City of Stuart
Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be.
There is lot’s to do!
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April 5th Newsletter Correction: on the cover I used the word “but” for “butte.” Thanks, Mary Kriske, for pointing that out.
REPORT FROM THE TAXPAYERS
The Martin County Taxpayers Association published a paper on its website concerning moving the County’s Public Works and Parks facilities from its current location near the Fair Grounds. After exhaustive research by County staff, it was concluded that the best location of the available properties for sale would be at Pineland Prairie.
A few months ago, the Commission voted to have staff work on both those departments being relocated there. I am anticipating the details being fleshed out and brought to the Commission for a vote in the next 6 months. Even if everything is agreed, the move won’t be completed for several years.
As soon as the move is complete, Martin County needs to sell their current sites so that those valuable parcels are on the tax rolls. The same holds true for the Fair Ground’s property as soon as that move is complete. The price for this real estate should go a long way toward paying for relocation of those departments.
With the completion of both this and the golf course report last year, MCTA is providing a valuable service to all the County. The organization both researched and interviewed County staff in ascertaining whether the move would be beneficial.
To read the short report:
GOVERNOR DESANTIS’ ORDERS CLARIFIED
Some readers thought that I was too hard on the Governor DeSantis’ orders issued right before the last newsletter came out.
I don’t think I was hard enough. A day after issuing those orders, DeSantis’ office put out a statement offering clarification. Ask any city or county attorney who must craft policy, and the best they would say is that these orders are challenging.
Local government and the people of the state are owed more than contradictory statements, orders, and policy. In an effort not to offend anyone, DeSantis has allowed counties and cities to do the heavy lifting. For instance, his executive orders have closed golf courses and boat ramps to Martin County’s south. Yet by not doing it across the state, we were inundated by golfers and boaters from Palm Beach and Broward Counties making us less safe.
I am an advocate for local control, but there are some things like the response to COVID-19 that demand a national and statewide coordinated effort. Artificial geographical borders don’t stop the spread of the virus. Let the counties and cities decide whether to have vacation rentals within their jurisdictions, but Washington and Tallahassee need to take the lead for pandemics. Currently, it is the other way around.
The orders and clarification can be found below:
We keep pushing the wrong-headed idea that the nation is in a war with the coronavirus. I guess we do it because it stirs something in our martial memories of rising to defeat an enemy on the battlefield. There are no battlefields in this so-called war unless you consider hospitals as such rather than as aid stations to those stricken.
War time conjures up a nation making shared sacrifices to win. If you call the battle over toilet paper and paper towels an epic struggle, I suppose you are right. Economically, we are being stressed to our limits. In a battle for life, money should come second. But what if all this shut down was not needed at all?
Because of the absence of adequate testing here and in Europe, perhaps a manageable crisis became a pandemic resulting in this economic catastrophe. If we had had the capabilities to test enough of us, whether we were sick or not, could this had been avoided? An article I read citing a German study stated that as many as 26 million Americans had COVID-19. While current mortality rates are showing 3 or 4%, if that study is true, the mortality rates drop to .1 to .2%.
There is no mistaking that in some places such as New York, the virus has been devastating. And this virus should not be compared to the seasonal flu. Yet, if we had had adequate testing, a panicky pandemic may have been a manageable though still severe health emergency.
We will never know because our government was ill prepared. All the finger pointing, and blame doesn’t help. The trillions of dollars that the government either taxes or borrows for their budgets didn’t buy the American people any knowledge or protection. Here is the difference between responsible government and useless government. Many Americans may have died, and exponentially more were economically devastated for lack of knowledge. We deserve better.
MCTV A WASTED COUNTY RESOURCE
In the last newsletter, I wrote how Martin County Television is not being used to its potential.
Sure, it televises the County Commission Meetings, School Board, and County LPA but what about Indiantown, Jupiter Island and Stuart. I am happy that there are now daily updates regarding COVID-19 in the County. However, we are not even touching the surface. Facebook, the County website and YouTube are fine, but TV reaches almost everyone…especially residents like me who don’t rely on the internet for all our news and information.
Those daily 3-minute updates offer good advice. Imagine if there could be a half hour call in show with a different guest each day to explain how the Health Department, the United Way or Cleveland Clinic was handling the pandemic. Could the Sheriff have a 15-minute broadcast to update us and then take questions from the public. There could be the municipal manager’s update. There doesn’t need to be slick production values only basic videos giving the citizens information.
Transparency at the municipal level demands that we have live broadcasts of meetings. To do that, MCTV would need to attend those meetings. I understand it would require some expense. The General Fund that all County taxpayers pay into supports the channel and more funding would be needed. Money that would be well spent.
I believe we should demand that this service really be used County wide. News, meetings, and updates should be shown. Don’t let an important asset go to waste.
To read more:
A reader, Marcie Regan, sent me a website known as www.visualcapitalist.com
It is different charts that shows information in interesting ways.
The first is one on how wealth is distributed between the middle class and the top 1%:
The second chart shows which states have the highest population of seniors, and Florida does not come in first:
I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to
Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.
Our first email is from Tisha Burdick who thought I treated the governor unfairly:
I’m not sure you and I agree politically. I would like to know how my name made it to your list. I am extremely supportive of our governor, DeSantis, our senators Scott & Rubio, and we love our representative Brian Mast. I will tell you Thomas, the problems in Stuart are with our council. They’re turning us into another rambling city, tearing out so many more of last natural areas in our community, removing our historical icons, and frankly I believe they’re lining their own pockets. If you give a damn about Stuart, you need to start at the local level where the real damage is being done.
My answer to her:
I call it like I see it.
I applauded the governor for his environmental record as I do Mr. Mast.
If I do not think the governor, congressman or senators are right, I will say so. We shouldn’t pull punches because an elected official belongs to a particular political party. Parties are not sports teams where we root for ours no matter what.
As to Stuart’s Commission, I don’t believe I gave them glowing reviews for their April 3rd meeting. I wrote the meeting was like the play “Waiting for Godot.” The meeting was all about nothing. When Stuart, the County, any particular municipal official or anyone else does something I think is right I will say so. When they do something, I disagree with I will also say so.
Here is an email from Chappy Young:
I AM INSPIRED, AND WHEN YOU READ THIS, YOU WILL BE TOO.
This happened this day, Tuesday, April 07, 2020. True story.
One my very best friends is a farmer. I have always had a special place in my heart for John and his whole family. For as long as I have known him he has always provided portions of his harvest to charities, food banks, churches, etc. He has always given to others, and our family, fresh corn and potatoes, even when the weather and/or market prices almost took him down. He has given literally tons of fresh produce to the needy, and some of us that are not so needy. He has given me excess produce to share with my friends and strangers, as if it was mine to give away. So after experiencing his generosity for over a decade, I was not too surprised when crates of groceries showed up on our doorstep during this pandemic. Enough so much, that we FedX packages to our daughter in Tennessee to have and share with her friends. He even has given us enough to share with my company staff and other close friends. God bless John!
But john wasn’t what motivated me to pen this message. You see, today I was about to leave my office around 2 pm when my wife Bev called. She had snuck into her office to take care of a few necessary duties. No one else was in the office. She is a office manager for several offices for a major Florida law firm, even though their management required all to continue their work from home, as a result of this Covid-19 outbreak throughout Florida and the nation. One of the firms partners realized she was there and requested that she print several documents and FedX them out today. No problem! Her call to me was to see if I could bring her something to eat for lunch. Again, no problem!
So, I’m in the “long” takeout line at our local Mc Donald’s waiting to order, then to pay. As soon as I got up to the cashier to pay I was asked, “did you order …….?” My answer was YES, what’s wrong?
HERE’S THE KICKER: he said “the little lady in the white midsize car in front of you paid for your meals”. I was speechless! Finally I blurted out the drivers window “THANK YOU” and she waived as she picked up her order and drove away.
I called my wife as I drove out of Micky Ds and when I told her what happened, she she teared up with gleeful thanks. Understand, I was driving a 2020 vehicle and couldn’t have appeared needy. This lady just wanted to cheer me up in this grave time of uncertainty.
TALK ABOUT INSPIRATION! My wife and I instantly decided that we too would unexpectedly share what we have and do the same for others. If you have the means, I challenge you, the reader, to do the same. You will not regret it! This was this lady’s way of demonstrating that we are truly
ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!
Smoke signaled from my mobile device,
Jim Dragseth writes about a tax increase:
The sales tax to buy land is on the back burner but will resurface. I understand the proponents want land to support CERP. Have the proponent’s id’d and priced specific parcels for this action.
Much like many things this tax increase has been blown out of proportion.
Heard said during Commissioner comments that she wanted to have an agenda item to discuss a sales tax to buy land to complete CERP. No other Commissioner spoke enthusiastically or in favor of this moving forward. As a Commissioner she has a right to have something placed on the agenda.
I think many people including the Stuart News and MCTA jumped to the supposition that a referendum was a certainly instead of a distant probability.
If it had occurred it would have been a brief discussion item at a Commission meeting. I believe that Ciampi summed it up by saying that the voters had rejected an increase in sales tax and there was no inclination to bring it back.
Heard has subsequently withdrawn her request because of the financial situation brought on by the pandemic.
Another rumor was that it was to buy lands outside of the County. Heard stated twice that it was not to be used to acquire any property not within Martin County. There was no public mention of any particular properties that were to be acquired if the tax increase went into effect.
It could have been a good discussion to have. What is the County’s position on continuing to make sure that the Feds and state go through with their promises on our water quality. What is our role as a County in helping accomplish that.
After listening to the arguments pro and con the people could have made a decision based on fact. With citizens knee jerk reaction to almost everything today, we are deprived of having a rational decision making process. We are caught in the “we need to do anything that anyone wants for the environment” faction and those that are automatically opposed to anytime the word tax is uttered.
In my opinion if the Commission discussion had taken place, there would have been no referendum on the additional sales tax.
And Jim Again:
Thank you Tom.
Maybe a sales tax can serve a public purpose.
My interest remains,
What / which specific parcels are required for CERP completion.
There is then no room for rumor.
Maybe our SFWMD representative could tighten this up for discussion.
This brush continues to be too broad.
From Bill Watson regarding Palm City:
I see all towns represented except Palm City?
Palm City doesn’t have its own government. It is part of unincorporated Martin County. The County Commission has sole jurisdiction. The newsletter reports on Martin County governments.
And lastly from Chuck Winn:
Tom, I read a clarification on a government website, unsure of which one, that seniors are in deed authorized to go to stores for food and essential services. Unfortunately, it appears that many of the cognitively less-gifted seem to think that seniors are more prone to pass it on. Stay safe, Chuck
Thank. It came out after I put the newsletter to bed…
My wife’s a big fan of yours. We both enjoyed your item of the perception about dispensing regal favors during public comment.
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 7, 2020
It is funny how fast we adapt to a new normal. The Blake Library meeting with the spread-out Commissioners and reduced staff is what I have grown to accept. It is a meeting but not as conducive as one held in the chamber. Life in the “Time of Corona.”
WHY IS IT EVEN AN ISSUE?
Like so many businesses, the travelling carnival has been shut down due to COVID-19. Unlike other businesses, the word travelling means the carnival brings its employees with them as well as their equipment. Which then requires a place to park their equipment when not in use. That also means their employees need a place to park their travelling homes when not on the road.
The Deggeller family is based in Stuart. They have been in the business of county fairs and amusement rides for 3 generations. As a community, we need to support this business as much as possible.
I most often notice the business when their rides and campers are parked in a corner of the existing Fair Grounds. If they are based in Stuart, that equipment is part of their base. While at times the campground seems “junky,” it is an industrial part of the County and not disturbing any of the neighbors.
Like many of our workers, most of their employees are either immigrants or here on worker visas. Those on visas are promised employment for a defined period and then they leave. Here is the rub in the “Time of Corona.” What happens if they can’t get back to their country of origin?
The Deggellers lease the space at the Fair Grounds from the County’s tenant, the Fair Association. Their equipment and employees living there are all covered in the lease. Further, last year the Health Department required adequate waste and water be provided which was done. Then why is the County Commission even involved? Apparently, Commissioner Heard wanted to somehow intervene because of social distancing.
The Mexican national employees were able to fly back to their country. The Deggeller family also had some long-time American employees and a South African contingent. South Africa will not allow its nationals back into the country. It appears that the Deggellers are trying to avoid homelessness for these people.
While their quarters may not be ideal, these are their homes, at least for part of the year. As to social distancing, it really is no different than a multi-family dwelling with apartments that have roommates. This is a matter for the Health Department and Code Enforcement not the Commission.
There is a lease that allows this to occur. We should applaud the Deggellers as caring employers. The Commission should not look to make people homeless. The majority of the Commission agrees with that statement.
SHOULD WE OR SHOULDN’T WE?
After much discussion, the Commissioners, reminiscent of Hamlet delivering his soliloquy of indecision and self-doubt, needed to decide what to close and what would remain open for recreation. Except for Sarah Heard, who always knows her mind, the sausage making was sometimes hard to watch.
The Commission spoke long and eloquently about the decisions that would be made. Should playgrounds be closed? What about basketball courts in the “Time of Corona?” There was the hint of Claudius’ character in Commissioners Smith’s charm. With Ciampi playing the role of Polonius dispensing sound advice wrapped in comedic speech. Our Chair, much as Young Horatio, won’t allow ambition or deceit to cloud his loyalties. Then Ophelia’s and Gertrude’s attributes are on display in Commissioner Hetherington. This part of the meeting almost took as long as Hamlet which has 5 Acts to perform.
In a series of motions, the Commission passed the closure of playgrounds, pickle ball and tennis courts, basketball courts, athletic fields when used for organized and pickup games, and rest rooms. Boat ramps will remain open during the week and closed on weekends, except at Jensen and Sandsprit Park, for licensed commercial fishermen.
Other discussions were held regarding golf course closings. I won’t belabor my Hamlet analogy, but the Commissioner’s characters were, “More honored in the breach than in the observance.” The only Commissioner that knew her mind was Heard who plainly stated that they either all be closed or left open. When you begin making exceptions, enforcement becomes problematic. Heard is correct.
The Commission made no golf decisions in this Hamletian of meetings. They would take it up again at their special meeting on Thursday.
In another note, Kloee Ciuperger, the County Legislative Coordinator, gave an update on the CARES Act. You can look at her Power Point presentation at:
SPECIAL COVID-19 MEETING APRIL 9, 2020
This was the golf course meeting!
It turned out fine for those who could afford the privilege of playing at private clubs. The County course has been closed already. No shared sacrifice for the people of Willoughby, Sailfish Point or other such clubs. We are here to play, and we pay the taxes to you to do so. At least that was what the speakers seemed to convey.
The Commission did place the following restrictions… On private courses, residents of those communities and members regardless of where they live, can play maintaining CDC guidelines and social distancing. On private courses open to the public only, Martin County residents can play with the same guidelines. There can only be one golfer to a cart and no gatherings of more than 10 people. The bars and lounges remain closed.
This will be enforced by the Sheriff. We have just given him and his department one more thing to do. There seemed to be a discussion by some Commissioners regarding how the Sheriff will know how to enforce this ordinance without their guidance. Now that he has the ordinance provisions, Snyder will enforce it as he enforces other things. He has discretion on what to do. I am sure that no one is going to jail for not following the ordinance. Ultimately, I guess he could choose to close the course if there is a continued problem.
Commissioner Heard just came out and asked why this was even under discussion. Golf Courses should be closed, period end of sentence. She is 100% right for a couple of reasons. Once complaints come into the Sheriff regarding golfers not following the social distancing rules, a deputy will have to investigate. If an impromptu 19th hole was happening, alcohol and belligerence may lead to unintended consequences.
In my opinion, here is the real problem with allowing the courses to remain open. It sends the wrong message and reinforces the belief that if you have some money, you don’t need to sacrifice. There may be some rationale for leaving those private courses open such as helping to curb domestic violence. Other speakers stated that, as private gated communities, their residents are used to following rules and being self-governing. I guess they are since they have chosen to live in those communities knowing what the rules were when they moved in.
There is no more tennis or baseball in the parks. Bathrooms and water fountains are closed. The County golf course is locked. It is all being done to protect us from ourselves. Because as of now, the only way to prevent the spread of the virus is by self-quarantine.
The Commission took the necessary step of closing boat ramps on the weekends to prevent non-residents from driving here from the south to launch their boats. That means, of course, that residents can’t use the ramps either so no boating on weekends. Except for those who live on the water and have access from their homes whenever they want. Once again showing that if you have a few dollars you get to be exempt.
The Commission rightly made an exception for licensed commercial fisherman to be able to launch their boats on the weekend. It seems a good exception. The Sheriff apparently noticed that there has been an uptick in new commercial fishing licenses. I have heard of people who are now allowing others to tie up to their docks to get around the ban.
During World War II, the future Queen Elizabeth did her bit as a mechanic and driver. She led by example even before she had the crown. Someone who was a war profiteer was looked down on. We no longer have the sensibility of the entire nation being in this together. Back then, most people who were from privileged families set examples. Look at young George Bush becoming a naval aviator at 18. The youngest pilot in the war. Americans then had duties… not excuses.
The Commission passed a resolution leaving the courses open 3-2 with Heard and Ciampi voting no. I guess it was decided that those members in private courses just couldn’t be inconvenienced for a few weeks. Will this action result in someone spreading the virus? I don’t know the answer, but Martin County has acknowledged that the waiter out of work is acceptable but the golfer at Sailfish needn’t put down his club.
To read my post entitled The Greatest of Sacrifices:
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 17, 2020
The Commission met for little over an hour. They made no changes to any of their policies.
Rob Lord of Cleveland Clinic stated that we won’t hit our peak for another couple of weeks. He went on to say that before we can open back up, we need to have a sustained amount of leveling of new infections. The only way we can know where we stand is with more testing. Testing needs to be followed up with enough new health workers to trace contacts of those testing positive and then self-isolating to make sure the virus doesn’t spread.
The Health Department stated there are currently no tests approved to determine antigen or antibodies of this virus. I am confused since earlier I heard that Fisher Island had provided testing for all their residents. So, what gives!
Here are the lessons I have learned about the governmental response so far. No one person or agency is in charge. Even the State Health Department is only allowed to regurgitate the talking points that come down from Tallahassee. The information could be different from the CDC, governor’s office, or the president.
In some respect the County Commission is just as confused as the rest of us. Since Tallahassee and Washington are not leading, it is up to the “5 at the Blake” to call the shots. All politicians are subject to pressure. I think that is why the private courses are open. It is not corruption but politics. No different than DeSantis declaring wrestling essential and then receiving $18 million plus as a donation to the Republican Party the same day from the McMahons.
If you are rich and those that live on Fisher Island are, then different rules apply. Even in Martin County the Health Department is saying no tests and yet Mayor Fender of Sewall’s Point wants to provide his residents testing. While Sewall’s Point is no Fisher Island or for that matter Jupiter Island in per capita income, it does dwarf that of Indiantown and close neighbor, Stuart.
Sheriff Snyder reported that he had 500 calls reporting violations related to the pandemic rules. There has been an uptick in domestic violence calls. All is quiet on the boat ramps, sand bar and beaches. Though he did mention that with the heat expected this weekend that could change. He was not allowing those with recently acquired commercial fishing licenses without proper tax receipts to use the ramps.
The Sheriff said that for the most part golf courses were complying with current rules. Though emails on the County website show that several clubs such as Jupiter Island and Jupiter Hills were not following those rules last weekend. One of those rules is that only Martin County residents or their members could play on the courses. Apparently, The Florida Club was attempting to say their email list was the equivalent of membership.
Which again brings me to the point of why people can’t follow the rules for a few weeks. Sure, it is maddening but it won’t kill you to forgo boating, tennis, or golf. What will kill a few of those rule breakers is if you catch the virus. What will hurt many more is if businesses stay closed longer. Some people going to the trouble of obtaining commercial fishing licenses for the sake of getting on the water is baffling to me.
It is just as baffling as to how those more economically fortunate seem to be able to use their influence and money to get what they want. If we treat these restrictions as a game where individuals can cheat or flaunt the rules, what does that say about our society and as individuals? Is this the exceptionalism we hear about in Martin County and the United States?
CITY COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 13, 2020
During her comments, Commissioner Clarke mentioned that two East Stuart notables had recently passed. Robert Hall, the first black Mayor of Stuart, was also, I believe, the first black Commissioner and City department head. He was 83.
Dr. Willie “Jay” Thompson was a pillar of the community for many years. He attended the segregated Stuart Training School and went on to FAMU. Jay taught in Okeechobee and Martin County throughout his career. He was someone that had a keen interest in children. He loved to recite poetry and engage everyone in music which was his specialty. Clarke recited a poem in his honor, “Keep A Goin.” It was a fitting tribute.
Mayor Meier commented negatively on the last newsletter’s portrayal of the City’s emergency meeting as the Becket play “Waiting for Godot.” In other words, 2.5 hours of nothing. I went back and listened to portions of the meeting and I haven’t changed my opinion.
I also stated that the streaming service was not up to par. It isn’t. This meeting was done via Zoom as a high-bred and the quality was very good. I realize that Zoom may not be practical for other meetings once things are back to normal because of close captioning but the audio and video were clear and much better than normal. As an aside, the City’s streaming was not working for the April 13th meeting.
VISION ON THE ST. LUCIE
The Commission had a vision statement crafted for how they see the discharges and our water quality. It is something that staff and Commission can point to as what they would like to see. The statement outlines the City’s idea on what should be the outcomes.
The statement was given to Martin County and Sanibel on the West Coast. The Corp has been releasing water to the west and south but not into the St. Lucie. The Caloosahatchee and the Everglades need more water, we rarely if ever do. The current lake level is 11 feet 4 inches which is a vast improvement over earlier years. Of course, we have had a very dry winter.
A vision statement is one of many steps and once the proposed County-wide task force is up and running (BOCC please don’t forget), perhaps a County wide statement could be crafted.
The Vision Statement can be found at:
RIGHT OF WAY ABANDONMENT
In some minds, even some of those on the Commission, it appears that they don’t fully grasp that the City doesn’t own the property in ROWs. What was granted was an easement to the City when the lots were platted. In the case of the Osceola discussion, that was in the 1920s. For almost a hundred years, this 50-foot-wide strip of land has been waiting for a use.
Richard Baron, the landowner for half, has asked that the easement or right of way be extinguished. No taxes have ever been paid on this property. Perhaps back in the 1920s, it was envisioned that a street or alley would be created. It doesn’t matter. As a matter of equity, why would you deprive the rightful owner of the property from using it?
If you believe in property rights, then there should be no excuse. A hundred years ago, the City didn’t ask the owner of the proposed subdivision to dedicate this area but rather just give easements or rights of way in case the City would make an ally or for another use in the future. When does the future that was anticipated end?
As to the objections from the landowners and other people, the owners do not have to give permission for the City to relinquish easement rights. Individual landowners may have forgotten they already own the land that this easement is on. In this case, Mr. Baron and the Snug Harbor Condo Association have equally divisible ownership of the strip of land. That does not change. Snug Harbor saying they want the City to maintain that right would be like a landlord objecting to the tenant leaving after the term of the lease expired.
Perhaps the terminology of abandonment is creating the psychological problem. It is not as though the City is retreating but rather informing the property owner that they no longer want the right or the responsibility for maintaining that piece of land.
The other problem is that Mr. Baron had an appraisal done perhaps in accordance with the City Code that gave a value of $26,000. I assume that this will be the amount that Baron will pay the City as a “privilege fee” for the abandonment. However, as Mayor Meier correctly pointed out, the code states the appraisal is to determine the fee not for the value of the property but rather to determine how much the entire property will increase in value. Unfortunately, staff did not have the appraisal in the packet. Why? That is a good question. By not having the appraisal the Commission is making determinations without having all the information.
The City Attorney was asked to obtain a legal opinion regarding right of way abandonment’s. The adjacent homeowner, Mr. Fry, that was objecting and spoke at the last meeting wrote a letter that the Commissioners had. Both the opinion and the letter can be viewed at:
Mr. Fry’s Letter:
Commissioner Bruner made a motion to proceed on the abandonment with an updated appraisal. It was seconded by Leighton. Then, during further discussion Bruner, wanted the privilege fee to go to House of Hope. Leighton objected saying that she was not comfortable choosing charities. She is right. It isn’t in the purview of this Commission to be giving any money to favored charities. A reading of 36-2 states that the privilege fee is to go into the property management fund. The code can be found at:
Bruner withdrew her amendment and the motion passed 5-0.
It appears the next School Board Meeting will be April 21, 2020 (stay tuned)
WORKSHOP MEETING APRIL 14, 2020
Sewall’s Point has had road construction and water projects going on for years. This meeting was primarily to bring the Commission up to date on where the bid process for South Sewall’s Point Road stands. I don’t know about the Commission, but I am even more confused than I was before the meeting.
We all must admit that it is hard to have these virtual meetings. The Town has done a good job trying to carry on business during this period. My confusion was more than just not having everyone in the same room. It was just a poor presentation by the Town Engineer without proper visual aids and charts. It was further complicated because the questions being asked by Commissioners were not germane to the narrow subject that was the agenda item.
What became a casualty of clarity was the explanation of the bids that were received. There was a bid summary of the two bids but not the bids themselves. The explanation of the summary was rambling and, at times, incoherent. Trying to follow the meeting was hard.
I began looking at what was presented and wondered if this is the way other projects are designed and built. The plan for the northern and southern parts of Sewall’s Point is perhaps a good comprehensive master plan. How it is being funded and implemented seems inconsistent. Then it dawned on me why.
Sewall’s Point has gotten in the habit of living off the proverbial dole. If there is no “welfare,” then the Town won’t do anything to improve their infrastructure no matter how bad it is needed. In this case the free money is grant funding from the state and federal government. Every county and municipality take advantage of these opportunities. It would be foolish not to do so.
The difference is most will have an overall funding plan. They then have phases to be constructed that use a combination of funding sources beside available grants including bonding, loans, and tax revenue. In many instances, those loans are very low interest through state-sponsored programs. The Commission has instead taken the position that if isn’t free it shouldn’t be done.
It has worked for the most part up to this point though projects have been designed and built around grant funding instead of what should be in a comprehensive way. This results in things taking longer. More starts and stops and interruptions occur. Perhaps no one has thought about this and the long term affects.
One was mentioned at this meeting by the Town Engineer and the Manager. Sewall’s Point has a reputation of not going through with work. Perhaps that is why there were only two bidders on the project. It costs thousands of dollars to prepare a bid package. No firm will do so if it feels it doesn’t have an opportunity to get the job.
Perhaps the pandemic will result in a softening of the market and more contractors will bid. However, if the economy softens, state tax revenue will be less and then there will be fewer grants available. Trying to predict or, as they say time the market, is not a good way to pick stocks or construction projects.
For the past, several years construction prices have risen 10% to 30% per year. That means waiting for all that “free” money, which usually requires a match, has resulted in Sewall’s Point paying more for projects. Interest rates have been historically low for borrowing. It would have made more financial sense to borrow the funds than to pay higher prices.
If projects were larger and being done with borrowed funds instead of grants, the Town may have the ability to negotiate better prices with the chosen contractor. If a contractor knows that he will be working on a project for a while, the certainty is worth something.
The Commission needs to stop thinking that borrowing is always bad. It isn’t! What is bad is waiting for years to complete something with escalating costs because you may have the opportunity to have “free money.” Even if the Town decided to have a dedicated millage surcharge for a period in order to obtain either loans or for bonding purposes, it may be faster and cheaper than its current way of doing things.
The presentation can be found at:
It seems the idea of an independent Fire/Rescue Department for Indiantown is dead…at least for now.
It wasn’t because the Manager didn’t want it. And it wasn’t because the Council didn’t want it. Oddly, it was a lack of bidders for the privilege of being Indiantown’s Fire/Rescue Department. There was not one answer to the RFP. What does that tell us?
Some of the disinterest is probably due to the pandemic. Yet, in general, I can’t believe there is enough of a private market for this type of service. I understand that private companies offer services, but those usually mean rich people having a little more protection for their enclave than what public departments will give.
There is a deadline for this to occur due to the way next year’s real estate taxes will be billed. It is highly unlikely that the County Fire/Rescue Department won’t service Indiantown at least for another year. It is my guess that Brown and the Council will attempt to move forward in the coming year. They will either put out another RFP or begin cobbling together their own Department. Neither of which will result in a better service than they have today.
The Village Council spent thousands of dollars for a consultant and report. This private outcome was supposed to be a “no brainer.” And it turned out it was just that! Perhaps a lesson has been learned by the Council and the spending of the people’s money. I doubt it for to quote from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 13 Verse 13: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 9, 2020
For a first virtual meeting, the Village should be congratulated. It went off smoothly and by comparison to their recordings, it was easily understandable. Having now been involved with Zoom type meetings for business, I know how difficult the internet connections can sometimes be. Nice job.
Speaking of virtual, the Council settled on a provider of visual and audio streaming meetings that will also be available for later replay on the Village’s website. The vendor they chose was Swagit which provides everything including the hosting of the meetings on their servers. This is something that is needed and would allow for people to watch from home without going to the meetings in person.
The cost is $30,000 to set up the system and $22,200.00 per year for a 50-meeting yearly package.
The City of Stuart uses a different vendor and pays $10,000 per year. I looked at two City of Jupiter meetings that Swagit hosts and the video quality and camera angles were better than Stuart. Is it worth more than twice? It could be if people watch the meetings. That is why I wish more municipalities would ask the County Commissioners why their meetings are less important than BOCC meetings which are televised on MCTV. Since MCTV funding comes from the General Fund that all taxpayers pay into, all meetings should be broadcast on the channel.
A motion was made to approve staff’s recommendation by Dowling and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 5-0.
The proposal can be found at:
Part of the Little Ranch neighborhood was mistakenly included within the Village boundaries when the Village was formed. Most of the neighborhood parcels remain in unincorporated Martin County while 11 parcels are currently within the Village. After being approached by several of those homeowners, Gibbs-Thomas brought it to the attention of staff. They contacted 10 of the 11, and they all want to go back to unincorporated Martin County.
The Village will proceed with the de-annexation. The Village Attorney explained that it is much simpler than the parcel owners doing so. I hate to see any municipality becoming smaller. But in this case, it was always an error and the Village is doing the right thing.
To look at the map:
The evaluation of the Manager was delayed due to the pandemic and absence of Council Member Clarke. It was finally done at this meeting. There is no doubt that the Council highly values Mr. Brown. Hernandez gave him a rating of 4.92 out of 5. Stone 4.7, Thomas 4.2, and Clarke 3.98. Council Member Dowling apparently did not fill out the form since there was nothing in the agenda package except his signature on a form. However, that didn’t stop him from opining that Brown was wonderful. It is left to our imaginations as to why.
Attorney Vose stated that, according to Brown’s contract, the Council should determine whether a raise is warranted or not. Dowling wanted to know what other neighboring cities pay their managers. He stated that they had gotten off to a wonderful start and he should be rewarded. Dowling also said that Indiantown was the second richest municipality.
Does Dowling mean per capita or is it based on the tax base? If he meant Indiantown has the 2nd largest population in the County, he would be right. That is why trying to ascertain what neighboring cities pay is irrelevant. Stuart has 3 times the population. Another neighboring city is Port St. Lucie that has a population nearly 40 times that of Indiantown. The City of Okeechobee has a population comparable to Indiantown, but its budget is much bigger.
Sewall’s Point is 5 times smaller in population, but it has a police force but the rest of Town employees (except the Manager and clerical person) are part time. And while Dowling would like to compare Indiantown to Jupiter Island, I don’t believe that there is much similarity.
Gibbs-Thomas expressed it better by wanting information on comparable salaries based on population and similar budgets. I would have added the number of departments and employees. Her motion was seconded by Dowling and it passed 5-0.
To see the evaluations, including Council Member Dowling signed but incomplete one:
The April 13th Meeting was cancelled.
CORRECTIONS: In the last newsletter, I stated that the RV parking would end in January 2021. The correct date is January 2022.
The phone number for the office was listed incorrectly in what I was provided. It should be 772-334-6826.
The next meeting is scheduled for April 21st at 9 am.
The financial consequences of this pandemic will be something from which the U.S. and the world will take some time to recover. While the precipitating cause of this recession may be the global shutdown, we were on shaky ground for the past couple of years. It is true that the market was going up, and it may even continue to rise now. However, most people were not benefiting from that rising market.
It wasn’t that companies’ stocks represented in the market should have been appreciating that fast. There were actually few other places for capital to go with interest rates this low. The upper 10% of the population were the ones benefitting…not the lower 90%. Increasing prices for homes and other consumer goods are not sustainable if the people cannot afford to buy them.
While the biggest businesses were buying back stock, artificially buoying their bottom lines and taking advantage of government largess by tax breaks, they were doing so by gimmicks and not good business. It has now all come crashing down.
The federal government wants to bail out these large businesses and call it preserving jobs. What it really represents is cronyism. If tomorrow every airline couldn’t pay its bills, they would be forced into bankruptcy court. The planes are assets that aren’t going anywhere. Managers and boards would be gone but new people would buy those assets at reduced prices and fly tomorrow. That is the same for every business.
What the government needs to do is make sure individual citizens have the resources to buy food, pay their rent and mortgages, and meet their obligations. Capitalism is all about old businesses failing and new businesses forming. The safety net isn’t to make sure that Chase and Boeing are viable… it needs to be so John and Jane does not become penniless.
To read more:
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
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Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
Children’s Services Council (CSS)
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Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
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Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
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