“Friends & Neighbors in Martin County”
City of Stuart
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The newsletter should now be mobile friendly and much easier to read than before. We are still working out kinks with our website but should have them resolved in the next couple of weeks. This was not an easy task. In order to continue to give you the news for Martin County governments it was the logical next step.
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Over the past few years, Stuart and Martin County have been very lucky not to have had much impact from hurricanes. We were especially fortunate this year with Dorian. If it had been a few miles to the west, there could have been total devastation of the area.
There are other ways beside a direct hit that could affect us as taxpayers. There is a financial component for government gearing up for a storm. What that response entails is crucial to containing costs or having costs explode. I wanted to look at Stuart’s costs and how the City handled the last three storms from an economic perspective. I especially wanted to understand payroll expense and how it was dealt with.
The one thing that can be totally controlled by the City Manager is payroll costs before and during the storm itself. For Irma and Matthew, the total payroll costs with overtime, benefits and salary were substantially higher than for Dorian. Those costs were $241,509.89 for Matthew, $105,408.26 for Irma and $74,608.27 for Dorian. Why the differences?
It may have been David Dyess’ first hurricane as City Manager but not his first time understanding how to respond to a storm. After nearly 30 years with Stuart Police, he has seen what works and what does not. Over that time, he formulated and planned for what is necessary to adequately protect residents and their property. He began working with his staff to come up with a more realistic emergency response plan. What are the essentials he asked?
In past storms, the City’s EOC (Emergency Operations Center) would be opened at the Public Safety Complex with all city departments providing staff. Dyess decided that there was no need to have someone from Human Resources present during the storm. He also decided that department heads who were on duty would be given comp time instead of earning overtime. These two moves contributed to a large difference in personnel costs. For Matthew, overtime was $174,704.47; Irma $58,743.96; and Dorian $9,971.32.
Dyess further decided that, since the EOC has a kitchen, why not order the food and have it prepared internally instead of by a caterer. If there is one thing that Dyess does well, it is saving a buck, and the City benefits from that.
The total costs for each of the storms were as follows: Matthew $511,957.03, Irma $538,612.43, and Dorian $102,327.26. This shows me that, when governments want to pare costs, they can. While there was no substantial damage to Stuart in Dorian and there was minor damage with the other two storms, more money could have been saved with correct staffing. Sometimes government can get things right. This is one of those times that Stuart taxpayers benefitted from public employees that do the right thing.
To see the entire reconciliation:
On December 18, the School Board and Pineland Prairie will meet to discuss impact fees.
The imposition of fees has been an ongoing problem for years. What is the right amount to pay for the number of students anticipated by a new project? Is it 200 or 400 or 1000 new places that will be needed? What is the methodology for determining that number?
With the anticipated growth in Indiantown and 15,000 new people living in a built-out Pineland Prairie, there is a need for more classroom seats. The entire purpose of charging impact fees is for the project to absorb the governmental costs of the increased growth.
We know that a new elementary school costs the District $32 million to build, without the cost of land. This is based on the two schools they are building now. Whether it should or should not cost that much is a very good question. It should be answered at another time. According to the School Board, they will need at least one school for the Pineland Prairie build-out. That would mean Pineland Prairie will need to pay most of that cost, if not all.
Another little quirk in the way these fees are calculated is based on where the property is being built. If the project is being built in an area that has school capacity, then no impact fees are collected. If it is a project like Pineland, you are out of luck. Perhaps it is time to look at the way we zone kids for schools instead of taking an entire district approach. Again, it is a question to be answered at another time.
That still leaves the need for a solution to Pineland Prairie’s very expensive predicament. They can pay the fees as calculated, go to court and challenge the District’s methodology or make a deal. The December 18th meeting is to try and make a deal.
Treasure Coast Classical Academy (TCCA) built a school on Cove Road for half the estimated cost to rebuild Jensen Beach Elementary School. TCCA will have completed it in way less than a year. Though it is considered a public school, the funding to build the school had to be obtained by the Academy itself by selling its own bonds.
All students at a public charter are accepted that apply and, if there are too many for a grade, then they are chosen by lottery. If an elementary school was built in Pineland Prairie as a public charter, then that would become the “neighborhood” school. Could this be a compromise?
I believe it can. The School District doesn’t have to build a school. Kiplinger, the developer, saves a boat load of money. And the development gets a school. It is a win/win.
I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!
The entire spirit of the holiday is captured by its very name. It is a day of thanks for family and friends. A time to say thank you not only for the food and camaraderie at our tables but also to be thankful for living in this country.
Thanksgiving is not as raucous or seemingly patriotic as July 4th. There are no fireworks. It is not like Veterans Day or Memorial Day which are devoted to those that served in uniform and those that died doing so. It is more than the start of the holiday season. The spirit of Thanksgiving is not in watching football. Nor is it a religious day such as Christmas and Chanukah. Yet it is a day to give thanks. It is a secular celebration where we count our blessings…our blessings to be part of the American experience.
In the last newsletter, I mistakenly wrote that the Martin County Budget was “500,000 million dollars.” I should have written $500 million. Sorry for the error and thank you to those of you that pointed it out.
A few weeks ago, I spoke about how Waste Management has ad the County’s trash contracts for years and how it was time to go out and have a bid process. The process is under way.
I will keep you informed as I know more.
I urge those that 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Tom my name is Craig Kalner a Palm City Resident. I first would like to thank you for all the great work you do with your contributions of information disseminated throughout our community. Secondly I find your News letters informative and enjoyable. I wanted to see if I could pose a question in regards of the proposal of Costco building a warehouse and entering Martin Counties Business sector. Can you tell me if Costco still has their application for zoning and construction in the Kanner Hwy location? I would appreciate all relevant information if you could elaborate. I look forward to hearing your response. Once again thanks for all you do as it’s greatly appreciated.
Palm City Resident
Costco, while quiet, has not gone away. The developer is sorting out what to do with the entire parcel. The City is answering questions and waiting for them to move forward. For once it isn’t either the County or the City dragging their feet. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear something early next year.
From Betty Mulholland in the same vein:
As a resident of South River Condominiums, I am concerned about the development at the corner of Indian and Kanner. The amount of traffic on Kanner will be increased if a development goes in at that property.
Where would the exit for traffic be? Onto Kanner?
With Cleveland Clinic across the way, we will see increased traffic in this area as well.
Now that the six lanes are completed it has become a very dangerous area to drive in.
I was one of the speakers at last spring’s meetings about getting a light at the exit of South River entrance. That has not and probably will not happen. So I am concerned with the possibility of more traffic on this road.
Thank you for your attention. I am here until May 14th, 2020. I plan on attending more meetings. So please keep me posted.
From Pegg-Stover Nott regarding the School District:
Good morning Tom,
In response to the Martin County school board regarding the Millage Update:
Yes the State does direct the school board to keep a reasonable reserve fund which the school board sets the %. However, with Voted in Millage please note the following:
Florida Statue 1011.72 (9) IS CLEAR THAT EVERYTHING SHOULD BE ON THE REFERENDUM AND THE BALLOT AND THE 5% THEY TOOK OFF THE $11 MILLION (approximately $560,000.00) WAS NOT.
I believe at 77% of the $11 million is what the teachers should have received , that $460,000.00 never went to their portion. WHEN CAN THE VOTERS VOTE AND FEEL THAT THEY ARE GETTING WHAT THEY VOTED FOR? I have talked to many, many, many citizens and groups about what happened here and they are very unhappy. Would not have voted for it if they knew that 5% was coming off the top and not given out to the teachers at the time of distribution.
This is a State Statue regarding our vote and it is very clear. To state that it was printed in small print on the top of a draft workshop sheet less than a month before the vote during a workshop is notifying the public does not cut it. It must be on the Ballot and Referendum. More to come on that issue.
Ask another question: Do they take 5% off of the Grant Money issued as well? Grants are very specific in that it the money should be used for exactly what the Grant is designated and nothing else. Been there, Done that and won that point regarding Safe Schools money for cameras in the High Schools years ago.
Why don’t you ask the school board about the Impact Fees that they used to pay off the David Anderson Schools mortgage? According to the information I received at the meeting I attended they had to pay back this money. A report was giving by CFO that they were begging the State in regards to the amount owed back to be lenient with them as it was in the millions.
I have asked how much we had to payback and still no answer. Even if by some small chance they get out of paying it back in whole or in part the accountants apparently
thought it was wrong, and it is.
Then there is always the Best and Brightest money that was botched, not including the $79,000.00 they took out (so they say) to pay teachers who did not make the deadline. Where did that money come from, and just who really received this money?
THEIR STAT ANSWER IS THAT IT IS ON LINE.. All very transparent, and yet?
It just keeps on coming and there is still more.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COMMUNITY……
From Paul Laura on Virgin Trains:
My view is that the FECR will piggyback on what Brightline was able to achieve in terms of bridge improvements. They remain in the shadows encouraging scale-up of the tracks that they, FECR will have access and the ability to transport potentially LNG…..That is the conundrum!!
Joe Capra regarding speed calming:
Good job Tom
Traffic Calming – always has comments- good to listen but there are stds for various speeds.
All boards should meet with Consultants and Managers prior to public meetings about all agenda items.
It is bad enough to think on your feet in Public- use the resources they have and meet to become educated on the issues!!
From Joseph W. Capra P. E.
CAPTEC Engineering Inc.
COMMISSION MEETING NOV 26TH
This was the BOCC reorganization meeting.
For the past two years, Ciampi has been Chair and Jenkins Vice-Chair. Ciampi, though verbose, at times did a good job in that position. He ably represented the County when necessary. We should thank him for being a very good Chair.
Hetherington motioned for Jenkins to become Chair with Smith seconding. It passed 5-0.
Harold Jenkins has the potential to be a unifying force as Chair. He brings a business perspective to his role as a Commissioner. Jenkins is a pragmatic, down-to-earth person who relates well to other people. He is not a natural pol with a quick joke or a slap on the back, but he is well liked by his fellow Board Members, the staff, and the public.
Smith nominated Hetherington for Vice-Chair which was seconded by Ciampi. She was elected unanimously.
The camaraderie shown in the election for Chair and Vice quickly left the chamber when the time for committee assignments began. The MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) was the first bone of contention. Hetherington had been on the MPO in her first year. Ciampi and Heard had split the fourth seat last year.
Ciampi wanted his seat back. Hetherington explained that she had been to MPO School and should retain the seat. In the past, Commissioners’ districts that abutted other counties would be automatically appointed and that continued with the re-appointment of Smith and Jenkins. Hetherington’s District encompasses Stuart which has 2 members appointed to the MPO. Heard pointed that out. Historically, that District did not have its Commissioner appointed. It reminded me of the kid’s game of “Musical Chairs.”
Ciampi moved that Hetherington and he have the two seats available. It was seconded by Smith. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
The second contentious vote was for the Pal Mar Board. Pal Mar is the area in south County that is being bought as conservation land. Heard has been on that board for years and has done a good job. Because Pal Mar is in his district, Jenkins wanted the seat. He had been the alternate for two years. Heard argued that she should remain because of her institutional knowledge. Ciampi made a motion, seconded by Smith, for Jenkins to be the member and Heard the alternate. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting
When Heard was in the majority with Scott and Fielding, Smith was treated very similar to the way Heard is now treated by her colleagues. During that time, there was much less civility on the Board but nevertheless Smith’s opinion and advice did not count for much. Heard, though with much more civility by her fellow Board members, finds herself in the same position.
It is time for the BOCC to limit how long someone can be appointed to an organization. After two years, Commissioners should rotate assignments if there are two Commissioners that want to serve on the same Board. Our County Commissioners want to be active on Committees. They don’t consider appointment to the Airport Noise Committee much of an assignment since it may be years before it meets.
The same goes for the chance to be Chair and Vice Chair of the BOCC. Each Commissioner should rotate into those positions. Heard was elected just the same as Smith and Ciampi. She should be accorded the same opportunities. Just because you disagree on policy does not mean that it should be carried over to who serves on what boards. As I wrote above, Jenkins has an opportunity to show the way to be less petty. I hope he takes the opportunity to be a consensus builder.
RULES TO LIVE BY
At the last meeting, Commissioner Heard was on jury duty. She had asked Administrator Kryzda to hold two items. Apparently, Kryzda believed that she meant to put those items at the end of the agenda in case Heard could attend the meeting later. Heard thought she had asked that they be considered at another meeting. The agenda was already final, published and advertised. Heard was upset that those items went forward and were not placed on a future agenda. Ciampi did put them off for as long as possible during that meeting but ultimately both were discussed and voted upon. This placed Kryzda in an unenviable position with Heard. Kryzda wanted a policy so that this would not happen again.
According to Smith, this type of incident has occurred very infrequently. He didn’t believe there was a reason to do anything. Ciampi did not feel that way. He thought it was unfair to have staff not have direction no matter how infrequent something has occurred. Pulling items after they have been advertised and noticed is an inconvenience to the public and to those who may attend to have their projects voted upon.
In this incident (the Trillium comp plan amendment), the applicant flew in to be at the meeting. He was paying his experts to be there to make the presentation and to answer questions. It would not be fair to have to go through that expense and then tell them to come back because a Commissioner could not be there.
At that November 12th meeting, Ciampi would not let a discussion occur regarding the Seafood Festival because of it not being noticed and that Heard whose district it occurs was not there. He did the correct thing in that instance. Further, he did the right thing by allowing the other two issues to move forward.
Ciampi motioned that if a Commissioner would not be at a meeting and wished to have an agenda item be heard at a subsequent meeting, the Commissioner must notify staff in writing before the final agenda is published. It was seconded by Hetherington and passed 3-2 with Heard and Smith dissenting.
Heard wanted the Commission to reconsider the item regarding legal fees (see below). She made that motion which was seconded by Ciampi. It passed 5-0. The legal fee question would be heard later at this meeting.
BAHAMIAN AIRPORT UPDATE
At the November 12th meeting, the Board told staff to work out something with Treasure Cay Community Foundation, the successor group of Operation 300, for allowing them to not have to pay customs dues at the airport. In my opinion, the Board wanted to allow there to be no charges, but they didn’t want their own fingerprints on an agreement. Hence the command for staff to work it out.
So, they did!
Fees will not be charged to Treasure Cay Community Foundation or other such groups for 90 additional days. The County still needs to pay the Feds for their personnel to clear such flights. The Bahamian government charges fees to land at their airports. The largess of Martin County Taxpayers is to be commended…even if their money is being donated by the County Commission.
I opposed the Custom House for two reasons. One, I believed it is not a local government’s responsibility. Border protection, immigration and customs are federal duties under the U.S. Constitution. Whether Martin County can make a profit or not is immaterial to whether a Custom’s facility is built or not.
The second reason is being played out in front of us. Politicians can use our tax dollars to help charities of their choice. This charity may be doing good work but so are many others. This charity just so happens to be politically connected. If the Commissioners want to help, they should raise the funds privately to pay the Custom’s fees. Or they can ask Congressman Mast to have the Feds suspend charging fees. The last thing that should be done is taking the money from Martin County taxpayers without their consent.
The County paid a substantial amount for Sarah Heard’s defense in her recent trial in which she was acquitted. Because of that acquittal, she was entitled by state statute to be reimbursed for her legal fees. Former Commissioner Scott has also submitted for re-imbursement of her fees because the case against her was dropped. The County is waiting to see if Fielding submits any invoices since his case is not going forward.
If charges are brought against a Commissioner and the Commissioner is exonerated, then the County must reimburse for legal expenses. The discussion was about instituting a policy if needed in the future not anything that happened in the past. Ms. Woods, the County Attorney, told me that she couldn’t remember a time when something like this had ever occurred prior to this. Further, it would not apply to fees in the Lake Point litigation since they occurred before implementation of these policies.
At the last meeting when Heard was on jury duty, the Commission decided to enact a policy regarding reimbursement of legal fees by unanimous vote. Heard asked that it be brought back for reconsideration. Earlier in the day, the Board voted unanimously to do so. Heard expressed that it was an onerous policy that would compromise confidentiality.
What does this policy entail? Once counsel is retained by the accused, they would be given a copy of this policy. The County would reimburse up to $275 per hour per attorney. Each time a threshold of $7500 was reached, a detailed invoice would be sent to the legal department. Reimbursement would only occur if the official was acquitted. Seems benign to me.
Commissioner Heard argued that, if followed, the policy would breach confidentiality and legal strategy would be revealed. I can’t see how that would happen since the detail requested on the invoice is something like this: “Attorney Smith reviewed relevant case law concerning this matter 4 hours.” Or, “Attorneys Smith and Jones deposed A & B for 5 hours.” Nothing confidential about any of this.
In the policy, there is no mention or ability of the County Attorney questioning outside counsel about either the billing or the progress of the case. There is nothing in the policy that says the County Attorney can veto a legal strategy or for that matter even know about what it is. The County would be able to track the amount being spent so that the Finance Department can make sure the money is available to pay the bill upon acquittal.
At the conclusion of the case, and if there is an acquittal, the County can still dispute the bills as they can presently. There is no difference in that aspect. This policy is closely modeled after the ones in Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Leon Counties (where Tallahassee is). In each case, those counties are much larger than Martin County. What is the problem with such a benign policy for Heard?
If anything, it doesn’t control costs enough. It is a planning tool, not a legal one. The County Attorney does not seem to be overinvolved or micromanaging anyone’s defense. After speaking to Woods, I am not sure what else could be done. It still appears that, if something like this happens again, it will be the best possible defense that your tax dollars can buy.
COMMISSION MEETING DECEMBER 3RD:
During Commissioner comments, Commissioner Hetherington introduced a video from the Indian River Lagoon Council that tells the story of our Lagoon. The history, the challenges, and the beauty of our ecosystem is embraced in this short video. The Lagoon covers a large area of the east coast of Florida. Pollution, discharges, and growth have imperiled our Lagoon, one of the nation’s great estuaries. Click the link to see the 5-minute video.
ABANDONED RIGHT-OF-WAY IN PORT SALERNO
The Port Salerno Church of God has been a rock in the community forever. The church has been a mainstay providing services to their congregation, the area, and for those in need. They are looking to expand and need to reconfigure their site. The church is asking that the County abandon a right-of-way to facilitate that effort.
The front half of the right-of-way has already been abandoned. If it were still there, it would exit onto Front Street. St Luke’s, which owns the property to the east, has no objection to the abandonment. So, what is then standing in the way? In order to have the County abandon the right-of-way, there is a fee involved that is determined by an appraisal paid for by the applicant.
The Commission may waive the fee for a good cause or a determination that the right-of-way has no value to the County. What is a good cause? What is no value to the County?
Heard moved to waive the fee because the right of way had no value. The motion was seconded by Hetherington. The county attorneys piped up that you could only state that the right-of-way has no value if there was an appraisal done. Ciampi said that because historically the church has shown that it does good works then the fee could be waived for that as a good cause.
Both Heard and Hetherington agreed to amend the motion from no value to good cause. It passed 5-0 and the church saved some money.
It was a brief meeting and Jenkins did just fine as the new Chair.
CRA MEETING NOVEMBER 25TH
The CRA Board approved an expenditure of $2000 for a mural on Colorado Avenue on private property. This is part of Stuart’s “Art in Public Places” initiative.
The recipient wanted to know whether the Board would increase the amount to $2500 in the future. The Board didn’t know, but that did get me thinking.
Why is the public paying a private owner, especially a business owner, to paint a picture on the side of his building? Will the building look better? It probably will. That doesn’t mean government should be doing that. Should tax money go to subsidize art on private property.
As I have said in the past, the City doesn’t understand what the CRA should do. The state created these entities to fight blight, which would result in increased tax dollars. Is there a better way for Stuart to increase TIF (Tax Increment Financing)? What the CRA is not is a slush fund. Limited dollars should not be used to just make things look pretty.
In my opinion, the best project that happened in the CRA was Azul which was built on the site of the old Triangle property in downtown. By using CRA funds, the City bought the property and leased it to a developer who built a building for 49 families which has and will continue to be an income stream to the City.
We should be doing the same thing throughout the CRA which encompasses East Stuart and downtown along Dixie Highway. Trees and parks for a day such as the one that occurred on Colorado Avenue might make you feel good but there is no economic benefit. Painting a mural on the side of a building may be a pretty picture, but it still is a new picture on a very old building. It reminds me of the 1970s in New York City where, instead of rebuilding burned out structures, the City painted pictures of windows with flower boxes.
The Commission needs to stop letting CRA funds be frittered away. Let’s help to erect buildings for people to live in and businesses to occupy. Vision is needed. Where is the vision!
COMMISSION MEETING NOV 25TH
Since Leighton was the first one to speak during Commissioner comments, she was the lead in letting people know that the Pelican Café was for sale.
That is right, the same Pelican Café that just had its lease renewed last month after the owners swore to the Commission that a sale was not being contemplated. The intrepid couple browbeat the way-too political Commissioners into renegotiating their lease two years before it was up. The only thing that the Commission did insist on, thankfully, in the new 20-year lease (10 years initially and then two five-year options) is that a sale would trigger a rent re-negotiation. The rent that the couple is currently paying is well below market.
The Commissioners were not the only ones who were taken for a ride. Hundreds of people, most of whom do not live in the City, besieged the Commission to “save the Pelican” as if it was an endangered species. Another “Tee Shirt” movement of people coming into the Chambers to get its way to the detriment of the nearly 17,000 people that live and pay taxes in the City.
City Staff is not off the hook either. The City Manager should not have brought any proposed lease to the Commission until there was one to approve. The charter gives the Manager the authority to negotiate. He should have stuck to his guns and not acquiesced to a demand by the Dalys, who understood that a better deal could be had by doing it in public. In fact, no new lease should have been negotiated when there were two years left on the existing one. Further, the Dalys were in breach of their old lease because they never did the improvements that were mandated under it.
The Commission can now hide under the fig leaf that they were tough negotiators, but what is actually going to occur with this sale is what should have happened last month or in two years when the lease was up. They will get more rent from the next guy. The only difference is that the Dalys are now going to make a little more money by selling what the City gave them for free. That profit should have gone to Stuart’s taxpayers.
This is not the first time that Stuart has been taken in its real estate business. It also happened last year with Mulligans. It will continue to happen unless the City hires a professional to be its expert. If they do that, the Staff and Commission must stay out of it. They would pay the professional not on commission but as they would outside legal counsel. Amateurs are amateurs and it always shows.
For some time, the City and LouRonzo’s have had a deal that between 4 p.m. and midnight the three loading zone parking spaces in front of the restaurant become the drop-off for valet parking. The City is paid $1800.00 per year for the spaces. The restaurant’s patrons are not charged for use of the valet but others that use the service pay $5.00. This amount does not include tips to the parkers.
When eating at LouRonzo’s, I use the valet. It is convenient since the restaurant’s entrance is a few steps away. It is cost effective since, for the price of a tip, I don’t have to search for a space. The restaurant has a good thing going.
If I am going somewhere else, I do not use the service. There is the price of the valet plus the tip, and then I still must walk to my destination. And, in my experience, I don’t have a problem finding a space within a few blocks of where I am going.
I was surprised to learn at the meeting that only 50-100 cars use the LouRonzo valet on the weekend. Almost all those cars must be customers of the restaurant. Most people are like me in that they will use the valet service if it is cheap and very convenient. Once it is no longer either, then they won’t be bothered.
The valet has now begun using the City Hall lot also, I predict that the same thing will happen. Pay $5 then pay a tip and then walk to your destination…why bother? Unfortunately, many parking spaces that would normally be used by the public will no longer be available since they will be reserved for valet parking only.
This may be great for those who come downtown and can afford to go to the Gafford or Riverwalk. But many others who end up at Luna’s will now not bother because they can’t find a free parking space.
Last Tuesday, a deal was signed between Mike Matakaetis and the Dalys for the sale of the Pelican lease. What a surprise! Matakaetis has wanted this space for years. He has been speaking with City officials, Commissioners and the Dalys before the current lease was signed.
Matakaetis is a knowledgeable restaurant operator who owns the Boat House and other casual restaurants in Stuart and Martin County. So why were his overtures regarding the Pelican rebuffed by the City and Commission before re-signing the Pelican lease? Staff did not want to renew the lease with the Dalys. Commissioners pressured them to do so. The City Manager could have just said no. He didn’t.
It is always easier politically to go along. It is especially easy in the City of Stuart. The Commission gave the Dalys a golden parachute for their retirement with the taxpayers’ money. There may be a hoop or two that Matakaetis will need to jump through, but that will be overcome.
The City needs to do an appraisal of the property and take into account the terms of the lease. There does not have to be any other input by the Commission or a thumb on the scale by either the Dalys or Matakaetis. Inflation needs to be considered, especially since it is a 20-year term. Stuart does not need to rush into making a decision because of some artificial time requirement in the Daly and Matakaetis agreement. Rushing is the reason the City is in this position in the first place.
I spoke with Matakaetis and he told me he is paying $275,000 to the Dalys and will then sink another million into the property so that it will be a restaurant that can be used throughout the year whether there is rain or shine, or if it’s cold or hot. If he does do what he claims, and there is no reason to believe he will not, then it will be a long-term success. Mike Matakaetis is a professional.
There probably will be an adjustment to the term of the lease to make it longer. If the City is protected economically then that would be alright. Under IRS depreciation rules Matakaetis will need a minimum of 27.5 years so that he can claim depreciation. That is not a wish but the tax code. The City needs to authorize the lease contingent on having an approved plan.
This is not a game. The Commission and staff are dealing with taxpayer dollars. How about giving the taxpayer a break for a change? Nobody should consider the new lease the Dalys received as a win. A win would have been not giving them a new lease two years before the current one expired. This is at best an avoidance of a complete rout.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING NOVEMBER 19TH
This was the reorganization meeting of the School Board. Members of the School Board elected Marsha Powers Chair and Tony Anderson Vice Chair. It was time for someone else to be in that role. Powers has been the Chair before, so she is not new to the increased spotlight.
During her tenure, probably the most important thing the Board will do is hire its first appointed Superintendent. The voters have spoken that they entrust the five Board Members to be the ones to choose the Superintendent instead of the entire community. The one thing that is for sure is that an appointed Superintendent will cost the taxpayers more than an elected one. A new Superintendent was just hired in Indian River County. The job was being advertised at $175,000 per year.
Roberts, Chair for the past two years, will be a hard act to follow. She was always prepared and understood educational policy and state law. Without Roberts, the sales and property tax referendums would have never passed. Knowing her, she will continue to work hard for the people of Martin County.
MOLD & A LEAKY ROOF
Lee Giunta, a Palm City interested parent, spoke for the second time during public comment about how a leaky roof at Jensen Beach High School was the cause of mold that was affecting her daughter’s health.
Before she spoke, the School Board Attorney warned the Board that they should not respond because of possible litigation. Giunta could not believe that the roof, which developed this leak during Hurricane Irma in 2017, had not yet been repaired. She spoke from prepared remarks that outlined her struggle to have the District respond to her repeated requests.
Giunta finally received a report that was requested by the District to measure the contaminants. The report has pictures clearly showing evidence of mold. While there are mold spores above recommended levels, the monitor did not feel it was dangerous.
What is dangerous? If one child is being affected, shouldn’t the repair be made expeditiously? After two years, the roof damage is probably worse than it was when the original leak occurred. When is it to be repaired? The report stated that it will be done.
Giunta sent me the report. I asked her to send the prepared remarks that she gave before the Board for publication, which she did not do. I am sure there will be more about this in the future.
The report can be found at:
BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
With a quick vote, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Board and the Boys and Girls Club will go forward.
Approximately 3.5 acres at the back of the property fronting Martin Luther King Blvd. will be leased to the club for 50 years. There will be a club building which will include classroom space and workforce labs for teaching different trades. During the day, those rooms will be used by the District. The memorandum will need to turn into a lease by January 31, 2020. The club will have to obtain financing or donations by April of 2021.
This is a good deal for Boys and Girls Club, the School District, and the kids of Martin County. The MOU can be found at:
I am starting with the end of the meeting because that proved the most interesting to me.
It was time for the Town’s reorganization meeting for a new Mayor, Vice Mayor, and Commission board appointments. Unlike most other municipalities, the reorganization agenda items have been at the end of the meeting both this year and last. At the beginning of the meeting a motion was made by Campo and seconded by Fender to have these matters first. When a vote was taken it failed 3-2 with Campo and Fender voting in the affirmative.
Before the Commissioners’ discussion, several townspeople spoke in favor of retaining Barile as Mayor. Barile has worked tirelessly to make sure everything stays on track. He stated that he was on the phone earlier trying to convince a homeowner to give an easement to the Town for a water project. There was no mistaking that he wanted to remain Mayor.
Kurzman stated that every Commissioner was excellent and believed that Barile had done an excellent job in the mayoral role. He then made a motion to nominate Barile for another term.
Campo added the same niceties but said it was time for a new face and that Barile had come late to the game about septic-to-sewer. He then intimated that he had secured a $500,000 grant from Tallahassee nearly single-handedly. Barile refuted that saying he was the one that drove to the capitol on a moment’s notice to speak before the legislature.
Fender has enjoyed serving as Vice Mayor these past two years but thought as Mayor he wanted to have a strategic vision for the Town. He went on to state that he wants to be Mayor but has a full life without it.
Mayfield complimented Barile but felt that everyone should have an opportunity to be Mayor.
Barile passed the gavel and seconded Kurzman’s motion for a second term. That is never a good sign. The motion failed 3-2 with Barile and Kurzman voting in the affirmative.
Campo then made a motion, seconded by Mayfield, for Fender as Mayor; it passed unanimously. Barile was nominated for Vice Mayor. That passed unanimously.
With board appointments, Campo stated that Barile was on too many boards. He is on three of the five boards that the Commission appoints members to. Fender will remain on the Tourist Development Council and Kurzman on the Airport Noise Committee. Barile is currently the Chairman of the Martin Planning Organization, the President of the Treasure Coast League of Cities, and the incoming Vice Chair of the Council of Local Governments.
For many years Barile was passed over as Mayor by the Commission. It is a Commission-appointed mayoralty. The Commissioners should take turns. This has not been the way the Mayor position has been filled in the recent past. In spite of not being Mayor, except for this one-year, Barile has achieved many things for Sewall’s Point. He is always there and always prepared.
CLEANING UP LOOSE ENDS
Manager Michele Berger is in the process of cleaning up loose ends. She is trying to make sure that things that have slipped through the cracks are dealt with. That is one reason there was such a packed agenda. From flood mitigation to water and road projects, Berger is keeping things moving.
There were two resolutions having to do with the recent Sharfi affair – his request to use his boat house roof as a helicopter landing pad. Mr. Sharfi’s attorney spoke against one resolution on 2nd reading which would prohibit aircraft from landing or taking off in the Town. It passed 5-0.
The other resolution had to do with marine structures within the town. One of the provisions stated that new boat house roofs must be pitched or gabled. The language is contained in Resolution 421 Section 675-175 entitled Roofs. Since Sharfi’s roof is already existing, I don’t see how it would affect him. His attorney also spoke in opposition. That passed 5-0.
At Fender’s suggestion, the Town piggybacked on Stuart’s plastic straw ordinance, which passed 5-0.
Lastly, the Town will spend $200,000 of grant funding to run a line to the commercial properties so they can hook up to sewer. This was done after the property owners gave written assurances that they would actually spend the money and hook up.
Just another calm night in Sewall’s Point.
The nation’s impeachment fever is in full tilt. As I write this section of the newsletter, the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on whether to go forward with articles of impeachment against the president. I can debate both sides of whether impeachment should happen or not. While what is happening today is important, what are the underlying reasons that the country reached this point?
In my opinion, for almost the past century, Congress has not been vigilant in guarding its Article I powers and prerogatives. The harsh partisanship we see has a direct correlation to how weak the legislative branch of government has become. The Founders did not want to have a powerful executive. They believed that, if the president had too much authority, it would be too easy for us to slide into an elected dictatorship.
Article II, which outlines the executive branch, is less than a third as long as that of Article I. The founders knew that the only way to prevent dictatorship was to have a diffuse governmental power structure. Policy and programs are the purview of Congress to create. The executive needs to implement that policy within narrow constraints. Instead of narrowly defining the authority to implement the law, Congress has given the executive too broad a mandate.
If we are to have a vigorous democracy, then Congress needs to reassert itself and to restrict the power of the president by enacting reform legislation in many areas. Trump has become a problem for half the country largely because of his methods, morals, and style rather than what he has done differently from his predecessors.
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears for 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 you attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
The Washington Post writes that our first president almost died of the flu:
NPR tells us that school enrollment is dropping nationwide:
Again from the Washington Post an article on Amy Coney Barrett that tells the story of her connection to Martin County:
From Florida Phoenix an article on how both political parties agree that Proposition 3 should be defeated:
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