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Bob Auwaerter headed back to the Indian River Shores Town Council

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of September 23, 2021)
Photo: Bob Auwaerter at the Indian River Shores Town Council.

With attorney Tom Tamoney removing his application from consideration, the Indian River Shores goes into its Thursday afternoon meeting to select a new councilmember to replace John McCord with only one applicant – former vice mayor Bob Auwaerter.

Auwaerter served on council from 2016 to 2020 but did not run for re-election as his focus was competing in the Republican primary for a Board of County Commissioners seat, which was ultimately won by former Vero mayor Laura Moss.

Tamoney was encouraged by his longtime friend, School Board member and former Shores mayor Brian Barefoot, to get involved in Tamoney’s new hometown of three years, but Barefoot said he did not know the John’s Island resident had applied for the council seat until after he turned in his paperwork.

Barefoot had unofficially agreed to support Auwaerter, so the situation put him in a tight spot.

Auwaerter, an Ocean Colony resident, had served on and even chaired the City of Vero Beach Utilities Commission as the town’s representative. He has been a key player in the town’s utility dispute with Vero Beach and is considered to be the one of the most knowledgeable people about the issues surrounding the town’s two pending lawsuits against the City of Vero Beach – a breach of contract suit in state court and an antitrust suit in federal court.

In the recently filed federal court case, the Shores takes aim at Vero’s claim to a permanent water-sewer service territory, which the Shores argues violates federal antitrust law.

The council is scheduled to meet at 3:15 p.m. today (Sept. 26) to discuss Auwaerter’s appointment, prior to the regular town council meeting at 3:30 p.m. and the town’s final budget hearing which by Florida Statute must be held after 5 p.m.

Also at that meeting, the council is expected to discuss the town’s next steps in the utility dispute, which would launch a state-mandated conflict resolution process designed to encourage the parties to settle out of court and save the taxpayers money on legal fees.

“It’s unfortunate that we got to this point. It’s like déjà vu all over again in the electric utility fight. The irony of that (the electric sale) is that it worked out better for everyone, for the whole community,” Auwaerter said on Monday, adding that, should he be appointed, he’s eager to get to work.

Assuming Auwaerter is appointed, the town council will no longer have a three-vote majority of members who reside in John’s Island. Historically, at least three members of the Shores council have been John’s Island residents almost every year of the past couple of decades.