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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By the time you read this, the entire situation could change regarding the Coronavirus. The fast-moving story of Covid19 has the world in a near panic. Questions are being asked such as should I travel or cancel my plans? What happens if I catch the virus? Will I even know if I do?
The markets suffered large losses and then bounced back a bit only to dive again. It wasn’t only the health risk that caused the markets to fall. The Coronavirus could be more the precipitator than the reason of the U.S. heading into a recession. We are just at the end of a great economic boom that had to end sometime.
The biggest problem we face is whether we are receiving accurate information on the risks of this possible pandemic. The one thing that is sure is there won’t be a vaccine available for a while. It will spread throughout the world including the United States. Some of us will become sick. Others will require hospitalization, and a few (mostly those with compromised immune systems) will die.
Antibiotics don’t work on viruses. Currently, there are no medications to fight the virus. If you come down with Covid19, you just must rest and have your immune system battle for supremacy.
What we can do is take precautions and, of course wash, our hands.
For more information you can go to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO website can be found here:
And the CDC here:
WHERE DO YOU BUILD
Most Martin County residents want to see development only within the USB (Urban Services Boundary.)
The only way to counteract sprawl is to build within the boundary and on infill parcels. There are challenges to developing that way. There is only so much land available within the USB which means land costs are more expensive than outside. Another problem is that there are limited large parcels available. This makes building single family housing very expensive.
In order to maximize the return from expensive property, developers then build multi-family housing. Within municipalities and CRAs, this is what we need to do. This type of development is the only way we can have housing for those that aren’t rich. It is ironic that many of us demonize this type of development.
Two developments coming to Stuart epitomize the problems faced because of NIMBY. Both proposed projects have neighbors that would rather see no development of any kind. That is not practical. The Springtree project is on the outskirts of the City. I think there are some legitimate traffic concerns that need to be addressed with that project.
The other is on East Ocean, and the neighbors are objecting because children will live there. I have heard some weird stuff, but this is the weirdest. The City doesn’t need another development for over 55-year-old folks. It needs a place to attract young families. I, for one, think it is a great idea.
To read my post on Martin County Moment:
WHERE ARE THE CANDIDATES
Where are all the candidates for Martin County elected office?
Is there no one that wants to serve? I hear people complaining all the time. Yet, at this point, there are only candidates running for the open property appraiser’s seat and the open Florida House seat in the 82nd district. Does that mean that every incumbent that has filed to run for another term is doing a great job and does not deserve opposition?
Martin County has many people that complain. Very few want to spend time doing anything else except complaining. It isn’t only in the political arena this occurs. I serve on several nonprofit boards. The same applies. A couple of people work, and the rest do nothing but have big opinions.
For centuries, America’s society was differentiated from other nations by our level of public involvement. Since the mid-20th century, the number of hours devoted to volunteerism in America is less and less. In Martin County, we have many volunteers but even here that spirit has been diminishing. A free democratic and pluralistic society is harder to achieve if we become a nation of complainers and not one of doers.
In his seminal work examining the American character, De Tocqueville wrote:
“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”
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 letter is from Jason Bonowicz:
Subject: County is not great for all residents…does nothing for taxpayers on Myrtle St.
Message: From a County Board meeting on Jan 14, 2020…
This is what I expressed and emailed to All of the County Commissioners…4 years and counting nothing is being done:
My name is Jason Bonowicz and my wife, and I live on what is probably the shortest yet worst street in Martin County. (In case you’re wondering…it was the street illustrated in a County Board presentation.)
Though there are some 9 or 10 properties on Myrtle St, there are only 4 houses that actually touch Myrtle St and, of those, 2 are actually addressed 1 street north on Honey Hill Ln (which, by the way, is a paved street). This now leaves only 2 houses that really have any real incentive to do something about the deplorable conditions that are Myrtle St…and I am 1 of those houses.
My wife and I bought our house on Myrtle St in February of 2016. During the buying process I asked the seller, on numerous occasions, about the condition of Myrtle St…to which I was told that the county owns Myrtle St and I simply had to call the county to have them come out to fix Myrtle St.
Soon after closing, I found out (from the only other incentivized owner on Myrtle St) that garbage has not been collected “curbside” for almost 20 years on Myrtle St. I was also told by that same neighbor that Myrtle St has been in this condition for years. Unfortunately, her overall attitude was, that “it is paved in front of her house” so she was not concerned about the rest of Myrtle St. (Relative to that, it is worth noting, that the entire south side of Myrtle St are unimproved lots covered in overgrown vegetation.)
Despite being the only one interested in doing something about Myrtle St, I began contacting Martin County (via the RFS system) regarding both curbside trash and road maintenance. To date I have submitted 7 RFS’s and every single one is answered the same way… Myrtle St is “Privately Maintained”.
Regardless of the designation, Myrtle St is in fact county owned, nobody disputes that… everyone’s property lines stop at the edges of what is the mapped Myrtle St. My street is not privately owned (again, it is county owned) and this is noteworthy because it flies in the face of Martin Co’s own website.
On the opening webpage page for Martin County’s “REPORT MAINTENANCE OF COUNTY ROADS”, it clearly states that “Field Operations does not maintain privately owned roads”. Nothing is mentioned of “Privately Maintained”, yet this is the excuse that is used when anything is requested of the county.
The daily actuality of Martin County considering Myrtle St “Privately Maintained” means quite a few inconveniences. Inconveniences like; I have to walk my trash ½-a-block to get it picked up, I have to go that same ½-a-block to get my mail, I have to personally (every month or 2) use a hedge-trimmer/tree-trimmer/mower to keep Myrtle St a somewhat passable 7 ft wide, I monthly have to shovel-fill divots/ holes/the-dropoff at the east end of Myrtle St, I have to deal with those that block entrance of what is the 1 lane street (in turn causing traffic on St Lucie Blvd), I have to worry about the possibility of Police/Fire/EMS NOT responding down Myrtle St because of the road condition, and when it rains (and almost the day after) I have to deal with a 2 ft deep puddle that spans almost the width of Myrtle St. There is nowhere that anyone should expect 1 person to deal wholly with all of those inconveniences.
What’s worse is that it should not be expected that someone who pays property taxes, living on a county owned road, be expected to endure such a deplorable living condition. It recently came to my attention that this ‘County Owned’/’Privately Maintained’ issue dates back to road plotting on or about 1977 and that, itself, should cast a spotlight on what a real issue this is. Martin County has been collecting property taxes for over 40yrs…and I would imagine for most of that, some taxes were designated for county road maintenance and curbside trash pickup. (I certainly know my 4 yrs of property taxes have designation for roads and trash.)
In practice, what “Privately Maintained” actually is… is Martin County getting the roads they own, fixed at someone else’s expense. All the while Martin County still charges, within the property taxes, the very expense they are pushing off onto residents along “Privately Maintained” roads.
Myrtle St. borders some of the richest properties in Martin County along St Lucie Blvd. The 4 streets directly south of Myrtle St are ‘County Owned’ and ‘County Maintained’. Jefferson St to the north is also ‘County Maintained’.
That said, I ask, where did 40+ years of property tax money go with regard to Myrtle St. ‘Privately Maintained’ is simply “kicking-the-can-down-the-road” and Martin County has been doing it for over 40 years. I think it is time that it stops on Myrtle St.
4101 SE Myrtle St
Stuart, FL 34997
From Karen Kerwin, a compliment I will take:
Tom, you do a fantastic job. I read every issue. Thank you for your English and Journalism skills. Regards, Karen Kerwin, Hobe Sound
And from Ann Kagdis who points out an error I made in the last newsletter:
Am in London..in a Paddington coffee shop…
Just read your blog.,1st paragraph Ocean Breeze has Sewalls. Point listed as funding West End project…Also West End just as Indian River Drive is county roadway…not owned by Town.,.
Hopefully will see you next month…..I will be back middle of March.
COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 25
All the action took place during Commissioner comments this meeting.
Commissioner Smith wanted to begin thinking about what to do with the soon to be ex-fairgrounds on Dixie. That is a good idea given that the Fair is supposed to be held in Indiantown next year at the new facility. Smith suggested the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council help in that effort. Perhaps they could come in and facilitate a workshop for the Commission and introduce possibilities.
If the County combines Parks with Public Works, then an additional four acres becomes available on Dixie. This is valuable property, perhaps per acre the most valuable County-owned property. Ciampi is a proponent of selling it to help offset the new facilities. That is a good idea. Another idea would be to see whether it makes sense for either the airport or another enterprise type-fund to buy it and use for additional light industrial. It has rail and easy access to both the turnpike and I-95.
Commissioner Heard made the surprise request to place a ½ cent sales tax on the agenda to buy conservation land. Is it a good idea or a bad idea or more likely a nonstarter? We do need to buy more land for IRL (Indian River Lagoon) South and in Pal Mar. Is there a better way to do so rather than a tax?
I believe it is worth the discussion. Can Heard first convince her colleagues to limit the tax for her purpose only instead of becoming a Christmas Tree for every vanity Commission project? And second can she then convince the voters to approve taxing themselves for that purpose? If it is to succeed, she would need to do what School Board Member Li Roberts did to convince the voters to increase the sales tax and property tax for the School District.
I have not been a fan of the airport enterprise fund and resources being used for private purposes. At this meeting, Commissioner Ciampi praised staff, the tax money spent, and the use of a hanger for the Leighton charity, Operation 300, for sending supplies to the Bahamas. I am not doubting that it is a noble cause. But why is our County government subsidizing this charity and not another one?
Staff has negotiated a rent-paying lease for that hanger with a private business that probably will begin April 1st. Ciampi asked that the charity continue until then. After the past many months, one more won’t make much difference. The Commission went along with the extension.
Ciampi has been working on the coming traffic nightmare that will happen due to the thousands of units being built on the Martin/St. Lucie County line. The delays will be exaggerated with other road work on Murphy Road. Ed, along with Representative Toby Overdorf, Port St. Lucie Council Member Jolene Caraballo, and the FDOT have come up with a novel way of not building new roads or spending additional tax dollars.
His idea of not charging a toll on the Turnpike, if you enter on Becker Road and exit at Martin Downs Blvd and vice versa, is a great idea. If it succeeds in alleviating what promises to be serious congestion at peak driving times, Ciampi has earned his pay. We should have more elected officials willing to think creatively to solve problems.
Commissioner Hetherington weighed into the Springtree debate at the Stuart Commission Meeting the night before this meeting. She is the District Commissioner for most of the City besides the unincorporated parts that surround Stuart. While there are legitimate minor traffic issues, is there a need for a Town Hall for her unincorporated constituents? She believes so.
The developers are willing to work on some traffic calming devices. If so, then maybe some of the outcry can be modified. This developer will pay to the County impact fees which should go to alleviate this type of problem. Stuart City Attorney Mortell told me that the County impact fees will be over a million dollars.
Hetherington made it clear that she does not possess discretionary district funds to help in this respect. The developer’s road impact fees will go into a fund but not to help in this instance apparently. By not using these fees for this project you encourage sprawl. You are begging people to develop ranches and farmland because it is easier and cheaper. If you don’t have a neighbor to complain and you can use impact fees for brand new infrastructure, then why wouldn’t you take the easy path and have sprawl development.
The second thing she championed was the creation of a committee to disseminate information regarding the County efforts on LOSUM. Unfortunately, staff and other Commissioners weighed in and it lost its original intent. The motion that was ultimately made by Smith and seconded by Hetherington had staff of the County and the municipalities discussing the water situation. Though it passed 5-0…it is useless.
First, places like Ocean Breeze and Sewall’s Point do not have staff to do this type of thing. Second, we have County and municipal elected board members participation in things like the MPO for our roads, isn’t our water quality at least equally as important? What this board should consist of is one elected representative from each municipality, the BOCC, and the School Board to meet once a month to be briefed by County staff on our water quality and what is being done by the excellent County staff and their many consultants in this regard.
Every taxpayer in the County is paying their fair share into the County’s general fund, so the problems and successes need to filter back to everyone. If only staff is involved, then there will not be enough transparency. Let us have our elected officials get involved in this effort and not just relegate it to some small inter agency group.
Martin County has the greatest capacity to be successful when representing the citizens in this respect. I am just asking that the County incorporates a way to involve all local governments. I believe a water quality council can do just that. I hope the Commission will reconsider and create a board along those lines.
As the Chair he kept everyone in line!
Chair Jenkins greatest ability is to accomplish things quietly. He goes about his business in a sober professional manner. He doesn’t believe in theatrics but results. The old Theodore Roosevelt adage of walk softly and carry a big stick applies.
COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 3, 2020
During Commissioner comments, Hetherington brought back her last week’s idea of a Committee that would be made up of one representative of the BOCC and each municipality. They would meet once a month and be briefed on the status of our waterways. This would not only be about LOSUM and LORS but the entire water situation. Both the County and municipalities would provide information to each other. We could learn the progress with everything from the BMAPs (Basin Action Management Plans) to conversions to sewer.
Under what was proposed last week with only staff participating it would have been no solution. Ciampi picked up on that when he said that the smaller municipalities don’t even have a staff person that could participate. Jenkins wanted to remind all that sometimes it is forgotten that there is more than one river in Martin County. There is also the Loxahatchee.
Smith suggested that it come under the purview of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments. The other Commissioners said, and I agree, that we need to keep this local. The Council is just too big and disparate a group. Having been Chair of that group, I know firsthand that Okeechobee would never see water issues quite the same as we do on the coast.
Hetherington made a motion for staff to bring back a resolution creating the body. It was seconded by Ciampi and it passed 5-0. I hope beside the BOCC and the municipalities that a representative of the School Board is included.
I want to congratulate Commissioners Hetherington and Ciampi for championing this coordinated effort to make sure that everyone in the County understands what is being done for the health of our waters. The County is doing so much, and no one knows about it. According to the County besides their staff they have 14 different consultants to advise on all facets of this issue.
It is important that the information gets out to the public. A meeting of elected officials conducted in sunshine is a great way of accomplishing this task. Every elected official in the County can now know, contribute, and understand what is happening in this regard.
SHOULD THERE BE A TAX INCREASE?
Apparently, some people thought that when Commissioner Heard brought up this idea at the last meeting, she was advocating for buying land outside of the County. Heard put that rumor to rest today when she said her idea was to buy only in Martin County. She is looking to do so in order to make sure that CERP moves forward.
Ciampi likes the concept of buying that specific land but wants a different funding source. He mentioned that currently 40% of Martin County is government owned. It is a legitimate cause, but taxpayers don’t want to increase their taxes.
Hetherington agrees with Ciampi on this. Smith stated it must be specific, but it should also include Pal Mar and other parts of the County. This is exactly why the sales tax failed the last two times because of trying to provide something for everyone.
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch spoke as a citizen. She believes that the residents would support a tax increase if it were for a very specific purpose. She stated that it failed in the past because of poor marketing on the County’s part. If it is targeted for a specific purpose as Heard has proposed, she believes it would pass.
I tend to agree with Thurlow-Lippisch that it could pass if the County did state in their ballot proposal that it would be used only to purchase properties that were needed for Everglades Restoration. It would also have to have proper marketing which was not done last time. There is more to selling a proposal than sparsely attended town halls.
I also agree with Ciampi’s suggestion to try out the ballot language with survey questions. The surveys must be conducted by professionals and must be of a wide cross section of voters.
It will be brought back as an agenda item at the next meeting.
Like many things in government this is another one of those drawn out affairs.
From the time that the Option to Lease was signed, the County was going to spend the money to bring the water and sewer out to the new spot. At this meeting staff asked for $500,000 to do design drawings to accomplish this task. This money would have to come from the reserve fund.
To be quite clear it is my understanding that this has always been part of the deal. It should not come as a surprise to any member of this Board. Should it have been done is a question that has already been answered when it was agreed by the parties.
Yet the Fair Board has comeback with a subsequent ask that was not agreed to originally. They want the County to pick up the connection fees with Indiantown Utilities, the provider. That amount would be $600,000. Here is where I would draw the line for sure. They also requested County help in cutting trees etc. so that a survey can be done. The Commission firmly said no to the trees as they should. The connection fee was left for another time.
The utility wanted the County to put in a bigger line that was needed because there could be development on vacant parcels. Smith’s motion was not to do that but to do the engineering drawings with only the size line necessary for the Fair. How that would work is if within a decade those vacant parcels are developed then the developer would pay the cost of the bigger lines back to the County. If not then too bad.
The motion was seconded by Ciampi and it passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
In my gut I have a feeling that the Fair Board is not up to the task. They have plans that will include so much. All of it a good idea. But much more than the original idea of a Fair.
I have said this in the past that Martin County just can’t build a pool for kids to swim. It must be an amusement park. There can’t be a concession stand to buy a hot dog at a beach. It must be a white cloth restaurant. The same goes for a public golf course or just a park to play ball. Everything must be overblown and then require so much more in tax dollars in the long run to maintain.
The Board approved two Comp Plan amendments so that eventually a Publix can be built on Kanner and Pratt Whitney.
This will expand the USB by 6 acres. The parcel is currently zoned General Commercial with a portion agricultural. This split zoning could not be done today. On one side it backs up to an existing residential development on the other it is all vacant agricultural land.
County staff believes that it is not sprawl. It probably isn’t in the technical sense. However once built, the agricultural land that abuts it at some point will be in play. This was what Heard expressed could happen. There is no doubt that a Publix shopping center will service the people in Tropical Farms and developments like the Florida Club. If I were voting I would ask myself whether this center encourages further development into western Martin County.
That is why it is so important to have density within our municipalities and CRAs. There should also be redevelopment of outdated uses in existing parcels. The easiest way for any developer is to plow over farmland and scrub. We should make it just as easy to do so where development needs to occur.
Commissioner Heard made a motion for denial that died for a lack of a second. Smith made a motion for approval which was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
There was no public comment whatsoever.
Staff report can be found at:
COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 24, 2020
It was an exciting and long night.
The Chamber was packed with residents from the Springtree development, located in unincorporated Martin County. The parcel in question has 900 feet on Federal Highway and Harrison Street in South Stuart. The property was annexed into the City at the owner’s request a few years ago. A parcel that is annexed stays with the same zoning until the owner asks the City for a change. Under the County’s Future Land Use Map, it is zoned commercial. Ownership is asking to change the designation to allow multi-family.
The surrounding communities apparently would be happy to have nothing built on the property. If something must be built, then their desire is to remain commercial. Under that definition, the permitted uses on the site could be a hotel or a strip center. The hotel would bring some tax dollars into the City and the County but would not provide homes for existing and new residents. A strip center has no reasonable probability of success given the changing retail market.
The Springtree residents argue that this project is not in keeping with the existing neighborhood. Attorney David Earle filed for intervenor status on their behalf. An intervenor becomes a party to the public hearing and, as such, has the right to present evidence and examine witnesses. For transparency sake, you should know that Mr. Earle competently represented me in the past.
The existing homeowners claim that the project is not in compliance with the City’s Comp Plan. The City’s Development Director, Kev Freeman, demonstrated how the project complied. City Attorney Mortell explained that City staff could not bring something forward if it did not comply with the plan under the law.
The homeowners believe that the buffer was less than the code allowed. The buffer should be 55 feet when a building is 4-stories. The developer was claiming, in this instance, only 50 feet was necessary because there is a preserve area which is owned by Springtree that is 350 feet additional between the proposed buildings and the existing single-family homes. When you add the parking and yards, the distance between the rental buildings and the homes is about 450 feet at their closest.
There was a dispute over the height of the buildings. The buildings are designed as 4-story which, under code, cannot exceed 45 feet. However, there can be 15 feet additional for architectural design allowing for 60 feet in total. In the current plan the, highest roof element is 59 feet which is within the current code.
While there is provision to exit or enter the project south using Federal Highway, it could be difficult if you wanted to go north. You would have to cut across the road and go to a turning lane that currently exists. The other way is to drive north on Alden Street and exit onto Monroe Street where there is an existing light. There will be more traffic, and because of no stop signs on Alden, people will speed.
During the course of the discussion, I think at times there were three perhaps four Commission votes (Leighton was absent from the meeting) to approve the project with a few minor modifications. Matheson encouraged all parties to work together. He asked about the rectangular retention pond which should be of an irregular shape according to the Land Development Code (LDR). He also asked about whether the building closest to the homes by the 50-foot setback could lose a story.
Meier stated that, for some reason, many people don’t think of rental apartments as suitable for families. He didn’t think that all families need or want single family homes. He went onto say that since Floridians undervalue and underutilize land, we encourage sprawl. That sprawl is part of our environmental problems. Meier continued that land uses must adapt to changing economics. Ten, twenty or thirty years ago, commercial may have made sense in this instance, but it no longer does.
The developer’s attorney, Terry McCarthy, said if you can’t put rental housing on south U.S. 1, where in the world would you put it? And that is the crux of the matter. We cannot afford to misuse our infill parcels within cities and CRAs. If we do, our valuable open lands outside the Urban Services Boundary will be lost. McCarthy and Meier understand that simple fact. The rest of the County needs to understand that also.
A motion was made to table the item until next meeting by Matheson and seconded by Clarke. It passed 4-0
In my opinion, the following is what should occur for this project to move forward. First, there needs to be a retention pond that more closely adheres to our code which should be irregular in nature. Second, the building needs to be moved forward by 5 feet so that there is no question that the setbacks are complying. Third, there needs to be some type of traffic calming along Harrison and Alden Streets for the safety of all residents. And finally, the building closest to the Springtree neighbors should be reduced to 3-story. The developer would end up with 371 apartments which was the original number when the project was initially developed.
To understand the points fully I have enclosed the three presentations:
From Li Roberts regarding the tax increases:
Let me try once again to address this ongoing chatter about Millage Money being used incorrectly. Perhaps it would help to use a Timeline to see this visually.
April 17, 2018 – Millage Referendum Language approved by the Board including five categories: School safety and security for all schools, Mental health programs, Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers, Professional development for teachers and staff, Academic initiatives
June 26, 2018 – Specific items for each of the five categories designated at a Workshop by the Board some for all four years and some for less including 77 percent committed to Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers
July 17, 2018 – Board formally approved specific items designated at June 26 Workshop
August 28, 2018 – Voters approved Half Mill Referendum with collections to start with Tax Bills in Fall of 2018
September 18, 2018 – Memorandum of Understanding with collective bargaining unit (MCEA) approved by the Board designating amounts of Millage Stipend for Teachers and payments to be made on or before September 1, 2020 for Year One
October 2018 – Collections started
December 2018 – Largest collection month with $6.8 million received by District that month
May 21, 2019 – Memorandum of Understanding with collective bargaining unit (AFSCME) approved by the Board designating amounts of Millage Stipend and payments to be made on or before September 1, 2019 for Year On June 30, 2019 – End of Year One Fiscal Year; Total Gross Millage Receipts $11,454,562 (including interest)
FALL 2019 – Millage Stipend Payments to Teachers per MOU
Taxpayers are protected by the language of the Referendum that they approved in August which clearly stated that the Half Mill collected would go for five categories of expenses: (a) School safety and security for all schools, (b) Mental health programs, (c) Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers, (d) Professional development for teachers and staff, and (e) Academic initiatives. The District is further bound by stipulations in Memorandums of Understanding with both employee bargaining units (MCEA & AFSCME) regarding the amount and timing of payments to employees as Millage Stipends from these funds.
Again, I use the analogy of “blue dollars” as those being collected as authorized from the Referendum and those “blue dollars” having to be spent ONLY on those five items. I believe that the confusion regarding the Board Policy for a Five Percent Reserve for Income was caused by our attempt at complete transparency regarding WHERE those funds were accounted for in the books. Every payment that came in had the policy required five percent allocated to the reserve until June 30th when the fiscal year ended and all of the five percent allocated was allocated back to the five categories to be in compliance with the Referendum language and close our books for the year.
There are SIX system checks in place for disclosure, review, monitoring and approval: (1)
Monthly filed reporting in our regular monthly meeting agendas for the general public, (2) Ongoing monitoring by the bargaining units, (3) Discussion at the cabinet level by the superintendent and executive staff, (4) Timely review by the board members, (5) Oversight by the citizen’s committee, and (6) At fiscal yearend by the auditors.
As per the language of the Memorandum of Understanding with the teacher’s bargaining unit, Millage Stipends are paid AFTER the close of the fiscal year in which they are collected. This eliminates any cash flow or reserve issues since category accounts are “trued up” at the end of the fiscal year.
I hope this adds some clarity. If there is a reader who needs additional information, I can be reached at RobertsCL@martinschools.org
Christia Li Roberts
Martin County School Board Member, District One
SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOP MARCH 3, 2020
The Board appears to be ready to turn over their old headquarters building to the Arts Council without much further discussion.
This is one of the most valuable pieces of property owned by the District, and it will remain off the tax rolls instead of being sold for private development. This property has always paid no taxes. However, their new headquarters, which was the Stuart News building, is now exempt also. Now there will be two parcels paying not a cent for municipal and county services. That means you, the taxpayer, must make up the difference.
It is true that the Arts Council must locate somewhere and that they would ultimately be off the tax rolls no matter where they landed. But the School Board could sell that piece of property and use those funds to pay for part of their move to their new headquarters. Staff even suggested that work force housing for school employees could be built on that site which the Board can legally do.
The Board Members didn’t want to hear about that. Everyone wants work force housing except when they have an opportunity to truly build some. Then the answer is always let someone else do it.
Besides being a bad deal for the School Board, I also believe it is a bad idea for the Arts Council for several reasons. First, the amount of money needed to bring the current building up to standard for their proposed occupancy is massive. Just because it is old doesn’t make it historic. It is just antiquated. There is no architectural or historical significance to the structure. Having once been the Martin County High School doesn’t count as historical. Therefore, the dollars needed don’t justify the expense.
Another reason that it is a bad idea to locate the Arts Council there is because there is no synergy with either downtown or the new arts district off Colorado. People going there will have to drive and then drive somewhere else for dinner or lunch or just to shop. That is why the Arts Council wanted to make sure that there was parking put aside for their needs.
The Board instructed staff to work out an MOU with the Council and bring it back in April.
This is just a bad idea that won’t go away.
STUART MIDDLE CONSTRUCTION & JBHS ROOF REPAIRS
Staff presented their plans for redoing Stuart Middle School. New classroom buildings, including a new cafeteria building, will be built over the next several years.
My question is how big should Stuart Middle School be? How many students are too many? When does it make sense, not only financially but more importantly for the students, to have a school that isn’t so massive for kids of this age?
I don’t have any answers, but I am not hearing the Board or staff discussing that question. Since they have the land, it is easier to make the school bigger, but is it better? Is it time to consider buying other property and building another middle school so that kids can learn in a more appropriate setting?
To see the site plan:
The roof at Jensen Beach High School has been leaking for some time. Guess what? It turns out that it isn’t the roof as much as the walls. Apparently when the building was constructed, it wasn’t built to specifications in some places leaving it vulnerable to the weather. There will be significant costs and disruptions to have it repaired. Staff will go out to an RFP soon.
SPECIAL SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
The Board convened a special meeting to approve the lease with Boys & Girls Club for the 3 plus acre site on Martin Luther King Blvd.
After discussion and Li Roberts making sure that everyone understood the changes, it was approved 4-0 with DiTerlizzi absent. The Club can begin their fund raising in seriousness.
The lease can be found at:
COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 25
The Playground Committee gave a brief report regarding the equipment and fundraising plan. They spoke about pavers, plaques, benches, and fences. They thanked staff and Commissioners for their help.
To see the presentation:
However, one resident, Mona Leonard, did not believe that all the committee’s motives were so altruistic.
Sewall’s Point Park
Two other residents and I tried to join the Sewall’s Point Park Committee as a way of giving back to our town. The Chairwoman didn’t notify us of meetings, gave us wrong information, allowed us no input, and ignored our document requests. We finally quit. Now we know why the committee environment was so hostile.
A for-profit business is being run out of the Town Park. Marion Kavovit is Co-Chair of our Park Committee and owner of a Fit4Mom.com local franchise. See https://jensenbeach.fit4mom.com/locations/sewalls-point-park. She pays the Town $100/month so she can host fitness events for about 70 group members, multiple times a week, who each pay her $70 a month. Members use the parking spots as well. They often use all the spots, leaving none for town residents.
How is it legal to allow a resident to use Town property for personal gain?
The Town has allocated $75,000 to this committee. They intend to erect a huge plastic playground set to replace the old set built by Town volunteers years ago. Our old set reflected the quiet charm of Sewall’s Point. It blended esthetically with our town, unlike the garish new one will.
Why will the new playground equipment have a 125-child capacity? The old playground, which was not used to capacity, accommodated about 40 children. Is our Town government subsidizing a new playground for the fitness group and their 100+ children? Most of these members do not even live in Sewall’s Point.
Public bathrooms are also being contemplated for Town Hall Park. They would appear to be for the convenience of this groups’ members too, since residents are generally within 4 minutes of their own home or use the facilities at Town Hall. Public park bathrooms are magnets for crime and graffiti, not to mention maintenance. If a crime occurs, will Sewall’s Point be sued?
Our Town government is enabling this irregular arrangement to continue. They should be outraged. Instead, our commissioners and town manager have given this woman $75,000 to date for her “project.” Fundraising will include buying “bricks” at $500 each. Each new idea seems to bring more of a carnival effect to Sewall’s Point.
The “deal” between the Town and this commercial enterprise is up for renewal in April. Sewall’s Point residents are entitled to have their best interest come first—not the commercial interest of one resident under the guise of being “for the children.”
Please do the right thing and put a stop to this exploitation of our generosity and our town property. Contact our commissioners and town manager to express your thoughts.
Mona Leonard, Sewall’s Point resident
If anyone from the committee or any other residents want to express their thoughts, I would be glad to include in the next newsletter.
Mayor Fender and other Commissioners have expressed an interest in undergrounding FPL lines for some time. In the past month, Staff has expended effort trying to find out how much it would cost.
The ballpark estimate for the entire Town would be about $10 million. If the Town wanted to proceed with a more accurate estimate, FPL would require $90,000 for engineering fees. Is it worth spending any more time or money for this? Town Manager Berger explained that you would need to hire a consultant to devise not only a funding plan but assist with the entire project including working with FPL.
When removing poles and going into rights of way, there can be many problems of access. The road work on South Sewall’s Point Road illustrates how entire jobs can be delayed by people denying access. FPL is helpful to a point, and that point is not a very large one.
Fender believes it should go to the voters. I agree. The discussion sort of ended with that.
To read the agenda item:
THE END OF PRIORITIES
Fender presented the list of priorities from the Commissioners and the public. He ranked them, and it seems spent considerable time in trying to take everything into consideration. While this was a passion of his, it didn’t appear to be Barile’s and to varying degrees, the other Commissioners.
Barile said he doesn’t work like that. When a problem or project arises, then that is his current priority. Kurzman stated the same thing in more genteel language. The idea of going through the list again was not especially a number one priority.
While I think it is important to have priorities, that is only one leg of the stool. The second leg is the current projects already approved and underway. As Barile believes, those are priorities right now and not at some future date. They need to be managed in real time.
The third leg is strategic planning. Those aren’t priorities, but rather in ten years what should the Town look like and how do you get there? For instance, will it still be advantageous to have your own police force given the rising costs?
It was mentioned that everyone is happy to have the lowest millage rate in the County. The reason that is possible is because the value of the homes is higher than in most places in Martin County. To arrive at the income needed to operate the town, you need to multiply your tax rate by the assessed value minus all the exemptions. If the homes were valued similarly to Stuart, then that tax rate would be much higher. The question that should be asked is how much the Town collects and how is it spent.
The latest priorities can be found at:
COUNCIL MEETING FEBRUARY 27
Just because something is legally permissible doesn’t mean it is right.
This body continually wants to change the way that people have an opportunity to address their elected representatives. Instead of seeking to broaden the opportunity for public comment, they want to stifle the public speaking out on matters. Why is it always a burden to hear from the people that come to these meetings?
They brought back this item that was tabled last meeting to place all comment at the end of the agenda including from the Council and Manager. That would have, in effect, closed communication with the public during the meeting. The only people who would have heard the Council and Manager would be the small audience that would wait 3 hours for the end of most meetings. The public could have spoken on a measure after it been passed. It may be legal, but it is not right.
A motion to do just that was made by Stone, who (after some colloquy) passed the gavel. It was seconded by Clarke. That motion failed 3-2. A motion was made by Thomas and seconded by Dowling to leave things much as they have been. That passed 5-0.
People should speak! The Council should not enter a conversation or debate with the public but should listen and take their comments into consideration. They need to stop trying to relegate democratic speech to the sideline. It is bad for the future of the Village.
A consultant from St. Augustine conducted a hearing regarding applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The County has several in the works now, and in the past, the City of Stuart has also applied and received grants. They are a good thing.
With all the government we have in Martin County, I found it ironic that they needed to go north Florida to find someone to help with this process. I was told that the County offered their services but was turned down by the Village. The structure for these type grants is programmatic. It isn’t as if you need to have something inserted into the state budget.
His presentation can be found at:
While he is a consultant his presentations were gratis. There will be an RFP for services and the winner will be compensated on a percentage of the grant received. Further the consultant will have to administer the grant. This is standard practice.
FIRE/EMS IS ONE STEP CLOSER
In the Village, the County has a Fire Station #24, that answers Indiantown calls plus the surrounding unincorporated area in an average response time of 6.1 minutes. There were 1200 calls last year with 860 or 72% being medical ones. There were only 5 structure fires within Indiantown and 13 brush fires. The average fire loss was $2000.
In Station #24, there is an engine that has 3 people assigned, 2 ambulances with 2 people and each has a paramedic. There is other equipment in the station such as a Brush Truck which is for answering specialized responses. Even the Village’s consultant said the service was excellent and Indiantown could not create the same level of service.
So why is this Council so hell bent on leaving the County’s Fire/Ems?
Here are the Village’s options:
- Maintain current arrangement with the County
- Establish their own Fire/EMS Department which could be either by a Village department or outsource to a private contractor
- Create a Public Safety Department such as Jupiter Island. Then you will have cross trained Public Safety Officers that are law enforcement and Fire/Rescue.
- Renegotiate the agreement with the County and pay less than what unincorporated residents do.
The current Fire MSTU is $6 million for Indiantown. For that price, you not only have Station #24, but Indiantown has every other station in Martin County to answer calls when #24 is busy. The depth of service cannot be recreated with a stand-alone department. If you bow out of the County coverage, you also must somehow pay for 911 service and dispatch.
There is a term called “mutual aid.” That is if there is a large brush fire or a traffic accident that involves multiple cars, then other departments will come to Indiantown’s aid. Mutual Aid does not mean that if their department is handling a heart attack and another medical emergency call comes in at the same time, then Martin County will answer that call. They may, if asked, but that would be under an Interlocal Agreement. The County would charge for those calls.
While the MSTU is currently about $6 million, 86% of that amount is paid by one taxpayer, FPL. If FPL, for whatever reason, decides to reduce their footprint in Indiantown, then how would the Village make up the difference. While the consultant and staff are saying that Indiantown would save $1.2 million, in actuality 86% of that would be a savings to FPL. It appears to me there is much risk but little reward. By the way, the County does not have to take the Village back if this experiment fails.
The consultant believes that the alternative is to contract with a private company to provide EMS/Fire services. There would be some start-up costs such as building or buying a station. Though the Village would not have to buy equipment or hire employees under this scenario.
Under the existing Interlocal Agreement, if the Village will decide to provide for their own Fire/Rescue, they need to inform the County by May 1st and have their new department ready to go by October 1st. It is doable according to the consultant. My question is why? What is the advantage to the residents of Indiantown?
I did not hear any answers except it would be cheaper. It would be cheaper for FPL and marginally less for most homeowners. No figures were presented.
The presentation can be found at:
The contract for the consultant can be found at:
The third consultant of the night spoke about the Village evaluating whether to remain with the County for this service or contracting with a provider directly. There were no projections or other figures presented. The County is currently doing their own RFP regarding waste. The cost for Indiantown to remain under the County’s contract won’t be known for several weeks.
It was decided to wait until the County had gone through the process before bringing this back. A motion was made, and it passed 4-1 with Dowling voting no.
The presentation can be found at:
EVALUATING THE MANAGER
According to Brown’s contract, he should be evaluated every year. The evaluation is a bit overdue. I believe the Council is very happy with his performance, and I would suspect he will receive a high rating. It will be interesting to see if there will be any comments on how he could improve his performance.
Mr. Brown is a manager with knowledge of local governments. I would expect his evaluations to take that into account. Is there room for improvement? There is always room for improvement. That is especially true in the realm of hiring outside consultants. Perhaps the Council is pushing Brown to hire more and more employees and hire more and more consultants to bring services under the Village’s umbrella behind the scenes?
Soon, the County will begin pushing back. When they do, Indiantown won’t know what hit it. I am surprised the County hasn’t already. Brown better get his evaluations in before it occurs.
Evaluation information can be found at:
The actual form being used:
The next Meeting of Ocean Breeze will be March 9, 2020 at 10:30 am
The next Meeting is March 9, 2020 at 9 am
It seems that Biden has emerged as the Democrat nominee frontrunner. He and Sanders will battle it out for a while, but at this point, the Biden nomination seems all but certain. The standard bearer of the Democratic Party will be a white man in his upper 70s. Sanders, who recently had a heart attack, refuses to release his medical records. He is 78
President Trump, who is only in his mid 70s, will be the Republican nominee. He is obese, and his diet of junk food doesn’t add to a healthy future outcome. His released medical reports read as a fictional comical novel.
For all three of these ancient mariners, the course they seem to set is one that is rooted in the past. It is calculated on a future that may not be relevant to today’s America. Why are our choices narrowed down to white men born in the 1940s?
So now that we are in the third decade of the 21st century, I am asking if these are the best people to lead us into the future.
To read more:
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
Children’s Services Council (CSS)
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
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)
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
Full Time Equivalents (FTE)
Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
Hobe Sound Local (HSL)
Land Development Code (LDR)
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)
Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
Local Planning Agency (LPA)
Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)
Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)
Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU)
Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)
Organization For Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)
Planned Unit Development (PUD)
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
Preserve Action Management Plan (PAMP)
Project Delivery Team (PDT)
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)
Right of Way (ROW)
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU)
State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)
Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA)
Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Urban Planned Unit Development (UPUD)
Urban Services Boundary (USB)
World Health Organization (WHO)