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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We are now 6 months into the pandemic which is not going away anytime soon. The reliance on Zoom and other electronic sites has been extraordinary. Without having that technology available, business and government would have been at a standstill.
Yet we now need to get back to a semblance of normalcy as much as possible. It may be time to keep the Zoom technology but go back to live meetings. Some governmental bodies never stopped having elected officials all in the room together. The City of Stuart and the County Commission meetings never were held virtually. The rest of the governmental meetings need to resume in person now.
There is nothing like the members of these bodies looking at each other face to face. When we can see body language, we know and understand so much more about what a person is saying. We are now back at work and school. If we can ask teachers to be in front of a class, we should be able to have elected officials do the same.
With masks and social distancing, those that attend can be as safe as possible during a pandemic. I understand that for some elected officials who in the summer fly in for the meetings it is easier to have virtual meetings since they may have to quarantine when returning north for two weeks. But when does serving the public count for more than an elected official’s inconvenience? The same goes for boards. It is time to come back in and face the public.
I do think that Zoom broadcasting should still be available as a way for the public to see the meetings from home. Zoom is nothing more than having a live TV stream of particularly good quality. But public comment should be done in person at meetings. It is only fair that if we are asking the elected officials to come in person to do their jobs, the same goes for anyone wanting to address them.
The outcome of the BOCC decision is reported below in the County Section. Here you will find the Martin County Taxpayers Association’s analysis of the bids. It was read by President Kevin Powers at the meeting.
The BOCC will consider contracts for County waste collection at its September 15th meeting. The agenda item is set to be heard at 1:15 pm.
The contract will have a term of eight years. The difference in the new rates between the current vendor, Waste Management, and the low bidder, FCC, is more than 30% for single family residences. The price differential for multi-family and commercial customers are similar.
Waste Management has been Martin County’s waste hauler for more than 30 years. They have been dependable, and based on County staff input, there have been few complaints. Waste Management has been an excellent corporate citizen giving generously to many community organizations with both time and money.
There were three companies that were rated by the selection committee. The committee was composed of County staff and others that are familiar with government contracts, and the effects of trash removal on citizens and businesses.
The committee’s top choice was FCC. While price is an important factor at 50% of the total, other criteria like service and qualifications were also factors in the ranking. FCC was ranked first followed by Waste Management and Waste Pro that were tied.
All three companies, FCC, Waste Management, and Waste Pro are large waste hauling companies. Waste Management was founded by deceased Martin County resident Wayne Huizenga’s grandfather in Chicago in 1893. It is the largest waste company in North America.
Waste Pro was founded by John Jennings in 1973 in Florida. It currently is the waste hauler for St. Lucie County but has over 75 locations throughout the Southern United States. FCC was founded in Spain in 1906 and operates in more than 36 countries worldwide. They currently provide service to more than 100,000 homes in Palm Beach County as well as over 200,000 homes and businesses in Volusia, Polk, and Orange Counties in Florida.
All three companies are more than capable of fulfilling any contract signed with Martin County. This County would be considered a mid-range size for these vendors. All new trucks and equipment are part of the contract requirements. If either Waste Pro or FCC were chosen over continuing with Waste Management, most of the rank and file employees would find jobs with the winner in our estimation.
Waste Management has the support of the various Chambers of Commerce. You would think that the business community of Martin County would want to pay the least amount. If Waste Management is awarded the contract, then businesses will be paying almost 30% more than they would have with FCC. Jeff Sabin, Waste Management’s Area Manager for Public Solutions, has been a fixture in Martin County for many years and is a member of the Martin Chamber and sits on its Board.
In speaking with staff and others, a main theme is that they know Waste Management and its capabilities. Why change? And there is something to be said for the predictability of the current vendor. There will almost certainly be start up problems with someone new. The Martin County Taxpayers Association believes that if the difference in price were only a few percent, then we would agree that Waste Management should be awarded a new contract.
Another concern is that FCC is underbidding its competitors and will comeback after a year or so and demand more money. That is a specious argument. It would be up to the County to negotiate a contract that would not allow such a price change to occur. All three companies are more than able to fulfill their obligations. A breach of contract suit is not something that any company dealing with various governments wants on their record. None of these companies is undercapitalized or a small “Mom & Pop” organization.
We also need to note that there is a 5% Franchise Fee that is tacked on. If Waste Management is the winner then the County on the additional $40 to $48 million more being billed would receive additional taxes of $2 million to $2.4 million over the life of the contract. The ultimate payors would be Martin County residents.
In these uncertain economic times, a 36% difference in price for a single-family homeowner ($70 per year) is not something that we can endorse. Over the life of the 8-year contract, the rate payers of Martin County will pay between $40 million and $48 million more to Waste Management than it would have paid to FCC.
Years ago, the City of Stuart had its very own garbage dump at 950 SE Monterey Road Extension not far from the Sheriff’s Department. It was closed. Tallahassee passed a law that all garbage dumps would be operated by counties.
Our county “dump” is not a place where garbage is kept but is a transfer station. In other words, trucks come in and dump their loads. Garbage is sorted and then other trucks take it somewhere else. The transfer station is located on Busch Street off 714 in Palm City. If you have never been there, you should visit and smell. It is in an area where very few people live.
There are rumors circulating that the City’s old dump may receive an offer by a waste hauling company to become a transfer station. Since the City closed the place, it has not been used for much because it has environmental issues caused by having been a dump. A couple of years ago, the City was thinking of moving its garage to that location, but it was determined that the garbage trucks could not be parked there because the ground was not stable enough.
There are residents and businesses all around. Trucks coming in and dumping waste to be sorted and then transferred is not a business that I want for the place I call home. The fee to the City for this use would supposedly be $400,000. That kind of money is nothing to sneeze at…or is it.
I am very pro-business and infill development. Stuart should be the real urban hub of the County. In my view, more residents and industry are vital for Stuart. Industrial pollution is not. This place is already a brownfield though adequately maintained with all EPA controls in place. We do not need to make matters worse.
Not only am I pro-business and development for the City, I am also someone who likes the way that Stuart has diversified its income streams and has become less dependent on real estate taxes. $400,000 would help in that significantly. Yet, to mimic the City Commissioners, not everything is about money…and in this case, I agree.
Before this opportunity came up, the City was negotiating with a private party to clean up the site at the expense of the company. The City would lease them the property on a long-term basis for $1 a year. Once the brownfield was mitigated, that leaseholder would develop the site and build. The City, of course, would then receive fees and taxes. To some, that may not be good enough.
Remediation is being done all over the country. A knowledgeable company can tap the right federal programs and funding to do this. To remediate would cost millions of dollars and expertise that the City just could not do on its own.
The City cannot be a clean water advocate, worry about straws, ban glyphosate, and then become home to a transfer station. This would be highly irresponsible.
AN EXPLANATION FROM CLERK OF THE COURT
Our Clerk of the Court and Comptroller, Carolyn Timmann, saw a letter that I printed last week and wanted to comment and explain the subject. I welcome any elected official taking the time to let our readers know and understand how government works.
I received your newsletter dated Sept. 6, which included a letter from Mr. John Donnelly with your response thereto. In particular, I focused on his concerns about access to court case records. For the most part, access to judicial records is governed by the courts, as a separate branch of government, rather than by the legislative or executive branch that normally follow the more familiar public records provisions of Chapter 119.
As technology leaps forward, there is a higher expectation that previously paperbound information should be instantly and freely available online. As you can imagine, some of the most deeply personal and confidential information about our friends and neighbors, including children and victims, can find its way into court records. Plus, many individuals are self-represented and do not have the benefit of legal training about what should and should not be included in a court document.
With that in mind, the Florida Supreme Court established a comprehensive and complex matrix to set security access levels for every case and document type, with a goal of making sure that everything that can safely be made public is open. The details even include document types that may only be viewed in a Clerk’s office rather than being open for online viewing. Additionally, records may be ordered to be sealed by the court or the legislature beyond the protections in the matrix. My court case management system is programmed to match that access matrix.
It is my office’s responsibility to review filed court documents for protected information and redact (block or remove) that information, before documents are released online or in the office. We recently implemented high tech redaction software and we are also testing some other electronic tools to further safeguard and speed up that process. This may come as no surprise, but I often hear from individuals who want to know everything about their neighbor’s court files, personal matters and finances, but want their own information blocked from public view.
Mr. Donnelly also commented about lack of access to court dockets. The available daily dockets for public cases are posted through a link on the front page of my website. Of course, the courts may add or change those dockets as needed or as emergencies arise. Again, certain cases may not be allowable for online postings.
Mr. Donnelly referenced that Registered Users have greater access than Anonymous Users. Pursuant to the Rules established by the Florida Supreme Court, that is correct. However, while Registered Users have greater access as governed by the court’s security matrix, they do not have full access to all court records. In particular, certain document images in dissolution of marriage cases, probate and guardianship cases and mental health cases are more restricted for online viewing or must be individually requested for viewing.
Thanks for posting the letter so I could have the opportunity to provide some background on court case records and more importantly, so I can follow up on any related concerns. Please give me a ring if you have any questions.
Have a great weekend,
By Tom Pine
At the August 11, 2020 County Commission meeting at least three people spoke during public comment and screamed at two Commissioners and threatened them with physical violence. There were at least six Martin County Deputies present and the County Administrator said absolutely nothing.
Fast forward to the August 25, 2020 County Commission meeting and I say the name of a County Commissioner in reference to an article in the in the Stuart News and I get called out for using a County Commissioner’s name during an election cycle.
The person he is running against in the general election was handpicked to run as a write-in candidate as a way to suppress the vote during the primary election for County Commission. No this is not illegal. He has used this technique several times in the past. By suppressing the vote during the primary less than 50% of Martin County residents can vote in this situation.
This is the typical double standard that is often employed by Martin County leaders to intimidate or belittle taxpayers that they are tired of hearing them speak at Commission meetings. I will not back down I will continue to speak the truth to power, either we all get called out when we do something wrong or nobody gets called out but it’s not going to be just me.
On May 14, 2020 I made Public Records request for information from Code Enforcement. There are three businesses on Jensen Beach Blvd. in downtown Jensen Beach that take 70% to 80% of the useable public sidewalk for their own use. This illegal situation has continued for far too long, and now because of the Covid-19 pandemic it is also a health problem. It’s impossible to achieve any social distancing for the general public to pass by without walking in the street.
Who is going to take responsibility if this becomes a Hot Spot or if people are forced to walk in the street because the sidewalk is packed with so many tables.
This email was forwarded to Growth Management division as they handle all site plan issues.
It is September 14, 2020 to date nothing has changed. This is a good example of the power of the Good Ole Boys in Martin County. If you have ever had an experience with code enforcement as a private citizen, it never takes this long for any determination of a violation to be completed.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
I remember the first time I spoke in front of the Board of County Commissioners
The topic was property taxes. Like most residents, the issue was not important to me until I became old enough to face the prospect of paying those taxes. It was 2014-2015 area, and I was very concerned about the ability of Martin County’s government to sustain services and standard of living over the foreseeable future (20-30-40 years).
Following the 2008-2009 financial collapse of the housing market, and the 20%+ drop in property values in Martin County, our BOCC spent 5 years voting in favor of debt assumption as a way to finance its basic governmental duties. Interestingly, we still found money to build a water park during this half decade span…but that’s a tale for another time.
As we are all living through the challenges of the worldwide Covid-19 turmoil, the economic struggles of shuttered business, and lack of tourism in an area that relies heavily on these industries for tax revenue, I can’t help but wonder if what I’m feeling is a strong sense of Déjà vu.
Have we taken the necessary steps to protect ourselves from a financial challenge like we saw in ’08? At the time I spoke to the BOCC in 2014/15, our county wide budget was $350,000,000. Now we anticipate expenditures of $491 million, a slight decline from last years’ $498 million all-time high. Debt service is anticipated to rise from $7 million last year to $10 million next year. $10 million dollars is a lot of money to spend on paying down existing debt, so have we prepared for the likely scenario of a property value decrease next year?
It doesn’t look like it. After all, just as in the ’08-’14 time frame, we are spending huge sums on luxury items, and slashing funds to necessary infrastructure; but who needs functioning stormwater conveyance when we have a spiffy new golf course? Who knows, maybe after we accrue more debt, the next financial downturn we can build a roller rink where the flooded houses of Hobe Sound are.
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
Amendment 2 which will be on the November ballot is a conundrum indeed.
A “yes” vote supports the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 per hour by September of 2026. A “no” vote would keep the minimum wage at $8.46 per hour but not really. Since the minimum wage was first adopted in Florida in 2005 as an hourly rate of $6.15, the Department of Economic Opportunity, by law, must increase it annually by the rate of inflation. So, now, because of that, it sits at $8.46. The minimum wage, by law, will continue to increase. Is a constitutional amendment necessary?
The Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25. Florida is one of 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, that has a minimum wage above the Federal. It is true though, that of these, all but two have minimum wage rates that exceed Florida’s current rate.
The consequences of increasing the minimum wage has been studied by many economists and is still quite unpredictable. Some realities are that state and local government costs will increase by approximately $16 million in 2022 to “about” $540 million in 2027. Florida’s budget is balanced by mandate.
Government entities will have no choice but to cut some other services to compensate. The government sub-contracts many jobs. Private contractors are certain to pass their increase salary costs in their contracts. School districts will be hit the hardest. “The impact for them ranges from $8.8 million in 2022 to $267.4 million in 2027”. Remember they are an independent taxing authority. They can raise your taxes to compensate. Or they can cut their budgets. And they can lay off the very same people who would receive the higher minimum wage!
Thus, the conundrum. Given that every American would like to see all Americans earn a “living wage”, is mandating a higher minimum wage hurting the very people it purports to help? Many employers would either not hire additional employees or would lay off or cut back the hours of current employees. They may replace workers with technology. (Checked out of Walmart lately?) Private employers can compensate by reducing hours, reducing benefits, or training, or cutting the salaries of higher skilled workers.
Has anyone considered the worker who currently makes $15/hour? Is he/she going to be satisfied with suddenly being redefined as a minimum wage earner? Will they now want a raise? Some workers may lose access to public programs which they will no longer be eligible for, like Medicaid. That saves the taxpayer money, right? However, those losing jobs or suffering reduced hours because their employer can no longer afford to pay the higher wage will turn to these social programs. No savings there.
One theory claims that these recipients of a higher wage will increase their purchases thus adding to the economy. But if product prices are raised to compensate for the higher wages the employer must pay, will the newly compensated employee be priced out of the purchase yet again? Irony at its worst.
Conclusion: We cannot find in any search how many workers this would affect. We do know that most workers in Florida make above the minimum wage. So, what are we talking about? Are we rocking the boat and causing ripple effects where we need not? A constitutional amendment is serious stuff. It is difficult to get one passed and even more difficult to remove it. If we are serious, why not try passing a law which can more easily be modified if needed?
*Quotes and research in large part attributed to the Florida Financial Impact Estimating Conference, Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage. Serial Number 18-01 April 22, 2019
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
All from the Visual Capitalist this week.
The first is a graph of the tallest buildings by continent:
Next the world’s richest families:
And last the $88 trillion dollar economy:
I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to
Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.
The first is from Bruce Osborne:
Another excellent writeup! Thank you for your diligence, and carefully thoughtful insights
The next from Gayle Marie Merrill in a similar vein:
Thank you for your time & energy to informing me on how the government is working & not working on in Martin County.
The next letter is from Tom Steele:
I commend you on bring Michael Syrkus on board and finally talking sense about this whole covid ordeal.
Even to date covid deaths represent 1.5% of the annual deaths that occur worldwide for all reasons, yet 100% of the media and government focus has been on covid. It was obvious from the beginning there was a greater agenda besides “saving lives” because you could save tens of millions of lives by simply banning cigarettes and fast food.
From Michael Hubscher regarding the firefighter’s piece:
First off I think your news letter and the work you do is fantastic.
I usually agree with you on your thoughts but as a retired firefighter I was slightly troubled by this comment:
“From a taxpayer’s point of view, how is it justifiable that these guys work 2 twenty-four hour shifts per week with forty- eight hours off between shifts plus a paid Kelley Day (mandatory day off) per 7 shifts.”
Do you realize that this equates to them working 48 hours a week? 20% more than the typical 40 hours work week.
I would always ask when someone would say something about this subject: “How many hours do you want us to work per week?”
Also a 24 hour shift is not easy, especially with high risk occupations as these.
Also working nights and weekends with no compensation for the extra 8 hours that is afforded others by law, remember this is a set hours job.
Having a business or working a second job is everyone’s right. The same as taking the job of EMT, Police or Firefighter.
Do you fault the Monday to Friday workers who have weekend jobs?
As a 30 year firefighter I can attest to the dangers of these jobs. Not many escape the career without injury or permanent health problems.
I’m not talking about the salaries here but the hours they work, salaries should be negotiated and be justifiable and fair.
I write this as we remember the sacrifices the men and women made on the anniversary of 9/11. True American heroes, Never Forget!.
And my response:
I am sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.
You are absolutely correct that 24 hour shifts can be grueling even though federal law allows for 53 hours without overtime in that line of work. It probably would be beneficial to go to 4 12 hour shifts. In that way fatigue is much less and personnel can be adjusted to anticipated volume of calls better. Some departments are moving in that direction. There are pros and cons.
Everyone who has the time and inclination should be able to work at a second job or another business. No one should ever believe that firefighters and paramedics are not doing a great and dangerous job. But with any 24 hour 7 day a week position it needs to be evaluated from time to time with how it can best be filled.
COMMISSION MEETING SEPTEMBER 15, 2020
What does it mean for a company to bid for a government contract in Martin County? That question was asked and answered repeatedly by staff and Commissioners at this meeting.
Some of the answers are as follows. It does not matter if that bid was scored in your favor by the County’s selection committee. It does not matter if you are deemed a qualified bidder by the County to be able to bid. It does not matter that the bid specification and package was written by the County outlining the terms of what you are bidding.
What does matter is if you are one of the “good ole boys.”
The largest contract for services that the County has will remain with that “good ole boy.”
It is true that Waste Management has been a particularly good friend. There is nothing bad to say about the company or the service it provides. It was determined that the contract should be bid after having had contracts with Waste Management for more than 30 years. Yet in the end, that good friend will remain costing Martin County at least $40 million more than another qualified bidder.
While a few people (including the Martin County Taxpayers Association) spoke for the people, most spoke for their friend. Chambers of Commerce decided that their members should pay more for trash services to support that friend. The Economic Development Council and the Business Development Board thought that higher prices were warranted for their friend. Nonprofits and their directors could not speak highly enough of their friend and the friend’s generous nature. Of course, the friend’s representative is a member of these organizations and on the boards of many.
From some speakers and 4 of the Commissioners, we heard that Martin County is different and unique. Even our trash needs are unique as compared to other Florida communities, the nation’s, and the world’s. Perhaps the 25 people that spoke represent the sentiments of all the other residents and businesses. They are willing to pay 30 to 36% more to keep their friend. It was said over and over that Martin County expects the best service and only Waste Management can provide that.
Apparently, the other two bidders should have realized that the bid documents are not the only thing used in choosing the company. There are other factors not mentioned that need to be considered. There needed to be an ability by the two non-friend bidders to know what those added things are and then bid accordingly. In fact, the information put out by the County is immaterial to what the BOCC decides. It comes down to being one of us.
Yet this is trash and not brain surgery. You send a truck on a route to pick up trash. In the County, you do this 4 times a week and you do not leave anything behind. Though the bid documents define that receptacles be brought to the curb by the homeowner and that the yard trash must be placed in 5-foot bundles, the non-friends should have realized that there would be a need to perform special services for some that were not part of the specs.
Waste Management is a good corporate citizen. If they were not that, the other “good ole boys” would not have come out and sung their praises. This is the Martin County way. Smile and say that we are different. And that justifies any irregularity.
This is corruption. No one is receiving a bribe nor is anything passing hands, but it is an example of a corrupt bargain. It is crony capitalism all the same. A wink and a nod and the rules you yourself wrote do not matter.
The only one that got it was Hetherington. There was a transparent process. The County laid out what was expected in bid documents. The County confirmed that each of the three companies could perform. There was a draft contract with performance clauses and penalties. What Martin County did not tell the bidders was that the outcome was rigged.
As I said, it was not rigged because of financial graft of any kind. Each of the Commissioners is exemplary when it comes to that aspect. It is once you are a “good ole boy,” you get extra preference points like being a veteran when you apply for certain jobs.
A relatively few customers decide that they should be able to drag to the curb more than the amount specified and not be charged. Some arrange special treatment and Waste Management and their sub-contractors will accommodate their needs. Some places pay extra for those services. Can’t every company provide an accommodation for a charge?
Our County’s integrity will be a bit less because we will have helped a friend rather than having had an open and fair bidding process. I am not even going to say “vote the rascals out” because we all know that in the last election only one Commissioner out of three who were up for election had opposition. So, there is no fear of the ballot.
Hetherington was the only one who acted with integrity. The rest did not. Because of that, Martin County residents will pay between $40 and $48 million more over the life of the contract. All because the Commissioners never thought, when they put the service out to bid, that anyone but Waste Management would be the winner.
Smith made a motion that was seconded by Heard to reject the bids and negotiate directly with Waste Management. It passed 4-1 with Hetherington dissenting.
The ranking can be found here
COMMISSION MEETINGS SEPTEMBER 14, 2020
The Commission passed next year’s budget. They will have another and final budget meeting on September 28th.
During public comment, someone bemoaned that our “quaint seaside community” was being developed on its fringes with new apartments. Stuart should not be annexing into the City these tracts of land, she claimed. The commenter does not understand that is exactly why annexation is in Florida statute.
As development occurs, it can be sprawl or it can be what Stuart has done over the past few years. There are 1000 people moving to Florida a day. You cannot put up a fence or close your borders to the rest of America. There are now 330 million Americans and Florida has 21.5 million of them which is 2 million more than New York State.
The only way that Martin County farmland and ranch land can be saved is by more urbanization not less. The idea that the only way to live is in a home on one acre is unsustainable. That promotes sprawl and the destruction of open area for very low density and expensive housing. That is why the only hope not to become Broward is to allow multifamily development in municipalities.
Counties were never meant to provide services like fire, water, garbage collection, or parks. When an area had enough people that supported having those services, it was supposed to become a municipality. On your tax bill in unincorporated Martin County, there are lines for MSTUs which stands for Municipal Service Taxing Units. Taxes to pay for those services are a complete bastardization of our model of government. Unincorporated Martin County should not have condos or multi-family rental housing, it should be contained within municipalities.
] COURTESY OF DWELL
When property owners/developers ask to be incorporated into Stuart so that they can build one of those apartment communities, that is what the legislature had designed. In the next three years, we will have a million more Floridians. There can be “sprawl” to accommodate them or a plan for doing so. Without a plan and urbanization, farmland will become tract housing because the land will be too expensive for the owners not to sell out.
Once again, Stuart will be turned into one big traffic jam to accommodate the 47th Stuart Boat Show. Dixie highway will be closed, including the Old Roosevelt Bridge, from January 12th through January 18th.
The show has all the right intentions. They will have police. Buses to take people from the show on closed Dixie Highway to the parking lot at the airport. Martin County does have boat builders and brokers, so it does help the local economy, I guess. But, to what extent is a question I have had for years.
Sales tax collected at the show go to the locality where the boat is registered. Generally, sales taxes that are collected in Martin County and Stuart are sent to Tallahassee which keeps over 90%. The County eventually receives a check for about 8% and Stuart receives about 10% of that amount.
When Meier asked the show’s organizer to give a breakdown about how much money it generates, the organizers could not. Practically speaking, though, if you come to the show located north of the bridge, park at Witham Field and take a bus from there to the show, you are not eating Downtown.
The result is that we will continue to inconvenience residents and businesses for a week and have no idea if it is economically worth it. It is the kind of fuzzy-headed-thinking that Stuart is known for. The government and Commission like the “rah rah” but no analyzing is done to see whether there is a benefit. Of course, it passed unanimously.
WHAT IS HISTORIC
For some time now, people have called the old Walton Building historic. And why is that? It was built as the construction office for Sam Walton back in the 1920s. Some of its uses were as a hair salon, take out restaurant, and office supply store. The 450 sq ft building is in horrible shape.
The applicant wants to move the building from a city-owned lot to 209 Albany. He is not proposing to make it look as it did in the 1920s. There will be no museum and the public will not be allowed inside to look at a reproduction of Sam’s office.
The building will look much as it did before the move from where Azul stands now in 2016. It will be a takeout restaurant with a big walk-in freezer off the back. Very modern air conditioning will also be in visible sight. An “architectural gem” reminiscent of a take-out shack anywhere in America whether built in the 1920s or yesterday.
There are no architectural historical features that would warrant saving. It will look nothing like the office that Walton used for his company when he built the Lyric. Stuart has sentimental attachment to the old not the historical. The building is going to be used for a fast-food stand.
It does not conform to the master plan devised for Joan Jefferson Way where the lot will be located. Except for Meier, the Commission did not even mention the plan that the City paid thousands to have done. In fact, nowhere in the staff’s presentation did they even cite the plan or show a drawing of what should be approved.
If you have a plan, it needs to be followed. Colorado Avenue has had a plan for decades and not one project was approved that conforms to that plan. With much fanfare, the City created an arts district known as the Creek. What has changed to make it more of an arts district? The Arts Council wants to relocate to the old high school building which is another example of early 20th century nostalgia but not historic. That building is nowhere near the vaunted arts district.
The Commission approved moving the building to the location 3-2 with Meier and Matheson dissenting.
Bridgeview Apartments was approved on 2nd reading. The Commission did allow for the boardwalk to come back in at no more than 6 feet in width.
The Lone Palm development on Martin Luther King Blvd changed once more from 5 homes, two of which were duplexes, to 6 single family homes. The duplexes which were on MLK would have had 4 units total with two driveways on 75-foot-wide lots. Now there will be three homes with three driveways on 50-foot-wide lots. The developer has that as of right so no change in zoning. It will not be anywhere near as nice but the Hartmans, who are the developers, said that is what the neighbors wanted.
Sailfish Cove on Seminole was approved with a discussion having to do with the streets-cape. The CRA is planning to ask for a grant to redo the entire block. It probably will not happen until after the project is completed. Because they need to have parking to obtain their C/O, the developer must put in 4 parking spaces in front of the building. Without knowing the final City plan, the developer cannot know what to do. A compromise was reached that if the City has not done its work prior to December 2021, then the developer can complete his project without City interference.
All three items passed 5-0.
BUDGET MEETING SEPTEMBER 8, 2020
This was the final millage and budget meeting for the 20/21 year.
Tallahassee sets a required millage rate. That rate has been steadily reduced for the past decade. For 20/21, it has been reduced from 3.9 mils to 3.6990. The local rates will remain the same at 2.748 or a decrease in the overall rate by .2010 or 3.2%. Though the rate has gone down, do not expect the amount you pay to be less. Property values have increased so any savings will be absorbed by the that increase.
Overall, the budget has increased by about $18,235,986 for a total amount of $404,224,540. While the 2019/20 General Operating Budget was $221,229,425, budget amendments throughout the year brought the total to $235,833,901 which is a bit more than this year’s same budget. Given the uncertainties of COVID-19, the budget overall is about as good as could be expected.
The presentation can be found here
The entire detailed budget can be found here
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
During School Board Attorney Tony George’s report, he read into the record an email and a letter.
The first was an email from Tyson Waters who represents the Board negotiating an impact fee and concurrency agreement with Pineland Prairie. In May, a series of bullet points were sent to the District addressing concerns of Waters. Staff will be scheduling a meeting to go over the items. This has not come up at the Board since May.
Pineland Prairie has decided to resubmit its Master Site Plan Application to the County in the next few weeks. They plan on submitting a final site plan next year. I guess no rush there.
The Arts Foundation has submitted its proposal to Tallahassee for a $50,000 grant for design and planning of the old high school building. They were ranked 16 out of 58. If the stars, the moon, and the sun line up, maybe something will happen.
Jennifer DeShazo, the information officer, gave a presentation on attendance at the District. There are 16,628 students in K-12. 1049 students have left the District and 15,449 have enrolled. There are 10,756 students attending in person (65%) and 5872 doing do remotely (35%).
There is an opportunity for parents to request changes in status going forward. 209 students will go from remote to in person and 45 will go from in person to remote. Attendance for those registered is 95.2% for in person and 92.7% remotely.
Since schools opened, 537 students have transitioned to quarantine/remote learning. Here is the breakdown: 113 elementary school students, 80 middle school students, and 344 high school students. 40 employees have transitioned to essential employee quarantine in the same period.
Ms. Roberts stated that parents looking for answers should call the District. She was surprised that parents would resort to Facebook groups to find out what is happening at the District. Sometimes it may be hard to get an answer, but parents can always write one of the School Board members or all of them with a question if need be. Get the right information.
The presentation can be found: HERE
The Commission held a budget meeting and approved the millage and budget that has been discussed previously.
COUNCIL & LPA MEETINGS SEPTEMBER 10, 2020
The LPA met first to approve the Future Land Use Map for an annexation.
The problem is that the LPA membership is the same as the Council with the addition of someone from the School District staff. There have not been many instances when the LPA has needed to meet in the past two years. However, I would imagine once the new LDRs are instituted, then development will begin to occur.
Without having people from the Village begin to populate this board and others, the Council is depriving itself of needed community input. Many citizens may not want to be on the Council but would be glad to serve their communities once a month, and the Council should take advantage of that valuable input.
The Board had its first of two required meetings setting the Village millage rate and budget. Nothing was changed from past Budget meetings
ANOTHER STAB AT FIRE
No company applied for the Fire/EMS contract. There was an after-action meeting to go through why no one applied. Some of the reasons given were the COVID-19 outbreak, limited lead time, and combined Fire/EMS delivery structure.
Setting up a Fire Department is expensive and time consuming. The equipment is expensive, maintaining a level of service is expensive, there are insurance requirements and many other problems. The Village believes that the MSTU paid by Village taxpayers is $5.9 million a year but the County has told me it is $5.3 million.
Can they provide service more economically? The start-up costs including a new fire house are staggering. The Booker Park building can only be used as a community center according to the deed. Yet one of the reasons given for not attracting bids was that the station being there would be too small.
It was mentioned that dispatch would be a problem. The 911 system that now is answered by the Sheriff and then sent to Martin County Fire would need to be altered. Even after the expense of figuring out how to send the call directly to Indiantown Fire Department, there needs to be a dedicated person to dispatch. One slot for 24 hours a day 7 days per week requires a minimum of 5 employees.
There is also the problem of who responds to calls when the Indiantown apparatus is out. There seems to be a misconception that a mutual aid agreement would not cost the Village money when Martin County is backing the Village up. That is not true. I have been told that the County will be charging for that service. It would probably be several thousand dollars per call.
Chair Bauzenberger stated that Indiantown has excellent service through Martin County now, and anything the Village put in place would need to match it. I was surprised that no representative was there from FPL since they have special needs and would pay over 80% of any money in that budget.
The Council should not mess with success. Starting a Fire/EMS Department is something only a much larger entity should entertain. If everyone is satisfied, then why take on the additional expense and responsibility.
Lastly, the only way that an independent department would be successful is if FPL remains in Indiantown and is satisfied. If, for any reason, FPL were to move its warehouse, then who would pay for a Fire Department? Right now, homeowners and businesses receive the best of care yet pay little overall. That is because the overall amount needed is spread county-wide. Without FPL that cost would need to be paid by a poorer and smaller group.
The presentation can be found here
The Town Council passed its annual budget.
I was unable to attend the September 16th meeting. If something occurred of interest I will report.
In this truth flexible world that we inhabit, labels are used with little care to their meanings.
Socialism, communism, and capitalism are used broadly and at times incorrectly. Is the United States a full democracy? No, according to our ranking by Economist where we have fallen to the flawed democracy category. Our economic system is not as open, nor market driven, as it was under President Reagan. We are now ranked lower by the Heritage Foundation (a very conservative organization) than Denmark, UK, Canada, and New Zealand.
Our government is not working as intended by the Framers. We need to look at our institutions, especially Congress, to see why it has failed to be an effective check on presidential authority. It is not just this administration but every administration regardless of party going back decades.
Power abhors a vacuum. The Founders knew how flawed men were. They devised a system that had the primacy of the Congress so that no one person could ever become a king. That requires Congress to do more than what it does currently. We have had an elected dictator in some respects for 80 years. It has just become more blatant as civility and morality have taken a back seat.
That is why it is even more important now to use political and economic terms correctly. You cannot fix a problem if you do not know what to call our political and economic systems which at one time was an open market and fully democratic nation. I want to move back to that.
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:
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
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