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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GOVERNOR LESSENS COVID RESTRICTIONS
Effective Monday May 4th Governor DeSantis has promulgated a new order which lessens the restrictions on the economy and businesses. The new order applies to all of Florida except the southern counties which remain and will maintain the restrictions that have been in place.
According to the Order, restaurants can reopen with outdoor seating that is appropriately spaced and indoor seating that is 25% of the occupancy allowed. Bars and nightclubs remain closed. There can be no parties larger than 10 people. Gyms and salons remain closed. Vacation rentals remain closed. Retail establishments can open if they use social distancing and at no more than 25% of their allowed occupancy. Museums and libraries may open if they use social distancing and have no more than 25% of their allowed occupancy. Dental procedures and elected surgery can be performed.
Local government may implement more stringent regulation. Enforcement will be done by local law enforcement. The public is urged to contact local law enforcement to report any infractions. Further lessening of restrictions will be contemplated as the data allows.
Some may think it is too soon to allow opening of businesses. Others will not understand why the governor did not continue restrictions longer. DeSantis does want seniors and those with underlying medical conditions to stay home.
Data would suggest that there may be increased cases because of the relaxation. If there are, Martin County does have hospital bed capacity. Whether we exceed that capacity will be determined by whether government and individuals are nimble enough to re-impose more restrictive orders if necessary.
What we choose to do as individuals and as families should be done with caution. This is not the time to decide that it is alright to have a barbecue and block party for the neighborhood.
The virus has not gone away. Society has only managed it better for now. Every medical person I have spoken to, including doctors in my family, have said that COVID-19 is deadlier than the seasonal flu. It is not going to magically disappear. In all probability, it will be back either in the fall or later this summer. COVID-19 will continue to have severe consequences until a vaccine is developed and enough of us have received it.
Governor DeSantis’ order and answers for questions can be found at:
In my opinion, we will have a new normal going forward and will not go back quite to the way things were. To read more:
WHERE DO I LIVE?
When I was a City Commissioner, many people told me they lived in the City of Stuart. I would ask where, and when they replied with their address, most did not reside within the City limits. Some of those very same people also said they had voted for me when I knew they could never have done so.
Recently several readers asked why the newsletter does not mention Palm City or Jensen Beach as separate areas. I explain that those areas are in unincorporated Martin County and their local government is the Board of County Commissioners whose decisions are extensively reported here.
I understand that if you come from somewhere else, you may not grasp that the operation of government is different here. I know it took me a while to understand.
I was accustomed to having an elected mayor or other elected official actually running the government. In Martin County, we have a County Commission with no one member that has more authority than any other. Greenwich, Connecticut, which is in Fairfield County where I last lived, has no county government at all. All local governments are contained within a town, city or other municipality.
Martin County has 5 incorporated municipalities. Miami-Dade County has 34. Broward has 31 and Palm Beach has 39 municipalities. St. Lucie County only has 3 municipalities, Fort Pierce, St. Lucie Village and, of course, the City of Port St. Lucie. Other counties to our south formed municipalities as populations grew and to our north Port St. Lucie annexed areas and encouraged growth. Martin County, on the other hand, has limited growth and, where it has occurred, managed to not have those areas incorporate.
The City of Stuart, Towns of Sewall’s Point, Jupiter Island, Ocean Breeze, and the Village of Indiantown are the incorporated municipalities. They have their own governments and are responsible for providing municipal services to their residents. Stuart has its own Police Department and Fire/Rescue. Sewall’s Point has a Police Department and purchases Fire/Rescue from the City of Stuart. Jupiter Island has what is known as a Public Safety Department and their officers are cross trained in fire, rescue, and law enforcement. Indiantown and Ocean Breeze have no independent law enforcement departments and have their Fire/Rescue through interlocal agreements with Martin County.
For about 80% of the residents of Martin County, all their local government is provided by the County Commission. Long ago, Martin County decided to provide municipal services such as water, sewer, and fire protection. By doing so, it has discouraged the formation of municipalities within the county boundaries.
The original intent of counties was to be local arms of the state government in Tallahassee. That is why there are constitutional officers in each county to carry out the functions of state government. County Commissions were created to make sure rural roads were built and maintained. Once there were a concentrated population in an area, incorporation was meant to happen. This was the governmental arm that was to provide police, fire, water, and all other municipal services.
Today, many areas such as Jensen Beach, Palm City and Rio that once were or should be incorporated are not. They are exclusively governed by the County Commission. So, when people ask or believe that this newsletter is snubbing their areas, I want you to know it is not. There are not individual governments to write about in those areas. Anything having to do with government in your areas is decided exclusively by the County Commission.
Send any questions or concerns about local government to me, and I will answer them for you.
HOW DO YOU HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE?
This is not about the president, Congress, or the governor. I am referring to local government. Some will say you can vote them out of office at the next election. In Martin County, you are not going to be doing that very often.
Harold Jenkins, Ed Ciampi and Doug Smith are all running for re-election without opposition. Will Snyder, our sheriff, is running unopposed as is the Tax Collector, Clerk of the Court and Supervisor of Elections. In Indiantown, Janet Hernandez and Guyton Stone have no challengers. In the City of Stuart, Mike Meier, Eula Clarke, and Merritt Matheson are up for reelection with no opposition in sight.
I guess everyone is happy with those elected officials’ stances on the issues. Its early and qualifying is not until June 8th. Yet by now you would think that any serious challengers would have made their intentions known.
Laurel Kelly, the Property Appraiser, is retiring after decades in the job. There is no incumbent so that race has drawn two candidates, Jenny Fields, Kelly’s deputy for many years, and Kelli Glass-Leighton, a Stuart City Commissioner for close to a decade. Leighton’s running for a different office has created a vacancy on the Stuart City Commission. Former Commissioner Troy McDonald and Nathan Ritchey are going to vie for that seat.
Except for Ritchey, everyone that I named is an incumbent, was formerly an elected official or is a career bureaucrat. It is a great gig if you can get it. The little secret about elected office is that not only are you paid well but you also receive benefits. Each office I named has medical insurance provided except Indiantown. Each has retirement including Indiantown. Why would you ever want to leave?
You would not, and in fact, some ex officials like McDonald want to come back into the pampered fold of government employment. If you cannot vote them out because there is no alternative candidate, then how is change ever supposed to happen? The only way I can see to do so is by imposing term limits.
The Charter Review Board for the City of Stuart recommended just that. Stuart’s Charter must be reviewed by a citizen’s panel every ten years. I and ten other Stuart residents were tasked with looking at the Charter and coming up with changes and suggestions. The Commission then would vote regarding whether to place those Charter suggestions as referendum questions to the voters. The three Charter changes that we suggested were regarding how to place a check on Commissioner salary increases, Commissioner terms and term limits, and the need for a sitting Commissioner to step down when he/she has filed to run for another office.
(You can view what the Commission did with all the recommendations in the Stuart section of the newsletter.)
Interestingly, the Charter Board felt that 2-year terms were not long enough, and that too often a Commissioner seemed to always be running for reelection. The Board believed 4-year terms, the same as the County and most other municipalities, were more appropriate. Hand in hand with that recommendation was that you could not serve more than 8 consecutive years.
Some on the Commission did not want to see any limit. After debate they decided that 12 years would be appropriate. The Charter Board, knowing human nature and wanting the change to pass the Commission, recommended that the 8 years not be retroactive. When they decided on 12 years, the Commissioners decided it would not be retroactive either. That means that each could stay in office until 2032.
Nobody wants to leave the fold. We hear about public service. Being an elected official is not about public service. If it were, you would do it for little or no compensation never mind including medical and retirement. Make no mistake people do retire from being a Commissioner…a few with substantial pensions. The Stuart Commission at least adopted inadequate term limits. There are none for the County Commission or School Board or any other municipal body.
The next time you hear the word public service, you should have a hearty laugh. Because those entrusted with the ability to change the system are the ones benefiting from it being left alone.
Your job has disappeared. There is no money coming in and you are wondering how to provide for yourself and your family? You try to file for unemployment but after being unable to connect for the 200th time, you call your state representative or senator for help. Their staff person should be able to do something for you.
The staffer has been given an electronic way to file your claim and can make things happen. You feel that someone at last heard you and your unemployment check will be coming soon. Then after a couple of weeks the state does not send you a check but this email:
You are not mad or angry at the state representative. It is not their fault. They were given this special access. It is laughable. Except you feel like crying instead.
The first chart is about the most downloaded apps. Which app do you think it is?
Next are charts showing the collapse of the oil market and what it means:
How is the pandemic affecting spending by industry:
Finally, one from KnowWhere News showing how the U.S. ranks in order of number and percentage of population in testing:
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 from Georgia Shurts:
I asked the tcpalm, Stuart New editor, to put the letter below in the newspaper. He was not able to add it because there was a letter sent by the head of Florida Oceanographic on April 22,2020. If you could consider this letter added to your next newsletter that would be great. To get one person to start recycling is worth it. If not thank you for your time.
I walk the neighborhood daily for an hour, and I am saddened to see good furniture, bicycles, toys, baby furniture tossed out on Thursday ready for garbage pickup and added to our landfill. People need to recycle and reuse.
April 22, 2020 was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. It is important for all of us to get on board and help heal our Earth. Our planet is showing definite signs of healing now that our cities have reduced all activities and pollution is decreasing. Due to social media, people are aware, now more than ever before, of the the problems and solutions to fight for social and environmental issues globally. People of all walks of life should consider changing their habits to lighten their ecological footprint. I feel, we must all do our part to save the planet. Examples such as recycling, planting trees, using reusable cutlery, getting rid of the plastic water bottles, using steel straws ( single use straws makeup 4% of world’s plastic pollution), using reusable beeswax wrap instead of plastic, donating household items, clothing, furniture to non-profits, bundling errands together each week to reduce emissions, are a small sample of ways to help our Earth. Thank you for helping our Earth.
It was subsequently published in Stuart News.
The next letter is from Harald Freybe:
Subject: Palm City
Message: Noticed in your Martin County coverage you included Sewell Point, Stuart, Indian Town and ignored Palm City. Wonder why.
Another reader last week asked about this and I answered that Palm City is not its own municipality.It falls under the County Board. Anything from roads to parks to development is decided by the County Commission. Though everyone votes in the County for all five Commissioners, each Commissioner represents a geographic district. Palm City’s Commissioner is Ed Ciampi. If you have a problem reach out to him, he is very constituent oriented.
A nice compliment from Jerry Wacker:
Message: In these days of self-serving biased propaganda used to promote a particular selfish cause being the “norm”, your blog is a wonderful informative pleasure to read. Kept up the great work.
Karen Coniglio askes:
Good Morning and thank you for the information you provide.
I have a question–what is happening to the YMCA property that backs up along SE 14th St in Stuart. They have been bulldozing all the trees. Some one said it is to prevent fire and someone else said it is to get the trees away from the wires in case of storms. However they appear to be removing more than necessary if that is the reason.
I asked both the City and County. The property is owned by the County. I was informed that they are performing storm water maintenance.
Karen writes back:
However how is removing trees that absorb water, performing storm water maintenance. Sorry I guess I do not understand what is involved in storm water maintenance.
They are probably running pipes…etc. If no road, building or other man-made surface was ever built then no reason to worry about storm water runoff. Once you begin to ‘improve” things even if it is not directly where that improvement is made you have mitigation. God knows his stuff. The rest of us are doing our imperfect best. Good question though!
From Michael Cloverfield re ramp closures and Jensen Beach:
Tom do you know has any of the commissioners done a survey of the impact of the ramp closures like they did the golf courses? And why is Jensen Beach not listed on this website?
In answer to your first question, I don’t believe so.
As to your second question, Jensen Beach is part of unincorporated Martin County. The BOCC is who makes all the decisions effecting you locally.
While every County Commissioners are elected by all the voters in the County, there are individual Commissioners for 5 districts. Jensen Beach is the home base of Doug Smith. If you have an individual problem he would be your first point of contact.
There are five municipalities in Martin; Stuart, Ocean Breeze, Indiantown, Sewall’s Point and Indiantown. They have their own Councils and Commissions that decide most local issues such as development. In counties to our south most of the population live within municipalities.
Since this is a newsletter that report on government action, when the BOCC decides on an issue of note it would be reported under the Martin County section. All our areas and neighborhoods in unincorporated Martin County are distinct but do not have their own governing bodies.
Mona Leonard comments on Sewall’s Point:
I hope this finds you safe and healthy. These are challenging times.
I couldn’t agree with you more about TSP and these slight-of-hand tactics that have been used for many years to fill the coffers of MCU and CapTec. From the moment I attended the first town hall meeting, I wondered how Capra could work for MCU AND TSP without there being a conflict of interest in his employment. Foxes watching the hen house in my opinion. It’s like we’re paying him to tell us… to pay him more! Before Berger was hired, we, the town, were told we’d no longer need lobbyists or grant-writers and Berger would complete the applications. Instead, she’s added even more layers of unnecessary costs. Very disappointing.
Not sure if you know, but S Sewall’s Point has had unused dry sewer lines for decades. They’re no good anymore according to Capra. So we as a town paid (likely through state and federal funds) for lines many, many years ago for nothing. Squandering tax money in the process. I’m (as you likely know by now) opposed to the sewer being brought in. It’s another way to “connect to collect,” not “connect to protect.” Recently, I had a meeting with Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic recently, in which he told me he used to dive with Brian LaPointe (a self-proclaimed scientific expert on sewers, he’s actually a lobbyist for the highest bidder) back in the 80’s. Specifically, the reefs off Palm Beach were dying and they didn’t know why. Mark said they discovered the death of the reefs was caused by the outfalls from the sewer municipalities deep well injecting (the technique used here in Martin County as well).
Now that there’ve been no releases from Lake O for a long time, our waterways are clearing up and marine life returning. Where did the false narrative go that our septic tanks were causing blue-green algal blooms? Americans are tired of the double standard our politicians live by, without real regard for our environment. Self-contained systems purify very effectively and we’re not paying more for a municipality to collect from us in perpetuity. They’re also more sanitary. If a septic system fails, it’s up to the homeowner to repair/replace and a failing system is obvious. If a municipality fails (which has occurred in our area many, many times), the adverse effects can be devastating to all life, including humans. Municipalities have dumped millions of gallons of untreated human waste in Florida over the last few years.
With viruses able to be transmitted through human feces, we clearly have a potential disaster. Septic tanks purify affluent by using simple gravity. It’s quite simple and government has used guilt and misinformation to beat down citizens so they can create another stream of revenue, something they always need more of. I appreciate your letters and hope to see you soon. Stay safe and healthy!
Tim Sachek took exception to my gold course piece:
I am not sure how I received your infomercial in my gmail, but I did. You spent a bunch of time talking about our local government
and their management of the Wuhan virus.
The biggest issue I have with this whole ordeal are people sticking to the facts. Obviously, our global health professionals upon
whom we rely have a serious inability to project the numbers associated with the virus. We all recognize that “models” can change.
But, when the US goes from 2.2 million projected deaths down to 60,000, that is serious incompetence. By the way, when these
people were projecting 2.2 million deaths, there were many other infectious disease experts who predicted much lower totals.
We fast forward to the last couple of weeks. You seem to disagree with the Governor’s orders. I don’t necessarily agree with your
perspective there, but I do agree that we are far better off as a country with something of this magnitude if people at a national or
state level (with information being provided by the local level) make those decisions. Our county officials are not armed with enough
“information” to make a decision that is anything but “overly conservative” when it comes to a virus. You can see that across the
country with stay at home orders being issued in virtually every state, when some of those states do not have many more cases than
Martin County does.
The federal government has mandated social distancing which seems to be universally believed to be a 6 foot space. They have
told older people with underlying conditions to stay home. They have told people who are sick to stay home. They have told us to
wash our hands frequently for 20 seconds or more. In addition, they have urged us to work from home, cancel on-site school
instruction and avoid large gatherings (that ultimately seems to be 10 or more people).
So, if those were the only rules, I could deal with those. I could swim in our oceans. I could go to the beaches. I could play golf. I
could buy food at stores. I could visit my doctor. You get the picture.
But, now the states jumped in (most all of them). Most issued “stay at home” orders. If you want to exercise, that is good for your
health. Certain businesses were deemed “essential” while others were not. Imagine that. We are “safe” to go grocery shopping
hanging around with strangers but we cannot visit a hardware store, because it is closed. They shut our beaches! I live very close
to Palm Beach County. They have a wonderful dog beach. I have gone there many times. When you go, you will run into
fisherman, sunbathers, surfers, walkers, and dog owners. You will run into them about every 50 yards. And, of course the beach is
about 50 yards wide or so (maybe wider) and it goes for miles in each direction. Yet, it is unsafe for people to visit the beach? And,
our Martin County officials closed their beaches too because they feared that they would be overcrowded with folks from Palm Beach
Martin County has 150 cases. We have 4 deaths at least one of which is a “Covid 19 rated death” meaning the person did not
actually die of Covid 19 but the hospital was able to get some additional cash because that person did test positive for Covid 19. I
cannot speak to the other 3 deaths. I am sure you are aware that hospitals get a check from the federal government by classifying
deaths as Covid 19. You should check out Martin County death statistics for 2018 (that is the latest year available). 40 suicides.
Many from heart disease. Just check it out. Obviously, when Sarah Heard says she only cares about saving lives and that is why
she is so strict regarding Covid 19, she does not give a damn about all these other causes for if she did, her behavior would be far
different than it is.
We finally get to golf. Golf is considered by most states to be a valid form of exercise. Golf is an individual sport. You only compare
yourself to someone else. You don’t actually compete against them at least not in the physical sense. As such, golf can be played
safely. You cannot get within six feet of someone golfing or you will get hit in the head! The issue between the county and its golf
courses is one of the most illogical discussions I have ever seen. They want to “protect us” and that is why they don’t want us to
golf?? Really? You seem like a smart guy. But, how in the world are you saving us from each other if you were to disallow an
activity that can be done far more safely than a visit to the grocery store? Basketball is an issue, because you have to share the
ball. Same with baseball or football. But, not in golf.
You also seemed to talk a bit about money. Joe has money and he lives on the beach. Should he be able to use the ocean? Of
course. Should we make Joe not use the ocean too, because it is “unfair to others”? Karl Marx would prefer the latter view unless of
course he were Joe.
Your newsletter seems to suggest that you are providing information to the rest of the county. And, there was some information in
there. But, there were mostly empty opinions not backed by factual data. If you really want to provide your fellow residents with
insightful information, skip the opinion pieces, or at least, provide your supporting information. Because I can tell you for certain that
Sarah Heard’s explanation as to why she voted the way she did at that county meeting reeked of government control and not of a
4/19/2020 Gmail – Your recent newsletter
decision process that involved weighing the facts and making a decision for the affected constituents that was in the best interest of
And from Chuck Stewart regarding MCTV:
As a retired broadcaster from NBC News and WPLG, Miami, a few thoughts on MCTV.
It is stale. Programming is weak. The staff either has no creativity or budget to change it up. It looks like a typically cheap government station that really does not serve the community as well as it could.
They have ample facilities to produce informative programming, but they lack the “vision” in television. They need some fresh blood in there beginning with new management.
And Lastly from Trish Smith:
Subject: Palm City
Message: Why is Palm City not included in this newsletter? I’ve lived on Sewell’s Point, in Willoughby Golf Club, and now in The Admiralty Condominium in Palm City. I feel slighted that this section of Martin County is being left out.
Palm City as is Willoughby is in unincorporated Martin County. Everything is decided locally for you by the County Commission. While every voter votes for every County Commissioner there are individual districts. Palm City’s Commissioner is Ed Ciampi. Ciampi is very constituent oriented so if you are having a problem he is the one to contact.
While Palm City has “city” in its name it isn’t an incorporated municipality such as Stuart and therefore has no municipal government. That description would be the same for Jensen, Rio, Port Salerno, and Hobe Sound. The incorporated areas are: Stuart, Sewall’s Point, Ocean Breeze, Jupiter Island, and Indiantown.
When the BOCC discusses something in Palm City such as Murphy Road or Palm City Farms that is of interest, I will write about it in the newsletter.
And her answer back:
Thank you for your informative response. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 21, 2020
Up until this point, the BOCC had decided not to have any way for people to comment virtually at its meetings. Every Martin County municipality has been using some sort of virtual platform. Sewall’s Point, Jupiter Island and Indiantown are using internet-based platforms exclusively to have their meetings which include staff and members of their boards. There have been very few glitches.
Stuart has the Commissioners convene in the meeting chamber and is using the Flagler Center for any overflow of participants from the Chamber. Comment from those remote attendees can be given through the internet platform. Further, the City will allow comment through Zoom from wherever the speaker is listening and watching on this computer.
The County has not relied on any virtual platform so that the public cannot be heard in “real” time, and public comment cannot be taken unless people appear before the Commission. People can comment by email that is read into the record and as dramatic as the staff readings are it isn’t the same as the constituent in person. Ms. Woods assured the Commissioners that this is what Palm Beach is doing.
Commissioner Heard said that Martin County can do better than the Palm Beach standard. I agree. While Zoom or Webex are not perfect, they allow the public to be part of the meeting. They can comment and see what is being done in their names. It was mentioned by Kryzda that the County is streaming live, having it carried on MCTV, YouTube, and Facebook. Those are passive platforms and the others are interactive. Once the current state of emergency is over, it would be a good idea keep using the interactive platforms to allow comment by the public from anywhere.
Commissioner Hetherington said she wanted to continue the items that were not critical in order to allow public comment. Heard agreed as did Ciampi. The items that the Commission requested to not go forward would be held over until May 5th. The vote was 3-2 in favor with Jenkins and Smith voting not to do so.
Nothing on the agenda that was held was critical. I further believe that both Hetherington and Ciampi will vote in favor of these items when they do come forward. Their reluctance was because of transparency and citizen involvement. I hope by May 5th that people will have the ability to make public comment through one of the virtual platforms. If staff cannot get it together by then, those three Commissioners should be prepared to postpone those items again.
TENNIS RETURNS…AT LEAST FOR SINGLES
By a vote of 4-1 with Smith, dissenting the Commission agreed to open the racket sports (tennis, pickle ball, and racquetball) for single matches only. Frank McChrystal, an advocate, spoke on behalf of doing so similar to what Stuart did. It was the consensus of the Board that the play would be self-regulated. Smith was afraid that the doubles players would be asking next. That is the reason for his no vote.
I do not know whether it should have been approved or not. Sure, they are not breathing on each other, but they are both touching the same ball. Odds are that a tennis player will be fine. If playing singles tennis had anything to do with work or feeding your family, it probably is a very acceptable risk. If it is for recreation, there are plenty of other, less risky, ways to do that.
As we open back up, we as a community will never know whether a likely spike in cases was because of going to work, going shopping, eating at a restaurant, or playing tennis. If it happens and all the experts tell us that it will, we may once again shut our economy down. Perhaps we should concentrate on getting people back to work safely instead of thinking that the most important thing is hitting a ball with either a racket or a golf club.
The County went out for bids to hire a communications firm. Seven firms applied, but only one was a Martin County based firm (Bonny Landry & Associates). The selection committee, which appears to be made up of all County employees, chose the firms of Moore Communications and the M Network at a cost $500,000 for five years.
Hetherington noticed that the scoring sheet had unusual scoring. For each different category, each firm had the same score throughout. The item was on the consent agenda, but she pulled it for discussion. Staff made a feeble attempt to explain how, for example, the M Network received a score of 20 in each category and Moore received 19 in each category with the 5 other companies receiving the same number score in each category.
To see the scoring sheet:
Ciampi wanted to know why no local company bid. Staff tried to explain that none applied. Yet both failed to mention Landry, who is based in Stuart, as a local concern. I think it was more that none of the local “usual suspects” applied.
Hetherington did not see in the contract that there was a communication’s plan. Staff explained that the winning bidder would be tasked to create one as part of the contract. She thought it should be part of the RFP.
Ciampi continued to insist that he would have liked to have seen firms that already knew the County and Commissioners so when needs arose, they would be up to speed. Kryzda noted that, in the past, communication firms who worked for individual Commission candidates could have a conflict. Ciampi felt that it was insignificant. Smith argued that in the early part of the century when Commissioners were more involved, conflicts certainly arose and so he prefers this system.
I believe Smith is correct. This RFP process takes the appearance of conflicts out of the equation. Ciampi is a very loyal person and in the spirit of keeping dollars in Martin County feels locals should have a leg up on the competition. That cannot always be the case especially if the ones you prefer did not apply. The solicitation went out to 298 firms.
Smith made a motion to accept staff recommendation that was seconded by Heard. It passed 3/2 with Hetherington and Ciampi voting no.
I also would have voted no because Hetherington has a point. The scoring just is not right. And the explanation given did not make me want to accept their recommendations. Smith and the others that voted yes also are correct in their belief that perceived conflicts should be avoided. Commissioners should make sure that the selection committee just is not phoning it in. In this case I believe that Hetherington’s concerns outweigh everything else.
Here is something else to consider, why go outside when we have a great way of communicating with the public through MCTV. The County should hire communications people to give us programming. When a need arises, the County can immediately craft a message that other outlets can pick up and use. I think we forget the reason to have a communication plan and a spokesperson is to get information out to Martin County residents. It is not to make staff and Commissioners look good.
The winning proposals as well as the one from a local firm can be found at:
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 24, 2020
Sheriff Snyder began with an update on what had transpired. He stated that the golf courses are mostly compliant. There is a significant number of people trying to use the closed beaches and boat ramps mostly from outside the County. Martin County residents are complying.
Heard, Jenkins and Smith all chimed in that beaches should remain closed until they are opened down south. Smith rightfully thought that there was going to be a prepared plan for the reopening of the county to discuss. He was assured by staff that there would be after the presentations. Sheriff Snyder was requested to stay at the meeting until then.
Cleveland Clinic, Health Department, EOC and the United Way informed the Commission about what they were doing. Vickie Davis, the Supervisor of Elections gave an update on her office including reaching out to expand those that vote by mail. David Heaton from the Children’s Services Council also spoke regarding what they were doing. CSC he said is in for the long haul and will next concentrate on making sure enough protective garb is provided once all day care and other programs are opened.
Assistant County Administrator George Stokus outlined a plan for reopening the County using federal and state guidelines. While the federal government has issued 5 factors that need to happen before opening, Governor DeSantis has not yet announced anything. His order will probably occur early next week. In the past, the governor has issued minimum standards and then allowed local government to craft more stringent requirements.
Both Indian River and St. Lucie Counties will be opening their beaches. Indian River will have recreation only with no coolers or sitting. St. Lucie will open without restrictions. Palm Beach County, at present, is not reopening until Broward and Miami-Dade do. The Commissioners, with the Sheriff’s input, have decided not to reopen until Palm Beach does. It seems that all agree that when the beaches do reopen there should be no restrictions.
Heard made the point that though recreational matters seem to be in the forefront, the Commission is not addressing businesses which are more important. She went on to state that it will be easier to have rules about business than recreation. I agree with Commissioner Heard…let us not forget about the economy.
Much depends on DeSantis’ orders. Until Martin County staff know more, it is hard to craft a final plan. As a citizen that has endured multiple weeks of a lock down, I do not want to see all that was sacrificed go for nothing by having to lock down again in two or three weeks after re-opening if there a spike.
The Commission will meet next Wednesday if the state has issued their recommendations and orders. If not, then the Commission will meet next Friday.
The staff presentation including the federal guidelines that should be met before anything is re-opened can be found at:
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING MAY 1, 2020
There was more than an hour of public comment. Most from emails being read into the record by Assistant County Administrator George Stokus. With few exceptions the public seems to want everything open yesterday.
County Administrator Taryn Kryzda spoke about what was and what was not open in the three southern and two northern counties. This would entail open beaches to our north and closed beaches to our south. Though parks and golf courses have been reopened in Palm Beach County.
Ciampi started off saying he wanted to take a reasonable approach. He said it would always be easier for Palm Beach County to absorb the recreational needs of Martin County than the other way around given that Palm Beach has 10 times our population. He wanted to make clear that the Commission did not have the ability to loosen restrictions under the governor’s order only to tighten them.
The first motion was to remove the restrictions earlier placed on golf courses except for the CDC guidelines and that only people who live in the same residence can ride together. The motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Hetherington. It passed 5-0
The second motion by Smith was to open the boat ramps even on the weekend. It was seconded by Hetherington and passed 5-0. The FWC spoke and reiterated that the sandbars would remain closed.
Ciampi motioned to reopen the park restrooms and that high traffic ones be cleaned at least twice per day. It was seconded by Smith and it passed 5-0. A motion was made by Smith to allow the playing of racket sports including doubles. Now only singles play is allowed. It was seconded by Hetherington and passed 5-0
Another motion was to allow use of the pavilions. There were discussions regarding social responsibility because of cleanliness. Smith made the motion which was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 5-0
Hetherington brought up allowing the playgrounds to reopen. Jenkins said there is no way to keep the equipment clean. Ciampi stated that children are not in a high-risk group and there has been little evidence of the disease in their cohort. There was also mention of the parent’s responsibility for their children. Smith buys the personal responsibility argument for adults and even teens but believes children are different. A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Hetherington to re-open the playgrounds. It was defeated 3-2.
Ciampi mentioned that bowling alleys are still closed and wanted to know if the governor’s order addressed whether they could open. Sarah Woods said she would call the governor’s office and ask for a clarification. Ciampi also wants to know about summer camps, driver tests and permits, and whether yoga and Pilates studios are classified as gyms. He also then spoke about salons not being able to open. Ciampi made a motion that the Commission send a letter to the governor urging all businesses be allowed to re-open. It was seconded by Smith. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
Ciampi was on a roll and brought the rest of the Commission with him except for Heard. I cannot believe that they want bars, nightclubs, sporting events and concert venues to open at this point. Ciampi was speaking about salons but sometimes he is like a jazz musician on a riff and he is so good he takes some of the rest of the Board along.
The Commissioner made a motion to open the pool at Sailfish for lap swimmers. It was seconded by Smith and passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. Ciampi made a motion to require food handlers to wear masks. It died for a lack of a second.
Then he came to the main event which was re-opening the beaches. He wanted them opened Monday-Friday. There would be no tents, umbrellas, or coolers. When the lots were filled, they would be closed. The one beach that would not be opened would be the one on Jupiter Island. Commissioner Jenkins agreed with the Jupiter Island part.
Smith wanted to know whether they could limit the beaches to residents because of the state of emergency. Ms. Woods gave the appropriate answer when staff knows there is not a prayer… “I will check.” He also wants no restrictions on the beach except CDC guidelines. Hetherington agrees.
Commissioner Heard thinks it is reckless and they will be overwhelmed. Sheriff Snyder, the voice of reason, said in effect if you make the policy, I will enforce it. He also stated that the beaches should be open on the weekend so that it be a true test of whether Palm Beach residents will overwhelm us or not. When the Commissioners began giving him tips, he politely said that his department knows how to do enforcement and what tools they need to do it.
Commissioner Hetherington made a motion for the beaches to be open on Monday, May 4th with no restrictions except Jupiter island will remain closed and it will be re-evaluated at their next special meeting. It was seconded by Smith and passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. All the above motions were to apply the CDC guidelines.
The Commission made several hard decisions. Ciampi said earlier that there are no right answers. Most votes were unanimous. Commissioner Heard was the lone no vote on a few motions. I would have probably voted the same as Heard.
I do believe we are opening too fast without adhering to all the guidelines of the CDC. The level of testing is still not where it should be. Martin County is not on the downward curve long enough with the number of new cases. In the not too distant future, we may find a spike in the number of cases. Then what will we do?
A synopsis at the above can be found at:
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 27, 2020
When you create bad law, it tends to corrupt actions going forward. This happened quite a bit at this meeting beginning with the awarding of the right to future transfer of impact fee credits.
It is my opinion that the City of Stuart should do away with the payment of impact fees. The City is built out, and anywhere improvements would need to accommodate a new project, the City should charge those costs to the individual parcel as part of the approval process. It could be a requirement by ordinance.
Yet, that is not what the City does. It still charges impact fees for new projects. That is except if you are lucky enough to be an insider.
The motion that passed was as a result of an earlier ordinance that the City Commission approved which allows for the right to transfer unused impact fee credits from one parcel to another. This earlier ordinance was championed by the owner of 604 East Ocean, John Leighton. That property had originally 57 small units on it of less than 800 sq. feet.
The building itself had been demolished years ago. He eventually built 5 townhouses and 2 commercial spaces. For that project it was determined that 10 impact fee credits were used of the original 57. The ordinance passed at this meeting determined that John Leighton has 47 unused credits that he will ask to be transferred to other property in the future.
The original ordinance would allow any property owner the right to the unused credits. How many parcels in the City would have such an excess? There is only one I can think of at present that would have the ability to do so. A special deal for a special person. And what is so amazing about the entire episode is that the original building that had the 57 units never paid any impact fees. When that building was built, impact fees did not exist. Further you could not build 57 units on that parcel today.
A motion was made by Clarke to accept the finding of 47 excess impact fee credits. It was seconded by Bruner. The vote was 4-1 with Glass-Leighton, Clarke, Bruner and Meier voting for the motion and Matheson voting against. I asked Meier why he voted in favor and he said he felt he had no choice because of the ordinance earlier that was passed allowing this to occur. He and Matheson had voted against the earlier ordinance.
You can find the entire item here:
HUDSON ON THE RIVER
It seems like only yesterday when Paul and Linda Daly were in the chamber with hundreds of supporters pressuring the Commission to “Save The Pelican.” They claimed they needed a new lease to make sure that the small charming beach-front restaurant would remain and be a symbol of Stuart’s enduring small-town charm. The Dalys assured the Commission that they were not going to sell the lease. The lease extension that was signed was for years into the future and had below market rent. Barely a month later, it was for sale by the Dalys.
Mike Matakaetis, the owner of the Boathouse Café and other restaurants, began to cut a deal with the Dalys months ago. At Christmas time Matakaetis showed me renderings and his ideas for the place. Those plans, although quite attractive, bore no resemblance to the Pelican. But why would they have to since the scam had already happened. One more time the Commission, was taken for a ride. This time by the Dalys.
At this meeting, the Commission approved the assignment of the existing lease with an amended and restated lease for the property. There will be extensive work and improvements that will result in the building being much larger than the quaint Pelican. Matakaetis is a knowledgeable operator and will probably be successful. The City will make more money if everything pans out.
The catch is that once the lease is approved, the Commission will not have any input into how the finished product will look. No, they gave that right away. If the design meets code for the City-owned property, it will be approved by staff. The building could be designed any way that is legal.
What will be gone is that quaint little spot that the Dalys promised in what seemed perpetuity in October. Where were all their supporters who could not live without the Pelican? Not one of them bothered to even send an email. The Dalys received their retirement package care of the Commission and the taxpayers made all the contributions.
The vote was 4-1 with Meier dissenting. He asked why anything, but the assignment of lease had to be approved at the meeting. The answer Mayor Meier is that the Commission folds every time. Any little pressure or a well-placed campaign contribution will seal the deal.
I am sure that Matakaetis will do a great job and for the many of us, it will not matter. It is amazing how quickly charm and small town can go out the window and the people who could not live without it a few months ago, could not care less today.
The new lease and other information can be found at:
The Charter Review Board recommended 3 Charter revisions. This is the 10-year review that is required by the Charter itself. I was the Chair. My editorial on term limits could be found in the News & Views section.
The Board made three recommendations for questions to go to referendum plus several other matters that should be addressed by ordinance. The Commission did not mention any of those recommendations. Perhaps they were not concerned because those changes did not directly affect Commissioners.
Change A: The Board had multiple discussions regarding Commissioner pay. The
Charter Board settled on the following concept: outside a general wage increase or cost
of living increase afforded to all City Employees, the Commission must wait until their next
election cycle to receive any pay increase. Currently, commission pay is addressed in
Section 2 of code and not in the charter.
This was one of the issues that Matheson ran on and defeated Troy McDonald. In 2018, there was a pay increase of 55% that was voted in by the Commission a few weeks after Bruner was first elected and Leighton ran unopposed.
Matheson wanted to see that there would be no pay increase outside of a COLA without a referendum. The Board decided that they did not want to have the City go through the expense of a referendum and that a raise could take effect after each Commissioner stood for election.
Glass-Leighton said that no one cared that she voted herself a raise of 55%. Clarke stated that they had not received a raise in years, and it was due. Stuart has the highest paid Commission in the state for similar size cities and budgets. As part of their compensation, commissioners receive medical benefits and are part of the Florida Retirement System in addition to pay of $18,000 per year.
Matheson made a motion to accept the recommendation. It failed for a lack of a second. The Commission will continue to vote their own pay increases and other benefits without any check on their ability to do so.
Change B: Sec. 7.03 Qualification for Office. The board feels the following changes
should be added to the qualifications for office of City Commissioner. The Term of each
group shall be four years with a maximum of eight consecutive years regardless of which
group. The Charter Board recommends this be one referendum question and not two
The Charter Board felt that terms of two years were no longer advisable because it did not give Commissioners enough time in office before running for re-election. They felt that 4 years would allow Commissioners the time to have their platforms enacted. Further, by moving elections to even years, the City would not go through the added expense as they do currently of having elections in odd-number years. It further adds transparency since many voters did not even realize there were two Commissioners up for re-election last August.
With longer terms, the Charter Board overwhelmingly concurred that term limits of no more than 8 consecutive years would ensure others would be able to run. The history of Stuart elections is that there are very few challengers to incumbents. For example, there are currently 4 seats up for election. The only one with two people running is the seat being vacated by Leighton who is running for Property Appraiser. That “open” race will only be for her unexpired term of one year the remains.
All Commissioners agreed with increasing the term to 4 years. Leighton is opposed to term limits. Matheson saw there was opposition and said he felt 12 years was better. A motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Leighton for 4-year terms with term limits of 12 years. It passed 5-0
Change C: Sec. 7.03 Qualification for Office. The board feels the following changes
should be added to the qualifications for office of City Commissioner. If a City
Commissioner opens a treasury account for the purposes of accepting donations to run
for an office other than their current seat or any Commissioner who registers to run for a
different office, shall no longer be qualified to serve. Either, shall be deemed as a
resignation by the Commissioner effective immediately.
In the past two years City Commissioners have announced for other offices while still being Stuart Commissioners and voting on matters that had an effect on residents outside the City and for projects that people had contributed to their campaigns for those outside elections. While no Charter Board member claimed there were any improprieties, they wanted to see that there could not even be an allegation of such.
This appeared to be one that Commissioners all agreed was a good idea. A motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Bruner. It passed 5-0
It was noted in the agenda item that the Board also had several other recommendations that they wanted the Commission to take up by ordinance instead of by a Charter change. The item states that they will be brought back for discussion. If a Commissioner does not push this, those proposed ideas will die without a hearing in the bowels of City Hall.
It was requested by the applicant that the item be brought back at the next meeting.
The abandonment on Osceola was approved on first reading subject to an up-to-date appraisal. The appraisal was not available for anyone except staff at the last meeting.
Development had last minute presentations which were not contained in the agenda packets. Two Commissioners, Matheson and Meier, ran on transparency. How about living up to it in some fashion and making sure that the public has all information prior to the meeting so that they are just as informed as staff and the Commission.
The appraisal that was being used and was out of date is attached. A new one should be ready for the next meeting. You can find the old appraisal at:
For more than a decade, the City of Stuart has been trying to lease a little less than a 2-acre plot on U.S. 1 north of the Roosevelt Bridge. It is part of the Haney Creek property and was carved out of the preserve in order to be leased to provide funds for the maintenance of Haney Creek. Nothing has ever panned out.
Housing Solutions, a nonprofit, has been trying to build work force housing for several years. They have asked the City to consider leasing the property to them for an amount to be determined after study. There is also a for-profit entity that has put a bid in to lease the land to build a self-storage facility. This is not the first commercial proposal received, but nothing ever has materialized.
The Commission has decided to see if a deal can be worked out with Housing Solutions for them to build affordable housing. In the past, it was determined that there would need to be $500,000 in site improvements. Where all this money will come from is a good question.
In all probability, the self-storage project would probably never happen. While I would normally be in favor of the private sector, I do not think there would be any harm in having the nonprofit see what it can do but I will strongly object if it costs the City any out of pocket expense. The City cannot afford to spend their taxpayer’s money to build public housing.
As I have stated in the past, the parcel is too small and too isolated to work. The cost per unit would be more than any rent they could charge. As we enter a time of economic uncertainty, I would not expect any money from Tallahassee or Washington. But since this parcel will continue to be problematic, I believe the Commission should offer Housing Solution a finite time to see if a project could work and be financed there. If not, the Commission should seek to change the agreement with the County to just make it part of the Haney Creek Preserve.
The presentation can be found at:
Merritt Matheson wrote an op-ed that he sent to TC Palm and the newsletter. It has to do with Stuart’s LOSUM recommendations and their vision that they passed for the St. Lucie:
With the uncertainty of these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to pay attention to stories of hope and positivity. As we approach the summer wet season, one bright spot is the current and forecasted level of Lake Okeechobee.
During my campaign for office, I advocated for the City of Stuart to participate in proactive, year-round focus on Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River, not just reactive protests during rainy summers when our waterways are already bloated with toxic green gunk. In the early weeks of 2020, Congressman Brian Mast and local environmental leaders were drawing attention to how the Army Corps of Engineers was managing Lake Okeechobee during the dry season. I recognized the importance of ensuring the City of Stuart was an active participant in one of the most significant safeguards against summer discharges: Lower the level of Lake Okeechobee during the dry season so it will have more capacity for additional water during the wet season.
By February, the City of Stuart was on the brink of filing litigation against the Army Corps for their proposed management of Lake Okeechobee during the 2020 dry season. The management proposal, announced in December, stated a “focus on water supply” with a projected lake height of 12.5 feet by June 1, 2020. This contrasted with 2019 when Lake Okeechobee started the wet season at a height of 10.8 feet. The difference of 1.7 feet prior to the rainy season can mean the difference between clearer water and continued restoration of the estuary—or another toxic summer. It’s all about capacity. Clear historical evidence directly correlates a higher lake level on June 1 with an increased probability of massive discharges into the St. Lucie River.
The initial discussions pertaining to the City’s lawsuit were based around injunctive relief from the “focus on water supply” management pattern.
I am incredibly thankful for and proud of my fellow commissioners. We voted unanimously in favor of doing everything possible to encourage the Corps to manage the lake at a lower level, including the pursuit of litigation. Many residents, environmental experts, lawyers and advocates offered valuable advice to help us come to this consensus.
So where does Stuart stand now?
Although the City of Stuart always has the right to file suit to protect the health and safety of its residents, we currently are not on a path for litigation. Over the course of our deliberations, the Army Corps did begin managing the lake the way our proposed lawsuit would have demanded: Keeping the lake at a lower level by increasing flow to the south and west. Our need to take decisive, immediate action had subsided. The city’s goals of Lake Okeechobee management became realized.
I want to be clear, I do not claim that the City’s threat of a lawsuit changed the Army Corps’ action. What did happen, though, was increased communication among public and private agencies and increased public awareness of the issue at a time when most don’t think about it. Stuart adopted a Vision Statement (Vision Statement) for Lake Okeechobee management (link below), created a full-time position for a “River Advocate,” and gave me authority to speak on behalf of the City during LOSOM meetings. Martin County’s staff presented an update of their advocacy during the Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual (LOSOM) process. (LOSOM will dictate management of the lake for the next decade.) Most importantly, beneficial flows to the south and west from the lake increased even as the lake went below 12 feet. Mother Nature, as is typical, likely played the largest role by providing rain during a typically dry season.
As I write this, the lake is at 11.37 feet. The most recent updates from the Corps project a height of roughly 11.5 feet on June 1. Compared to prior years, we expect to enter the wet season with more storage capacity in Lake Okeechobee.
Recently, toxic algae blooms were reported at Port Mayaca and the St. Lucie Canal. With decades’ worth of legacy muck on the bottom of Lake Okeechobee and ever-warming temperatures, future algae blooms seem inevitable. Our collective hope is that the increased capacity in the lake will be enough for the St. Lucie River to be spared harmful releases even in the event of a major hurricane.
Link to City of Stuarts Vision Statement
Karen Spears, a local contractor, is tired of bidding not being awarded a contract from the School District even if she is the lowest bidder. If she were looking to build Jensen Beach Elementary, I can understand why her company would not be picked. Her being passed over may be more than that.
Here she is in her own words:
E-mail to me April 20th:
My name is Karen Spears. I am state certified general contractor. I own and operate Spears Construction Group, Inc. located in Stuart, FL. I recently responded to an RFP sent out by the Martin County School Board. I submitted my bid package, which was complete, and quickly learned that there was one other bidder that submitted a bid – The Morganti Group out of West Palm Beach. The School Board hosted a public meeting via a Zoom conference last Friday morning, 4-17-2020, where I also learned that The Morganti Group had submitted a higher bid, and notwithstanding the fact that the county is required to solicit/obtain 3 bids for the competitive selection process, and award the bid to the lowest repsonsible bidder, and award contracts to local and minority contractors as defined by the Florida Small and Minority Business Assistance Act of 1985, the county awarded the contract to The Morganti Group. This is not the first time Martin County has done this and incidently, The Morganti Group raised money for the Education Foundation via a gala in late February right before the bid was due. In fact, The Morganti Group makes “lots” of campaign donations and contributions to the Martin County School Board’s interests, as they post all of their “generosity” on their social media – Facebook Page. I certainly hope their contributions off set the additional expense the Martin County tax payers have incurred to have this local project completed by a major construction conglomerate.
This will certainly be included in the next edition of Friends & Neighbors.
Have you spoken to any School Board members and if so whom and what was their response?
I have reached out to Michael Deterlizzi, but I have not heard
back from them yet. I also sent an email to the Purchasing Department
and request a copy of the Zoom meeting recording. They have not replied.
Karen April 21st:
Apparently, there is a cone of silence clause in the bid
documents that prevents me from reaching out to the school
board members prior to them acting on the suggestion of an
I forwarded the attached letter yesterday afternoon and received a
call from the Purchasing Manager this morning. He assured me is trying to
incorporate change by going to an Invitation to Bid (ITB) system verses
a Request for Proposal (RFP) system, thereby ensuring that the lowest
responsible bidder is awarded the contract. He also told me that “local” is
defined as the State of Florida. I told him that by definition that may be the
case, but perhaps I should submit an official public records request to confirm
the total number and dollar value of contracts issued to The Morganti Group over
the years. I then pointed out that there are lots of contractors located
throughout the “State” besides The Morganti Group.
He encouraged me to continue to bid and stated that he wants to see
change, and I believe he knows that their RFP system was designed
to ensure that The Morganti Group has and continues to receive the
I am also attaching a picture from The Morganti Group’s Facebook
page. They have apparently championed the Education Foundation
and Martin County Schools through donations, now totaling $95,000.00.
Incidentally, this picture was taken at the Education Foundation gala in
late February, shortly before the bid due date, March 11th.
The tax payers in Martin County should be receiving credit for these
donations. After all, our tax dollars have been paying an International
Construction Conglomerate for years….
I do not know if Spears is right or not. This newsletter is about presenting points of view, and if possible, making sure those that have authority know that at least one of their constituents perceives there is a problem and is not getting a fair chance.
Ms. Spears spoke at the last School Board Meeting during public comment. She was polite and non-confrontational. Maybe the Board listened and will investigate whether what she stated was accurate. A local business should be able to at least have their grievances addressed.
Other documents she sent are attached:
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING APRIL 21
The Arts Council is still out there wanting to be given the old high school building as its new headquarters. They are under a June 1st deadline to apply for a state grant of $50,000 for design.
The District and the Council have been discussing this for a couple of years. Mr. DiTerlizzi still does not know what the Arts Council request entails. How much of the site are they asking to have? Is it just the old high school and the front buildings or is it more of the site? The Board has plans for the expansion of Stuart Middle and the new Boys & Girls Club to be located on the parcel.
You would think that this would be buttoned up by now.
The School Board is only supposed to be addressing emergency issues. Mr. George, the Board’s attorney, stated that the Superintendent would need to declare this an emergency for the Board to act. Ms. Gaylord will read the letter sent by the Arts Council and determine if it meets the criteria.
I asked the Arts Council for a copy of the letter and what they are suggesting. I did not receive a response.
PICK THE APPOINTED
The Board is moving ahead in the search for their first appointed superintendent. The Board had a long phone conversation with their consultants from Florida School Board Association to go over the search, and more importantly, to discuss how the citizen panel will work.
Each School Board Member will choose 4 citizens. There may also be representatives from the unions and other groups. The members of the panel are not choosing the next superintendent. They will look at the applications and apply the criteria that the Board has already stated as the duties of the new superintendent.
The superintendent brochure and description can be found at:
Ms. Gaylord and her staff have been preparing for virtual high school graduations. They have spent some time on the matter, and we need to applaud their efforts. Unfortunately, students and parents did not want virtual graduations.
Though Gaylord presented it as a two-step process, virtual on the original day set for exercises and then more traditional exercises later in the summer, if possible. With the restrictions placed by the pandemic, the staff was trying to do something.
Students, parents and even House Representative Toby Overdorf expressed that a virtual graduation was no graduation at all. Former School Board Member Tina McSoley used the recent Air Force Academy as an example of how to hold one with social distancing. That example cited had only cadets present with no family members.
The School Board then weighed in and each one agreed that a virtual graduation was no graduation at all. Only Roberts was a bit sympathetic to the virtual idea. Mr. Anderson summed up the Board’s position best when he said, “give them what they want.”
It is true as Ms. Powers stated that this is something the kids and their families look forward to having. They want to walk across the stage, hear the valedictorian speak, and all the rest. That may not be possible.
More than 60,000 Americans have died of the disease that may prevent these students from having their graduation. It has already eliminated their prom, the last semester and any other rituals and events they were looking forward to having. It is disappointing.
In the past couple of months, many people have perished, many more have been hospitalized, our economy is probably heading for the worse depression since 1930, and how many people will not have jobs even after the grand re-opening. A large percentage of the graduates will be heading off to college and others will be entering a job market that has been decimated. Martin County is facing much more than not having high school graduation.
When I was in school, we were required to commit poetry to memory. It is probably something not done anymore. I remember learning a poem by Longfellow entitled The Rainy Day. The last stanza is:
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
I hope that at some point before too many of these kids go on to other things, they can have their graduation. Martin County should not lose perspective. Disappointing it surely is. But these kids will have many more disappointments in their lives. They will have to adjust and accept many compromises. And to quote two other poets, Jagger and Richards:
“You can’t always get what you want.”
Superintendent Gaylord had a video on YouTube explaining what the district will be doing now:
In the last newsletter, I castigated staff and the Town Engineer for the worse presentation I had ever heard. This week I want to congratulate the Town Engineer and Manager for having a succinct and thoroughly understandable one. It was good work and I believe the Commission appreciated the effort. Commissioner Campo mentioned it and he was right.
Much of Sewall’s Point’s meetings consist of explaining the never-ending road and sewer construction. If this were a real estate project, it would be considered highly leveraged or “other people’s money.” State grants, County dollars and a variety of other sources are funding the needed improvements. What is often overlooked is the fact that some of the money is the Town’s funds. With construction costs increasing every year, how much is saved by taking years to complete a project should be analyzed. It is not only time but the monumental inconvenience to the residents of endless construction.
The Commission approved 5-0 an interlocal agreement with Martin County for sewer lines. The only time someone would be forced to hookup is if their septic system fails. They also approved a contract with Jamie’s Underground for North Sewall’s Point road. The Commission approved unanimously a grant management contract with Amy Adams.
Unfortunately, I download the agenda and attachments from the Town’s website, but the copies downloaded were not legible and therefore cannot be attached.
COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 25, 2020:
Under Brown’s direction, the Council has been playing SimCity. To some degree, the Council admits this since they continuously state that they are building a government from the ground up. The government they are building does not have a solid foundation. It is one built on one benefactor who does not require very much tending…. FPL. No one seems the least concerned about what happens if Indiantown’s benefactor goes away.
FPL is there now but I would expect its footprint in Indiantown to be reduced in the next couple of years. With its merger with Gulf Power on the west coast of the state, they will be looking to consolidate operations. Both companies are owned by the power conglomerate NextEra Energy. As efficiencies are sought it would appear that, except for the Solar Farm, Indiantown’s other FPL facilities are vulnerable to being reduced if not closed altogether.
According to Indiantown’s own released numbers, FPL pays the most taxes in the Village at 87.4% of the total. It is not hard to see that any erosion of FPL’s tax contribution could have a devastating effect on the Village. Yet not a word is ever mentioned by the “Sim City Players.”
It is easy to play at things but much more difficult to work at them. Instead of working on the hard issues of having a diverse and viable economic base, this Council has taken the easier issues on. Parks, roads, and stormwater are things that need to be provided for…and they were by Martin County. Bringing an independent Fire/Rescue Department would be commendable if the present one was lacking, but it is not.
Martin County sees that the Village wants to go its own way and should accept it without trying to persuade it differently. The County Commission needs to look at what is best for all County taxpayers. While FPL may be integral to Indiantown’s survival, it is rather insignificant to Martin County. The County crafted an ordinance that would apply only to the utility to reduce its taxes. Now that the MSTUs that the County collects for providing services to FPL in Indiantown are becoming less and less, why should the other citizens in Martin County subsidize Indiantown by allowing a reduction in its Tangible Personal Property Tax.
When it was incorporated, Indiantown was to concentrate on development. Most municipal services were going to be provided by the County for at least several years. Annexation, in order to build new homes, would bring more people. This in turn would spur both retail businesses with more customers and more qualified work force so that industrial and office firms would locate to the Village. Instead, the Council has hired all types of consultants to help entice retail and industrial firms to go to a place without the capacity to support new mercantile and industry.
The entire country now probably has the highest unemployment rate since the Depression of the 1930s. Tax revenue will be significantly less than anticipated. Other governments are looking at budgets that will be cut perhaps significantly. The Sim City Council appears to not see any of this coming.
The Village Attorney provided charts showing the salary ranges for Managers in Florida. It really was not as helpful as it could have been since nothing was in context.
With Council Member Dowling taking the lead, the Indiantown governing board deliberated on whether to raise Manager Harold Brown’s pay. It quickly became apparent that they were going to raise his compensation. The question was by how much for this Council seems to believe that Brown is indispensable to the Village’s ability to function. They could come and go, but without Brown, the Village would fall apart.
While some in the press have taken the position that Brown is not qualified or has exaggerated his qualifications, I believe he has taken Council’s direction and performed adequately. So far, however, the Village has led a charmed life. There have been no bumps to stumble over. Martin County government has been more than generous and accommodating. That will soon come to an end.
City of Stuart pays the City Manager $160,000 per year. He has over 250 employees and several departments. There is a Police Department and Fire/Rescue both of which have unions that must be negotiated with. There are independent utilities for trash, water, and sewer. The combined budget is north of $50 million dollars. There are also more than 3 times the residents plus an additional 21,000 visitors per day.
The Martin County Administrator makes a bit north of $180,00, has over a thousand employees, and a budget in excess of $500 million. Dowling said something about Ocean Breeze’s consultant that bills out at $95 an hour. And said if multiplied by 2000 hours it would be $190,000. Of course, he works many hours less than that per year and receives no benefits. He has never made more than $25,000 in any one year and closer to $15,000 in a typical one. I am not even going to comment on the comparison of the Village to Jupiter Island that was made.
Brown’s current salary is $110,000. The town has perhaps 12 employees. The budget is $5 million once you eliminate the pass through for Fire/Rescue that is paid to the County.
One Council Member stated that Mr. Brown is amazing since he must be available for all types of emergency situations even on the weekend. Implicit in the word manager is the fact he does not work a set number of hours per week. It is like that in every managerial position whether in the private or public sector.
Everyone believed he should get more. Dowling did some math considering other managers compensation and came up with $141,111.00 effective last January 1st. There would also be 3% raises if he had satisfactory reviews and the budget allowed. Gibbs-Thomas seconded the motion and it passed 3-2 with Hernandez and Stone dissenting.
Stone gave his reason for the no vote by asking what happens in a recession when they might not be able to give those raises. Hernandez did not give a reason at the meeting. I reached out to her and this is her reply:
I think another amount slightly lower was more justified. And the whole economy we don’t know how much longer this will go on with Covid19. We don’t know until the coming months. I do agree the managers base pay looking around at other cities he has a really low pay rate and we are doing so much that the other cities already have things established.
I urge you to look at the charts showing what managers make not only in Martin County but throughout the state:
This chart is just of Martin County:
BEGINNING A NEW BUDGET YEAR
Mr. Brown had a presentation regarding next year’s budget.
The Fire/Rescue Department will move forward with creating a public municipal department. Since the outsourcing idea received no bidders, this will be where Indiantown goes next on its quest to be independent.
You can find the complete presentation at:
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 28, 2020
Indiantown has seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases. The purpose of the meeting was to see whether the Village can do anything regarding the outbreak. At this meeting at least, the Council and staff recognized that Indiantown’s demographics are different than Jupiter Island and Sewall’s Point. It is even much different than Stuart.
Indiantown is a small rural place with a high proportion of poor people and many people living close to each other. The population has many Central American immigrants and their American born children. The same is true of Haitians who have settled there. Indiantown also has a large population of African Americans.
The increase in cases shows up because there are so many more people living in tight quarters. As we hear over and over, the inability of enough testing is a problem in containing the disease. That is why even though Indiantown has less than 4% of Martin County’s population, it has 20% of the cases.
While the Health Department and Cleveland Clinic promised more, will it be enough (or even arrive at all) is a good question. As Florida and Martin County speak about reopening, Indiantown is a hotbed of the disease. The cook, lawn service employee or retail worker that Stuart or Jensen Beach sees working can be living with someone who has the disease.
The Village decided to put aside $10,000 to procure masks and another $10,000 for an education initiative. In a vote of 4-1, the Council will require the wearing of face coverings in public. Gibbs-Thomas voted no. I asked her why she voted no by email and received this answer:
Tom, thank you for asking. I do not oppose wearing face masks, I wear one when appropriate and urge everyone else to do so also (I’m actually sewing and making reusable facemasks and giving them away). What I oppose is the wording “require” when it is an empty ordinance. There is no enforcement piece to it and there will be no consequences for noncompliance. People will expect action (as they should when a governmental body make an ordinance) when they report persons with no face masks and will wonder why nothing is being done about enforcement when it is “required” to wear one. By doing this I believe we as the responsible elected officials in Indiantown lose credibility. The ordinance could have said recommends, urge or obligatory ~ anything else besides require. It is creating more problems than it is solving. We have to do more in getting information and education out into our community (that’s why I pushed for a budget for community information/education), that’s what will turn the tide, not the executing unenforceable pronouncements to make people feel good by having them believe we are doing something when in reality it means nothing.
Whether you agree with her or not, it is a rational and well thought out reason.
At present there are no meetings scheduled.
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 21, 2020
Mayor Pidot spoke about COVID-19. Just as everywhere else, the residents of Jupiter Island are concerned.
When the State Health Officer for Martin County, Carol A Wegener-Vitani, gave her update she reiterated about testing or the lack thereof. Apparently in Palm Beach County, anyone can line up and receive a test which is different than Martin County. It was also stated that Martin County residents could go down there if they wanted the test.
I will not give you the numbers because they do change daily. There is a dedicated dashboard that can be found at:
The Police Chief gave a report about how the department patrolled with the Sheriff last weekend on the water. There was a high percentage of people trying to use the sandbars. It is amazing to me why you would want to mingle with strangers at this time.
A letter will be going out to all residents regarding the governor’s orders and what the Town expects. You can find it at:
OFFICERS GET A RAISE
Ever since Parkland and the requirement to have School Resource Officers in every school, there has been increased demand for sworn police officers. The staff of Jupiter Island has recognized the fact and decided to negotiate increased wages for their Public Safety Department.
I do not know what the cost is for training, but it must be significant. Each public safety officer is cross trained as a firefighter, EMT, and police officer. To hire and then keep those certifications does not come cheap. But the lure of more money does matter.
The costs will increase by 3% plus other benefits. The PBA contracts for both sergeants and officers and the newest MOU agreements can be found at:
The motion to accept was passed unanimously.
ALLÉE AND OTHER IMPROVEMENTS
One of the things that the Town is known for is its ficus trees. A canker disease has infected two of those trees and they must be removed. While this disease is not new, it is relatively recent to South Florida. Once the trees are cut down, the Town will need to wait before planting anything new.
Palm Beach County has also had this occur, and they have substituted a different type of ficus tree or a buttonwood. This is critical because most of the trees are ending their life expectancy. In the next decade or so, they will need to be replaced. Mayor Pidot stated that he would like to see a plan for this.
The Town is building a garage addition at its Public Safety Building. There were two estimates received. Staff recommended that the least expensive one for $61,847.00 be accepted. Motion passed unanimously.
The Allée, garage and projects for North Beach Road and South Beach Road can be found at:
This is a newsletter about local government. I want you to know what local government is doing. I believe as many decisions as possible should be made by government closest to the people.
That does not mean that the state and federal governments do not have roles in many aspects of our lives. I am not questioning, for example, that foreign policy is rightfully in Washington or that Tallahassee should be the one licensing doctors and lawyers. I do have a problem when either wants to dictate to local government where cell phone antennas should be located or pre-empting whether local government can prohibit vacation rentals in their communities.
Though the newsletter concerns itself with local government, I do have opinions on how we are being governed at the state and federal level. Some of their current policies are detrimental to America’s future. I do think Americans as a people have lost sight of some of our core principles.
The first piece is related to government and the pandemic but delves into how it seems that we no longer can learn from incidents and mistakes. It is entitled, “Is The U.S. Capable of Learning.”
The second article asks, “What Happened to The Conservative Movement.” It explores how the nation was founded on classical conservative principles. I believe we have strayed from that philosophical underpinning to our detriment. We are much more concerned with slogans than having a belief system. If a nation is governed by a philosophy, then it has a road map. If you govern by slogans, you do not need to have a true belief system for the hyperbole can shift to mean anything.
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
Articles I wrote in the past few weeks:
Tallahassee’s version of the “Godfather”
“History Is Just The Facts”
“The U.S. Needs A Social Safety Net”
Our first one is from the Atlantic regarding those working in an office get bigger raises than those working from home:
The next is an article from David French in the Dispatch asking if Jews are being beaten in the streets can America be America:
From The Hill is it time to rethink zoning:
The New York Times asks Bill Bratton about police reform:
A press release from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding Lake Okeechobee:
The Miami Herald asks why Florida picked up the tab for lawsuits for doctors’ mistakes in child birth:
The Washington Post writes that Senators are the oldest in history:
Another from the Post explains why Florida was supposed to be more left but turned more right instead:
The Florida Phoenix writes it is time to get rid of the filibuster:
The Mew York Times has a test for us to take regarding the facts on the increase in crime:
Lastly from Pro Publica their story on America’s richest pay no tax:
Two charts this week from Visual Capitalist on debt:
The first is on household debt:
The second is on government debt:
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)
Centum Cubic Feet (CCF)
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)
Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU)
Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
Federal Rail Administration (FRA)
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)
Indian River Lagoon (IRL)
Land Development Code (LDR)
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)
Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
Local Agency Program Certification (LAP)
Local Planning Agency (LPA)
Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)
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)
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)
Right of Way (ROW)
Secondary Urban Services District (SUSD)
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)