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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WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?
Many Martin County citizens have lost sight of what is important to our long-term quality of life. It is the same sentiment throughout the country. I do not know when such a nihilistic outlook became so ingrained, but it is now part of our national psyche.
It is apparent that we have become long on espousing our individual rights but quite myopic about our collective responsibilities. We have forgotten that you cannot have the former without the latter. We bluster about how special we are and yet do not see that our nation has become like the old feeble uncle at the holiday table that sounds like Archie Bunker without the lovability factor.
For a county or a nation to be genuinely exceptional its people need to understand that sacrifice is necessary for the common good. Nothing exemplified more to me how much that trait is lacking than watching the BOCC on July 2nd. I report on the meeting extensively below.
The issue of masks and beach closings are emblematic of our inability to be inconvenienced for the common good. The United States has become a nation of “me” instead of “we”. That in and of itself is a problem.
There will be no return to what was before. That world was ready to end and because of the virus it began a little sooner. Our economy is changed. The way we socialize is changed. The way we work has changed. Life will not go back to what was. Most of the rest of the world is adapting better. The question is, when do we?
You can read more here
July is supposed to be our quiet month. That is why I scheduled elective surgery on my foot. I thought that the summer doldrums would occur. No such luck.
This edition is coming out a bit early. I wanted to make sure you had the information regarding the County Commission meeting of July 7th and know about the School Board opening plan. Both these meetings reported below will have social, medical, and economic impact on our County.
I will be back with a second abridged newsletter at the end of July. I am assuming as we approach the August elections and primary the political rhetoric will heat up. It will be nothing like what will follow in November. When politics gets hot it usually means that the pols are spending tax money to buy a few votes. I do not expect this election to be any different.
“I WILL NOT VOTE FOR YOU”
How many times have I heard someone say that? I have even said it a few times. If you live in Martin County the likelihood that an incumbent has a viable opponent or any opposition at all is small. For instance, there were three County Commissioners up for re-election. Only Doug Smith has a contested race, and, in my opinion, he will overwhelmingly be re-elected.
The constitutional officers are all unopposed except for the open Property Appraiser’s position due to Laurel Kelly’s retirement. The two School Board seats had no opposition. There are some municipal opposition in Stuart and Indiantown but even the Stuart open seat sees one-time Commissioner Troy McDonald against an opponent that does not seem to be actively campaigning.
So, if an incumbent’s chance of drawing an opponent is less than contracting corona virus, what is to keep them in line. It will not be fear of an election. We have big opinions but do nothing more than complain.
In Martin County for the most part elected officials do not have to contend with the threat of another opponent running against them. Their competition is with themselves. It was painfully obvious during the mask debate that the Commissioners honestly questioned what the right thing was to do.
I guess until more people decide to take on the responsibility to run for office or elected offices have term limits, the threat of voting for their opponent will continue to be an idle one.
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 letter is from Chuck Stewart regarding the Roosevelt Bridge:
All you have to do to find an answer why the bridge is failing is to research who the designers were and you shall find your answer.
Lots of pretty bridges but did you know they designed the FIU bridge in Miami that collapsed killing six and injuring ten.
The NTSB determined that The FIGG Bridge Group had serious design flaws.
The Florida DOT should have had the red flags go up immediately after this accident to inspect the Roosevelt Bridge.
Did they connect the dots? They refused to answer questions.
The next one is from Pegg Stover Nott:
Thank you for your faithful service to Martin County and it’s people. When giving any money to the school district for anything make sure you follow the paper trail and the money trail. Those two paths that seem to take money from taxpayers down the yellow brick road. Unfortunately, the School Systems in Florida are full of Scarecrows. “if they only had a brain”. The destruction of the school system in the state of Florida falls in the lap of local government and the failure of the State to take them to task for their conduct. Like the police, the fireman, the first responders, the children and the teachers are the ones in the front lines then it dribbles down to the citizens of each county as collateral damage. They are the ones critically effected by decisions made by the elected officials. School Boards in Florida are paid with TAX PAYERS DOLLARS. Make sure you as the taxpayer, the teachers and the children are getting what you paid for. So far, not so much!
Pegg Stover -Nott
Masks from Mark Braun
Mask or no mask should not even be worth a debate.
1) Anybody refusing to wear a mask anywhere, public or store, is potentially a loaded Covid-Gun.
2) Anybody tested and is positive (may or may not know that at the time) is a walking fired Covid-Gun.
3) Anybody tested positive and still refuses to wear a mask or even quarantine is actually a murderer and should be charged accordingly.
In the meantime, it should be crystal clear to all officials that masks need to be mandatory everywhere because the people will not do it. (I will not get it and if then it will be just like a cold for me, I am only 20). I don’t know why they feel they have a right to infect anybody around them. The Governor should issue a statewide mask mandatory order but this TV number-rattling whimp is not going to do it because he may lose some votes for his next election and that should be a crime too.
A hospital was honest enough to post their assessment when needed how they handle ICU-Beds, respective Ventilators.
2 people coming into the Emergency ICU, 1 Ventilator left, who gets it?
1 person is 70+, in general still pretty healthy, followed all the guidelines but needs to go shopping sooner or later and contracted Covid anyway since masks don’t guarantee 100% safety.
The other person is 30, generally also pretty healthy, went Partying, Drinking, Restaurants and Bars and caught Covid.
Hospital assessment: The younger one gets the ventilator the older one will be kept comfortable till he may survive on his own or die. The younger one has probably more life-years left and his Covid outlook is better because of age even with all the long-term damage Covid may have done to his health.
I guess they calculated the younger one may still pay taxes, the older one is on SS, time to save that money from this so dearly beloved one.
And we still have no mandatory USA wide mask law. Wow.
That’s reality right now, something to think about.
Thanks Mark Braun
Wes Clarke regarding 2nd degree misdemeanor:
many thanks for this mailing. One thing that would be GREAT would be a posting of the MARTIN CTY law on FIREWORKS. very timely also a number to report violators to Law enforcement. THANK YOU
Wes Clark, Taxpayer, Voter, Martin County
Here is the Ordinance
The Sheriff enforces it but unless it is an emergency you should use this number: (772) 220-7000
SPECIAL MEETING JULY 2, 2020
As with all special COVID meetings this one started with an update from Cleveland Clinic. The positivity rate for Martin County on July 8th is 13.3% that is one of the highest in Florida. When people say that the number of cases is rising because of more testing this number debunks that statement. The positivity rate is a constant number regardless of the number of tests.
If you test 100 people if the number of positives come back at 12 then the positivity rate is 12. The positivity rate will remain the same if you test a 1000 people, 120 of them will come back as positive. That is a good number to keep in mind when judging the severity of the outbreak. The number of people that have had it in the past is not that important to tracking the future.
Total cases from the beginning is not an indicator of the future. The trend lines are important. If the number of cases is increasing from week to week then the virus is far from contained. Lastly how many hospital beds does our system have to deal with the patients who need care.
In each instance those trends are not good. Martin County cases are increasing exponentially. If the number of cases continue rising, we will not be able to contain the spread no matter what we do. Those are the facts.
The specific item of the day was if the Commission was going to mandate the wearing of masks in public. It was a day with perhaps 50 public speakers in person and 250 email comments that were read into the record. Smith would later say that he counted the pro and con being equal with all public comment. The people in person were not in favor of mandating masks. While those that sent an email were.
Mike Meier, the current Mayor of Stuart, was the first to speak. He was given that courtesy because he was the Mayor. He announced his title, but he was not speaking in an official capacity. The Commission did not authorize him to speak on the City’s behalf. Meier was in favor of masks. At the last City Commission meeting he tried to have a similar mandatory order passed. The Commission was not interested.
There were some ludicrous comments made. Nothing was more so than when the owner of Kyle G’s equated wearing a mask to Jews wearing the Star of David under the Nazis. That was just an ignorant repugnant remark. Others cited fabled Facebook studies as their sources of not wanting to wear a mask. The U.S. Constitution was a favored source of those that equated freedom with a mask requirement.
I do not think I heard one medical professional speak or write that did not believe that wearing a mask would not help to prevent the spread of the disease. As to whether something as trivial as requiring a mask is constitutional, the answer is yes. Florida through its police power has the authority to quarantine an infected person to protect the public health. A mask does not even come close to stretching that authority.
One other concern by people is if they were wearing a mask, they would be in violation of the concealed carry law. The answer according to the Sheriff is no. If you were in the process of committing a crime using a firearm and wearing a mask, then the answer is yes. But that would be true whether you had a concealed carry permit or not. Anytime you are using a mask, a bandanna, or other object to conceal your identity during the commission of any crime it is illegal under Section 876.12-15. Section 876-155 gives the applicability of the law and the exceptions under 876.16. All can be found here
In other words, you can carry your piece and be masked during the emergency.
Currently the governor has decided not to use a statewide order but rather leave it up to individual counties. Counties are political subdivisions of the state. Therefore, since Martin is a non-chartered county its government must conform to statute when creating ordinances and orders.
After 10 hours of public comment it was time for staff and the Commission to discuss. Sarah Woods explained the constitutionality of being able to require a mask. It has been upheld in both Florida and federal courts in the last several weeks. The emergency order was both thorough and completely legal.
For the past, several months most of the County’s COVID-19 response has been governed by state statute and its Emergency Management Ordinance. State statute gives the County the ability to issue emergency orders pursuant to the provisions of their Emergency Management Ordinance. For example, the Commission passed an ordinance to require food service employees to wear a mask. The enforcement rests with the Sheriff. It is a 2nd degree misdemeanor if found guilty with a $500 fine and has a possible sentence of 60 days.
Local governments cannot pass criminal ordinances. They can pass civil ordinances that would require adjudication before a local civil magistrate. The fine can carry a maximum of $500. The ability of the County to use the authority of an emergency leaves the County no choice but a criminal violation.
This is what was objected to by Hetherington, Smith, and Jenkins. If they had passed an emergency order, then they do not have the ability to impose a non-criminal violation. That is why by a vote of 2-3 the motion to pass such an order failed. The motion was made by Commissioner Heard and seconded by Ciampi.
Woods kept saying she would write in a provision stating that no jail time was being asked and that at most the $500 penalty would be imposed. I am very dubious and could not find anywhere in Florida statute that a judge would have to abide by that when sentencing. Even if the judge found the person guilty and imposed no fine or jail time that person would still be convicted of a 2nd degree misdemeanor. I think masks should be mandatory, but I could not vote in favor of the possibility of someone being convicted of a crime.
Smith made a motion for staff to come back next Tuesday with a plan to amend the Emergency Ordinance that was seconded by Jenkins after he passed the gavel. It passed 3-2 with Heard and Ciampi dissenting.
But there is another alternative that they could have tried. They have the ability with a super majority vote of 4 agreeing to have an emergency ordinance that would have required face masks. There would have been no need for advertising or for two readings. It would be enforced by Code Enforcement. If the Commission so desired, they could also give the authority for enforcement to the Sheriff.
There may be two reasons why at this point an emergency ordinance will not stand up to a legal challenge. One the County has been debating this for several weeks now. Can it clearly be an emergency subject to Florida Statute 125.66. The second reason is that there are many cases that allows the County to proceed under the emergency order. I could not find any court decisions under an emergency ordinance.
The statute can be found here
The beaches were closed by an emergency order for the July 4th weekend. Hetherington made a motion seconded by Smith to allow them to remain open for Martin County residents. It failed 2-3 with Ciampi, Heard and Jenkins dissenting. Once again, I believe we are incapable of even sacrificing a few days at the beach without turning it into a great tragedy. Can we have a small amount of perspective.
Lastly the Commission after sitting through 4 hours of having staff read email comments today decided unanimously to have them become part of the record but not read them into the record going forward.
COUNTY WORKSHOP JULY 7, 2020
For some very odd reason the County did not carry this meeting on MCTV. Why is a mystery. People who believe in conspiracy theories may think it was an attempt to keep secret all that was being discussed regarding Hobe Sound. It was unusual.
I do not quite understand why they are so averse to using their TV station to have as many people as possible watch the meetings. It is true that it was on Zoom and that is where I finally found it 45 minutes after the meeting started.
On all levels, it is if governments are trying to arouse suspicion by ordinary citizens on what they are doing. If you are going to have all these meetings, then make them available to the broadest number of people.
The workshop was to discuss what to do with the homes that were flooded by the torrential rains on Memorial Day in Hobe Sound. It appeared that a dose of reality crept into Commission thinking after they left last time promising to buy out the affected homeowners.
It was brought to their attention by staff that the Commission would have to use an independent appraiser’s post storm value for the home. If a kitchen, bath, and walls have been torn out then the home is probably not worth as much as before.
There is also the possibility of eminent domain, but I think ultimately that would be difficult to have a judge rule that there were adequate grounds. I think statute does not say that a reason for the state to take property is to help a homeowner buying in the wrong location. Besides an appraisal is necessary with the same limitations as above.
Ciampi mentioned maybe the homes can be elevated. That would seem like a good idea, but a homeowner said what about the septic system once the home is elevated. It really is a tragedy what happened in that community. Perhaps there is a state responsibility to those property owners or even a federal one. I do not understand local government’s responsibility.
Ciampi was touting this as perhaps a pilot project for the entire County. Again, if you lead with your heart every resident’s problem becomes a government problem. Are we going to do this in Jensen and Palm City? How many homes do we buy or elevate? And what has really been accomplished? Would you buy one of these homes that need to be raised? Someone said that her home was built in 1951. 70 years is a long time standing in this area if it is so prone to flooding.
The only possible government program is the building of sewers for storm water and sanitary in this area and eventually every area in eastern Martin County. There needs to be better drainage with retention ponds and outflows. Going forward before new development it should be mandatory that the County obtains independent engineering study done at the applicant’s expense.
Here is the rub about sewers. This area is in SMRU’s district. It is the utility owned by Jupiter Island. What happens if the Town does not want to bring a line, then what? Smith and Ciampi want the right to have it transferred to the County’s service area. Martin County especially in the eastern half of the County needs to move to sewers and to require everyone to hook up within a couple of years once the line is in front of the property regardless of how good your septic system is. Now you only must hook up after your septic fails. I confirmed the County’s current policy this week with the head of the department.
The best thing the County can do for these homeowners and every homeowner is make sure water, sanitary and storm sewers are available to every property owner. Then they need to bring the cost of hook up to a more reasonable amount so that someone that has a $150,000 home does not spend thousands.
Commissioners stop dreaming and get practical…please.
To see staff’s presentation
SPECIAL MEETING JULY 7, 2020
Once again, the great mask debate resumed at 1:30 pm.
The first 45 minutes of the meeting was devoted to procedural votes on why an emergency ordinance was necessary. A super majority vote was needed to have (4 out of 5 Commissioners) open the public hearing to vote on an emergency ordinance. Smith made that motion which was seconded by Ciampi. The Commission voted unanimously.
Next the Commission voted 5-0 to change their emergency management ordinance to name the County Administrator as the person to sign emergency orders and to provide for civil penalties.
The Commission then had a few other administrative votes before moving on the mask ordinance. The reason for the ordinance instead of the order was because the order carries the possibility of someone being charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor if found guilty of a violation. Jenkins, Smith, and Hetherington would not vote to pass a mandatory mask requirement if that were the case.
Then followed several hours of public comment. It was like what transpired from their meeting last week. Only it became even more virulent on both sides of the argument. Some speakers presented their arguments in a reasonable manner. Many did not. I was especially taken aback by medical doctors shouting at people to be quiet.
The lack of civility was palatable in the room. This uncivil attitude is not only in Martin County but throughout the United States. As the economic, societal, and medical conditions worsen in the coming months the way we handle our predicament will determine how fast our problems are solved. So far it has not been encouraging.
After several hours of speakers, the Commission then discussed the ordinance. Heard made a motion to approve the ordinance which was seconded by Ciampi. Hetherington asked several questions about different sections. Smith spoke of his family’s discussions regarding his mother. Jenkins said that he did not trust the experts nor the statistics he was being given. Yet he trusted what his own doctors were telling him and that was to wear a mask.
There were several changes to language including the exemption adding religious organizations in their houses of worship. The vote was 5-0.
The ordinance has plenty of holes and exemptions. Those people who strenuously object will either blatantly not comply or claim one of the many reasons why compliance is not necessary. The ordinance covers the entire county including the municipalities.
The enforcement piece will be like Stuart’s plastic straw ban or much of the state orders concerning COVID that are currently being ignored by businesses and the public. I am all for local control but that is when the problem is local. COVID-19 is not just something facing Martin County. It is facing the entire country. The failure of the national and state governments to institute a policy has resulted in this masquerade of a solution.
The ordinance sunsets on August 9th. The Commission did not give their plan enough time to prove whether masks work or not. In about three weeks, a shorter time span than the amount time they have been contemplating masks, they will get to do it all over again.
The entire ordinance which includes the exceptions can be found here
Next Commission Meeting July 13, 2020
JUNE 30, 2020 SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
It seems that the budget for next year is still very much a work in progress. Departing CFO Audra Curts Whann presented a budget outline found here
There is still much uncertainty brought on by the governor’s $500,000,000 teacher raise and the ramifications of COVID-19. It is hard to budget when you are unsure about whether there is going to be virtual, in house, or a combination school year. Dr. Miller, Chief Academic Officer, stating that if the District needs to follow CDC guidelines all the students cannot be in school at the same time.
Will there be enough staffing if schools do open would be uppermost in my mind? How many teachers will return if schools are opened? There will be some subset that for medical reasons do everything possible not to step foot back into a classroom. Those teachers that are eligible may just retire instead of risking catching the virus.
What we have not come to grips with is that our society will fundamentally change because of the upheavals of the virus, the economic depression, and social upheaval. Institutions such as schools may look very different than they did at the beginning of this decade. The Board will be making tough decisions and choices in the coming weeks and months and I believe in the next few years.
Do you remember when you became ill in school and you were sent to the nurse’s office?
I do remember the nurse applying a bandage if you were bleeding because you fell scraping your knee. She (and it always was a she) gave classes eye exams once a year and kept a list of vaccinations. She called your mother (and it always was your mother) if you were sick enough to go home. If you were not sick enough to leave, she sent you back to class after a half hour. The nurse was always dressed in her white uniform with white shoes. I think I remember that they wore nursing caps so that means they must have had some sort of nursing degree.
Times have changed and the health professional that is in Martin schools is not a licensed nurse and may not even be a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). Until a few years ago the District did not even require that designation to be hired. Fortunately, the job description was changed to require it. However, those that were already in those positions when the rules changed may still not be certified.
The Board put aside money to pay for classes for those that did not have the qualifications. It takes 120 hours of instruction 40 hours of which will be clinical. Every two years there is continuing education of 24 hours which can be done online. Only a couple of employees have taken advantage of the ability to obtain the certification. They only want to do it if they get paid for their time in taking the class.
Sixty years ago, the nurse in my school had some sort of degree in nursing. Today even 120 hours of education may be lacking. A funny thing happened on the way to the future.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING JULY 7, 2020
Apparently, Tallahassee believes in local control unless it goes against what Tallahassee wants to believe is the right course. Governor DeSantis has left it up to counties to deal with whether to close beaches or wear masks, but that control does not extend to when and for the most part how schools will open.
Education Commissioner Corcoran with the authority given by the governor has issued an order that all schools will open 5 days per week in August. That order was issued July 6th.
Tracy Miller, the Chief Academic Officer, presented a plan to the Board that should conform to Tallahassee’s requirements. It still must be approved by the state. Initially there was going to be the option of having some days at home and some physically in the building. That would have allowed for social distancing on buses, classrooms, and other areas.
Now schools will be open to all students 5 days per week. There will be a virtual option at the parent’s discretion. However, the student at home will need to attend all the same classes at the same time as the rest of his class. This allows the parent who is not comfortable with their child going back into the classroom having as close to a classroom experience as possible. At the same time if a student is a little under the weather they can remain at home and still be counted as attending. In school face masks when social distancing is not possible will be required.
The outline was approved 5-0 by the Board. Anderson stated it would have been nice if the state allowed the District more discretion. Opening the schools in a month when cases continue to rise may needlessly make matters worse. How many teachers who have qualified for retirement are going to remain is a good question.
An older teacher within a high-risk group even if they love their job may feel it is not worth the risk. It is an established fact that while children and their young parents are less likely to die there still are side effects from having COVID-19 to other organs in the body. This should be a real interesting year.
The next meeting is Thursday July 16, 2020
The next meeting is scheduled for July 13, 2020
Next Meeting is scheduled for July 14, 2020
Maybe we have finally come to an understanding that America cannot treat some of its citizens differently than others. I believe in civil order and society’s right to maintain that order. The marches and protest that have occurred in many cities and towns including Martin County have been not only peaceful but instructive of what it means to be an American.
My old business and now my son’s in New York City are managing mostly office buildings in midtown Manhattan. During the worst of the protests and the subsequent looting, he was driving and checking the properties at the same time it was happening. He noticed a pattern that the protesters with their police escort would march from an area and then organized gangs of looters would then begin breaking into the stores.
The NYPD changed tactics after a couple of nights and while the marches and protests continued, the looting stopped. The police concentrated on the bad guys and not the thousands of citizens that were exercising their constitutional right to protest. This pattern of the police and in some instances the National Guard kept a volatile situation from becoming worse.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, there were no police forces to keep the peace. Cities had a ‘watch” and in small towns they had a peace officer. There was nothing to defend citizens from danger but other citizens. That is why in every state constitution written during that period the need for a citizens’ militia was a key part. Similarly, in those state constitutions, there also is a clause stating that the people’s liberty is in jeopardy if the government relies on a standing army.
From the time of the Revolution until today we have laws and traditions that our armed forces should not be used against American citizens. Many think that the right for citizens to have arms is only an individual right. The Founders never questioned that individual right. They wanted to make sure that Americans would never have to fight another standing army as they did as colonist against the British military.
For hundreds of years the ancient Roman Republic had a law forbidding any army from crossing a stream known as the Rubicon. By a general doing so he would be entering Rome proper and a threat to the people. Julius Caesar took his army across the Rubicon and the Romans began to lose their political freedom. In a few decades, the Republic morphed into the Empire.
Beware of our leaders using the excuse of ‘order” to curb our constitutional rights such as the right to redress our grievances. To be a good leader one must understand what their actions could mean. They need to know what our Constitution states and what it stands for.
To read more from an article published in Medium here
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.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
From The New York Times the housing crisis is a national one:
The next article from the Washington Post states that during pandemics there is more extremism:
The Tampa Bay Times writes that Marion County thinking about returning to an elected superintendent after 30 years:
Lastly from Route Fifty that government employees using their personal devices put their employers at risk for cyber-attacks:
The first chart is from Frame of Reference it outlines the education of all 46 presidents:
And two charts from The Visual Capitalist:
The first is the worlds oldest and youngest countries:
And what is known as the Buffet Indicator for all time high risk:
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Career & Technical Education (CTE)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
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Community Development District (CDD)
Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)
Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Emergency Operation Center (EOC)
Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC)
Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
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Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)
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Land Development Code (LDR)
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Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
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Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)
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World Health Organization (WHO)