Yacht company out, consultant in
By Sarah Stover
SINGER ISLAND - Yacht maker Rybovich and Sons stunned the Riviera Beach City Council last Wednesday night, when the company announced it was pulling the plug on its plans to build a facility on 20th Street and Broadway.
The announcement came in a letter written by Carlos Vidueira, vice president of West Palm Beach-based Rybovich. Wayne Richards, an attorney who represents Rybovich, read it to councilors at the beginning of the meeting.
The letter cited "uncertainty about the future business climate" of Riviera Beach as the reason the company was withdrawing its proposed plan.
At the previous council meeting on Aug. 2, council members wanted Wayne Huizenga Jr., who bought Rybovich in 2004, to offer at least 60 jobs to residents of Riviera Beach.
Mr. Vidueria stated not enough qualified applicants could not be found in Riviera Beach. That apparently was the deal breaker.
However, some residents speculated that the city's deal with Bernard Kinsey, a consultant known for his work redeveloping areas in California, drove Rybovich away.
"It was Floyd Johnson who brought Rybovich to the table, then Kinsey arrived and magically Rybovich is out," said Fane Lozman, a Riviera Beach resident. Mr. Johnson is executive director of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.
With Rybovich pulling out, Mr. Lozman fears other companies will not want to come to Riviera Beach.
"If Huizenga got scared, other companies are not going to want to come here," he said.
Mr. Kinsey was at the meeting for a later discussion about his contract. He responded to Mr. Lozman's suggestion that Rybovich pulled out because of him.
"Let's talk about Rybovich. I don't know why they came in today and did what they did. Bill Wilkins, Floyd Johnson and I were more surprised than anybody when they came in today," Mr. Kinsey said.
He echoed the company's claims that the unstable business climate was the reason for the withdrawal.
"I think the reason Rybovich and Viking have concerns is because they have problems with consistency here. No developer wants to wonder who they're dealing with," Mr. Kinsey said.
Viking Harbor Inlet is master developer for the redevelopment project.
Councilman Jim Jackson, who represents Singer Island, does not believe Rybovich is completely out of the picture yet.
"(Mr. Huizenga's) not going anywhere in my opinion," Mr. Jackson said.
He thinks after time passes and people cool down, another plan might come before the council since Mr. Huizenga still owns the land.
Mayor Brown agreed.
"How ironic would it be that Mr. Huizenga Jr., wrote checks to those people for five times what their property was worth and he'd be unwilling to participate in creating job training for future employees of his business, which would help the value increase?" Mayor Brown asked.
The mayor was referring to the payout that Rybovich offered residents for their property.
Another big item on the agenda was discussing Mr. Kinsey's contract. His original contract, which began in May, was set up for six months. Mr. Kinsey wanted it in his contract that the council and CRA board, which is one and the same, would decide four months into it whether they wanted to continue it or not.
Even if they did not want to continue, they would still pay Mr. Kinsey for two more months of work. However, the vote was 3 to 2, in favor of extending Mr. Kinsey's contract for another six months with Councilwoman Liz Wade and Chairwoman Ann Iles dissenting.
Most residents at the meeting were either against the city using Mr. Kinsey's services or wanted the contract rewritten.
"There are (chief executive officers) that live in Palm Beach who would be happy to give back to the community and they wouldn't ask for $3,000 a day. The council has a duty not to squander tax dollars," Mr. Lozman said.
Resident Bonnie Larson presented bills turned into the city from Mr. Kinsey.
She pointed out an example of an error with the billing system. One bill was an estimate for a rental car while the other was the actual price Mr. Kinsey paid for the rental car. Riviera Beach was charged for the estimated bill, Ms. Larson said.
She asked for his contract to be renegotiated.
"This was the most horrendous contract I've ever read. I see nothing of substance for what we have spent," Ms. Larson said.
Long-time activist and Singer Island resident Martha Babson spoke as well.
"If (council) wants to keep Mr. Kinsey, let's not be spread out on a cross doing it," she said.
Mr. Kinsey likened the current situation in Riviera Beach to the Miami Dolphins hiring quarterback Daunte Culpepper and asking him to take them to the Super Bowl, but two people work every day to keep him from doing that.
"I have never in my professional career have had to deal with this foolishness," Mr. Kinsey said.
Councilwomen Wade and Iles, who Mr. Kinsey indirectly referred to as detractors, responded to his comments.
Ms. Wade expressed her concern about the contract, pointing out that it states Mr. Kinsey is to report to the CRA board, on which she sits.
"I've received nothing. I have not been privy to any plan," Ms. Wade said.
"I'm not against Mr. Kinsey as a person, or as a business person, I'm against the contract," she said.
She spoke of knowing Mr. Kinsey and his family when she was growing up and stated that if he were the same man she knew, he would not accept the contract.
"For 12 months, this contract is going to be a quarter of a million dollars. I applaud Mr. Kinsey if he can get three people up here to agree to this," Ms. Wade said.
Ms. Iles echoed Ms. Wade's concerns.
"I'm a little disenchanted that I could be called a detractor. I have not been working everyday to undermine this contract," Ms. Iles said.
She believes the current contract is "dumb," especially with regard to an indemnification clause, which says the city will pay for any costs incurred by Mr. Kinsey if he makes a mistake.
"I believe he is working in earnest to do what he was hired to do with Viking and the Ocean Mall. I never questioned Mr. Kinsey's capabilities, but I will fight him on every turn because this contract is not beneficial to the community," Ms. Iles said.
Mr. Jackson voted in favor of extending Mr. Kinsey's contract.
"He's doing a good job. He's already cut down the number of consultants, which is a good start, and he's working on Viking and the Ocean Mall, and I think he's doing just wonderful," Mr. Jackson said.
Mayor Michael Brown, who cannot vote on council matters, said Mr. Kinsey is doing a good job and has accomplished a lot since he started working with the city.
"The first thing he did was coordinate meaningful meetings with Viking. He set deadlines. He has drastically reduced the number of consultants being paid by the CRA almost down to zero," Mayor Brown said.
Before Mr. Kinsey's arrival, two lawyers, one business adviser, one financial adviser, multiple consultants from PSA, in addition to CRA director Mr. Johnson and town manager Bill Wilkins, were consultants for the CRA, with no development or agreement in sight, he said.