason.

"He is a person who is coming with new ideas and it really seems like he wants to learn," said Commissioner Patty Asseff.

Mayor Peter Bober, who began his own political career at age 27 and who initiated efforts to oust Benson, said he sees beyond youthful exuberance.

"We have seen many slick people come to talk to us over the years," he said. "Doug Hewett spoke from the heart."

As an assistant city manager in North Carolina, Hewett oversaw the city's sanitation, transit and human relations departments. He has been with Fayetteville since 2004 and in city government since 1996, previously working as an assistant to the city manager in Wilmington, N.C.

In August, the city commission hired a private firm to help conduct the search for a new city manager. Benson, who made $205,000 a year, was dismissed after city leaders learned there was a $10.3 million budget shortfall last fiscal year.

ijrodriguez@tribune.com

Hollywood delays vote on raising beach parking rates

posted Dec 21, 2011, 9:19 AM by Freddy Suastegui

By Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel

7:38 p.m. EST, December 7, 2011

HOLLYWOOD—

It looks like free downtown street parking will come at the price of more expensive beach parking.

Commissioners on Wednesday postponed their vote but acknowledge that they would need to raise beach parking rates — by 50 cents or even $1.50 an hour — to cushion the loss of an estimated $1.4 million in revenue created by the freebies downtown.

On Dec. 1, the city began offering three hours of free street parking downtown as a means of enticing visitors to the area's struggling restaurants, bars and shops.

Because visitors already flock to the beach, the thought is that it can weather a cost increase.

Mayor Peter Bober acknowledged that beach rates must go up to create an offset while simultaneously defending the free-parking initiative: "The downtown has essentially become more friendly overnight."

Beach parking rates on the street are currently $1.50 an hour Monday through Thursday and $2 an hour Friday through Sunday. In the city's two beach garages at Johnson and Garfield streets, it costs $1.50 an hour to park.

Commissioners discussed increasing the fees by at least 50 cents an hour and up to $1.50 an hour as a means of bringing in $500,000 to $1.25 million.

Beach business owners are not averse to increased parking fees.

"Everybody who parks [on the street] who wants that front-row seat needs to pay the premium," said Debra Case, owner of beachside Ocean Alley Restaurant and president of the Hollywood Beach Business Association.

Case proposed increasing street rates to $3 an hour during the day and $2 at night, and charging $2 an hour to park in the under-utilized garages.

Before opting to postpone their vote until a later date, commissioners discussed everything from upping the downtown garage rate from $1 an hour to setting seasonal beach parking rates — $2 an hour on the street and $2.50 an hour in the garages from May 1 to Oct. 31 and then increasing those rates by 50 cents an hour from Nov. 1 to April 30

As of Dec. 1, downtown street parking went from $1 an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to three free hours.

And the downtown parking garages — at 250 N. 19th Ave. and 251 S. 20th Ave. — went from the first two hours free to $1 an hour around the clock.

tealanez@tribune.com or 954-356-4542

Hollywood water tank picked to be calendar model

posted Dec 21, 2011, 9:17 AM by Freddy Suastegui

BY CARLI TEPROFF The Miami Herald

With her long lean legs and new coat of paint, the Hollywood water tower beat out 150 challengers to grace a national calendar.


   After a $680,000 makeover, the Hollywood water tower was chosen to be the cover of a national calendar.
After a $680,000 makeover, the Hollywood water tower was chosen to be the cover of a national calendar.
Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald staff

BY CARLI TEPROFF

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com

Standing tall, lean and flaunting a new makeover, a Hollywood native will soon grace the cover of a national calendar.

But the calendar pinup is no Marilyn Monroe.

It’s the newly refurbished Hollywood water tank, selected as Tank of the Year by Tnemec, a paint company.

The tower — which was redone earlier this year and given a clock and temperature reader that have yet to work properly — was selected because of its vibrant colors.

The honor comes with a glossy appearance in the company’s annual calendar.

“Hollywood’s water tank definitely stood out,” said Mark Thomas, vice president of marketing for Tnemec. “It’s a landmark for the community.’’

The paint company has been selecting its top tower since 2006.

Most of the tanks are plain with stenciled letters, Thomas said. But this year Hollywood’s tank was selected out of 150 submissions because of the vibrant turtles and fish painted on it.

Every 10 years, the city is responsible for fixing up the inside and outside of the tower, located west of Interstate 95 at Sheridan Street. The $680,000 makeover began in August 2010 and included the paint job and adding a digital time and temperature feature.

But since the tower made its debut in May, there have been problems with the readings: Electrical outages often knock the display out, and even when it is working, the two screens often give varying temperatures. That’s because when one reader is in the sun, the other is typically in the shade.

Hollywood resident William Sutton has often complained to the city about the faulty readings, but when he was told about the magazine cover honors, he found it something to laugh over.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Sutton said. “To me it’s a joke that this is what’s going to represent us.”

City leaders have taken heat from residents about spending money on the tower after learning Hollywood was facing a $38 million gap.

“There’s been a lot of controversy and had we known then what we now about the city’s finances, I am sure we would have handled it differently,” Mayor Peter Bober said. “But that tower was a rusting piece of junk and it’s the city’s public face to the world.”

However, money spent on the tower came entirely from user fees, and not the city’s general fund.

Interim City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said fixing the tower was a necessary expense. “It’s not just a necessary restoration of the water tower,” she said. “It’s an announcement of Hollywood as a tourist destination.”

She added that the city has not paid for the faulty clock, and the company is now installing a new mechanism at its own cost.

Of the calendar honor, Swanson-Rivenbark said it’s exciting. “I think it further affirms the strong design that was selected and the manner in which the work was done,” she said.



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/26/2520142/hollywood-water-tank-picked-to.html#ixzz1gdrDKX20

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