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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Vicki Davis, the Supervisor of Elections has written regarding the upcoming election.
Dear Martin County voter:
There’s been a lot of surprises in 2020, but strong public interest in the presidential election isn’t one of them.
Whether working with my team at the Martin County Elections Center or gaining insights at annual gatherings with fellow supervisors of elections across Florida, we’ve dedicated nearly the last three years to planning and preparing for this election.
Nov. 3 is the final, but not only, important date to remember. Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 19-31. Excluding the Blake Library in Stuart, five Martin County libraries—in Hobe Sound, Indiantown, Jensen Beach, Palm City and Stuart—serve as early-voting sites.
Whether voting early or on Election Day, the same safety measures are in place: Frequent cleaning and hand-sanitizers onsite, social-distancing enforced, poll workers wearing masks. (We request, but not require, that voters wear masks to cast their ballots.) We recommend bringing your own pen and encourage anyone who feels vulnerable to vote in off-peak hours around mid-morning and early afternoon.
Requests for vote-by-mail ballots have poured in by the tens of thousands. Still, many voters prefer to drop their ballots off in-person; we have specially designed ballot boxes for just that. At each early-voting site there will be one located inside and under the supervision of election workers, and therefore only available during the listed hours and dates of early voting.
The Elections Center at 135 S.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., in Stuart offers one as well and you can drop off your vote-by-mail ballot up until 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
Only time will tell if the election turns out to be as historic as the circumstances surrounding it. But you can rest in the knowledge that we’re doing everything possible to ensure you can cast your vote with a sense of safety, security and confidence.
Martin County Supervisor of Elections
In a past newsletter, I wrote about the old Stuart landfill and that there was someone looking at it as a possible transfer station. It appears that idea has been laid to rest.
That still leaves a brownfield site that is in the middle of the City which produces no revenue. The site won’t be able to generate revenue until it is cleaned up. Stuart doesn’t have the wherewithal to apply for the federal funds necessary or the expertise to do the remediation. There are other questions regarding whether the City is even eligible for federal dollars since they were the source of the pollution.
There has been an unsolicited offer on the table for a year. It doesn’t propose to pay anything for the property. The site is not only currently worthless…it is a liability because it is an ecological hazard. The company would take the responsibility to clean up the site by securing federal dollars and tax credits. Once that is done, they will develop the property and it goes on the tax rolls.
It is time for the Commission to move forward with this offer. They could put it out for bid but they may end up losing the company that is ready to go. A few Commissioners want to see an industrial use there in the future or perhaps other uses. By the time development happens, it could be a decade into the future. There is no sense in placing obstacles in the way of what needs to be accomplished first. Besides the market will change as will the Commissioners.
Staff should have the firm vetted and then move forward with a concrete proposal. Stuart needs to not be responsible for the property and let an expert deal with it. The property may sit there for several more decades unless action is taken now.
We often hear what great parks we have in Martin County. For the most part, that is absolutely true.
Yet a few of those parks are not for everyone to use. Probably, the new golf course will not be affordable for many residents when all is said and done. The same can be said for Sailfish Splash Water Park currently. When it costs more than $15 for admission, many of Martin’s citizens won’t be spending time there.
Yet that park was built with taxpayer dollars. The County will tell you that these wonderful facilities bring people to the area and those people spend money in restaurants and hotels. Is that the job of a public recreation center?
This park loses money every year it operates. In that respect, it is like any other park. A little less than $9 million was spent to build this facility. The Parks Department wants to spend another $5 million on upgrades that they believe are necessary to continue to draw people.
Spending $14 million of taxpayer dollars on a public amusement park is unconscionable. Imagine if they took that amount and built community pools instead. If you are going to lose money, then at least those that need parks and pools the most will be able to use them.
To read more here
YOUR TAX COLLECTOR
By Ruth Pietruszewski
Our Tax Collector, Ruth Pietruszewski, has been busy upgrading her offices and the services that are being provided. This is the second of a two-part article that she has written.
New EXEMPTIONS FOR VETERANS
Ruth “Ski” Pietruszewski is excited to inform veterans that per F.S. 205.055 veterans, spouses of veterans, and un-remarried surviving spouses of veterans are now exempt from business tax. A form requesting the exemption must be completed and signed, under penalty of perjury, and written documentation to support the requested exemption provided. The exemption form can be found on the Tax Collector’s website, https://martintaxcollector.com/ , under business tax.
THANK YOU FOR SERVING OUR COUNTRY!
Other Exemptions Include:
- The spouse of the active duty military service member who has relocated to this county or municipality pursuant to a permanent change of station order
- A person who is receiving public assistance as defined in FL. Statute 409.2554
- A person whose household income is below 130% of the federal poverty level based on the current year’s federal poverty guidelines
- Certain disabled persons
- Age: Over 65 (With no more than 1 employee or helper , & who use their own capital only, not in excess of $1,000)
- Widow with minor dependents
We also put the “V” designation on veteran’s driver’s licenses and ID cards for Free. Simply bring in your DD214, and we will add it so when discounts are offered by businesses, proof will be on your DL. Can you imagine living daily without refrigeration, electricity, or running water? We help our homeless in Martin County, and we provide them with a photo ID free of charge.
Tourist Development tax applications can be filed online and payments made. New security alarms can be registered online, payment made for the annual fee, or making payment on a false alarm.
We created a special “confidential” link online for confidential taxpayers.
And for those who are not comfortable paying their taxes online and choose to hand-deliver their check, we have put into operation a separate office to process your walk-in payments quickly. This November, look for the big blue banner above our tax department, right next to the DMV, with several clerks waiting just to take tax bills, so you are in and out of the office quickly!
We have added additional essential services outside our Constitutional duties to help keep the burden of the taxes off our roof tops and provide convenience for constituents to acquire their state and federal services locally.
We have partnered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services to issue concealed weapons permits at both our Willoughby and Hobe Sound offices to offer “fast-track” intake service for concealed weapon new permit applications & printing renewal permits. We place a high value on public service by providing our constituents with a better, more efficient, convenient, easier, and speedier service. As partners with the Department of Agriculture we both save time and resources. Both the fingerprinting and photo will be done here “on site” at both offices and now both offices has the ability to print your Concealed Weapon RENEWAL Permit Card. You will be in and out in about 10 minutes with the actual permit renewal card in your hand!
We recently partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to issue TSA Pre √ and TWIC services at our Palm City location. I am so proud of my staff after getting this compliment:
We have partnered with the Florida Department of Health & Vital Statistics to issue birth certificates on the spot at our Palm City and Indiantown branches. Issuing birth certificates on the spot allows us to process Florida born resident’s driver’s licenses and ID cards when they have lost their birth certificate. The beginning of the school year solidifies this “win-win” situation to help parents with school year registrations.
We do not issue death certificates, but we do have a “live’ death file on site. Having the file not only saves widows and widowers from having to purchase certificates to transfer their vehicles and assets, but it saves the person who has lost their loved one the pain of bringing the subject back up. I know how it hurts, because I’m a widow.
Our newest service is a partnership with CFX (Central Florida Expressway). You may now clear your toll violations at all four tax collector offices. Per Florida Statutes 320.03 and 316.1001, if payment in full is not received by the pay by date, the Florida Department of Transportation has the authority to place a registration stop against the registered owner of the vehicle and prevent them from renewing the license plate.
We’ve also partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation to provide you with sun passes, so you have the ability to easily pay tolls and not be subject to violations.
Thank you for giving me the honor and privilege of serving you. We’re here to help you, serve you, and save you money!
By Tom Pine
We, the taxpayers of Martin County, have spent at least $1,650,000 to date on a mooring field on the Jensen Beach Causeway. Now we will be spending an additional $94,000 allocated to the Parks and Recreation Department to start up and operate that field.
This will be another boondoggle just like the Sailfish Splash Water Park that we, the taxpayers, keep paying and paying for year after year. As the endless waste of our tax dollars continues, the only reason they were built, was that the Good Ole Boys wanted them.
On the County Connection Newsletter dated August 28, 2020 one of the headlines reads “Don’t Be A Statistic, Use A Crosswalk.” It sounds good except for one thing, there are very few crosswalks on the major roads in the Jensen Beach and Rio area including Indian River Drive, Southeast Dixie Highway, and Savanna Road. While Savanna Road was just resurfaced and most intersections did get crosswalks painted, the quality of the painting was poor and not a single commercial driveway had any crosswalks painted, sad.
There are two schools on Savanna Road where children walk and ride bikes to school. Yet it has been at least two decades since many of these roads have had visible crosswalks.
Another issue I have brought up at commission meetings several times over the past year is the service road between BJs Wholesale Club and Aldi’s Supermarket. There is no visible line painted on the road. It is a three-lane road where I have witnessed several near disasters. This is a disturbing trend in Martin County where safety always seems to take a back seat instead of being in the front seat, where it belongs.
It seems that it is more important to cater to the Good Ole Boys than it is to have the most basic safety in place for the Martin County taxpayer because we’re just the suckers paying the bill.
The New Toll Roads that are coming soon to the west coast of Florida are remarkably like the mooring field in Jensen Beach. One of the wealthiest men in Florida and a large financial backer of the Republican Party wants these new roads and just like in Martin County what the Good Ole Boys want the Good Ole Boys get.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
Two weeks ago, Congressman Mast presented his opinions about Lake Okeechobee and the EAA to his counterparts in Washington.
These opinions, he states are in the best interest of his community and the Saint Lucie River. Mr. Mast’s testimony was filled with the standard rhetoric from major contributors like Everglades Foundation and local, river linked coalitions, but predictably, he ignores the largest contributing factors to our local waterway challenges- local basin runoff.
As we face new discharges from Lake O, coming this week, I can’t help but notice the overall river quality score of “D” or “fairly poor”, even after more than half a year of no discharges. But how can that be? Did “big sugar” poison our lawns when we weren’t looking? Maybe we did it to ourselves?
As an agriculturalist, I have used less than 2 gallons of fertilizer on my 15-acre property in the last 4 years. In contrast I have witnessed many lawn services using multiple gallons of slow release granules which easily float away with rainwater, into the local river tributaries throughout the County.
It can be difficult to see the little things when someone else is tending to your lawn. While so many of our neighbors are quick to point an accusing finger at agricultural interests nearly 60 miles away, we must start thinking critically of what we are doing in our own front yards. With more than 68% of the river’s annual nutrient load coming from local basin runoff, we have no one to blame, but ourselves.
I tip my hat to Sewall’s Point for their recent groundbreaking of a “water train” storage and treatment system for storm water runoff. I was extremely excited to hear Toby Overdorf mention local basin runoff and storage of water north of Lake Okeechobee, last week on the KC Ingram show.
I can only hope that as Mr. Mast enjoys a nice side salad or vegetable dish during his holiday meals, he appreciates that 90% of all US winter vegetables come from the same farm lands he has fought so hard to get rid of.
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
Do you have “Covid-head”?
Covid seems pervasive throughout our lives. It begins to feel like this plague has always been with us. You go to the grocery store and everyone has a mask on. Thank you, by the way, for doing that.
You are filling your car up and people going inside are putting masks on. A guy riding a bicycle with a mask on…wait, really? You can’t go to your favorite music spot because you don’t want to end up mingling with strangers. You read daily about jobs lost and businesses closed. Well, you get the picture.
I escaped… I went for a walk on my favorite beach. I know you’ll accuse me of working for the Chamber (I don’t). I asked readers in a previous piece, why we moved to Hobe Sound, I remembered why I moved to Hobe Sound, it was because of the beach.
Not to frolic or sun worship…though both of those are on the list. And, not for the public beach. But, if you go to the end of Bridge Road, passing under that beautiful ageless canopy of Banyans and take a left, you will find a Preserve Beach. There I walked for the first time since before Covid. And I escaped. Covid was just gone.
I walked through the sea foam and wondered at the multitude of colors. The blue sky was just filled with billowy white clouds. (Florida has the best clouds). The baby blue sky met the emerald green shades of the sea at the horizon. The greens of the sea flowed onto the browns and beiges of the sand. And the sand met the sage green of the dune grass which gave way to the forest of sea grapes. Pretty little black and white sanderlings quickly crisscrossed in front of me. Their tiny fragile legs ran as fast as the beat of a hummingbird’s wings. I bent down to pick up a seashell shaped like a heart. I’ll give that to my wife when I get home. She’ll smile.
So, that beach where you can walk for only 5 minutes and be completely alone. That beach is why I moved to Hobe Sound. Oh, you might pass by a fellow walker and nod politely or say nothing at all. You’re not trying to be rude. But, neither of you wants to pierce the moment. That beach where I can get my head clear and remember Covid, too shall pass.
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Both this week’s charts are from The Visual Capitalist:
The first lists 200 years of interest rates:
The second chart lists the companies that have been listed on the Dow since 1928:
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.
Nothing This Week
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 13, 2020
“What we got here is a failure to communicate.” Those words were uttered by the Cap’n of the chain gang to Paul Newman’s character, Luke, in the movie Cool Hand Luke. I often used those words when my children were children. It is just a great saying for expressing miscommunication. In the movie, that miscommunication ended tragically.
In the Sunshine State Carnation FLUM Amendment in Hobe Sound, there was a failure to communicate between the applicant and the neighbors. The failure to communicate had more dire consequences between the applicant and the Commission.
This is the last farmland in the area even though it hasn’t been farmed in a decade. The nearly 20-acre plot was a flower farm. Overseas competition and the price of land has killed that use which was once so prevalent in Martin County.
The plot has 2-units-per-acre zoning, and the landowners are asking for a zoning change which would allow a maximum of 5 units per acre. The neighbors and Commissioners did not want to see 100 homes there for the reasons of drainage, traffic, and density. I agree that 100 homes being placed on 20 acres in that spot would be too many.
Staff and the applicant explained that this hearing is not for site plan approval. The designation wasn’t being asked because they wanted to build 100 homes. The designation was the one that staff felt was most applicable. Once the FLUM was changed, the property would have to come back to the Commission for site plan approval. Once setbacks, roads, wetlands, and other criteria were met, they probably would be lucky to get 30 homes.
Yet no one trusts a developer or landowner. If you give them 5 units an acre, then they would come back and build those hundred homes somehow. It was obvious that this was not going to pass. There was a failure to communicate.
Later in this meeting, another agenda item had what was known as a “text amendment.” By attaching one which has limiting restrictions to an application, it would not have been necessary to ask for a continuance. Commissioner Smith asked staff all the right questions to make sure people understood that nothing was being approved. There would be more public hearings. This was a future zoning change that needed it approval from the state. It was apparent no one was communicating.
The applicant was not listening to the neighbors and Commissioners ahead of time. This all resulted because of a failure to communicate their intentions. A simple self-limiting text amendment could have avoided this outcome.
There was a motion to continue indefinitely that passed 5-0. You can find the presentation here
MARTIN COUNTY’S SOCIALISM CONTINUES
Martin County continues to be anti-business in its quest to be in the amusement and restaurant business. The march continues with an additional $48,000 being allocated to the construction of the Seaside Café at Stuart Beach.
The initial operating budget that was passed for this beachside restaurant at this meeting was $246,000. The toll just keeps going up as we hire more and more people to do what the private sector should be doing. It appears that Commissioners are building empires within governmental departments by fostering the hiring of more and more employees.
Another item on the agenda was the Commission giving its approval to what alcoholic beverages will be served. The County has obtained a full liquor license so which beverages will be allowed is up to them. Recommendations were made by Martin County’s “Food & Beverage” department which included slushy drinks, different hard liquor drinks, cocktails, beer, wine, hard seltzer, or for those more discerning beach patrons, champagne.
After deliberation and discussion, Commissioner Ciampi made a motion to include beer, wine, slushy type drinks, hard seltzers, and, of course, the afore mentioned champagne. Nothing can be in glass bottles. It was seconded by Heard and the politburo passed it 5-0.
From the water park to the beach cafes to the soon-to-open golf course, Martin County refuses to allow the private sector to operate even the food concessions. While I expect some of the 5 Republican Commissioners not to see the irony in their actions, a few of them should.
These actions should convince the taxpayer that they will see more and more such boondoggles being created with this Commission. This will result in further subsidies for things that government should not do. We have already heard the director of the Parks & Recreation department utter the words that more money needs to be spent so the County loses less. This is unconscionable.
The County cocktail menu and café budget can be found here
THE END OF THE MASK
Commissioner Smith left before the initial mask discussion happened.
Heard led it off with the statement that the science speaks for itself. Masks decrease the spread of the virus. And she claimed the business community wants the ordinance to remain. She then motioned to keep the ordinance in place. Ciampi seconded the motion.
Both Hetherington and Jenkins opposed the motion. Jenkins made some sense when he stated that since the governor had removed any enforcement mechanism in the form of penalties there was no reason in having a mandatory requirement. Jenkins and Hetherington asked that the motion be tabled until Smith returned in the afternoon. Heard and Ciampi said no. The vote was 2-2 which meant the motion failed but it also meant that the current mandatory mask ordinance stays in effect.
When Smith did return around 3 pm, he asked for a reconsideration of the issue. The Commission voted 5-0 to allow it.
There was discussion that really was the same as earlier. Smith added that he thought the people should decide. He made a motion to repeal the mandatory mask ordinance. It was seconded by Hetherington and it passed 3-2.
Smith then made another motion to direct Administrator Kryzda to issue an emergency order to strongly recommend the wearing of masks. It was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 3-2 with Ciampi and Heard voting no.
The shame is not in what happened at the Commission level. It falls on the governor to take responsibility one way or the other. He can’t say it is up to local government to decide and then take away their ability to enforce their decisions. It is hypocritical on his part.
Like Jenkins, I don’t believe we should pass laws or ordinances that do not have a mechanism for enforcement. DeSantis cannot have it both ways. He is the one with the ultimate authority. He should use it and take responsibility for his actions. The governor is far from showing leadership in this regard.
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 13, 2020
This was the first meeting with the new starting time of 4 pm for the first meeting of the month. It was thought that the new time would allow for the Arts Moment, proclamations, and employee recognitions to be done earlier. In that way, meetings would not have to go on until 10 pm or later. In that respect, it absolutely was a success.
Yet I wonder why the meeting must recess and then resume at 5:30. What is the magic time about that witching hour. There are no more people in the audience to hear the mostly self-serving comments of Commissioners. Or is public comment more relevant then than later? Just let the meeting continue.
Speaking of public comment, the City should take a cue from the County. Public comment is not a question and answer session with the commenter. If a question can be answered briefly, the City Manager or Attorney could address it then or ask that the speaker contact them the next day.
When the chair and the other Commissioners are so solicitous of every speaker, the meeting becomes longer and longer. It is not fair to everyone else at the meeting. Please, Commissioners, bring back procedures that were followed for years. It allowed the public to comment without the colloquy and endless back and forth. The Commission is there to hear from the public…not to discuss issues or answer questions from the dais.
I did like the idea that there was an extended discussion period after the proclamations. It gave the Commissioners an opportunity to go into depth. D&D (Discussion & Deliberation) usually occurs at the end of the meeting when people are tired. This is a much better place to have discussion.
During that period, Commissioner Matheson gave an in-depth presentation detailing that the Corps of Engineers will begin releasing 1800 CFS (Cubic Feet Per Second) from the Lake per day which will flow directly into the river. That means 1.16 billion gallons will be released into the river every day that the releases continue at that level.
The lake is currently at 16.1 feet. We went into the wet season at an 11 feet level. We have had record rains this season. Matheson believes there has been a cultural shift by the Corps and South Florida Water Management District in favor of retention. That is good. Matheson and Ben Hogarth, the staff person assigned, have been on the weekly call with the Corps and have been reaching out to a variety of officials.
Mr. Stuckey, a County resident who has advocated for a possible lawsuit against the Corps by the City, will present his ideas for establishing a City department at the first meeting in November. According to Matheson, his presentation will take 20 to 30 minutes. Once hearing the presentation, Ben Hogarth will bring back cost estimates at a later meeting.
Commissioner McDonald wanted to have the Corps there also. But both Matheson and Meier thought that it was not needed for that meeting. I think McDonald is correct to have all there. I would even have the County environmental representative(s) present.
For some reason, the City is acting as if Stuart is not part of Martin County. The County has assembled a formidable team to advocate with both the Corps and SFWMD. The money to pay for those experts comes out of the general fund which all Martin County taxpayers are assessed including Stuart.
The County Commission has voted to put together a board comprised of an elected representative of every municipality to meet and understand how the County is proceeding on our behalf. Both Commissioner Hetherington and Smith that both represent portions of Stuart have not pushed for that Committee to begin operation. They need to do so immediately.
The Stuart Commission needs not to be so parochial. They need to call on County resources to accomplish the City’s goal. Matheson, as the Commission point person, should be knocking on the doors of not only Hetherington and Smith but also the other three County Commissioners. Dyess and Taryn Kryzda, the County Administrator, should be working in tandem on this issue. Stuart’s size, both in area and population, creates distinct disadvantage in moving the discussion forward. Martin County is a much better vehicle for getting things done for stopping the discharges.
WORKSHOP OCTOBER 6, 2020
The Board had a very brief presentation on redistricting.
Interestingly, it seems that enrollment is continuing to fall. There has been a decline of 1000 students attending county schools. There is no way of knowing how many of these students will be returning to class once the pandemic ends. But there has been declining enrollment for several years now…just not to this extent.
Perhaps as approved developments are built, enrollment will begin to increase. Several projects have recently been approved in Stuart which would probably add the most students. As of today, only one of those projects has come out of the ground. I would suspect that maybe half of these will be built. That is the nature of development.
A redistricting committee will begin work in February 2021 and perhaps by the start of the 2022 year, children will be going to different schools. However, it was decided to make Jensen Beach High School open for all since it has the most capacity of any of the high schools.
In the next few years, I would imagine that another charter school will open, and perhaps other choices will be made available for parents and their children. The District seems to be stuck in a mid-20th century model which increasingly may not be what their customers want. It is even more puzzling that the District is building needed replacements for two elementary schools (Jensen Beach and Palm City) using the very models that are proving obsolete.
The presentation which was given to the Board in handouts was not part of the agenda packet. I could not see anything being projected on the screen from my home computer, and the two Board Members that were participating remotely didn’t have the information. I hope the new Superintendent and the Board stop this all-too-often practice of not having agenda backup included.
You can see the presentation here
As I wrote above, both Palm City and Jensen Beach are being built to accommodate students and teachers for several hours a day when school is in session. Evenings, weekends, and summers these building, costing $64 million, will sit unused by those same students, teachers, and every resident of the County. What a waste!
Both those schools have community playgrounds that are open to the public and were built by volunteers raising funds to do so. In the redesign, the playgrounds will have to be moved and will be recreated. The Board has promised that the new playgrounds will be better.
The design of these schools needs to be reconsidered. The fields and other interior areas, such as gyms and libraries, should be made available to the public when classes are not in session.
These are public buildings paid for with taxpayer dollars that sit idle for more than half the year. I understand the need to provide a safe environment when schools are in session. Yet, by innovative design those indoor and outdoor facilities can be made so that using them when school is not in session is possible.
If we continue to build facilities that are costing taxpayers millions for a shrinking pool of students without the needed innovation, we are doing a disservice. We can’t afford to build such specialized places with the idea that they belong to a District and not all County residents. This myopic vision of what a school should be is becoming less and less relevant especially with declining enrollment.
Every government wants to preserve its fiefdom. What they need to realize is that they all have the same customers. Does that mean the expense of maintaining some of those amenities should fall to the District alone? The answer is no! All governments need to share the cost. Yet I have seen inordinate expenses charged to use current facilities by other governments and groups. That can’t be either.
I charge the School Board and the County, along with appropriate municipalities, to begin thinking not in terms of “mine” but to think in terms of “ours.”
To see what new these facilities are currently planned to be go here
THE DIFFICULTY WITH DIVERSITY
Board Member Defenthaler had proposed a proclamation celebrating LGBTQ+ month in October. This had been done in June by the City of Stuart. Like so many things when it comes to education, it is beginning to take on political overtones.
I don’t want to surprise anyone but there are Martin County students that are not heterosexuals. Those students that identify as different are more likely to be bullied and sadly feel that suicide is a viable alternative.
We have spent years trying to stop the scourge of racism. I think we may be closer with this generation of students than ever before. To hate someone just because they are of a different color or ethnic group means you had to be carefully taught as the Rogers & Hammerstein song goes. Now it is time to extend inclusivity for all students including LGBTQ+.
The question is how do we accomplish this? What is a proclamation supposed to do? A proclamation is simply a way to acknowledge that these students are valuable members of their schools and society. It is a measure of the worth of those children.
Apparently, some on the Board think that it should go further. Ms. Roberts put together a thorough presentation on the teaching of LGBT history. There are now several states that mandate such classes. What is Martin County trying to accomplish?
How much is a person’s sexuality key to their accomplishments as human beings. Pete Buttigieg ran for president this year. He was a mayor, naval officer, linguist, business consultant, scholar, deeply religious person and quite possibly could become a member of a Democrat administration. He also happens to be married to another man.
His accomplishments are not because of or despite his sexuality. Yet those accomplishments can be seen by a gay kid as an inspiration as he becomes an adult.
Should all students be required to take such a course? Should it be offered as an elective? This is something that requires more study, and I would suggest that the administration reach out to their LGBTQ+ students and find out what they believe their needs are.
I do think the Board, staff and all students would be served by diversity training. Most of us have biases. We may not think we do, but it is there. You hear it when people speak and sometimes you are the person speaking. Diversity training is different from sex education in any form. To confuse them shows why diversity training is needed.
A proclamation is a good first step. The other suggestions need further input and study. The Board needs to show all students and, in a broader sense, the entire community that race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation does not matter. Validation is important.
Ms. Robert’s and the staff reports can be found here
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 13, 2020
This was supposed to be a workshop, but Manager Berger advertised it as a special meeting.
Stuart Fire Chief Felicione gave an update on ambulance calls which included transporting of patients. That would fall into the workshop portion.
Then came public comment that would lead into the discussion for the night which was buying property to be used for water storage and/or an outfall as part of the Homeward Grant.
It appeared that some residents now want results. They are tired of waiting for years while grants are found and coordinated for work to be done and completed. I can’t really say that I blame them.
From public comment, the Board went directly into the discussion of buying property. There was a presentation given by Joe Capra, Town Engineer, which outlined options. He reiterated that they weren’t going to spend money until it was received. He was speaking about grant money which he is good at obtaining.
Outlining options (and there were several) is different from giving guidance on what to do. Which option will be the best from a water engineering standpoint? That was missing and has been missing. Telling Commissioners that they could buy this or that or both or neither means exactly what?
When I hear individual Commissioners say that I want Option A or I prefer Option D, I am concerned because this is not the way decisions like this should be made. If I go to a doctor, I want the doctor to diagnose the problem and tell me what course of action is being recommended. As the patient, I can then ask if there is a less invasive treatment or a different surgical solution. I can then make an informed decision. Just having a bunch of options given will not lead to the Commission making an informed decision.
Capra and Berger should have laid out a plan with costs and, using their expert judgement, recommended the best course of action. A Commissioner could have inquired about other possible solutions, and staff could have further explained why their recommendation would give the Town the optimum result.
In other parts of the country, there are Greek-owned diners with 20-page menus. There are literally hundreds of things to choose to eat. People are overwhelmed with their options. While it may be acceptable to have options in a diner, in this case a more narrowed focus would serve the Town better.
It is becoming apparent that residents whose properties are directly affected by the continuous flooding have had it. Other residents who need to take detours because thoroughfares are closed are just about as frustrated. A resident said that, at some point, having the lowest tax rate in the County for years may not be a blessing if her property value is dropping. A truer statement has never been uttered.
Commissioner Kurzman mentioned that a line of credit for a million dollars would result in a negligible tax increase of about $50 per parcel. Commissioner Mayfield agreed that may be a way to go. These are the two newest Commissioners and especially Mayfield, a CPA, represents how some younger residents may feel.
Commissioner Campo made a motion to negotiate with a resident who offered an easement to put in an outflow on her property if the STA was not constructed next door. It was seconded by Vice-Mayor Barile. It was the cheapest option. It didn’t appear that solution would accomplish much since there would be no place for retention to clean the water which could not be sent into the river using the outflow. The motion failed 3-2 with Campo and Barile voting yes.
Commissioner Mayfield made a motion for staff to negotiate a contract for the parcel in Option A. It was seconded by Kurzman. The law states that an appraisal is needed before the Town can buy property so I believe that the sale would have to be contingent on that. Finally, Capra said this is the option he likes the best. The motion passed 3-2 with Campo and Barile dissenting.
There still needs to be a way to finance the transaction even if the purchase would possibly be covered by a grant. At least they are tentatively moving forward. Within the next couple of months, the staff should put together a funding mechanism and present it to the Commission. Grants are necessary and offset direct costs. Yet with rising tides and water tables, Sewall’s Point needs the road work and storm water management to be completed as soon as possible. Otherwise the Town is staring at that Greek menu with too many options and never making a choice.
You can find the presentation with options here
COUNCIL MEETING OCTOBER 8, 2020
Quest, the communication consultant for the Village, has a contract that goes through next March. The original amount was $50,000. A month or so ago, they had asked for another $38,000 since they have run through the initial amount.
How is it that a Village the size of Indiantown needs so much in the way of communication services? The many newsletters that are put out per month take time. Videos, discussions, emails, Facebook, and a dozen other things require the company be paid. As Council Member Dowling stated, there is a need for even more communication.
Quest is not a local company. There were two Martin County firms that bid on the original RFP. One was the Firefly Group at $90,000 and the other was Upstairs Communication at $2,000 per month with an hourly rate of $175 above the minimum monthly hours.
Did Quest underbid and now is the same as Firefly in cost? Was the underbid intentional?
Dowling also said that the Council was “being whipped” on Facebook and that Quest was helping in that regard. That of course means the individual Council Members were being criticized. Stone wanted to rebid the entire contract. Staff stated they reached out to Quest and offered $6,000 per month through March, but they declined.
A motion was made by Dowling to pay the additional money and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 4-1 with Stone dissenting.
The explanation for the increase with the rates can be found here
RETREAT & CARES
The Council had another Saturday retreat and planning session on September 12th. They once again went through exercises and discussion about the future.
The entire presentation and charts of what the Council would like to see can be found here
There was an interesting discussion about the CARES Act. I kept hearing that the Village had an allocated amount from the County. That is not accurate. The Village government can ask to be reimbursed for their expenses that are related to COVID and that were unbudgeted for money spent between March and December of 2020.
The County is the disbursing agent for those funds. There are three other pieces besides government reimbursement to the CARES funding. The first is a small business grant for expenses that meet the above criteria up to $20,000. This program is administered through the County not the Village of Indiantown. Any business that has the proof needed can receive funds. You can find the information here https://www.martin.fl.us/CARESAct#main-content
The United Way of Martin County is Martin County’s agent for the individual CARES funding. To begin the process for applying you can go here https://www.unitedwaymartin.org/cares
So, to answer Mr. Brown and Indiantown’s questions…the Village cannot disperse any funds. If the Council wants any individual or business to apply, they can go to those websites. There are food pantries such as House of Hope and several others throughout the Village that are receiving additional stocks to meet the higher demand. Rob Ranieri, the CEO of House of Hope, told me he delivered snacks and other food to Hope Rural and will continue to do so.
Staff should contact the County to have more details.
COUNCIL MEETING OCTOBER 12, 2020
It was a meeting that lasted less than a half hour.
Town Consultant Terry O’Neil spoke about how the County will be making West End Avenue one way. It is anticipated that it would be south bound. The Town asked for an analysis since that will impact traffic flow. According to Mayor Ostrand and O’Neil, the County has not been as cooperative as they could be.
That is too bad since Ocean Breeze constituents are part of the County. If West End becomes one way south, then all traffic leaving by that exit will need to turn onto Maple Avenue to get to Jensen Beach Blvd. That would include the RVs that primarily use that exit.
Mayor Ostrand mentioned a blood drive in partnership with Sun Communities on November 7th. It is by appointment only. There will also be a 60-year celebration of the founding of the Town on November 9th. There will be a cupcake tree and other things. Be on the lookout for flyers for both those events and you can contact the Town Office for more information.
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 15, 2020
The Guardians of Martin County made a presentation about creating preserve land on Bridge Road.
According to the presentation, this is a joint effort between the Guardians and Treasured Lands Foundation to preserve 138 acres on a two mile stretch of Bridge Road in Phase 1. The project is being called the Loxa-Lucie Headwaters. Most of the land is wetlands so huge parts would be undevelopable.
The property is for sale and the owner would like to see it go into conservation. To date, fundraising has resulted in donations and pledges of $1 million. The total price for acquisition is $2.5 million. It is in the Secondary Urban Services District but abuts the Primary District. They believe this can be turned into a recreation area as well as a water management use facilitated by grant funding.
They are not asking for any money from the Town or Martin County though they are applying for federal and state grants. Both the Town and County have 30% of their land as conservation areas currently. To see the entire presentation go here here
In some instances, before Martin County came into existence in 1925, roads were platted, easements given, and development contemplated that never happened. Many times, the nature of development changes over time. Originally, what was then known as Bon Air Beach Plat 2 in 1924, many streets were envisioned that never were built by Palm Beach County then subsequently Martin County and since its 1953 incorporation Jupiter Island.
The same platted map shows small 50-foot-wide lots that bear no resemblance to the size of the properties that are there today. In other words, things change. If there hasn’t been a need to have a road for one hundred years, then the Town will not be building one now. So why shouldn’t adjacent landowners to these be given the opportunity to vacate the easement. The owners of 12 and 16 North Beach Road are asking that very question.
Unfortunately, the neighbor who is not objecting but is not consenting is not a person but FWC, a government agency. While it appears that the last Refuge Manager had no objections, the current one is not so sure. Will they ever use the easement even though they apparently haven’t in the past?
The Commission made some tweaks to the ordinance and passed it unanimously on 1st Reading. When it comes back for 2nd Reading, the hope is that everyone will be happy.
Commissioner Collins wants to look at all the unused roadways. That is a good idea.
You can see the ordinance and the applicant’s presentation here
The Town Commission was not happy that the County did away with the mandatory mask ordinance.
They will be making it Town policy and sending a communication to all the residents that they wear masks and follow CDC guidelines. The Commission realized that the County had no way to enforce having masks mandatory after Governor DeSantis removed local government from having a penalty for non-compliance.
As one of the Commissioners said, “You can’t have a rule if you can’t enforce it.” That is right and County Commissioner Jenkins said the same thing on Tuesday. If the state is not going to have a policy, then local government should be able to set one…and enforce it.
The Commission believed, and it makes perfect sense, that as cases climb again businesses will suffer. With restaurants and other non-essential venues operating at 100% capacity, the spike should not take long. While there won’t be any formal shutdown, people will retreat from those places and many will close.
Taxes have become a nasty word to some. No one likes to pay them, but they are a necessary component of having a civilized society.
If you look for quotes regarding the paying of taxes, they are overwhelmingly negative. Yet without funding, there is no “us” only anarchy as individuals fend for themselves. And perhaps that is why we have such governmental disfunction. Not only do we have a nation of tax haters, the U.S. also has an unfair tax code.
It is riddled with special deals and perks. The richer you are, the less you pay proportionate to the amount of income you have. A rich man has many deductions and exemptions. A working guy not so much. We need a fairer tax code.
The president as an example should not be able to have millions in income and pay $750 in taxes. It may not be criminal, but it isn’t right. There needs to be changes. There needs to be more respect for what it means to pay taxes. To read more here
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
The Washington Post writes that our first president almost died of the flu:
NPR tells us that school enrollment is dropping nationwide:
Again from the Washington Post an article on Amy Coney Barrett that tells the story of her connection to Martin County:
From Florida Phoenix an article on how both political parties agree that Proposition 3 should be defeated:
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