PORT ST. LUCIE — Plans to create a public monument at the Civic Center in memory of victims of the Sept, 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York have been scrapped.
"As it stands right now, it's not going forward," Mayor JoAnn Faiella said Tuesday.
Councilman Jack Kelly has been attempting to arrange bringing a 30-foot beam of steel from the World Trade Center to Port St. Lucie, but after a lengthy argument late Monday, some council members nixed his plans.
When he brought up the idea at the end of Monday's council meeting, councilwomen Michelle Berger and Shannon Martin criticized him and city staff for not putting a formal discussion on the agenda about it.
A roughly 30-minute argument followed, during which Berger accused city staff and Kelly of violating the city charter by not following procedure as it defines.
Berger, Martin and Vice Mayor Linda Bartz said they knew nothing about the project and needed more information, including the logistics and the cost. Kelly and Faiella wanted to go forward.
"I want to have some 911 memorabilia here," said Faiella, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. "We have a lot of New Yorkers here, and they want to see some kind of monument here of 911. Let's bring it in, and then we can have a meeting to discuss the architectural design for it. "Kelly had little to say Tuesday.
"It was a last-minute request. Nobody likes last-minute requests, and unfortunately, it was turned down," he said, declining to discuss the decision further.
He said he worked out an arrangement with The 9/11 First Responders of the Treasure Coast, which is organizing transporting the steel to the Treasure Coast for memorials in Martin County and Port St. Lucie. The non-profit group was founded by Dennis McKenna in 2009, a federal agent for the U.S. Department of Justice during the 911 attacks. McKenna said the group's mission is to never let anyone forget the tragedy of Sept. 11.
Berger said Monday night she felt "out of the loop" on the plan for a memorial.
Kelly said the steel would be arriving from New York quickly and that he brought it up to see if City Manager Jerry Bentrott needed permission from the council to move forward.
The steel is being loaded on a truck with the Martin County pieces on July 27 at no cost to Port St. Lucie. If the city doesn't move fast on a decision, it will have to pay to bring in the steel itself, Bentrott said.
Martin County commissioners Patrick Hayes, Ed Ciampi and Sarah Heard agreed Tuesday to sign for structural steel from the World Trade Center so the steel could be used in memorials in Hobe Sound, Palm City and Tropical Farms.
McKenna said Tuesday he thought Kelly got so caught up in the excitement and emotion of getting the steel, that he failed to let the other council members know about it. He said he plans a formal presentation to the council at its July 25 meeting in which he will explain what the project entails, the cost, as well as other details. He said he understood the council's decision.
"Personally, I would have acted a little different and said let's get the steel and see how we're going to do it, but they were put on the spot (Monday) night that they had to make a decision right then and there," McKenna said. "Their backs were up against the wall."
He said he's optimistic the council will accept the steel once he explains the details.
McKenna said steel from the World Trade Center has been distributed to various states, and no more is available. He said this would be a rare opportunity for Port St. Lucie to acquire the steel. He said he has five pieces, two of which are going to Martin County, two to the 9/11 First Responders and one to Port St. Lucie. Eventually, he said, a book will be distributed detailing the location of all the pieces of steel.
"So, I think Port St. Lucie would like to be in that because Port St. Lucie is built up with a lot of New Yorkers and people from New Jersey," he said.
Martin said Monday she heard about the project last week but thought there'd be a discussion at a later date.
"I would think that something of this importance should have gotten a phone call, an e-mail, a walk down the hall from staff, Mr. Bentrott, Mr. Orr (city attorney) because this is a big deal," Martin said during the meeting.
Bentrott said by the time he heard about it on Friday the agenda had been set and he had been in meetings all day Monday and therefore did not have time to contact council members.
Kelly said it was his understanding the council had spoken about it once before.
"Again, the process has not been violated," Kelly said Monday night. "Staff is not going forward. If you don't want to do it, fine."
Berger noted the city already had a structure from the World Trade Center at Digital Domain Park. She accused staff and Kelly of not following procedure as set out in the City Charter.
"I'm disappointed to think now that we have a seasoned councilman who might also be going in the route of varying from charter and that staff may have forgotten
what charter is. It is to make sure we do not have a strong mayor form of government or a strong council form of government," Berger said Monday night. The idea here is that it's a council-city (manager) form of government where conversations happen, discussions happen. As soon as we start to say that my plans, that my opinions matter more than the other four then you need to put a referendum out there to change our form of government."
Kelly responded: "You are out of line Councilwoman Berger. You are making accusations here that are completely out of line."
To which Berger responded: "No, I'm not sir. This is our responsibility to maintain charter."