Voters approve $150 million to fix Palm Bay roads

Palm Bay city councilmen to lead charge

By Rick Neale of Florida Today

PALM BAY, Fla. - Palm Bay City Councilman Jeff Bailey, a vocal critic of City Hall administration, and popular 27-year-old political newcomer Kenny Johnson claimed decisive victories on Election Night.

Simultaneously, Palm Bay voters overwhelmingly assigned them a major task: to upgrade the sprawling city's aging roads to the tune of up to $150 million in repair work, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Bailey won a second straight four-year term after defeating Seat 5 challenger Aaron Parr, winning 56 percent of the vote, unofficial election results show. Johnson handily won the Seat 4 race, defeating Thomas Gaume with more than 58 percent of the vote.

"I was excited and ecstatic. Just so many feelings and emotions, I was really overwhelmed. But the victory was bigger than myself. It was a victory for everyone in the city of Palm Bay," Johnson said during his election party at Comfort Suites Palm Bay-Melbourne.

City voters overwhelmingly approved the up-to-$150 million road improvement bond — which will be financially backed by property taxes — by a 2-to-1 margin.

General Development Corp. stopped construction and filed for bankruptcy in 1990, and the city assumed maintenance responsibility for most GDC roads in 1992. Since then, voters have rejected a variety of bonds and assessments for road repairs.

As of about 2010, Palm Bay had 357 miles of roads requiring costly reconstruction and 167 miles of roads that needed repair work.

"The road bond has passed, and the taxpayers are entrusting us with a $150 million bond. And it's our responsibility to be fiscally responsible with that money and make sure we repair our infrastructure accordingly," Johnson said.

Palm Bay has seen recent scandals erupt over its now-disbanded Homes for Warriors program, FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation of City Hall activities, stormwater assessment hikes that tripled rates for some residents and a public feud pitting Mayor William Capote against City Manager Gregg Lynk. 

Deputy Mayor Tres Holton, who supports the City Hall administration, was defeated in the August primary election. Johnson will assume his place on the council.

"I just want to look to improve the culture for all the workers in the city," Bailey said during his election party at Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Palm Bay.

Asked how he plans to improve the City Hall culture, Bailey replied, "I think we have to wait to see what the new council does when we get together."

Bailey did not elaborate further.

Asked about the administration, Johnson said council members need to examine each City Hall department to make sure they are following City Council's vision for Palm Bay.

Gaume, who watched the election results from his home, called Johnson and congratulated him on his win.

"I hope he does everything that he claimed he was going to do in his campaign," Gaume said.

"I'm really excited because everything that I wanted to do has pretty well been put into motion or has already been accomplished. One of my main things I wanted to do was the road bond, and the road bond passed. We just need to keep an eye on our City Council to make sure that money's properly spent."

Bailey concurred.

"I thought it was premature to have a bond of this size without having a maintenance fund first. But the citizens have given it to us," Bailey said.

"So I'm going to continue to fight to make sure we have a maintenance fund to take care of it, and watch to make sure every penny of that is spent on the right thing in an efficient manner," Bailey said.

"I'm going to be watching that thing like a hawk," he said. 

Parr said he called Bailey to congratulate him on his victory.

"I do want to give kudos to my opponent, Jeff Bailey. He did win. Definitely. At the same time, kept it clean. I appreciate that — says a lot about his character," said Parr, who watched the election results from his campaign treasurer's Palm Bay home.

"I look forward to continuing to be a part of Palm Bay. I'm not going anywhere. I've said it plenty of times: I love Palm Bay. And I'm here, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that Palm Bay gets where it needs to be."

Of Palm Bay's 76,123 registered voters who were eligible to cast ballots Tuesday, 28,319 were Democrats, 24,836 were Republicans, 22,112 had no party affiliation, and 856 were affiliated with minor parties.

 

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