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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A POINT OF CLARIFICATION
As I travel about Martin County, I gather information and, to a lesser, degree rumor.
If I didn’t gather information, then I couldn’t write this newsletter. When I do speak to a staff member or elected official, everything is off the record unless the person and I have an expressed agreement otherwise. However, if an elected official write something, speaks from the dais or in public, I report it.
People tell me many things. What their plans are or who may be running for office. Some of what I hear is rumor and conjecture. I usually wait until I hear the same thing from several sources to know if it has the possibility of being true.
I have been told by more than a few people that they have heard that I am running for office. Some have heard that I am running for Stuart City Commission…others for a seat in the legislature. I’ve been told by a few that I am running for County Commission or as a Constitutional Officer.
Let me make something quite clear. I am not running at all for any position.
I am now having too much fun writing this newsletter and being involved with some great non-profit organizations. Being an elected official was fine. Almost four years was enough.
I believe, for now, I can do more for our County by writing this newsletter. Does that mean I wouldn’t run for office again? You can never say never, but for now this is where I can serve our community the best.
Local government boards are primarily policy bodies. They are supposed to set the direction that the County or municipality should go. In our County, professional managers oversee the bureaucracy. Council members, commissioners and even state legislators are elected to act in the name of the people. Therefore, those positions can be filled by everyday citizens with no special training or profession.
When we speak about voting for executive positions such as governor or president, we need to ask ourselves what in their background would qualify them to be able to direct thousands or even millions of employees. How much experience do they have?
Then we have those few and peculiar positions known as constitutional officers. In many parts of the country, those positions are not elected but appointed. They are parts of governments and usually report to the chief operating officer of the governmental entity.
Florida is a little different because the voters choose. In those positions, I vote for someone who has some expertise and experience in the subject matter of the office. You wouldn’t want to elect a sheriff that has never been in law enforcement.
To read more on my thoughts:
Impact fees are a sore spot and their imposition is a complicated matter. It is true that local governments sometimes use impact fees as a revenue grab. In Martin County, they are especially high and can add thousands to the cost of building a project. I am for reducing impact fees for all new properties being built. That concept should apply within Stuart because it is already built out except for north of the Roosevelt Bridge.
The City passed an ordinance on 2nd reading at the last meeting that allows for the sale of impact fee credits. As an example, if you bought a property with 10 units on it and then demolished that building and put up a 5-unit building, you theoretically now have a 5-unit credit. This ordinance allows that owner to sell to any other property owner in the City those credits. If that person was putting up 5 units on a vacant piece of property, then he could use those credits to escape any impact fees.
This new market that was created by a Commission vote of 3-2 (with Meier and Matheson voting no) has a few peculiarities. The first is that impact fees weren’t always collected. Prior to the 1970s, there were none. So, if the impact fee credit was based on a building that was built prior to then, the owner now can sell something where no impact fees were ever paid.
The second thing it does is encourage less density within the City. You take an old building that was housing 10 families that would be considered affordable housing and put up a new one that has 5 units that could be unaffordable to most, if not all, of the prior residents. You then take the 5 impact fee credits and sell them to someone else or transfer them to yourself for another project.
A smarter way would be to look at impact fees for the entire City and see how they can be reduced for all. The ordinance that was passed will only give more profit to the developer. It does nothing to make housing more affordable. It was a give-away to friends of the family and is another instance of the people’s business taking a back seat to the “good ole boys.”
The survey we have had posted on our site asked questions about the quality of life in Martin County.
The good news is that people like living here. It has good parks, schools, neighbors, and amenities. It was something that I expected. You come here, and you want to pull up the gate and tell others to move on.
There are two challenges identified in the survey. The job market is inadequate. The need to make a living, except if you want to work for the government or a non-profit, doesn’t provide many choices. The challenge is that the housing market is expensive as compared with St. Lucie County. I guess that goes with the pulling up the gate attitude.
Balance and moderation are needed. Sure, our quality of life is good because we are less crowded than other places. That leads to fewer places to work because of our fear of any development. I am right with you that I want to keep Martin County as close as possible to the ideal, but right now, we barely build the housing needed as replacement.
Our schools are shrinking in student population. Families will be rushing to either Palm Beach or St. Lucie to have babies because there is not enough volume to continue an OB unit at our local hospital. Without children and young families, we cannot have a paradise. We should think about that.
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.
The first is a letter from John Blanchard about an original river lawsuit:
Dear Mr Campenni,
Thanks again for the update!! Interested in the news Of the potential lawsuit against the US army corps of engineers! To the best of my recollection a group of wealthy homeowners ( most living on the st Lucie river in Stuart) filed a lawsuit against the US army corps of engineers claiming loss of property values due to lake o discharges!! This occurred approx 20 years ago with Dr. Robert Baratta of Snug Harbor spearheading the suit!! A boat load of money was spent and ultimately the suit was tossed!! I agree that a lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer money at this time!! The same result will most likely occur with a new lawsuit!!
Just a thought!!
John M Blackard
Good morning Tom.
Why does the School District not relocate Palm City Elementary School campus?
They plan to build on the same parcel.
Entrance & exit through residential neighborhood.
Limited options for today’s campus needs
I will tell you where the School Board sits. Right on top of $560,000.00 they took from the voted in funds for the teachers and more. 77% of the $11 million millage was earmarked for the teachers and teacher recruitment. The other 23% was broken down between departments that were in need of funding. That is what the School Board said but that is not what happened.
I told you I was taking this further and I have. The Sunshine Laws and the Freedom of information Act are in place so the general public, WE THE PEOPLE, have access to where our tax dollars are going. Whether it is an individual, a group, an oversight committee, and even the newspapers there has always been issues with getting information.
They announced at a board meeting they now have a Public Records person in place. Well, hate to tell you but it has not gotten any better. Read the Hometown News article in regards to another Sunshine issue, this time with the Bidding Process. It never ends.
Just keep in mind, Evil only persists when GOOD MEN AND WOMEN DO NOTHING. More and more people in Martin County are beginning to see the light thanks to people like you, and others who stand up for the truth. Not playing in the Martin County School Board Sandbox anymore. They have had over a year to do what is right. Always remember Big Fish Eat Little Fish and I am now dealing with the Big Fish. If the Big Fish try to ignore or cover this up, which has happened before, there is always the Whale.
Thank you for your due diligence in this matter. I read the entire issue every time and I am never disappointed. Great reporting.
Great story about the millage oversight. Thank you for sharing. I’m really sorry I’ve not gotten back to you from when I saw you at the school board meeting.
Mr. Campenni- I have reason to believe the district did not follow the ballot language of giving 77% to recruit and retain qualified teachers – and as an oversight committee member I have asked for and still not received a complete list of what has been paid out. What I did receive from the district was an incomplete list of who received money from the millage. My request was put in on Dec 10th. and I’ve still not received the completed request. Or 3 other prr’s (Public Records Request) that were put in.
I have specifically asked for recordings from our supposed organizational meeting from June of last year- the district refuses to say there are none, yet to date they haven’t acknowledged it. The minutes from our organizational meeting were made up – to date they should not be approved because I objected to comments I was to have said that I did not.
Our community worked hard to encourage voters to support this millage – keeping our “A” rated schools and teachers. I’m doing research as I type, we are in no better shape than before the millage. Compare our teacher’s salary with Palm Beach and PSL. If you remember that’s one of the main talking points the chair had to convince the voters to vote yes.
To date our committee has not been given sufficient documents to do our job. And at this point- after speaking to the board about it and speaking to the board attorney and asking for public records request from the district and being ignored, I’ve no choice but to file a complaint Monday with the attorney general over sunshine laws being broken.
The board attorney claims it was an oversight- I’m not sure how. I’ve been emailing and speaking at board meetings about the issues with the committee- its not because of oversight it’s blatantly obvious the district does not want to show who and what is being paid.
And lastly- teachers who left the district were accidentally paid. It’s a fact- the CFO admitted it. While I was speaking at the podium she interrupted and said, “it was fixed”. Yet our committee was never told about it- we didn’t see who was paid nor how much nor if they lost the money or somehow recouped it.
Sorry to throw all this at you. I just really appreciate you shedding light on this subject. I’m not going anywhere. I promised the teachers I’d hold the district and board to their word with this millage money.
Thank you for listening to me rant.
Martin county parents United
This is really not a letter but a request as to where the location of the easement is – my brother lives at 36 E. High Point Rd in Sewall’s Point and I kayak around the beautiful spoil island full of mangroves at the mouth of the St. Lucie where it enters into the IRL at the crossroads. So I am curious as to which island and the location of the easement.
I know from my brother that the McCartney family that lived in High Point – I think the wife’s family donated or protected that island but their house was sold a number of years ago. They are on West High Point right where the river curves around. I don’t remember the street address.
If you have the information and can let me know or where I can find it I would be interested more out of curiosity than anything else. Thanks
If you go on the school board website under the agenda for the meeting you will find the information.
And then Mary’s answer back:
thanks Found it. Looks like it is off Island Road where the easement is to that beautiful mangrove island. Do you know if Florida Oceanographic is aware of this or it is now only owned by the School Board?
For the first time, the meeting included the new Village of Indiantown. These joint meetings tend to be uninformative and a bit boring, but this meeting had two interesting presentations.
The first was regarding Pineland Prairie. The School Board and the developer are in negotiations regarding sites on which to locate a school and related impact fees. There is also a provision for building a charter school. It is way too early to determine so much since nothing has been built yet in Pineland. At least for the past few months since the Board itself took over negotiations, things are moving in the right direction.
The second and more important presentation was by the County’s John Maehl who is spearheading the effort on LOSUM and LORS. He explained how the Corps must follow NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act.) This requires complex scheduling and is not as simple as a rallying cry of no more releases as has been shouted by Stuart officials. There are knowledge gaps that must be filled before the true picture can be known about what to do.
The County has a team of employees and 14 different consultants to follow the Corps actions. The very idea that was being proposed by Stuart of a one-man czar to give advice and be the City’s savior or even point person is ludicrous. The science is complex and requires real and deep knowledge in many different disciplines.
University of Florida and Martin County are working together on more than just LOSUM. Our BMAPS, nitrogen levels, endangered species and a host of other scientific disciplines are interconnected in this process. There are LOSUM sub-teams.
Performance metrics can be found at CLICK HERE
Martin County should not only have been doing all that they have and continue to do but should also publicize the work being accomplished with our tax dollars. Every taxpayer in the County including those residing in the municipalities, have been supporting this effort. It is unconscionable that the public was not made aware of these wonderful contributions sooner.
The County Commission should form a committee made up of one member from the different municipal and school governing boards along with one County Commissioner to have monthly meetings with Maehl and his team. They can be informed on what is going on and report back to their boards. Communication is key and this go-it-alone attitude needs to end.
The presentation can be found at:
COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 18, 2020
Sometimes this newsletter has a common theme running through it.
This week’s theme happens to be public comment. Public comment is required under Florida Statute. As long it is allowed under reasonable conditions boards are complying with the law. No board from what I understand in Martin County is not in compliance. As is mentioned in other sections of this newsletter, it is how public comment is being used by the different boards.
When comment is made by the public during specific agenda items at BOCC meetings, I think it is fine. The Commission is listening to what people think on a matter before them. It is with general public comment that the concept is not being used as intended.
General public comment was meant to allow citizens to address the Commission about their beefs and problems. It was never meant to have Commissioners make comments back to the speaker or to have problems solved individually from the dais. That behavior smacks of the Commission dispensing royal favors to individuals as if the peasants were speaking to a noble at court.
The Commission should listen attentively to the speaker. If a Commissioner believes that further action is needed the Commissioner can have it placed as an agenda item to be addressed at a subsequent meeting.
If there is a problem that a Commissioner is made aware of by a constituent, the Commissioner can intercede with staff to try and solve those individual issues at any time. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with the Administrator saying that someone from staff will contact the speaker to address an individual problem. Staff handles complaints while Commissioners take care of policy.
Commissioners should go back to listening and taking notes. Then after the meeting you can address those individual problems or if it is widespread bring it back as an agenda item to discuss and act upon.
SALERNO SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
When listening to this agenda item two things struck me. One was that the festival is a victim of its own success and two what should the Commission be weighing more heavily, commercial interests or those of the residents?
This year according to staff’s report there were 27,000 people attending. There were no arrests. The organizers hired 19 Sheriff’s Deputies and 10 private security personnel. They had a tram and dedicated parking for residents. There was also parking at the fairgrounds. It was portrayed as an improvement over the recent past.
The festival has grown from a neighborhood inspired event to big business. Once the seafood was all local being caught, prepared, and served by Port Salerno residents. That is when it made sense to have it in front of homes owned by the volunteers and vendors. But that hasn’t been the case in years.
Now it is a commercial venture for vendors that come from wide and far. The restaurants in Port Salerno do very well. There is nonstop entertainment. It is a party but no longer a neighborhood block party. It is a business that is taking place on residential streets where brick and mortar businesses wouldn’t be allowed.
It is supposedly to raise money for the commercial fishing dock. Yet a petition was signed by 44 commercial fishermen to move the festival. Someone identified as Sid spoke and said as a restaurant owner it was too good economically to move.
Yes, the festival is a victim of its own success. People come from all over to attend. It was said that it is in the top 25 of festivals in our part of the country. I applaud the organizers. It is a hell of a business. But make no mistake it is a business.
Heard, the District Commissioner, wants it moved. Not because she is against the festival but because she is for her constituents. Even with the heightened security the Commission received a thumb drive with video of things going on that you wouldn’t want to happen on your lawn.
Smith said he has lived with parking problems and debris on his lawn because of the Pineapple Festival in Jensen Beach. He looks at these successful festivals as good for all of Martin County. Economically he is right. Jenkins said everyone supports the festival but if it were starting today and the organizers wanted to bring 25,000 people to a residential neighborhood it would be a resounding no!
Ciampi stated that it sounded like a tennis match with each side scoring points back and forth. He said as did every other Commissioner that the organizers’ efforts were appreciated. Though he could not support the festival next year if it were on the same residential streets. He came up with a compromise that the festival be moved to only commercial streets.
Hetherington said that she was not going to mandate which streets the festival should be on. It is up to staff to work with the applicant and the residents. The County Attorney said that anyone can request a permit to close any street and that the Commission just can’t tell the organizers what streets they can ask the County to close. It can be denied, however.
Which brings us to another point of the festival raising money for the commercial fishing dock. The dock is owned by the County yet run by this consortium of politically connected families it seems. The festival this year resulted in a donation of $15,000 for the commercial dock or 56 cents per attendee. Not a good return on investment if you ask me.
Commissioner Heard said that she has never seen a financial report on the festival. That makes me think of another question, why has the County given the management of the dock to a private entity. Was there an RFP or RFQ? If commercial fishing is something that Martin County wants to see continue, then why doesn’t the County manage the dock as an enterprise fund just like the airport.
A motion was made by Ciampi seconded by Jenkins (who passed the gavel) to have staff and the organizers come up with a plan for next year with a strong emphasis on not being on residential streets. It passed 4-0 with Heard dissenting.
A Few weeks ago, the Commission voted not to proceed with negotiations for any of the sites that staff presented for a new Public Works Complex. Commissioner Heard was one of the dissenters and she asked that there be a motion to reconsider. That motion passed unanimously.
Then she and Ciampi made a motion to begin negotiations for the Pineland Prairie site. That site consists of 40 acres in their industrial section. Of the four sites presented that one was the most ideal.
Smith wants more info before voting. How many square feet is needed? What will be located on the site? Why 40 acres instead of 25? Where is the site plan? These are all valid questions.
Those questions should be answered before the purchase. The County is far from making a purchase. This action will only begin the process of buying this parcel. No vote was being taken to expend any dollars even though the Commission has already borrowed the money and is paying interest.
There are only so many sites that can be used for this purpose. This is one of them. As Ciampi stated it is close to the turnpike and I-95 for easy access to the rest of the County. The Parks & Recreation Department should be located there with Public Works since there is no need to have two shops to fix equipment and Parks current location is on very valuable land.
There are several steps that need to be done before the property is purchased. This is the authorization to negotiate with this property owner. I would think the Commission will see in the future a price, site plan, and business plan in how anything is going to work before approval. After 20 years the Commission is not moving precipitously. The vote was 4-1 with Smith dissenting.
IT IS TIME!
Hetherington during Commissioner comments brought up working with the City of Stuart regarding sharing information on LOSUM and other areas of water concern. Staff stated that once a month the two staffs are meeting. This isn’t good enough!
As I wrote above the elected officials need to be informed in addition to staff. I suggest that an informational committee be formed comprised of a member of every municipal and school board to be chaired by a County Commissioner. They would meet monthly to have updates on what is going on with Lake Okeechobee and the state of our rivers. This is not a policy board but one where information can be taken back to all elected officials for discussion at their boards.
It is time to work collaboratively and openly to have the results that Martin County deserves. Every taxpayer in Martin County is paying for the County’s scientists and consultants. Let’s not have a municipality go rogue because they don’t know the excellent job that the County is doing.
CITY COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 10, 2020
This Commission meeting was the day before the joint meeting that was reported above. It seems that the Commission is walking back its lawsuit insistence. When the first thought of anyone is “let’s sue or hire a miracle man,” you know that a mistake is likely to be made.
Luckily, the Commission is beginning to see that the process is more is involved than just a lawsuit or someone attending meetings and pounding his fists on the table. Meier had had a meeting with staff and other environmentalists. He cautioned against continuing to move toward litigation. Gary Goforth wrote a visioning statement mirroring that of the Rivers Coalition. He mentioned Senator Harrell’s new working group.
I hope that the City decides to work with Martin County… at least for now.
Education should give students a basic skill set. How much classroom knowledge and how complicated the basic curriculum should be is a question we haven’t answered yet. I never went to kindergarten. I jumped right into first grade when I was already 6 years old. Today kids start as early as 3 or 4 with school. Where I had 12 years of school before college, my granddaughter will have 15. Should we continue the same public education schedule that we have had for more than a century?
When I was in junior high, I suffered through wood shop and metal shop. It was mandatory that boys took those classes and girls took home economics. The teachers took pity on my ineptitude, and they would just give me a passing grade. I went to a Catholic high school, and I never picked up a hammer again in my academic career. From the opposite perspective, I understand how difficult some academic subjects can be for students.
In the 1960s, no one had any idea that car mechanics would be called technicians and use computers to diagnose and fix cars. The same can be said for a variety of occupations we call trades. Today, factories are run with computers and not wrenches. So, in my mind when we speak about vocational education, we can’t be thinking it is the same as when I was in school.
All education must teach our children how to learn. While plumbers, electricians and nurses may be the last to lose their jobs to automation, not everyone can have those jobs. Most factories are already highly automated. Construction will continue to need laborers but more and more of those buildings will come to the site in pieces prefabricated in a factory somewhere else.
There are no easy answers until we understand that the purpose of a high school education is to acquire a skill set to allow the individual to learn many different occupations in a lifetime. Some of those occupations won’t exist until 2040 or 2050. Perhaps we should do away with the concept of high school for 4 years. We shouldn’t try to provide everything under the same roof for every student.
If we just keep doing the same old thing and expect a different outcome…how does the expression go? A 19th century system that came to fruition in the early 20th century should not be our default position in the 21st century.
BOYS & GIRLS TOGETHER
The Boys and Girls Club pulled out all the stops at the meeting. They had everyone speaking during public comment on approving its lease with the school board to build a new building. I don’t think it was ever in doubt that the vote would go in their favor. I guess they didn’t want to take a chance. And with the District, they shouldn’t.
This lease should have been completed in December, but the School Board had just received the completed draft a few hours before the meeting. And, the Board’s insurance consortium made recommendations that still need to be ironed out with the Club. Roberts had lease suggestions that she asked to have discussed. This is not the way to conduct business.
If the Boys and Girls Club is going to raise money to erect the building, they need to get started while the snowbirds are still here. I am not privy to the negotiations so maybe both sides were more difficult than what should have been the case. That doesn’t mean it should come down to the wire.
A few Board Members apologized to the Boys and Girls Club for treating them shabbily. One of the sticking points was security and the proper vetting of people going in and out of the building. It was mentioned by Anderson that the organization had been around for a long time and was responsible. I agree on both counts, but on the very day that the Boy Scouts declared bankruptcy because of abuse claims, let’s not give any agency a pass because of longevity.
DiTerlizzi made a motion to accept the lease with changes to paragraph 19 and then for it to come back on March 3rd to make sure that the recommendations by the insurance consortium are acceptable to the Club and to discuss Ms. Roberts changes. It was seconded by Defenthaler and passed 5-0.
The lease can be found at:
NO MORE BUSSES
Beginning next year, no student will be bussed to school if they live less than 2 miles away. The new policy also does away with those students who were “grandfathered” under the old policy. There won’t be an ability to pay for bus service if the student lives less than 2 miles even if there is room on the bus as is currently the practice. Those students who have what are known as dangerous crossings as defined by state statute will still receive bussing regardless of the 2-mile limitation.
Over 700 students will be affected, but interestingly, no one mentioned how much money would be saved except “a lot”. Roberts believes the current rules are not equitable for every student and that is important. Every child should be treated the same.
Which brings me to another situation that can’t be equitable across the board either. It is interesting how we determine what school boundaries are. J.D. Parker, located in the City of Stuart, has 100% of its students classified as disadvantaged. The boundaries include most of the City plus some of the Golden Gate area. But, Felix A. Williams, which is also in the City, is primarily the local school for all of Hutchinson Island and Sewall’s Point. Some of the kids zoned for Felix Williams are closer to Parker than Felix Williams. It would seem that the politicians want to put as many disadvantaged kids together as possible.
If your kid is zoned to go to a lower performing school, then your property values are lower within those boundaries. Williams’ boundaries are carefully drawn so that few Title 1 kids attend the school which leaves the more affluent children attending all together. Where is the equity there? I’ve only mentioned the income of the kids in the different schools…not their color.
But don’t expect the School Board to be having any workshops on redistricting which hasn’t occurred since 2007. That would require political courage, and, for most politicians, that is in short supply. Anytime you hear the word equity from an elected official, it always applies to their friends and donors though seldom to everyone.
The motion to not bus students for the first 2-miles passed 3-2 with Powers and DiTerlizzi voting no.
Barbara Grass a resident since 1971 spoke during public comment. I have reproduced those comments below:
My name is Barbara Grass and I have been a resident of Martin County since 1972. I came before you in February of 2018 during your meeting on crossing safety, again on November 20,2018 as you discussed transportation cost at which time I cited some “makes no sense” bus stops, then again on February 19,2019 to ask for a workshop on school boundaries. Yes, I am persistent.
There has not been a school boundary (sic discussion) since April 7, 2007….let me repeat 2007….13 years. has nothing changed in 13 years that would leave you to believe that nothing needs to change? Maybe this board needs to change. Yes, school boundaries are a political hot spot, and your political career may have to justify disruption.
Again, now you are back to what has always been a 3-mile rule. As a taxpayer, I agree. As a taxpayer I support exceptions for hazardous conditions, such as crossing US 1 without a guard.
What I do not support is busing students out of the 2-mile radius of a school they should attend to a school for which busing is required. As stated in my previous presentations to you……. Central Parkway is 7 tenths of a mile from Martin County High School……yes less than 1 mile….and students are bused to Jensen Beach High School that is 7 miles away. This falls under the “makes no sense”/
I understand you need to balance the number of students at schools. Perhaps building Jensen Beach High at the north county line was not the best location, because you can only come south to gather attendance. Going north would put you over the county line. But taking students who would require no transportation, how does that make sense or save my tax dollar?
So once again…. what is holding you back? What is your fear? that you may have to make some boundary changes?
Why has this issue never warranted a workshop in 13 years?
PROCEEDURES AND POLICIES
Sewall’s Point continues in its quest for order.
The new Financial Director, Cheryl Dempsey, along with the Town Manager, has written a Financial Policy Manual. This, at last, brings some sanity to the all-important tasks of Town financial management. It is hard to believe that Sewall’s Point has done as well as it has with the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants methodology that has been prevalent in its past.
Even before Berger was hired, Town Clerk White had begun to bring order in her department which encompasses human resources. She has a part time position. It is the Manager who sets the tone. Berger has hit the ground running. If the Commission gives direction and doesn’t infringe on her authority, in very short order, there will be formalized policies and procedures for the entire Town.
The Financial Policy Manual can be found at:
STAFF OR COMMISSIONERS?
When is it appropriate for staff to attend meetings representing the Town? That was the question that Berger was trying to have answered by the Commission.
She apparently went to a meeting of the South Florida Water Management District after no Commissioner, even though all five were notified, responded that they were able to attend. Berger spoke to Mayfield, Fender and Barile and they suggested that she attend for the Town. Campo, after she spoke at the SFWMD meeting, wrote Berger asking why she was the spokesperson. That is why this was on the agenda.
In general, it is always better for any municipality to be represented by a member of their governing board. That doesn’t mean the Manager cannot do so when no Commissioner can. If the SFWMD was asking for someone to speak on behalf of Sewall’s Point and the Mayor, Vice-Mayor and other Commissioners could not or did not respond to the notification, then why not the Manager?
I am sure that Berger would much rather be at her desk than sitting in a room for several hours waiting to speak for a few minutes. Contrary to what some may believe, there is not much fun and almost certainly there will be no story in the press about the words spoken. Elected Officials are supposed to be the ones that do it. They need to show up in order to do so.
DOES SOMEONE NEED TO HELP?
One of Mayor Fender’s goals is to have a strategic plan. That is accomplished with listing priorities of Sewall’s Point stakeholders. There has been much accomplished already. The residents and the Commission have been hard at work doing just that.
One of the questions to be answered is whether this work should be done by staff or someone else. Alex Anaston-Karas, who has worked for Indiantown, contacted Berger. She invited him to make a brief presentation which is attached.
It is good for staff and Commissioners to know what the residents and each Commissioner wants to see accomplished. That gives staff guidance on what to work on accomplishing. In general, though, just having people sit around throwing out ideas is a waste of time. There needs to be some order to the items being listed. Reality is the key as to whether the wish list can be accomplished.
Too often these types of sessions and plans are a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. I believe in the priority list so that staff can work on accomplishing the goals of the Commission. The other stuff looks and sounds good but will sit on the shelf.
Anaston-Karas’ presentation can be found at:
The priority lists are at:
Why is it so important that the order of the meeting be changed?
This agenda item sought to change the Council Members’ and Manager’s comments until the end of the meeting. What is the purpose of that? It seems if the order were changed, the length of their remarks would be substantially shorter because there would be fewer people in the audience. Is it to prevent some Council Members from telling us what they did since the last meeting?
Stone and Clarke are a bit taciturn when speaking. Whatever they say, if anything, is brief. Hernandez can meander, but she tries to keep her remarks on point as does Gibbs-Thomas. Dowling does tend to tell you much more than anyone cares about though its up to the audience to listen or not. The order is currently working so I don’t think it needs fixing.
Interestingly, the item called for all public comment on agenda and non-agenda items to be up front before any one item is presented or discussed by the Council. While it may be within the parameter of the statute, it is a way to shut down public discussion. How can a member of the public comment on an agenda item if they haven’t heard the presentation or any Council discussion? The public is being deprived of an opportunity to put their two cents in after hearing what the item is all about. Just look at the ridiculous way the School Board does it.
Is it to stop concerned parties such as Scott Watson and the Powers’ brothers from speaking? By placing all public comment up front, it has a silencing effect on the people making their opinions known to the Council Members. The School Board handles public comment as this agenda item suggests. It is just wrong. The Council took a long time in finding the right balance…don’t do something that will make the meetings less democratic.
A motion was made by Thomas and seconded by Dowling, but it failed 3-2. Clarke made a motion to table the item and it passed 4-1. Freedom of speech is still alive in Indiantown.
Quest Corporation was chosen from the RFP process to be the Village communication consultant. My question is why do they need the service? Of all the pressing needs of the Village, this is not one of the stand outs.
The other two bidders that were local businesses were Upstairs Communication and The Firefly Group. Both had the capability to craft a plan for the Village. The Firefly Group proposed an extensive amount of services, requiring up to 40 hours per week, which would have cost an estimated $90,000 per year. Both firms have all local personnel. Upstairs Communications is a one-man shop that estimated it would devote 11 hours per month at $175 per hour rounded off to $2000.
Quest is not based locally but looks very capable and can handle the contract. Their price is a flat fee of $90 per hour for 10 hours per week or $46,800 per year. The two not selected are old Martin County standbys with an ability to touch the right person during a crises management situation or to defuse a problem. However, if I was on the committee, I may have chosen Quest also.
But again, I am asking the question why a firm like this is needed to provide these services? Whether you spend $90k, $47k or $24k it still is money that could be going into more basic things. Pave a few more roads or tell a story? I know where I would put my money. A motion was made by Hernandez and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 4-1 with Dowling dissenting.
You can find the proposals at:
Like a communication’s expert, all large cities need lobbyists. Only Indiantown is not a large city.
Dowling, Stone, and Hernandez just came back from a junket in Tallahassee supposedly advocating the legislature. Indiantown’s travel budget must be huge! I have some familiarity with advocacy having been a member of the Treasure Coast team and for Florida League of Cities Advocacy Committee. An elected official has the most sway with the state government when it comes to policy matters.
Lobbying for dollars is quite a bit harder. Usually an elected official speaks to his representative and that representative will try to get the project into the budget. Very few council people can reach out to other legislators who do not represent the Treasure Coast. Even fewer can do so for the right legislator outside their region to influence a budget decision. This is where a lobbyist would come in.
Most large municipalities will have a lobbying firm. If, after a session or two, the firm doesn’t bring in enough project dollars, they are fired, and another firm hired. A lobbyist needs to be able to get your project into a budget and then carry the item through committees and have it still be there when the budget goes to the governor for signature. Of course, the governor can veto the project if he wants.
The triumvirate of Dowling, Stone and Hernandez that went to Tallahassee probably had no effect on any appropriation. They may have gone to a committee meeting but what would be the reason? There needs to be a purpose to go to the capitol.
If you are going to hire any lobbyist, it needs to be someone to get your appropriation through the Tallahassee labyrinth. Any of the firms that submitted an RFP would be fine. They each received similar points by the selection committee.
It is my belief that the utility consultant is the person that will put together the financing for the water plant buyout. The Martin County Fair people have their ask, and Indiantown is an interested party. And County Commissioner Harold Jenkins spoke at the meeting and said that the County’s lobbyist would work with Indiantown for now.
Clarke moved to table this matter until the July 9th meeting. It was seconded by Stone after I think he passed the gavel. It passed 4-1 with Hernandez voting no. I think it was a smart move.
Jim Anniston-Karas made his final presentation of his visioning plan for the village. This is the culmination of his contract to design a new logo, hold visioning sessions, and make two videos.
The videos were not yet ready and so are not up on the Village’s website yet. The power point link to his presentation is below.
One of the impressive things about Ocean Breeze is the large number of people that turn out for the meetings.
Both Kate Cotner from FPL and Robyn Cryer from the U.S. Census gave brief presentations.
There also was a presentation of the budget to date which can be found at this link:
WEST END AVENUE
At the last meeting, the Council decided to move forward with a professional services contract for improvements to West End Avenue. Staff recommended Marcela Camblor to do the work. The contract calls for two stages with a total of $5700.00. The second stage, in the amount of $2500 of the total, won’t proceed without Council approval. The money will come from Ocean Breeze’s portion of the gas tax receipts fund which is $81,000.
Camblor has and continues to do substantial work for Sun Communities. While this road belongs to the Town, most of the streets are the responsibility of Sun Communities. She has all the dimensions and conditions because of her association with the developer so that is a plus. It may seem like a conflict, but I guess it is not.
TOWN VERSUS DEVELOPER
During public comment there was a lot of complaining.
One resident was moving out of the park after having been born and raised there because of its changing nature. Apparently, she had a run-in with another resident because of the park’s rules or was it because of the Town’s ordinances. Hard to tell.
Several others were complaining because Sun had recommended contractors that were not properly licensed. Sun’s private building inspector had certified that work was done to code but hadn’t been. Larry Massing, acting as the Town’s Building Official, is in the process of documenting the problems.
Who is responsible for what? Sun owns the land and is in charge of the common elements of the park. Each house sits on someone else’s property. The Town government’s “territory” is essentially divided into three parts; the park, the shopping center, and the new homes that are being completed in the rear. The park is controlled by Sun, the homes by the builder (but will shortly be controlled by a homeowner’s association) and the shopping center by that owner.
The Town’s authority to regulate is through the PUD Agreements. This leaves residents with a feeling that things can fall through the cracks. For example, if a street within the park needs repair, it is Sun’s responsibility. Homeowners would complain to Sun, and if the road wasn’t repaired, the Town could code enforce Sun because of the PUD Agreement.
It is more complicated than in most municipalities. Incorporation of Ocean Breeze would not happen today. The Town government would more than likely be called a homeowner’s association.
The next Meeting is March 9, 2020 at 9 am
America has forgotten its free market and capitalistic roots. This has affected us as a nation. You cannot have a free society without a rigorous private sector. We have been going in the opposite direction.
It becomes increasingly difficult because the government continues to interfere and prevent new businesses from forming, places a heavy hand on who can enter a market, and allows consolidation of markets. By interfering to favor a very few friends of politicians, we are all economically and ultimately politically worse off.
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)
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