Chairman Davis & County Council,
Since I sent my first email about the almost $84,000.00 for the four life guard “Junior” towers, I have received more information. My initial objection was based primarily on the fact that this was not being done through a public open bid process, plus the $84,000.00 cost. The more information that I have received now, the greater my objections have grown. I fear this is just a luxury that the County will be using as a talking point to say the Volusia Council is spending money to increase beach safety. By digging into the facts further; I suggest safety would actually be reduced by this $84,000 expenditure.
First of all, what are the taxpayers actually getting for $84,000? Two towers are portable with framing and wheels and two are not portable but mounted on a fixed frame. What is the size of the junior model? The interior floor base is 4 foot by 4 foot. Mark off that size on your kitchen floor. Now block off one side for the built in fiberglass bench with no cushions. The standard width for an uncomfortable chair seat is about 16 inches, so block out that space. Use one of the front corners to block off additional space for a built in lockable cabinet. Now you have the standing space for the interior. The height is about 7 feet. So now you have space for one small sized young adult.
Now we need to de-bunk some of the other stories about the “juniors”.
1. They will be portable. Only two of the four are being purchased with wheels. Has anyone at County staff determined if they can be pulled with the new smaller four wheelers? Will we need to get the big pickup trucks back on the beach to pull these around? The pickups were replaced with the smaller units for beachgoers safety. That question needs to be answered first.
2. Two with no wheel frame. How will those two be moved around? Has the County decided on a fixed location for those two already?
3. They will last longer. I looked hard but could not find any warranty information on the “juniors”. Council needs to ask if there is a warranty. The stainless steel parts will last a long time, but the wheels and running frame are made of galvanized steel. That part will corrode fast is the salt and the sand. Anyone who owns a boat can tell you what happens to fiberglass in the Florida heat and sun if it is not regularly maintained by treating or waxing.
4. There will be greater vision. The standard frame height is 6 feet. I am assuming that was the height in the quotation. The current movable wooden lifeguard stands appear to be closer to 8 feet tall. How does lowering the life guard tower provide greater vision?
5. We will replace the $180,000 large towers? WHAT? The taxpayers spend $180,000 on some rough wood large towers? That is a little more than I spent on my large lot and 2,300 square foot home in a nice neighborhood in Port Orange! How can you replace the large life guard towers with a portable “junior” that can only fit one small young adult? The assumed base height is only 6 feet. Compare 6 feet to how tall the larger towers are now. Council needs to ask the question; how many existing like guard stations are only 4 foot by 4 foot?
6. They will be used by the sheriff’s staff and be able to store items there. Not very much will be stored in those small lockable cabinets.
7. We can bring electricity to the “juniors”. How will we do that? None of the literature mentions electricity. Could we even pass the building codes if the “juniors” were put in a fixed location and we tried to bring electricity to them? These are simple questions but they must be asked first.
Now for what I think is the most important question that the taxpayers and County Council should be asking. What is the end goal for this first purchase of four “junior” towers? Obviously the first four towers cannot be used for all of the purposed that have been used so far to explain their purchase. Is it to “grandfather” in the idea that these towers can be used as a “sole source” and therefore County Council will no longer need to be consulted on future purchases? Is there a plan to purchase a lot more of these? How much money are we talking about for future purchases? Will these four towers become white elephants as a result of realizing some of the inherent issues that I have brought up?
I urge County Council to vote no on item 26. Vote to send the request back to staff until all of these questions can be answered and when the item comes back on the agenda with the answers, vote no again because it is an expensive luxury that will not provide for any safer beaches that our current life guard towers. I even question the idea that they may look prettier and last longer. If we need safer beaches, convert the money spent on this item to more life guards on the beach.
Mark Schaefer Precinct 709 3606 Donna Street Port Orange, Florida 32129 386-316-1206