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COLUMN

Council Watch

Billy Manes paying attention to local government so you don't have to

Item: The city approves AcariaHealth Pharmacy Inc. for a qualified target industry tax refund resolution.

Translation:But what if life isn’t quite so rosy that landscaping will make it all better? Maybe you need a magic pill? AcariaHealth is one of those new “pharmacy solutions” outfits for people with “complex diseases” that puts its “patients first,” etc. After just one year in operation, the company is already playing the “we need to expand, but we’re just not sure if Orlando is the right place” bluff that often spurs the city – with substantial help from state tax incentives – to throw huge amounts of cash around in the name of creating jobs. In this case, AcariaHealth will expand to a 20,000-square-foot headquarters in the Lee Vista area and, as is written into the deal, will promise to create 80 new jobs averaging a $47,000 annual wage. The city’s match is $80,000, with the state kicking in an additional $320,000 over three years. So, effectively, AcariaHealth will get $400,000 of its $600,000 build-out covered by taxpayer money. Not too much complexity in this solution, then.

Item: The city approves the first amendment to an agreement between the city and CBS Outdoor Inc.

Translation:And, once again, it’s all about appearances in the City Beautiful. Last summer, the city struck a deal with billboard kingpins CBS Outdoor that would allow the company to erect one “static” billboard on I-4 in exchange for the removal of four undesirable “exchange” billboards throughout the city by March 1. Surprise! CBS has only managed to construct its static billboard; the removal of the older billboards ran into a hitch with the Florida Department of Transportation involving “vegetation removal.” CBS will now have 45 additional days to remove the old billboards and whatever vegetation they imply.

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