Village of Indiantown
City of Stuart
Indiantown Latest News From The February 28, 2021 Edition
As Indiantown explores the possibility of no longer being part of Martin County Fire/Rescue, the Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA) recently completed a paper on the subject.
MCTA was determined to look at what it would mean for both Indiantown and Martin County if the village was no longer part of the district. They used published numbers from Martin County government in coming to their conclusions. It does not appear to be a good outcome for the county, Indiantown’s largest taxpayer, or most of all for the residential taxpayers in the village.
At best, the homeowners of Indiantown will save pennies on their tax bill. FPL, which pays nearly 87% of the current MSTU within the village boundaries, may be unable to remain without adequate Fire/Rescue coverage. Without FPL, the Village does not have adequate resources to have a government.
On February 27th Indiantown will have a workshop where its consultant, the manager, and the council will brainstorm whether to proceed or not. Whatever the council proposes, MCTA will make another and final analysis of this issue. What everyone should know before such a momentous decision is made is that once Martin County Fire Rescue leaves the village, it is unlikely to return even if this decoupling is not successful in the future.
The paper can be found here
COUNCIL MEETING FEBRUARY 11, 2021
It appears Indiantown is looking to completely divorce itself from Martin County.
The village manager is proposing to hire NUE Urban Concepts to develop a Fire Fee, Park Fee and Mobility Fee. These fees would be applied to any new construction within the village. They are village impact fees. The conversation, however, would leave one to believe that these fees would take the place of county impact fees.
Impact fees are an impediment to development. The county has not in all cases used the fees collected on a project to alleviate the direct impact the project will have to the surrounding area. This is a universal struggle. Impact fees need to have a rational nexus to the project being charged the fee.
Mobility fees are a twist on road impact fees because they consider all intermodal transportation features such as bikes, walking, and even golf carts. What all these village fees do not, is take the place of county impact fees. Once these various studies are completed, the village may have the ammunition to challenge the county in using its fees to service Indiantown development.
That is a difficult situation and will undoubtedly mean litigation between the two if pursued. Is it worth the fight and can the village afford it? What do they hope to gain and what do they have to lose?
Indiantown can institute its own impact fees once these studies are completed and ordinances are passed. The county’s impact fees will still be applicable. If there is no interlocal agreement for the village to collect the fees when processing permits, then it will be up to the county to do so. Since the builder or developer will be doing everything out in Indiantown, they will have no contact with the county. If the village doesn’t even notify them that there are county fees, then the developer may be in for a surprise when the county liens the project.
If the developer does not want to pay those fees because they do not believe a rational nexus exists, the issue will be between the county and the individual. Stuart recently signed an agreement with the county to continue to collect their impact fees but at a reduced rate. That is possible, but it must be worked out between the village and county.
If the village is to collect impact fees, the necessary studies will cost $52,500 and $215,250, respectively. You can find the presentation, NUE letters, and an excellent booklet from Florida DEO explaining mobility fees here
What has really gone well for the village is the loans and grants for the water utility. The entire amount of the purchase price has been reimbursed by Florida DEP-State Revolving Fund. That is more than $8,550,000!
There are still millions more that must be obtained to make the needed improvements. The village’s team headed up by Daniel Margo of Aclus Engineering is pursuing other grants and loan opportunities. If Indiantown can bring this off and ultimately, I think it will, future development and current residents will be in a much better position.
To see the entire presentation, go here
Indiantown Latest News From The February 14, 2021 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 28, 2021
The council had just come from witnessing Thelma Waters being inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. The celebration was still going on at Timer Powers’ Park. Not only was the council there but several county commissioners. As one of the incorporators of Indiantown, the village has much to be grateful to Ms. Waters. The village’s proclamation can be found here
Jim Anaston-Karas gave a brief presentation around the council’s last workshop. He mentioned the progress that has been made and looks forward to their April workshop. He briefly spoke about the impending creation of the village’s fire/rescue department.
That will be reviewed on February 27th during a special workshop. Not only does Indiantown have a keen interest on what is decided but so does Martin County. If Indiantown decides to move forward, then there will be no going back. The county plans on moving out of Indiantown and setting up shop in a more strategic location for the county’s own growth patterns.
No one in Indiantown should be under the impression that Martin County will be there to respond when Indiantown is unable due to being on a call. If an ILA is signed it will result in substantial charges for every call made within the boundaries of the village. Not to mention the delay in response time.
Mr. Anaston-Karas’ presentation can be found here
It was that time of the year when the council evaluates the manager.
Manager Brown began by stating his accomplishments in the last two years since the beginning of his tenure. A strategic plan has been done. The water plant has been purchased. Land for a village complex has been bought. The village is ahead of schedule on the micro-resurfacing of roads. Two new departments have been set up with directors.
The council’s evaluation scores of Mr. Brown were impressive. Mayor Hernandez gave him 242 points out of 250 or 4.84 of 5. Vice Mayor Clarke was only one point lower than Hernandez’s scoring with 241 points or 4.82. Councilmember Stone came in next with 209 points followed by Anthony Dowling’s all 4s at 200. The hard marker in the group was Susan Gibbs-Thomas at 2.8 and 140 points out of 500.
Even though Stone gave a close 4th, he praised Brown’s work ethic and was glad he was in his position. Gibbs-Thomas said she took time and evaluated using her perspective. Clarke gave kudos.
Hernandez gave the longest defense of Mr. Brown. She said that he was not the only source of her knowledge. Many people were telling them not to do these things. But the real experts are sitting in this room. She has spoken to other elected officials who have been doing this for years and they are amazed at the speed of completed projects. Even if residents are telling her not to do things, they are getting done.
Stone made a motion to give Brown a raise of 3%. It was seconded by Dowling. His salary will go up to $145,350. Gibbs-Thomas explained that he gets other benefits such as a car allowance, cell phone, health benefits (which he does not take advantage of) and other expenses.
The Stuart city manager has similar benefits and makes $164,000 with more than 250 employees and the county administrator earns $185,000 with over a thousand employees.
The raise was approved 5-0. The evaluations can be found here
The hard part of making everything mesh and paying for it all hasn’t even begun yet.
ANOTHER CONSULTANT & APPOINTMENT
The council approved hiring a market consultant to do an analysis.
From the agenda item:
“The analysis is necessary in order for us to gauge interest in retail market conditions, determine a retail trade area and include a leakage study. The most economical way to meet these goals would be to retain the services of a retail consultant.
The consultant would be required to prepare a retail market analysis/study, as part
of the engagement, for Village Council review and subsequent approval. There
are a number of communities nationally that utilize the services of a retail consultant. This study will assist us in promoting the Village in and outside of the Village boundaries through providing important retail data to prospective developers interested in doing retail development within the Village.”
In my opinion, the market has already told the village what services it can support. If the council wishes to use up to $50,000 of taxpayer money to have a report with mostly boilerplate language, so be it. However, why isn’t there a defined scope of work or a plan to go out for a competitive bid for such services.
What the council is doing is allowing the manager to now go out and spend up to $50,000 without the council weighing in any further. The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting no.
Once again, there was disagreement over an appointment. This time to an MPO committee by the council. Gibbs-Thomas and Dowling had candidates. Dowling’s candidate lived within the village boundaries and Gibbs-Thomas’ one did not though he owned a business within the village.
There is no application process nor any clear delineation of the qualifications for candidacy. David Haffner, Gibbs-Thomas’ candidate, was on Zoom and said the boundary didn’t matter, he was a resident of Indiantown. I beg to differ it does matter where you live. Mr. Haffner is represented in his interest by the government of unincorporated Martin County.
The council needs to institute an application process and rules for who qualifies for appointments.
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Indiantown Latest News From The January 24, 2021 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 14, 2021
During council comments, Susan Gibbs Thomas asked when it would be possible to discuss the Fire Rescue Department again. That meeting will be held on Saturday February 27, between 9-1. The consultant will have a presentation and vendors will be available.
It was proposed that the Village become a $25,000 “CEO” sponsor of the Business Development Board. For that money, the CEO, Stone, as the village representative, will be on the CEO Council, the Village will receive 20 tickets to the annual awards celebration, ad in the journal, plus unlimited VIP Access to something or other. The BDB will put a job fair together for Indiantown. The flyer outlining all benefits is attached here
Believe it or not Anthony Dowling made a motion to be a sponsor at the Executive level. That level only costs $10,000. Brown did not know whether the BDB would do the job fair included in that price or would charge $5,000 in addition. Clarke seconded the motion to spend $10,000 plus if needed $5,000 more for the job fair. It passed 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting no.
As an aside, most residents tax bill is about $100 to the village.
LOBBYING AND PRIORITIES
Gray Robinson, a lobbying firm, made a presentation last year and was hired by the Council. Their initial proposal was $48,000 per year. Brown negotiated the contract for $30,000. The Council voted 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting no.
If this consultant is like others the village has hired, the $30,000 will rapidly increase to a higher amount in a matter of months. I understand that Kevin Powers, who was instrumental in persuading the governor and legislature to allow the village to be incorporated, volunteered to put together a lobbying strategy. The village decided on another track.
The contract for services can be found here
Brown also asked what the legislative priorities are for the council. After discussion, all agreed that the uptown road drainage project was the most important need for financing. That will be the one that they ask the state to fund at $2 million. The motion was made and passed 5-0.
Good luck to all local governments in getting anywhere near what they ask in this session. COVID has decimated the budget. This will be the year of very few, if any, individual appropriations. To see the entire legislative initiative package, go here
TERMINATE & HIRE
The Village staff wanted to terminate GFA from performing as the village’s building inspection and permitting department. Director of Community & Economic Development Althea Jefferson stated that they were unable to do what is expected. She said that residents are complaining but offered no emails or any proof. She went on to say that GFA had not returned her calls. GFA stated that they were never contacted.
Calvin Giordano & Associates, who had written the LDRs for the village, will take GFA’s place. Jefferson stated that the contract will be $4800 less per year and other services will be provided. The village is piggy backing off a contract from the City of Parkland. By doing this, Indiantown negates the need to do competitive bidding through the RFP process.
In both terminating GFA and hiring Giordano the vote was 5-0.
The contract can be found here
FINAL PZA MEMBER, NEW PAY PLAN & CITY HALL INPUT
Both Gibbs-Thomas and Dowling recommended individuals to serve as the 2nd business member on the board. According to both council members, their candidates were residents and business owners. Mayor Hernandez had someone else in mind, Amilcar Lopez. Hernandez stated that Lopez lived in the village and was in landscaping. It was never made clear whether he owned a business, which I thought was a prerequisite for being a business member of the board.
Clarke stated that they needed some Latino representation. Others agreed. Something that has been just below the surface has now been openly expressed by the council. Identity politics and who is from what race or ethnic group will be an open factor going forward. The council voted 5-0, and Mr. Lopez is now one of two business representatives on the PZA.
There was no application process with this appointment or any other. The council was asked to vote on people without any background material. As one of the members exclaimed, “we are done with this.”
A new pay plan was voted unanimously by the council for staff. When asked where the ranges of pay for each position were derived, Brown said from the people in this room and the HR Doctor, as the village’s consultant. There was nothing in the agenda item or backup on who this consultant is and what he or she was paid.
I googled the HR Doctor. He is a person named Philip Rosenberg. According to his website he has served as the HR Director for Broward County. To see the website, you can go here
If senior management’s pay is increasing when Brown’s contract comes up for renewal a pay increase for him will be likely. Must keep things in equilibrium. The new pay ranges can be found here here
Finally, the village is looking for input regarding the new village complex. There are meetings throughout Indiantown. For more information on how to participate go here
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Indiantown Latest News From The January 10, 2021 Edition
The next meeting of the council will be January 14, 2021
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Indiantown Latest News From The December 13, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING DECEMBER 10, 2020
This was a very prosaic like meeting. There were no life changing items on the agenda. The meeting moved projects along. Could it be that Indiantown’s government is becoming established and mundane? I do hope so!
If it is, then it is a sign of maturity. After several years, the citizens of the village should be happy about it. That doesn’t mean I agree with every decision that is made. We can disagree on the merits of an item instead of whether the item should have been placed on the agenda at all.
We are no longer vying for the soul of whether Indiantown will have “government lite” or not. The council has determined to go all in and hopefully have the tax base to support that vision. To understand that Indiantown is now a “municipality of the entirety,” look no farther than the agenda of this meeting.
As I have written in the past, Susan Gibbs-Thomas has become someone with a low profile at the meetings. She did ask questions when appropriate. She only made one motion all night. Both Guyton Stone and Jackie Clarke attended the meeting virtually which made it harder when motions and seconds were needed.
Gibbs-Thomas was the only one to vote against extending the emergency order. I agree with her, but I can’t disagree with the other four councilmembers for extending it either. It probably is time to have some normalcy even with Covid. Yet because of the craziness of FEMA still having a state of emergency, may make sense.
The councilmembers also mentioned Thelma Waters being inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. She has been a booster of Indiantown her entire life. It was nice that she was recognized.
They approved continuing to spend $9500 per month for their outsourced finance department. The Village also will spend an additional $4800 for the utilities department’s financial services. That $4800 will come out of the utility fund. They will now be paying their outside finance department $14,300 per month or $171,600 per year. Is it time to consider an in-house conventional department?
When the manager and clerk proposed many changes to the personnel policy, one of the suggestions was to change the Columbus Day holiday and name it Indigenous Peoples Day. There has been a movement in the last decades to portray Columbus as a purveyor of genocide which is truer than not.
Manager Brown determined that the holiday should be renamed. Gibbs-Thomas asked why he changed the name of a federal holiday when the U.S. government hasn’t done so. She thought it was overreach on his part. Dowling went through all the reasons of why it should be changed. He made a motion to accept the policy changes with the new name. It failed 2-3 with Dowling and Hernandez in the affirmative. Then Gibbs-Thomas made a motion, seconded by Stone, to rename the holiday “Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Day” which passed 4-1 with Dowling dissenting.
The council discussed a sound ordinance, and it was determined that the one in place was sufficient. They discussed code enforcement and the need to tighten up on what is and is not acceptable. While staff would like to have more standards in place, the council was not enthusiastic. The message was, “Go slow.”
They discussed the new town hall complex and its construction. It seems that they are contemplating other things besides government offices. Suggestions included a swimming pool and/or banquet facility. All agreed there needs to be community input and that should get under way shortly.
Brown said he had been contacted by a developer who would build the facility and lease it back to the village. Such a move would negate finding financing. All want to hear more. Hernandez said that she wants to know the terms from the sale/leaseback soon because she didn’t want to rent forever.
I found that to be the most interesting and enlightening statement of the night.
You can find the presentations on the topics discussed here here
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Indiantown Latest News From The November 22, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING NOVEMBER 12, 2020
Does the rest of the council have it in for Susan Gibbs-Thomas? I do not have an answer, but three times during this meeting she was rebuffed by her fellow council members. The first was when Manager Brown informed the council that the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust was looking for nominees to be on their board. Both Vice Mayor Clarke and Gibbs-Thomas expressed interest, Clarke was chosen to be the nominee.
The next time occurred when an appointment was needed for the Martin County EMS Advisory Committee. Once again, the council chose Clarke over Gibbs-Thomas. It was a committee in which both had expressed interest.
The third time she was rebuffed that evening was when she nominated Scott Watson to be one of the business members of the recently created Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board. Watson, who is controversial in his own right, did not receive a second. Just before that, Councilmember Stone nominated Daniel Sehayik as a business representative, and he was approved unanimously. With the Gibbs-Thomas appointment, Anthony Dowling said that he needed more time before deciding on filling the business role, though he had just done so with Sehayik.
At an earlier meeting, Gibbs-Thomas was removed from her position as the village’s board member to the League of Treasure Coast City. She had been the 2nd VP which put her in line to become 1st VP and then president. In that case, Mayor Hernandez was appointed by the council to the seat, but she is not the vice president on her way to being president of that league.
It appears that Gibbs-Thomas is not well-liked by her colleagues. I don’t think that she ever was, and I think you could trace it to her time as mayor. Then something happened when Stone and Hernandez ran for re-election this summer. Though Gibbs-Thomas was not on the ballot, she did not endorse either of them. But as a sitting member, you do not usually endorse candidates for your own board.
I hope the Indiantown Council can put politics aside when it comes to governing.
Without much fanfare, the LDRs were adopted on 2nd reading.
This is a big accomplishment for the Village of Indiantown. After a cursory look, there is nothing radical or inconsistent with these regulations. As I pointed out in the last newsletter, there is a provision for the height limit to be increased in industrial zoning by administrative action. While I do not agree with either allowing the possible exception or doing it administratively, that is a policy decision.
As was said by council members and the public, this is a “living document.” That means it can be changed and will be changed. And that is fine.
During comment, the owner of 800 acres near Indianwood expressed enthusiasm for beginning development of the project. If that project is built out, it will absolutely change Indiantown. There will be several thousand new residents who would have a dramatic impact on the economic life of the village. It would contribute more prosperous and diverse residents to village life.
Good work by staff and council.
The presentation can be found here
As mentioned above, the LDRs allow for what was known as the Local Planning Agency to become the Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board (PZAB). Now instead of the council members approving projects three times, there will be a board consisting of citizen volunteers in the process. That is a great improvement.
Each council member had an appointment (who must be a resident): Dowling appointed Christa Miley who will have a two-year term Clarke appointed Vernestine Palmer who will have a three-year term Stone appointed Marjorie Beary who will have a three-year term Gibbs-Thomas appointed Anthony Zwiener who will have a three-year term Hernandez appointed Renita Presler who will have a three-year term
Stone nominated and the council approved Daniel Sehayik to be one of the business representatives for a two-year term. There is still a business vacancy on the board.
THIS AND THAT
The council approved Brown negotiating a short-term lease with a carnival operator for the property where the future village complex will be built. The carnival lease will be from November 25th through December 13th. The amount mentioned was $5,000.
The council approved a new personnel policy. According to the charter, all changes of personnel must be approved by the council. This was reinforced by the voters in the last election when they refused to change that requirement. This gives the manager more discretion while being technically faithful to the charter provision.
You can read it here
Finally, there was a discussion about impact fees. The consultant that the village hires will examine the county’s fees in addition to recommending impact fees for the village. The village may question the rational nexus for what the county charges developers in Indiantown and where those impact fees are spent.This has been a bone of contention between the City of Stuart and Martin County for years. This is especially true for road impact fees. Because Stuart is a built-out municipality, the likelihood that the county is going to build a new road is very slim. In Indiantown, new infrastructure is needed. Another squabble may be in the offing.
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Indiantown Latest News From The November 8, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING OCTOBER 29, 2020
During a report that Council Member Stone made regarding his meeting at the Business Development Board, he mentioned he wanted to make sure they knew that Indiantown had a 50-foot height limit in their industrial areas.
I wanted to make sure I understood that correctly, so I asked the staff, and it was true. There is still a 4-story height limit. Which isn’t as important as that ultimate height of 50 feet. What others should know is that the building can be taller if approved administratively. I guess that means by staff and not the council.
How does one receive an administrative variance? Here is what it says in the new LDRs:
Structures taller than 50 feet or over 4-stories may be permitted administratively where the
applicant for the project can show the following:
(1) The proposed additional height of the building or structure will not increase the noise,
vibration, smoke or dust generated by the use;
(2) The building or structure will not create a danger to air traffic;
(3) The building or structure is set back an adequate distance from any property line to
ensure that collapse of the structure will not impact surrounding properties; and
(4) The proposed building or structure meets all other code requirements.
These are not hard criteria to manage. There is no cap as to the number of stories or overall height. Does that mean 100 feet and 7 stories are permissible for a manufacturing facility or a distribution center? It would appear so. If you are placing this on a large parcel then you would meet the setback and other requirements.
The vaunted Martin County difference may be coming to an end. Earlier in the week in unincorporated Martin County, the Waterside development capped its heigh limit at 40 feet.
Will this change spark development? I don’t know, but it does require further study. The development table can be found here
PLANNING, ZONING AND APPEALS BOARD BOARD…NEW LDRS…PERMIT FEES
The new LDRs were approved by the LPA and council. The regs are not quite as voluminous as the county’s LDRs. This is something that will continue to be tweaked over the years. That doesn’t mean they are bad…only things will come up and will need to be addressed. The consultant’s presentation can be found here
Some are saying that the new LDRs could result in an unjust taking of property rights. It could be true. If it is, then the village is opening itself up to potentially expensive lawsuits.
Mr. Vose, the village attorney, seems capable. I am sure he read the new regulations and signed off. I cannot believe that the consultant that crafted the regulations would allow that type of mistake to be made. However, I hope they make sure before second reading.
Since the inception of the LPA, which consisted of the council members, I have complained that the citizens need to be involved. The new LDRs do just that by instituting a Planning and Zoning Board consisting of 7 members with 5 having to be residents and 2 nonresidents if they own a business in Indiantown.
Finally, there will be citizen involvement. Though in other Martin County municipalities, each elected official has an appointment, it does not appear to be so here. I hope they end up adopting that practice so all different members of the community will have an opportunity.
The village is now looking to change the building fees from $89.50 per inspection to 9% of the construction total. Council Member Gibbs-Thomas caught the problem immediately. She stated that if you want to build a $200,000 house the permit fee would be $18,000. That is a lot of money.
It appeared the other council members were ready to proceed without seeing that a mistake was being approved. A motion was made by Dowling and seconded by Stone to move forward.
Staff’s explanation of the change was all over the map. They were trying to use the excuse that it was costing more to do the required inspections than they were collecting. That may be true, but it isn’t costing that amount. Imagine if you build a building that had a construction cost of $1 million. The building permit fee would be $90,000. That doesn’t consider the village impact fees which are coming and the county’s and school board’s impact fees that are already here. Nothing will ever be built in Indiantown.
Gibbs-Thomas asked whether they had looked at other cities. Staff said yes and mentioned Stuart. For a million in construction cost, in Stuart you pay $4300.00 in permit fees. Brown kept suggesting that the matter be tabled until the next meeting. The council finally agreed. It will come back next meeting.
The manager should take the time to look at what his staff is doing. It is his responsibility. The council, except for Gibbs-Thomas, needs to be less of a fan club for Brown and staff and more their bosses. This is the check that the system calls for. There is more to being an elected official than waving at the crowds.
The fee schedules for both Indiantown and Stuart can be found here
Indiantown Latest News From The October 18, 2020 Edition
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.
Indiantown Latest News From The October 4, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING SEPTEMBER 24, 2020
I want to compliment Mayor Hernandez for the very professional job she is doing when presiding over the meeting. The last few meetings, though virtual, have moved forward expeditiously.
By the time you read this, the Village would have closed on the water utility. At $8.5 million plus the deferred maintenance, it is being done at a price that only a public entity could afford. There are questions as to whether a better deal could have been struck. The answer is certainly.
Yet no sane private businessperson would want to own the Indiantown plant. It will never be enough of a money maker to justify the investments. This is a poor community, and it was obvious that the Council wanted to keep the rates as low as possible. Anthony Dowling wanted to lower some charges and fees to less than what the consultant recommended in the schedule. Fortunately, the other Council Members thought better of tinkering at this point.
The only reason for Indiantown to get involved in owning is to control what happens within the current boundaries as well as the future boundaries as the Village grows. Without the ability to provide water and sewer, the Village would be severely limited. Owning the water plant is a better strategy and use of funds than providing fire service by far.
The final budget and taxes were approved. Anyone who believed the fantasy that the tax rate would ever drop is a bit delusional. Of course, people were promised that taxes would be less if the Village incorporated. Yet those at the forefront of spearheading the move to incorporate as a Village were cut out of the process the moment the Village came into existence.
They did not reside within the Village. They could not run for office and had no influence on the Council that was elected and now re-elected. In the years ahead, it is not whether increased taxes will be levied but rather how much more. It won’t be whether the Village increases the size and scope of government, it will be by how much.
Lastly, I am disappointed that the Council decided against going back to in person meetings. At this point, everything is open but government. How about it? The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting in the affirmative.
The Governor’s order has made this moot by restoring in person meetings.
Indiantown Latest News From The September 20, 2020 Edition
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
Indiantown Latest News From The September 6, 2020 Edition
Council Meeting August 27, 2020
At their first meeting after the last election, the Council reorganized. Then current Vice-Mayor Janet Hernandez expectantly became Mayor in a vote of 5-0 on a motion made by Clarke and seconded by Dowling. The surprise came when a motion was made by Dowling and seconded by Stone to nominate Clarke for Vice-Mayor.
From the first day that the Council met, Dowling was disliked by the others. It was blatant and several times the public spoke at meetings telling especially Stone and Dowling to politely knock it off. Dowling clearly wanted to be Mayor for the past two years, why now the acquiescence?
The real surprise was the reorganization of committee assignments. A slate was presented by Dowling that was seconded by Stone of the following:
Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities: Hernandez with Clarke as the alternate
MPO: Dowling with Gibbs-Thomas as the alternate (there are no alternate members)
Council of Treasure Coast Governments: Clarke with Stone as the Alternate
Indiantown Community Trust: Dowling with Clarke as the alternate
Indiantown Chamber: Gibbs-Thomas with Stone as the alternate
Business Development Board: Stone with Clarke as the alternate
Except for the Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities, there was consensus for the appointments.
Gibbs-Thomas was surprised by her removal from the Treasure Coast Regional League. In the past two years, she had become 2nd VP of the Regional League and was slated to become 1st VP in December. That would mean in 2022, she would have been president. As a member of the local board she was elected to be the Treasure Coast Board Member of the Florida League of Cities and her appointment was effective as of this month. She was also appointed to the Nominating Committee of the Florida League.
In a relatively short time, she had become an influential person in government circles not only locally but in Tallahassee. There are two organizations on that appointment list that rely on membership remaining constant. The first is the MPO which is how our road projects are funded. It takes a couple of years just to understand the nomenclature used by FDOT and the feds. The second is the League of Cities.
Except for policy committees that any municipal elected official can ask to join, League offices and appointments are based on your Council or Commission appointing you to the Treasure Coast Regional League. The longer you stay, the higher you can go and more clout you have to represent your city. Taking away that appointment from Gibbs-Thomas was counter-productive to Indiantown’s interest.
In a vote of 3-2, Susan Gibbs-Thomas was stripped of that seat and all she had accomplished for Indiantown in the past couple of years. Gibbs-Thomas was well liked by the other members of the local league. She was beginning to be recognized in Tallahassee which could only serve the interest of Indiantown. Why did they do it? Hernandez will not receive the local league VP spot. She will not be the Treasure Coast delegate to FLC, and by stepping onto the Board, she will encounter some cold shoulders from other members.
Hernandez kept saying that everyone should rotate through positions. Yet Dowling who was the MPO representative since before incorporation is not rotating off that board. Nor has he rotated off the Trust Fund board.
There is something more here than what was done at the meeting. Hernandez, Stone, and Dowling became fast buddies during the election. Which brings me to the next story.
DON’T ANNOY A STATE REP
Representative Randy Fine from Brevard County does not play well with municipalities. While I do not agree with him on his displeasure with local control, he is right about one thing. Municipalities, just like every level of government, owe their citizens and taxpayers good and efficient government. He would not have even cared about Martin County, and especially Indiantown, if they did not share Mr. Robert Burns.
Mr. Burns is a “political consultant” that apparently was heavily involved with Fine’s opponent. Fine’s family was targeted and there were some outrageous claims against him that I will not repeat here. The primary fight was so nasty that Florida House Speaker Oliva had to come to Fine’s defense. Burns apparently had a hand in the Indiantown elections also.
Fine has sent a letter to the Florida Division of Elections, Florida Elections Commission, and the Florida Department of State’s General Counsel’s Office outlining what he claims is criminal activity in Indiantown. The contents of the letter was posted on Fine’s Facebook page here
He closes with the following:
I appreciate your full attention to this matter. While I was able to easily defeat the Adkins/Burns campaign despite their illegal activity, in Indiantown, my understanding is that these illegal activities may constitute election fraud. If we allow convicted criminals like Robert Burns to get away with his illegal electioneering by refusing to disclose his contributors and expenditures, and potentially worse by laundering money from candidates to PCs and non-political entities – and candidates lose as a result — we put our entire elections system at risk.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I know that myself and Speaker Pro-Tempore Magar, who represents Indiantown where the other illegal activity occurred, will make ourselves available however needed to assist you in holding Burns accountable for the maximum civil and criminal penalties possible.
Eric Miller, an Indiantown resident, is also following this story. He is posting on his website regarding, as he claims, the possible illegality of Council Members actions. You can read Miller’s allegations here
Is any of this true? I do not know. Here is what I do know…if you look at their financial disclosures, both Stone and Hernandez had nothing extraordinary in campaign contributions. Did they not disclose everything that they collected? More than likely, any shenanigans can be found in PAC money that is not part of their individual campaigns. There are allegations that they were using fronts as pass throughs. But that is all innuendo. I have been around long enough that, until proven otherwise, Hernandez and Stone are innocent.
This is what an investigation will look at to see if any campaign or other laws were broken. And that includes public records and sunshine violations. What happened to Gibbs-Thomas was no fluke. It did not appear to me it was just magic that Stone, Hernandez, and Dowling had the same idea. Even Clarke did not believe that.
Gibbs-Thomas may have been punished because she did not endorse her fellow commissioners’ reelection bids. It was highly unusual that Dowling would. To me, there is something more, and Rep. Fine and Rep. Magar should insist that a thorough investigation is done for the good of Indiantown.
What really is interesting is who may have paid Burns to be involved in races of such little consequences. That is the person who should be exposed to the public and prosecuted for any crimes committed. Burns did not just show up in Indiantown one day and began rooting for the home team.
VENTURE PARK PUD
The Venture Park PUD is a light industrial park consisting of 138 acres. There are 81 acres in the Village and 57 in the County. The owners are asking that it all comes into the Village. That makes perfect sense since it should have been always in the incorporated area.
The vote was 5-0 for annexation. The presentation can be found here
Indiantown Latest News From The August 23, 2020 Edition
BUDGET MEETING AUGUST 13, 2020
Mr. Brown introduced the new budget. It still will be tweaked but what is in the presentation is what will be ultimately passed. The tax rate will remain the same at 1.6304 mil per thousand dollars of taxable value. There is funding for 17.5 positions…five of which are Council Members.
The budget includes moving to leased space at Indiantown Non-Profit and finishing the water works purchase. The entire budget will be almost $7 million including $2,100,000 from the new utility fund. What was not included was the Fire/Rescue MSTU that is paid by the taxpayers directly to Martin County.
I cannot tell whether the proposed fire chief’s salary is in the budget or not. If it is, at present, it would be taken out of the general fund without any corresponding tax input. If they go another year without hiring a chief, the Village effectively created a place holder for money that could be spent on other things.
Without a line item budget, you cannot tell whether the land purchase for a new Town Hall is in the general fund or not. It does not appear to be in the capital budget. If it is being borrowed, I do not see where it is being booked.
The City of Stuart places a proposed line item budget on its website. You can find not only broad categories but also how it is broken down by departments, sub departments, and categories. While this budget is not of the same magnitude, to have created the power point attached, it needed to have that much detail.
Interestingly, during public comment, someone asked why the Village needed to buy and build. Anthony Dowling stated that they had no choice because there was no place to go. Yet they are going to Indian Non-Profit and I would imagine they could sign a longer-term lease that will meet their needs for several years. I sent the following email to Dowling:
Council Member Dowling:
You said that there was no place for the Village to go. You found Indiantown non-profit. It is not possible to sign a longer lease? It appeared that the commenter mentioned that building as a solution.
Could you explain why you said there was no place to go?
Mr. Dowling responded.
Will get back with you.
I have not heard anything else. If Dowling does, I will include in the next newsletter.
The budget presentation can be found here
COUNCIL MEETING AUG 13, 2020
The Parks Director, Albie Scoggins, gave a presentation as to the improvements to the parks and those that still must be made. The Village has three parks and I do see improvements since the Village took over. Are they entirely completed? Absolutely not but it is getting better.
They are doing what a parks and rec department should do. To see the presentation, go here
GIVING AWAY MONEY IS TOUGH TO DO
There was supposed be a meeting of the Indiantown Community Trust Fund Committee to discuss the grant requests. Dowling kept saying he wanted to table the item to the next meeting. It finally came out that Dowling had missed the Committee meeting.
Clarke wanted not to give out the money this year. Hernandez does want to reconsider. Attorney Vose said everyone must follow the procedure. During public comment, Vernestine Williams (a Committee member), said the Committee was diligent, but some applicants had missed the deadline. Linda Ivory, another Committee member, also commented.
I believe sunshine was broken when three Committee members, Dowling, Williams, and Ivory began discussing the work of the Committee. I am surprised Mr. Vose or Mr. Brown did not cut this off much sooner.
The deeper question is why a member of the Council is even on this Committee? It should be composed of citizens and their recommendations should go to the Council. It is more important to have as many residents as possible on these Committees. Dowling or any other Council Member brings nothing to the table when these grants are being discussed. It is just another way to aggrandize by politicians.
Keep politics out of the mix. Politics obviously is part of the mix since at the last meeting Council Members wanted to control the work of the Committee and give Boys & Girls Club another $10,000 from the fund without Committee input. There does not appear to be boundaries. This is bad for the Trust Fund and the government of Indiantown.
The motion by Dowling to table was seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 5-0.
Indiantown Latest News From The August 9, 2020 Edition
SPECIAL MEETING JULY 30, 2020
How much should the Village do in the realm of social welfare? That was the question before the Council. The Boys and Girls Club was making an ask for $10,000 for a program they started which has been providing meals to kids since the beginning of the pandemic. The meals are prepared by local restaurants.
The CARES Act would not cover this program. If prepared meals are being provided, they must be delivered to the individuals such as Meals on Wheels. Restaurant take out is not acceptable.
Philosophically speaking, this government is prime to use Village tax dollars for these types of programs. This is in addition to the Indiantown Trust Fund which originated years ago as part of a development approval. The fund was at one time a part of the County and now is under the Village’s auspices. Yet where does all this largess stop?
Hernandez was ready to give the Boys and Girls Club money immediately even though it could not be done that quickly as explained by the Village Attorney. Dowling wanted it to go through the Trust, and he made a motion that was seconded by Clarke. The Club has a pending grant request for $10,000 and Dowling’s motion would have made it $20,000 that they would apply for.
The Director of Girls and Boys then spoke and said he was pulling his request from the Village and would not resubmit to the Trust. He sounded piqued that the request just did not sail through the Council. Apparently, the organization is asking for $10,000 from other places also.
I went on the club’s website to look for their financial report, but it was not there. You could obtain one if you contacted their office. You could also look up their tax return to get their figures. There are no secrets only time constraints on my part. Their budget is one of the largest in the County, I would venture to guess.
Yet none of that is important in this instance. The fundamental question is should the Village be using taxpayer dollars for this type of program?
When the Mayor asked whether Dowling wanted to rescind the motion, he said no even though the CEO of the Club stated he would not apply for the increase grant. The vote was 4-1 to pass the motion with Hernandez voting no because she believed they should get the money now.
I do not know what is going on! Maybe the voters will have a say in this election?
Indiantown Latest News From The July 26, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING JULY 9, 2020
The Manager presented the first pass at next year’s budget. Like Sewall’s Point, there will be no increase in millage. However, when comparing it with other municipalities, you must add the MSTU that is paid to the County. It is still a remarkable rate given the growth of the budget.
The argument of how much government the Village should have has been decided. Now, the question is how they manage the government. This budget seems to be responsible for the government that the Council has created.
When the Parks Director was speaking about the cost to sod a ball field at $100,000 it sounded as if some of the Council was experiencing sticker shock. That may be the biggest problem that they face…no realization of what true cost can be.
The presentation can be found here
NEW VILLAGE HALL
The present space that the Town is using belongs to the County. They want it back as of the end of September. That is not much time for them to set up somewhere else.
Earlier, the Council empowered the Manager to perform due diligence on two lots. After receiving engineering reports and other factors, staff has chosen the larger parcel of 5.1 acres. It appears they not only envision a Village Hall but also a community center with pool and possibly a fire/rescue station.
The cost is $1.45 million dollars. What the buildings and site work will be is anyone’s guess. A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Thomas and passed 5-0.
The presentation can be found here
That may solve the long-term problem but not what to do by the end of September. Mr. Brown has arranged to have a modular of 4000 square feet placed on the property. The rent per month is $4600.00 plus about $40,000 in cost for breakdown and set up.
Several people spoke against spending that money, including David Powers. He wanted the Council to rent the vacant Indiantown non-profit building. It has 6500 square feet. There were no costs provided for that rental.
Mr. Brown wanted permission to proceed with the modular building while he discussed the rental of Indiantown Non-Profit. The Council voted 4-1 with Stone dissenting to proceed with that plan.
I reached out to both Brown and Powers to obtain the hard numbers. Mr. Brown wrote back and said that he was expecting something by Monday, and he would let me know. I never heard back from Mr. Power.
INDIANTOWN MEETING JULY 23, 2020
I want to congratulate Indiantown on its new meeting recording platform. It is by far the best system now being used hands down. The system has features that would serve other governments well. Public participation is easy and complete. Bravo!
SETTING THE MILLAGE
The presentation was a doubled edge sword. If you think that the Village is growing too fast and expenditures too out of control, then this will confirm that assumption. However, if you believe that the Village should have a full-fledged independent government then the presentation will comfort you in knowing that they are responsibly moving in that direction.
That is the crux of the issue confronting this Village. People that have complained about how the Village is wasting money, are wrong. In the eyes of the current Council a growth in services and personnel is what they want and have implemented. In that respect the mounting expenditures are justified and well spent.
If you believe that the Village was supposed to be government “light” then there is an election in a few weeks with two candidates running that are believers of that school of thought. I agree with the that model but the full-fledged one is being implemented responsibly.
The millage rate remains the same next year at 1.6304%. The income and expenditures are about 7.5% less than last year. What is not to like about that.
COVID could take a big chunk out of this budget as with all government. I think Indiantown is less able to absorb budget shortfalls than more established municipalities. At some point it can all go crashing down. Then what?
There is a philosophical disagreement with how to proceed that will be decided at the polls in the next two elections. We should not blame staff for implementing the Council’s big government approach. They are following their orders from the Council and doing so responsibly.
That is what elections are all about. To see the presentation go here
The Village will shortly be closing on the 5-acre plot that the Village is buying for the new Village complex. The Village needs to move by the end of September from their current County owned facility. They had contemplated placing a modular building at $4,000 per month and using that as offices.
Several speakers at the last meeting implored the Village to use the abandoned Indiantown Non-Profit space. Brown has come to terms with David Powers, the manager of that building for less per month than the modular for more space. It is also a hardened structure that will probably serve the Village better.
They will need to spend about $60,000 on modifications. The lease is for 2 years with two one-year extensions. To anyone who thinks a Village hall will be built much before the expiration of this lease they are wrong. This also makes it easier to build the complex since no disruption during construction.
The lease can be found here here
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
If you want to build a church, ask a rich man to donate. If you want to help pay for a meal, ask someone who knows what it may be like to have missed a few. Indiantown’s Council is closer to the latter than the former. Perhaps that is why the Boys & Girls Club made a touch to help fund the continuation of their meal program.
Much happened when the schools shut down in March. One of the worries was that kids would no longer have access to the school meals program. 96% of Indiantown’s students qualify for reduced meals. Boys and Girls Club has filled some of that void. They have spent $86,000 on 26,000 meals.
The non-profit is asking the Village for a grant of $10,000 to offset a portion of the cost. My question to the Village is should the Village’s tax dollars be used for that. I would say no. The feds through the CARES Act has given the County money to help people who need that assistance.
The County has wisely brought in United Way to administer that money through its partners such as House of Hope and Salvation Army. They will be up and running in the next week. I have seen the agreement between the County and United Way and there are standards and protocols that must be met before reimbursement. Caseworkers will work with individuals and families to solve a multitude of problems the families may have.
The other question I have is when did Boys & Girls Club expand their mission to food. The School District has continued to feed kids as before. There are many food pantries throughout the County that United Way is working with to administer CARES money to those in need. Mission creep an expression usually associated with our forces abroad, amply applies here.
The Village should not become a social welfare agency, there is adequate provision and money available. There are also other non-profits already set up to handle food insecurity. Everyone needs to stay in their lane.
Indiantown Latest News From The July 9, 2020 Edition
The next meeting is Thursday July 16, 2020
Indiantown Latest News From The June 28, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING JUNE 25, 2020
During Commissioner comments Hernandez revealed that her father was in the hospital due to COVID-19. She was visibly upset. Her family situation was made known when she asked the Health Department’s Vitani why her father was not contacted by any one from the Health Department days after her father tested positive.
I do not know if the Health Department’s failure to contact Hernandez’s father was an isolated oversight or not. But if the Health Department’s main function during COVID is for contact tracing, waiting days to know who an infected person was in contact with is a problem. That means we will never get a handle on this disease.
I wish the best to Janet and her family.
It seemed Council sniping was once more in the open. Dowling gave the local news report to his audience of 18 people that were attending by Zoom. Anthony you are an engaging person but taking up so much time to toot your own horn is being immodest.
Perhaps with Dowling’s Facebook page he is being informative. Though at some point I would imagine that someone will make a public records request for his Facebook and other social media posts. They should be part of the Village’s public records as should every other member.
Then during Stone’s comments, he mentioned that everyone including Council Members should obey the rules and pull permits for events. Apparently, Dowling’s Juneteenth celebration was held on private property without permits. Manager Brown needs to get involved and make sure his Council is following the same rules as everyone else.
This goes back to what Brown was trying to standardize a few months ago regarding a communications policy. There seems to be too much free lancing by Council Members. When you are an elected official everything you post can be interpreted as a political statement. When you mix your duties as an elected and your personal pages then you can have political problems. There are instances of Sunshine and public records violations having occurred because of this.
Even one board member looking at the page of another board member to see what their position is on a government matter could be considered a Sunshine violation. This board will eventually have an investigation and then it may be too late for one or more of them.
The Village will by the end of the year own the water utility. This meeting with the myriad steps taken moves Indiantown that much closer to ownership. Approving the needed ordinances for the rate structure, financing, utility budgeting, connection fees, and permitting, all bring this closer to happening.
I would have liked to see this occur a bit later in the Village’s development, but this is when the opportunity has presented itself. There were questions raised earlier from some about the consultant but so far everything seems to be fine. It is a methodical progression.
The Village needs to own their own utility to have full control over their development. If the County or South Martin Regional Utility owned this it could set up obstacles to the Village as they develop. I am not a fan of the Village being in the Fire/Rescue business. If that occurs it will probably result in increased costs. The utility is something that needs to be done.
You can access the different agenda items including the utility studies and bonding information here.
Indiantown Latest News From The June 14, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING JUNE 12, 2020
There were no momentous decisions at this meeting. Rather, it was one that showed ideological fractures within the Council. It could easily had been a matter of not wanting to vote because of the issues involved. I do not believe it was that. It seemed to be a matter of stubbornness and conviction.
There were two added items that were not originally published with the rest of the agenda last Friday. Gibbs-Thomas adamantly stated that she believes in only going forward with items that are included by that date. And her statement that neither was of an emergency nature was true. It was the subject of those items that could be open to interpretation on what her motives were.
One of the items was to pass a mirror resolution of what Stuart passed celebrating diversity. The other was to recognize Juneteenth Independence Day. Could these items have been included on the regular agenda? I guess they could have. Yet in this time of a national crisis on race, exceptions should be accommodated. Even ideologies should be overlooked.
Gibbs-Thomas said over and over that moving forward with these items when she had not had a chance to hear from the public is not transparency. That is true, but as an elected official, you can use your own judgment. And both these things are in the no-brainer department. It is clearly a time of anger, reconciliation, and forgiveness. It is admirable that she stood on principles. When you have two competing beliefs, you need to decide which one is more important.
Both resolutions passed 3-1 (Clarke was absent). In both instances, Gibbs-Thomas wanted to abstain, but the Attorney had to remind her that under Florida law she must vote. I agree with Gibbs-Thomas that unless it is an emergency, there is no reason to add to the published agenda. In this case, the emergency is that these two resolutions were needed to bring Indiantown together and to show solidarity during a difficult period.
2019 AUDIT & BIG MOUND PARK
The Village’s audit for the year ending 2019 is attached. The auditor gave it a clean bill of health. The audit can be found here
The Village took up the children’s program at Big Mound Park…another agenda item that was added. I have researched back to when the parks were transferred, and Indiantown did say they would assume that program. Things do change, and perhaps given how few children this program serves today, it should be discontinued.
There are other programs, including one at the elementary school. The viability of programs such as these now need to be determined by the Village. That is why they incorporated. The Council needs to decide what their priorities are. This program will be discontinued.
Indiantown Latest News From The May 31, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING MAY 28, 2020
There was an exceedingly long report given by the Health Department. In most cases I would say too long but given that Indiantown is a hotspot, probably not. The other hot spots I have been told are Golden Gate and the neighborhood behind Monterey and Kanner known as Little Madrid. In the dashboard both are listed under Stuart. Those neighborhoods are in unincorporated Martin County. The residents there have family and work connections to the Village.
The head of the Health Department said that Martin County testing had exceeded the governor’s benchmark of 2% of the population. There has been 4.2% of the population tested in the County. While Governor DeSantis may feel that 2% is enough, that does not nearly give the amount of data that is needed. The CDC website predicts about 135,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by June 15th. There is no flattening on the graph only a steady climb.
Indiantown and Martin County will continue to see not a decline but probably a rise in new cases as we go through the summer. So perhaps the Council spent an inordinate amount of time discussing this subject but given the severity of what the Village faces, it was what was needed.
NEW FACE & OTHER COMPANIES
Althea Jefferson was introduced to the Council. She has been hired as the Director of Community & Economic Development. Her salary is $70,350 per year. You can find the job description here
I hope she finds success.
With the purchase of the utility company, there will be a large need for engineering firms. In government you pick your contractors most times before you need them. In other words, they are prescreened. There were ten firms that applied and the top five were presented to the Council. Staff is recommending that the top three ranked firms be the ones that the utility will have ready to go when needed. Individual contracts to perform specific work with dollar amounts would be given out as the projects are known.
The three firms ranked the highest were: Kimley-Horn & Associates, Holtz Consulting and Captec Engineering. Once the Village purchases the utility their contracted work will be paid from the enterprise fund. All funds needed for anything having to do with the utility will be paid by the rate payers.
To see their presentations, you can go here
NEW TOWN HALL
The Village has been advised that the County building where they have been working will not be available forever. The Village is continuously expanding staff and if not already will soon be out of room there. Indiantown does not have an overabundance of office space available. It would be difficult to rent enough space. Complicating matters they will be adding a Fire/Rescue Department which requires a fire house and room for a Police Department in the future.
Village Manager Brown has been looking at properties for more than a year. He has come to the Council with two possible lots to purchase. He was asking that the Council authorize him to enter option contracts for the two parcels or at least one of the parcels.
One of the lots is owned by Indianhead Partners and the other by Mr. Rimes by Rimes Market. With an option contract, the staff will have 60 days to do their due diligence. There is no down payment.
That did not stop the Council from arguing which parcel would be better. The argument might have been a little premature. Dowling appeared to really want the Indianhead lot. It seemed that Gibbs-Thomas and to a lesser extent Hernandez were for the Rimes lot. Because the Rimes lot would be purchased for more than the appraised value, the vote must be a super-majority of 4 Council Members.
A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas to sign option contracts for both properties. It passed 4-1 with Dowling dissenting.
If the Village is going to grow in this way, they will need more space. One of these parcels is probably the best way to accommodate that. You can see the appraisals and the contracts here
Once purchased they will need to design and build the new Town Hall.
What I did not think correct was that individual Council Members thought it was fine to negotiate prices on their own without any authorization from the Council. Ms. Hernandez believed that it was her responsibility and not Brown’s to do so. I am incredibly surprised no one mentioned that at the meeting! Her recitation at the meeting of her discussions with Mr. Rimes was an example of naivete unmatched. As a real estate professional for 50 years, I can tell you that her negotiation skills have much to be desired.
Mr. Brown sometimes you need to rescue the Council from themselves!!!
Indiantown Latest News From The May 17, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING MAY 15, 2020
The good news is that Mayor Stone was able to have 4000 masks donated for the residents. And more good news is he just said thank-you to the donor. He did not go on and on and on. Stone is a man of few words. Most times less is more. I think the same about Council Member Clarke’s brevity. She too does not need to go on and on about, well…nothing.
Unfortunately, that may not be the same for the rest of the Council. Besides this newsletter and Currents there is no media paying Council meetings much attention. I see no cameras or TV reporters anxious for that 30 second Indiantown story to broadcast on their 11 pm news or as I call it the big weather show.
Then I would ask which audience are you playing too? The approximately 25 (as per the Village) viewers on Zoom. Many of whom are not voters. When Council Member Dowling during his comments said, “and now for number 9.” He was no longer giving information to the masses but rather speaking to hear himself. There is no CNN. There is not even C-Span.
It was not until 8:15 did the Council begin their work as per the agenda. Almost 2 hours after the meeting being started the verbose five got down to voting. Sure, there was a way to long and boring MPO presentation and a rather general Health Department update, but the business of government seems to be secondary to the endless palaver.
Indiantown has a major health crisis. The Village has an inordinate amount of cases as compared to its population size. Many residents are poor, immigrant and live in small cramped houses.
Until very recently their plight was ignored. It was only with the intervention of Harold Jenkins, Brian Mast and MaryLynn Magar that the Health Department and Cleveland Clinic began testing.
The Village has passed a mask ordinance and have signs throughout regarding what to do to contain the virus. You cannot expect the Council to do more. It has done everything it could with its limited authority.
There is no effective contact tracing. A positive result does not mean isolation or containment so the disease will continue to spread. The Sheriff’s campaign of education should not mean his deputies do not enforce social distancing. The Council is correct in thinking Indiantown has been neglected by the wider outside world.
That dynamic will not change by Facebook posts or the Council speaking to each other. They need to have real political power. That can only be accomplished by increasing their population numbers and making sure that people are registered to vote. Instead of talk, the Council should pick up census and voter registration forms and walk door to door and get people to register.
TIME TO GO TO WORK
As I said above at 8:15 the Council got down to business. The first thing they did was extend the state of emergency. It passed 5-0.
Next on the agenda was implementing a communications policy. That would be rather straight forward you would think. Not when it comes to politicians. Manager Brown introduced the item by simply stating it could be as simple or as complicated as the Council desired. What Brown did not do is give them a plan to discuss and tweak.
Gibbs-Thomas kept trying to have the Council instruct staff to create a plan. The rest of the Council would not support her. They did not even have a common understanding of what a communications policy really is. Dowling wanted to make sure that his social media accounts would not be affected. Others were just looking for consistency on business cards, when to use the seal, and more practical matters.
It seemed that only Gibbs-Thomas wanted to have a policy. Dowling made a motion to table the matter until discussion of a strategic plan. It was seconded by Hernandez. The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas dissenting. This was a time that Brown should have had something for them to discuss.
In a matter of a few minutes, the Commission voted unanimously on 2nd reading to de-annex 11 parcels in the Little Ranch neighborhood. Those parcels should have never been included within the Village boundaries. The vote was 5-0.
Then the Council tackled something important…fireworks! Should July 4th go forward or not? Staff was tasked to see whether and at what costs fireworks could be done from Timer Powers which is the County’s park. They wanted to be able for people to see them supposedly from anywhere in the Village.
The additional cost would be $10,000 for the larger shells on top of the $15,000 already budgeted. Gibbs-Thomas who is the lead is trying to raise the money from sponsors. There just is not enough time at this point. They asked staff what other governments were doing. Most like Stuart have cancelled for this year.
After much discussion, Dowling made a motion to table. Clarke seconded and the vote was 3-2 with Gibbs-Thomas and Hernandez voting no. You would think they could decide yes or no and then move forward. Does anyone have a can to kick?
Indiantown Latest News From the May 3, 2020 Edition
COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 25, 2020:
Under Brown’s direction, the Council has been playing SimCity. To some degree, the Council admits this since they continuously state that they are building a government from the ground up. The government they are building does not have a solid foundation. It is one built on one benefactor who does not require very much tending…. FPL. No one seems the least concerned about what happens if Indiantown’s benefactor goes away.
FPL is there now but I would expect its footprint in Indiantown to be reduced in the next couple of years. With its merger with Gulf Power on the west coast of the state, they will be looking to consolidate operations. Both companies are owned by the power conglomerate NextEra Energy. As efficiencies are sought it would appear that, except for the Solar Farm, Indiantown’s other FPL facilities are vulnerable to being reduced if not closed altogether.
According to Indiantown’s own released numbers, FPL pays the most taxes in the Village at 87.4% of the total. It is not hard to see that any erosion of FPL’s tax contribution could have a devastating effect on the Village. Yet not a word is ever mentioned by the “Sim City Players.”
It is easy to play at things but much more difficult to work at them. Instead of working on the hard issues of having a diverse and viable economic base, this Council has taken the easier issues on. Parks, roads, and stormwater are things that need to be provided for…and they were by Martin County. Bringing an independent Fire/Rescue Department would be commendable if the present one was lacking, but it is not.
Martin County sees that the Village wants to go its own way and should accept it without trying to persuade it differently. The County Commission needs to look at what is best for all County taxpayers. While FPL may be integral to Indiantown’s survival, it is rather insignificant to Martin County. The County crafted an ordinance that would apply only to the utility to reduce its taxes. Now that the MSTUs that the County collects for providing services to FPL in Indiantown are becoming less and less, why should the other citizens in Martin County subsidize Indiantown by allowing a reduction in its Tangible Personal Property Tax.
When it was incorporated, Indiantown was to concentrate on development. Most municipal services were going to be provided by the County for at least several years. Annexation, in order to build new homes, would bring more people. This in turn would spur both retail businesses with more customers and more qualified work force so that industrial and office firms would locate to the Village. Instead, the Council has hired all types of consultants to help entice retail and industrial firms to go to a place without the capacity to support new mercantile and industry.
The entire country now probably has the highest unemployment rate since the Depression of the 1930s. Tax revenue will be significantly less than anticipated. Other governments are looking at budgets that will be cut perhaps significantly. The Sim City Council appears to not see any of this coming.
The Village Attorney provided charts showing the salary ranges for Managers in Florida. It really was not as helpful as it could have been since nothing was in context.
With Council Member Dowling taking the lead, the Indiantown governing board deliberated on whether to raise Manager Harold Brown’s pay. It quickly became apparent that they were going to raise his compensation. The question was by how much for this Council seems to believe that Brown is indispensable to the Village’s ability to function. They could come and go, but without Brown, the Village would fall apart.
While some in the press have taken the position that Brown is not qualified or has exaggerated his qualifications, I believe he has taken Council’s direction and performed adequately. So far, however, the Village has led a charmed life. There have been no bumps to stumble over. Martin County government has been more than generous and accommodating. That will soon come to an end.
City of Stuart pays the City Manager $160,000 per year. He has over 250 employees and several departments. There is a Police Department and Fire/Rescue both of which have unions that must be negotiated with. There are independent utilities for trash, water, and sewer. The combined budget is north of $50 million dollars. There are also more than 3 times the residents plus an additional 21,000 visitors per day.
The Martin County Administrator makes a bit north of $180,00, has over a thousand employees, and a budget in excess of $500 million. Dowling said something about Ocean Breeze’s consultant that bills out at $95 an hour. And said if multiplied by 2000 hours it would be $190,000. Of course, he works many hours less than that per year and receives no benefits. He has never made more than $25,000 in any one year and closer to $15,000 in a typical one. I am not even going to comment on the comparison of the Village to Jupiter Island that was made.
Brown’s current salary is $110,000. The town has perhaps 12 employees. The budget is $5 million once you eliminate the pass through for Fire/Rescue that is paid to the County.
One Council Member stated that Mr. Brown is amazing since he must be available for all types of emergency situations even on the weekend. Implicit in the word manager is the fact he does not work a set number of hours per week. It is like that in every managerial position whether in the private or public sector.
Everyone believed he should get more. Dowling did some math considering other managers compensation and came up with $141,111.00 effective last January 1st. There would also be 3% raises if he had satisfactory reviews and the budget allowed. Gibbs-Thomas seconded the motion and it passed 3-2 with Hernandez and Stone dissenting.
Stone gave his reason for the no vote by asking what happens in a recession when they might not be able to give those raises. Hernandez did not give a reason at the meeting. I reached out to her and this is her reply:
I think another amount slightly lower was more justified. And the whole economy we don’t know how much longer this will go on with Covid19. We don’t know until the coming months. I do agree the managers base pay looking around at other cities he has a really low pay rate and we are doing so much that the other cities already have things established.
I urge you to look at the charts showing what managers make not only in Martin County but throughout the state:
This chart is just of Martin County:
BEGINNING A NEW BUDGET YEAR
Mr. Brown had a presentation regarding next year’s budget.
The Fire/Rescue Department will move forward with creating a public municipal department. Since the outsourcing idea received no bidders, this will be where Indiantown goes next on its quest to be independent.
You can find the complete presentation at:
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 28, 2020
Indiantown has seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases. The purpose of the meeting was to see whether the Village can do anything regarding the outbreak. At this meeting at least, the Council and staff recognized that Indiantown’s demographics are different than Jupiter Island and Sewall’s Point. It is even much different than Stuart.
Indiantown is a small rural place with a high proportion of poor people and many people living close to each other. The population has many Central American immigrants and their American born children. The same is true of Haitians who have settled there. Indiantown also has a large population of African Americans.
The increase in cases shows up because there are so many more people living in tight quarters. As we hear over and over, the inability of enough testing is a problem in containing the disease. That is why even though Indiantown has less than 4% of Martin County’s population, it has 20% of the cases.
While the Health Department and Cleveland Clinic promised more, will it be enough (or even arrive at all) is a good question. As Florida and Martin County speak about reopening, Indiantown is a hotbed of the disease. The cook, lawn service employee or retail worker that Stuart or Jensen Beach sees working can be living with someone who has the disease.
The Village decided to put aside $10,000 to procure masks and another $10,000 for an education initiative. In a vote of 4-1, the Council will require the wearing of face coverings in public. Gibbs-Thomas voted no. I asked her why she voted no by email and received this answer:
Tom, thank you for asking. I do not oppose wearing face masks, I wear one when appropriate and urge everyone else to do so also (I’m actually sewing and making reusable facemasks and giving them away). What I oppose is the wording “require” when it is an empty ordinance. There is no enforcement piece to it and there will be no consequences for noncompliance. People will expect action (as they should when a governmental body make an ordinance) when they report persons with no face masks and will wonder why nothing is being done about enforcement when it is “required” to wear one. By doing this I believe we as the responsible elected officials in Indiantown lose credibility. The ordinance could have said recommends, urge or obligatory ~ anything else besides require. It is creating more problems than it is solving. We have to do more in getting information and education out into our community (that’s why I pushed for a budget for community information/education), that’s what will turn the tide, not the executing unenforceable pronouncements to make people feel good by having them believe we are doing something when in reality it means nothing.
Whether you agree with her or not, it is a rational and well thought out reason.
Indiantown Latest News April 17, 2020 Edition
It seems the idea of an independent Fire/Rescue Department for Indiantown is dead…at least for now.
It wasn’t because the Manager didn’t want it. And it wasn’t because the Council didn’t want it. Oddly, it was a lack of bidders for the privilege of being Indiantown’s Fire/Rescue Department. There was not one answer to the RFP. What does that tell us?
Some of the disinterest is probably due to the pandemic. Yet, in general, I can’t believe there is enough of a private market for this type of service. I understand that private companies offer services, but those usually mean rich people having a little more protection for their enclave than what public departments will give.
There is a deadline for this to occur due to the way next year’s real estate taxes will be billed. It is highly unlikely that the County Fire/Rescue Department won’t service Indiantown at least for another year. It is my guess that Brown and the Council will attempt to move forward in the coming year. They will either put out another RFP or begin cobbling together their own Department. Neither of which will result in a better service than they have today.
The Village Council spent thousands of dollars for a consultant and report. This private outcome was supposed to be a “no brainer.” And it turned out it was just that! Perhaps a lesson has been learned by the Council and the spending of the people’s money. I doubt it for to quote from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 13 Verse 13: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 9, 2020
For a first virtual meeting, the Village should be congratulated. It went off smoothly and by comparison to their recordings, it was easily understandable. Having now been involved with Zoom type meetings for business, I know how difficult the internet connections can sometimes be. Nice job.
Speaking of virtual, the Council settled on a provider of visual and audio streaming meetings that will also be available for later replay on the Village’s website. The vendor they chose was Swagit which provides everything including the hosting of the meetings on their servers. This is something that is needed and would allow for people to watch from home without going to the meetings in person.
The cost is $30,000 to set up the system and $22,200.00 per year for a 50-meeting yearly package.
The City of Stuart uses a different vendor and pays $10,000 per year. I looked at two City of Jupiter meetings that Swagit hosts and the video quality and camera angles were better than Stuart. Is it worth more than twice? It could be if people watch the meetings. That is why I wish more municipalities would ask the County Commissioners why their meetings are less important than BOCC meetings which are televised on MCTV. Since MCTV funding comes from the General Fund that all taxpayers pay into, all meetings should be broadcast on the channel.
A motion was made to approve staff’s recommendation by Dowling and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 5-0.
The proposal can be found at:
Part of the Little Ranch neighborhood was mistakenly included within the Village boundaries when the Village was formed. Most of the neighborhood parcels remain in unincorporated Martin County while 11 parcels are currently within the Village. After being approached by several of those homeowners, Gibbs-Thomas brought it to the attention of staff. They contacted 10 of the 11, and they all want to go back to unincorporated Martin County.
The Village will proceed with the de-annexation. The Village Attorney explained that it is much simpler than the parcel owners doing so. I hate to see any municipality becoming smaller. But in this case, it was always an error and the Village is doing the right thing.
To look at the map:
The evaluation of the Manager was delayed due to the pandemic and absence of Council Member Clarke. It was finally done at this meeting. There is no doubt that the Council highly values Mr. Brown. Hernandez gave him a rating of 4.92 out of 5. Stone 4.7, Thomas 4.2, and Clarke 3.98. Council Member Dowling apparently did not fill out the form since there was nothing in the agenda package except his signature on a form. However, that didn’t stop him from opining that Brown was wonderful. It is left to our imaginations as to why.
Attorney Vose stated that, according to Brown’s contract, the Council should determine whether a raise is warranted or not. Dowling wanted to know what other neighboring cities pay their managers. He stated that they had gotten off to a wonderful start and he should be rewarded. Dowling also said that Indiantown was the second richest municipality.
Does Dowling mean per capita or is it based on the tax base? If he meant Indiantown has the 2nd largest population in the County, he would be right. That is why trying to ascertain what neighboring cities pay is irrelevant. Stuart has 3 times the population. Another neighboring city is Port St. Lucie that has a population nearly 40 times that of Indiantown. The City of Okeechobee has a population comparable to Indiantown, but its budget is much bigger.
Sewall’s Point is 5 times smaller in population, but it has a police force but the rest of Town employees (except the Manager and clerical person) are part time. And while Dowling would like to compare Indiantown to Jupiter Island, I don’t believe that there is much similarity.
Gibbs-Thomas expressed it better by wanting information on comparable salaries based on population and similar budgets. I would have added the number of departments and employees. Her motion was seconded by Dowling and it passed 5-0.
To see the evaluations, including Council Member Dowling signed but incomplete one:
Indiantown Latest News FROM THE APRIL 5, 2020 EDITION
This information came from the Village:
Sorry this took so long, I got a lot going on here right now. I did a quick round up of our current plans for your use and put it in the email below. As of this moment we remain operating and plan to for the foreseeable future. All of our numbers and emails remain the same and can be found online at our staff directory (https://www.indiantownfl.gov/contact). Let me know if you need anything else.
During the COVID-19 outbreak Village staff would like to take an opportunity to ensure transparency in our operations. To begin with, it is important to recognize that last Thursday, March 19th, the Council opted to pass a resolution declaring a state of emergency. Now, while there is no reason to panic, the declaration has altered ongoing operations and those changes are highlighted below.
- Beginning 3/23/2020 Village hall will be closed to the public until further notice to better maintain CDC recommended social distancing standards. However, all employees will report to work as usual and support the community via phone and email. Residents can call 772-597-9900 for non-COVID-19 questions.
- COVID-19 questions should be directed to the Department of Health or Martin County EOC Information line, 772-287-1652.
Office of the Mayor and Village Council
- All Village Council Meetings and workshops have been canceled until March 31, 2020. At that time, Staff will reassess and determine when to begin holding future Council meetings.
- The Mayor will be the secondary liaison for the virtual Martin County EOC behind Village Clerk Susan Owens. Please visit https://www.indiantownfl.gov/community/page/coronavirus-covid-19-information-click-here-stay-informed-village-facilities-closed to stay informed.
Office of the Village Manager
- The Public Information Officer (PIO) will issue press releases as needed, update all Facebook, Nextdoor, and other social media outlets provided with information from the Village Clerk.
- Village staff are working to develop streaming/recording solutions to better meet the needs of Village residents and provide live broadcasts of future Village meetings.
Community and Economic Development Department
- All Special Magistrate hearings are cancelled until further notice unless there is an “essential or critical” need. The Code Compliance Officer will be assisting other employees within the Village, but will respond to health, safety, and welfare Code-related issues as needed.
- The Planning Division will not be processing applications during this time period; however, the Planning Division will be available for inquiries via phone and email.
Parks and Recreation Department
Ø All Parks facilities will be closed, effective March 23, 2020, and until further notice. Signage will be erected at all Village Parks.
Ø All Parks-related activities, including facility rentals and large use gatherings, have been canceled effective March 16, 2020. No further reservations will be taken until further notice.
Ø Parks staff and Village contractors will be available to assist with continued facility cleaning and maintenance.
Management Analyst / PIO
Village of Indiantown
(772) 233 – 0713
I want to congratulate Mr. Eick, Manager Brown, and the rest of the staff on their commitment to providing information as fast as I could hope for. This is the way to treat citizens trying to find Village information. As is apparent, I don’t always agree with the Council’s decisions, but I am pleased with their staff’s ability to help me put together this newsletter.
THE BEAT GOES ON!
There is a battle for the government of Indiantown. At some point soon, either the Village will back down, or it will be stuck with a huge budget. What I don’t think the Council sees clearly is the big financial concerns the County has regarding whether Indiantown remains within the County’s framework or not for services.
If the Village wants to have its own Fire/Rescue and trash services, then the County will make adjustments that will be less beneficial to Indiantown. How each relates is interconnected and nothing stands on its own. If the County Fire/Rescue is no longer provided, the tax rebate for FP&L goes away which could result in Indiantown losing its biggest taxpayer. Indiantown enjoys Martin County’s ISO rating which keeps insurance premiums lower than a new fire department would have. While homeowners’ rates would go up a bit, FP&L may find that they must leave because the fire protection is not adequate according to their own standards, regulators or those of their insurance carriers.
At present, Indiantown cannot compare itself to Stuart with its independent Fire, Police, and other services. Stuart has been incorporated longer than Martin County. Its departments and government took over a hundred years to evolve. Indiantown is trying to do everything within a couple of years. It is putting itself in jeopardy of buying more government than it can afford.
That is not to say it can’t do all of it at some point. It should first develop a much larger tax base to support the services that are currently being provided to them by Martin County. It needs to make sure that there are adequate LDRs in place. What is its annexation policy? For the time being if it isn’t broken…
Here is a letter reproduced that County Administrator Taryn Kryzda wrote Village Manager Howard Brown answering that series of questions in their last emails which I included in the March 22nd edition of Friends & Neighbors. You can find those emails on our website at:
This letter responds to your letter dated February 7, 2020. We understand that the Village of Indiantown (Village) is actively pursuing termination of our Interlocal Agreement concerning Fire Rescue Services as well as the repeal of the related ordinance, in order to contract for private Fire and EMS services to the Village. You reference that the Village impetus for examining options is directly related to the nearly $6 million in costs that your taxpayers are charged for the services they receive. Your taxable value for the County that I received from the Property Appraiser’s office as of October 2019 was $2,021,308,441. The adopted millage for the FY20 Fire MSTU is 2.7889. At the required 95% ad valorem collection rate, the County is estimating the Fire MSTU will receive roughly $5.4 million from the taxable value of the Village.
Your letter goes on to request six additional items that you would like to “explore” and to discuss further. I would like to address each one of those which I have para-phrased:
(1)The request to deviate from the current May 1st notification requirement for terminating services and institute an alternative timeline.
The County cannot deviate from the May 1 deadline set forth in our Interlocal Agreement. Our special assessment legal counsel has advised that the May 1st deadline is necessary to stay on track with various deadlines for compliance with Chapter 197, Fla. Stat. which ensures that adequate due process is followed by the County and for the efficient collection of the assessment on the property tax bill.
(2)The ability to continue to receive fire prevention, fire code enforcement and fire investigations services.
The County cannot provide those services as “cafeteria plan” services. Fire Prevention is an integral part of our Fire Rescue Department, directed by our Martin County Fire Chief, and a member of the Fire Chief’s leadership team. These services are dependent on adherence to the protocols of our Fire Rescue Department. It is not possible nor advisable for the County to assume the significant potential liability posed by this request to provide these services to another Fire Rescue service.
(3)The ability to purchase Fire and EMS dispatching services.
The County is not interested in providing those services as a stand-alone outsourced service. If the Village is going to contract for Fire and EMS services with another company, the County would have no control over their response and medical protocols. The County is unable and unwilling to assume potential liability for the Village’s outsourced fire rescue services. Dispatch is an integral part of the Fire Rescue Department and managed by the County’s Fire Chief and thus cannot be provided to another fire rescue service.
(4)The ability to enter into a mutual aid and/or an automatic response agreement once the Village service is operational.
The County is unable to enter into such an agreement, by definition such agreements are only available when both parties provide assistance. Your proposal appears to describe supplemental services which are not mutual. If the Village decides to go forward, and the County is no longer providing services to the residents in the Village, the County will be assessing options for a possible relocation of the station to an area more conducive to serving the unincorporated area of western Martin County.
(5)The ability to explore alternative pricing models that allows for the County service at a reduced cost.
As I have stated before, the County provides Fire Rescue and Advanced life support services to more than 83% of the residents in Martin County. My Commissioners are very concerned about giving the Village a ‘discount’ which would shift that monetary burden to the many unincorporated area residents. Please note the residents of the Town of Ocean Breeze have a similar interlocal and ordinance to allow the Fire Rescue MSTU within Town boundaries in order to receive Fire Rescue services. It is difficult, if not impossible, to justify a ‘discount’ to the Village while requiring the Town and unincorporated residents to pay more.
(6)Other mutually agreeable consideration that are deemed possible regarding Fire/Rescue.
Martin County Fire Rescue is a large department under one umbrella, managed by a large team of professionals. The County has no interest in dissecting this department to allow portions of our Fire Rescue divisions and services to be ‘farmed out’ as an outsourced service. Our Fire Rescue Department is a comprehensive service provider of superior quality to the citizens of unincorporated Martin County and the Town of Ocean Breeze. As discussed above, the liability of such a proposal far outweighs any potential benefit.
Martin County’s Fire Chief recently listened to the audio from the Village’s March 12, 2020 meeting. There are a few statements made by the Village Council that should be clarified and/or corrected. This letter will serve as the County’s mechanism to address those comments and provide the County’s response for the record.
There was a promise by the Village Council that going with a for-profit company would actually increase the level of service since Martin County will continue to respond thus doubling the apparatus and the number of fire rescue personnel. This statement is incorrect, if the Village terminates the Interlocal and repeals the Ordinance, Martin County Fire Rescue will only be responsible for responding to the Indiantown residents in the unincorporated area. That means if the Village units are all busy and another emergency call within the Village boundary is needing a response, the Village would have to make a request for mutual aid from neighboring agencies. This process would dramatically increase response time and is contingent upon the availability of resources, so a response is not guaranteed. As a point of reference for potential impact, over a 17-month period from 2018 to 2019 there were 430-unit responses to emergency calls in Indiantown from surrounding Martin County stations covering the Indiantown units that were unavailable due to utilization. The level of service will only increase for Village residents if the Village’s department does so.
Village Council member stated that there are more 911 calls outside the Village than inside the Village boundaries. This is incorrect. This Council member further elaborated the rumors of a volunteer fire department. The Village’s released RFP provides on page 8 (E.) that the Village encourages the use of part-time, reserve, paid-on call, volunteers or other employment status’ that provide qualified personnel in delivering these services.
There was a statement by a Council member that obtaining fire rescue services is similar to that of buying a car, and since the City of Stuart residents have their own department, it must be cheaper for them. The City has a special fire assessment fee that all property owners must pay in addition to paying ad valorem taxes for their fire service. The reason that the fee was initiated was because many of their property owners were paying very little or no ad valorem taxes for the City’s fire rescue services. Due to the property valuation exemptions the City residents along the waterfront and the commercial and industrial businesses were paying most of the ad valorem taxes for fire rescue services.
The Village ISO rating is currently based upon Martin County’ s ability to respond with the full complement of apparatus and personnel and demonstrated ability to maintain water supply in those areas that don’t have hydrants. Chief Schobel has raised concerns on how the Village’s rating will be impacted when a for-profit company is providing Fire Rescue services. This change in ISO rating may impact FP&L’s requirements (that Martin County currently meets) for specialized training.
The County has been in contact with FP&L and has reviewed its Tangible Personal Property (TPP) Agreement with FP&L. The County believes our Agreement is clear that if the County is not collecting the monies within the Village as a part of the Fire Rescue MSTU, then the County will not owe any rebate to FP&L for the Fire Rescue MSTU. The County has no obligation nor interest in amending its TPP Agreement with FP&L to increase its economic incentive because of the Village’s termination of County Fire Rescue services.
We also recently learned by listening to the Village’s meeting audio, rather than by being advised by you, that the Village is taking steps to terminate the Interlocal Agreement and related ordinance concerning Solid Waste and Recycling Services within the Village. As you know, we are in the midst of a request for proposals for a new franchise agreement for such services. We have notified the proposers of your intent to procure your own service provider. Please be aware contrary to your public comments concerning the Village’s ability to collect “franchise fees” for such service, the County does not and will not receive income or franchise fees in connection with its solid waste franchise agreement.
Health, safety and welfare of the residents should be of paramount concern as the Village proceeds. I consider the residents within the Village boundary as County residents too. It is my hope that the Village Council and Village residents understand the Martin County Fire Rescue MSTU is an ad valorem assessment on the taxable value of real property and improvements. In the Village of Indiantown, the majority of the MSTU is paid by commercial/industrial property owners (for example FP&L) not by the residential property owners, many of whom receive the homestead exemption, assessment cap, and other exemptions provided by law. This is an important statement because I cannot expect the residents in the unincorporated area of the County and the Town of Ocean Breeze to shoulder the burden of a tax shift that would have to occur to cover the ‘discount’ the Village is trying to obtain. The taxes that are paid by the residents and businesses receiving Martin County Fire Rescue services are based upon taxable value and provides funding for the entire system including all apparatus and personnel resources. Only those individuals that have similar valued property pay the same annually, the others will vary, yet they receive the same service.
In conclusion, for the reasons outlined above coupled with the pending impacts of our current pandemic from COVID-19 and the resources we have to mitigate this crisis, I have extreme concerns with the Village pursuing an alternative fire rescue and EMS service other than continuing to participate in Martin County’s emergency response system and the level of service the residents have come to expect.
The County Attorney subsequently sent an email to the Village Attorney with a correction regarding the trash hauling:
From: Sarah Woods <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2020 2:20 PM
To: Taryn Kryzda <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Howard Brown <email@example.com>
Cc: Comish <Comish@martin.fl.us>; William Schobel <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Samuel Amerson <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Wade Vose <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Response to letter received 2/7/2020-DO NOT REPLY ALL
I inadvertently provided the County Administrator with incorrect language for the portion of her letter addressing solid waste and recycling services. I apologize for the error. To clarify: the County does charge a fee to our current provider for the exclusive franchise for residential and commercial collection pursuant to our current franchise agreement. The fee is calculated pursuant to a formula on a quarterly basis and it is estimated this is approximately 5%.
I spoke with the Village Attorney this afternoon who advised me the Village has no intent to terminate the Interlocal concerning solid waste collection for the upcoming fiscal year.
Sarah W. Woods
Indiantown may not be cancelling the agreement with the County regarding waste hauling this year, but it looks like it will next year. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the County to make sure the bidders for the new County waste contract knew this and that Indiantown could only be sticking around for a year. If I were the County, I would give notice now to Indiantown and beat them to the punch.
Here is a press release from the Village today:
For Immediate Release
DATE: Friday, April 3, 2020
Daniel Eick, Acting Public Information Officer, 772-233-0713 Susan A. Owens, MPA, MMC, Village Clerk, 772-285-7740 Amanda Bevis, DMG, 202-680-9262
INDIANTOWN COMPANY BATTLING COVID-19 WITH A 15-MINUTE TEST
Disaster Management Group distributing tests throughout the United States
Indiantown, FL – Indiantown-based Disaster Management Group (DMG), 19100 SW Warfield Boulevard, is working diligently to supply 15-minute COVID-19 tests to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Department of Defense, state, county and healthcare agencies throughout the United States. DMG acquired the rights to produce and distribute the test in the United States in March.
“DMGtest is the first time the same screening tool that offers a blood test for evaluating candidates who may have COVID-19 that was used efficiently and effectively in China, South Korea and the United
Kingdom is being used in the United States,” said Tom Rubio, CEO of Disaster Management Group. “This cost-effective screening tool can help communities all across the country quickly test, detect and monitor COVID-19 to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
“DMG is a perfect example of the commercial opportunities in Indiantown,” said Indiantown Mayor Guyton Stone. “Indiantown is the perfect place to find affordable industrial and commercial land for sale so that businesses can expand into South Florida. Indiantown has ample vacant industrial and commercial lands located within a Federal Opportunity Zone and is pretty much ‘shovel ready.’ We are pleased to have emerging industries such as DMG, Promero and others that call Indiantown home.”
The Federal Opportunity Zones Program was established by Congress through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The purpose of the program is to promote investment and drive economic growth in low- income and/or economically disadvantaged communities.
The Village is developing a new Land Development Regulations plan which will pinpoint existing and available commercial and industrial development zones.
DMG has been in the forefront of disaster recovery and rapid deployment efforts for 15 years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, DMG has been working closely with the CDC and DOD. DMG partnered with Promero, Inc., of Pompano Beach, FL, to develop a cloud-based app, DMGapp, that assists patients suspected of having COVID-19 with finding the nearest test site.
FROM THE MARCH 22, 2020 EDITION
COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 12, 2020
Perspective is everything!
A very rational discussion occurred regarding whether to keep the Solid Waste contract with the County or not. If the Village was going to go on its own, it would have to tell the County by May 1st or remain for another year. If it did decide to leave, it would have to make the decision by March 27th in order to have enough time to pass the required resolution to terminate the Agreement.
The County has been working on a new contract for the past 18 months. They are in the final stages but there probably won’t be a contract done by March 27th. The Village Attorney explained that next year they could deal directly with the County’s hauler and cut their own deal so they could charge the franchise fee.
It appears to me that the Village is going its own way whether now or next year. I doubt whether the Village could get it cheaper than what they currently pay to the County. The County just has so much more buying power. For argument sake, let’s agree the Village buys the service for the same price and that the level of service remains the same. It could then charge the franchise fee to the residents and that would be some extra money to the Village.
The Village would still need the County Transfer Station which does charge for its service. Stuart pays the County tipping fees. I believe state law mandates that the County should be in sole charge of the “dump” for the entire County.
What Indiantown does not seem to be considering is what happens if the County cuts the Village loose on May 1st. I spoke with the County, and I was told they could tell them to pick up their own trash ready or not. Being independent is a two-way street. It doesn’t always happen on a timetable you want.
Perspective is everything!
The Council is putting together a committee to look at the bidders on an RFP to replace Martin County as the Fire/Rescue provider. According to the resolution, there should be one Council Member, one resident, one business owner, one financial person and two subject matter experts. It may be really happening that the Village will go its own way for this service.
I was a strong proponent of Stuart keeping its own Fire/Rescue before I became a Commissioner, while I was a Commissioner and after I left. Stuart’s Fire Department is over a century old. It has the highest ISO rating given which only 373 other departments have in the country. It has been built up over time, and it gives great value to the City.
If Stuart was forming its own today, the City could not afford it. It is as simple as that. Fire/Rescue is the most complex and expensive of municipal service to provide. Why would Indiantown want to tackle something so hard when they have a highly regarded operation presently?
Of the three citizens who spoke (Myrtle Green, Bob Anthony, and Craig Bauzenberger), each thought the service was already good, although Bauzenberger said everything can be improved and the County should realize they are not the only game in town.
Dowling said that MCFR (Martin County Fire Rescue) would still be in town and available to answer calls. Thomas believes they could get a better deal. Hernandez stated that if the County doesn’t want to deal with us then… I assume she meant too bad for the County. Stone relayed that negotiations with the County were ongoing and they would get a better price.
The following were appointed to the RFP Committee: Anthony Dowling, Scott Watson, Craig Bauzenberger and Myrtle Green. The subject matter experts and finance person to be named later. It appeared that they changed the composition that was in the draft resolution.
Hernandez made a motion to go forward with the committee that was seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 5-0.
The RFP can be found at:
I spoke with Taryn Krzda, the County Administrator, and she has a different view on any negotiations. Her email to me is reproduced below:
Currently – our station is within the Village boundary – but we are assessing options to move to an area that would be more conducive to respond to the unincorporated areas. The only way Martin County would respond within the Village limits would be if the County and the Village had an automatic aide agreement – as of this moment they do not have that. If the County was to enter into such an agreement – there would have to be a determination of the monetary impact for the Village to pay for that service to cover the County’s Fire Rescue costs so that the unincorporated area MSTU is not subsidizing the Village operations.
We do have an interlocal agreement currently for dispatch and dispatch is provided with Countywide general funds. Would depend on what the interlocal says – they would need to amend the current interlocal agreement for the fire services, and I think my folks would then want to change all the other aspects. If they want to operate on their own – then they need to do that. I do not believe the County would want to assume the liability of directing a private company with our dispatch folks.
Howard and I met a few weeks ago. Howard sent me an e-mail today insisting that I meet with him this week so we can continue to negotiate. His offer on the table as you can see is $4.4M – The Village currently contributes $5.3M to the Fire MSTU. The $5.1M was based upon the actual personnel assigned to that station but I told him it did not include about another $380K for some of the overhead costs and another $142K for equipment – so you are actually at a number closer to $5.6M. He argued that overhead and equipment should not be added. He also told me he wanted the County to continue to pay the FP&L TPP portion as we do now – which is $529,000 so the actual number they are looking for as a discount to the Village is closer to $1.5M.
At the moment – my calendar is pretty full and I do not have any plans to meet with him this week – and possibly next…
Taryn G. Kryzda, MPA, CPM
The emails she cited between she and Brown are reproduced below:
On Mar 16, 2020, at 7:17 PM, Howard Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote
Thank you for agreeing to meet with me last Wednesday. I thought we made some progress on our continuing discussions about Fire/EMS services within the Village. I am writing to reiterate and clarify a couple points we discussed.
During our meeting, you indicated that it costs the County approximately $5.1 million per year to operate Station 24. As we discussed, the Village has completed a study of the matter, and our findings indicate that approximately 30% of the calls for service with respect to Station 24 are for services being provided outside of the Village boundary. 70% of the County’s $5.1 million annual operating cost comes to approximately $3.6 million. I mention this because I think one of the things you could provide to the board is the actual data report that spells this out in detail.
I may have been less than clear in exactly the way forward I was suggesting. As you know, the County currently provides Fire/EMS services within the Village by virtue of the Village having opted into the Fire Rescue MSTU. I did not mean to suggest that the Village could remain opted into the Fire Rescue MSTU, and then the County could pay or rebate over to the Village some portion of the tax revenues collected, whether related to TPP grant payments or otherwise.
Rather, I would propose that Fire/EMS services be provided to the Village on a contractual basis pursuant to an interlocal agreement, at the current level of service, and that the Village would pay the County $4.4 million per fiscal year for the provision of the services. The term of the agreement would be for three (3) years, terminating on September 30, 2023, unless extended by both parties.
I hope this clarifies some portions of our discussion, and I look forward to discussing this matter further with you.
On Mar 16, 2020, at 8:05 PM, Taryn Kryzda <email@example.com> wrote:
Understood – thanks. As I told you I would discuss with my Board your proposal.
Taryn Kryzda, County Administrator
Howard W. Brown, Jr., ICMA-CM
Tue, Mar 17, 8:46 AM
In reviewing this again, the piece you do not include – if 30% of the calls are outside of the boundary for the Village – during those times, we have other stations stage up to ensure coverage. So you can not just remove 30% of the cost – since coverage is provided 100% of the time – regardless of which apparatus is responding. This is a system, and the resources are distributed accordingly.
Taryn G. Kryzda, MPA, CPM
Tue, Mar 17, 10:59 AM Howard Brown
Morning Taryn and thank you for such a prompt response. As you know, I have time constraints that require me to terminate the agreement by April 9, 2020. It’s imperative we meet to negotiate a settlement price for these services. I am available to meet this week at your convenience. Thank you again and look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
It was decided to wait until Clarke returned at the following meeting.
REFERENDUM MARCH 17, 2020
There were two ballot questions to change the charter.
The first was to elect Council Members from specific seats instead of allowing the highest vote getters to win the seats up for election. The seats will still be at-large and be voted on by everyone in the Village. That passed overwhelmingly by almost 80% of the votes cast. The Council will have to come up with a way to differentiate the seats.
The second charter change was to transfer personnel policies from the Council to the Manager. That was defeated 260 to 193.
In August Stone & Hernandez will be up for election. Whoever is elected to those seats will then have a four-year term. It will be interesting to see if anyone runs against them.
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 19, 2020
Like many other municipalities, Indiantown held a special meeting to pass a declaration of emergency. Their declaration gave sweeping powers to Manager Brown. It appears they are much more than either the County Administrator or other municipal managers possess.
The March 26th meeting has been cancelled. The next regularly scheduled meeting is April 9th.
The Village Manager has the authority to impose curfews, restrict vehicles, prohibit the sale of alcohol, close places of public assembly, cancel Village meetings, spend funds, limit hours of private business operation and many more powers enumerated and implied.
The resolution can be found at:
In conjunction with those emergency dictatorial powers, Brown has forbidden Indiantown Church of God from having a religious service Saturday at 6:00 pm. The church is located on Warfield Blvd & Tyler Street. The fine is $500 per hour or portion thereof.
Covid 19 is serious! Most religious organizations have suspended services for the duration. That would be in keeping with directives of the state and federal authorities. I know that I wouldn’t attend. And I think God would understand.
However, do we want government issuing edicts to our religious institutions telling them not to gather to pray? When this pandemic is finished, do we still want to have an America that abided by our Constitution even when times were difficult? The actions of this congregation are dangerous. It could have the unintended consequences of spreading the virus.
My question is should the state limit our religious freedom in the name of safety? Should Manger Brown or any local official have the authority that the Council has given him. Does the Council have the authority to do what it has done?
Brown’s edict can be found at:
FROM THE MARCH 8, 2020 EDITION
COUNCIL MEETING FEBRUARY 27
Just because something is legally permissible doesn’t mean it is right.
This body continually wants to change the way that people have an opportunity to address their elected representatives. Instead of seeking to broaden the opportunity for public comment, they want to stifle the public speaking out on matters. Why is it always a burden to hear from the people that come to these meetings?
They brought back this item that was tabled last meeting to place all comment at the end of the agenda including from the Council and Manager. That would have, in effect, closed communication with the public during the meeting. The only people who would have heard the Council and Manager would be the small audience that would wait 3 hours for the end of most meetings. The public could have spoken on a measure after it been passed. It may be legal, but it is not right.
A motion to do just that was made by Stone, who (after some colloquy) passed the gavel. It was seconded by Clarke. That motion failed 3-2. A motion was made by Thomas and seconded by Dowling to leave things much as they have been. That passed 5-0.
People should speak! The Council should not enter a conversation or debate with the public but should listen and take their comments into consideration. They need to stop trying to relegate democratic speech to the sideline. It is bad for the future of the Village.
A consultant from St. Augustine conducted a hearing regarding applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The County has several in the works now, and in the past, the City of Stuart has also applied and received grants. They are a good thing.
With all the government we have in Martin County, I found it ironic that they needed to go north Florida to find someone to help with this process. I was told that the County offered their services but was turned down by the Village. The structure for these type grants is programmatic. It isn’t as if you need to have something inserted into the state budget.
His presentation can be found at:
While he is a consultant his presentations were gratis. There will be an RFP for services and the winner will be compensated on a percentage of the grant received. Further the consultant will have to administer the grant. This is standard practice.
FIRE/EMS IS ONE STEP CLOSER
In the Village, the County has a Fire Station #24, that answers Indiantown calls plus the surrounding unincorporated area in an average response time of 6.1 minutes. There were 1200 calls last year with 860 or 72% being medical ones. There were only 5 structure fires within Indiantown and 13 brush fires. The average fire loss was $2000.
In Station #24, there is an engine that has 3 people assigned, 2 ambulances with 2 people and each has a paramedic. There is other equipment in the station such as a Brush Truck which is for answering specialized responses. Even the Village’s consultant said the service was excellent and Indiantown could not create the same level of service.
So why is this Council so hell bent on leaving the County’s Fire/Ems?
Here are the Village’s options:
- Maintain current arrangement with the County
- Establish their own Fire/EMS Department which could be either by a Village department or outsource to a private contractor
- Create a Public Safety Department such as Jupiter Island. Then you will have cross trained Public Safety Officers that are law enforcement and Fire/Rescue.
- Renegotiate the agreement with the County and pay less than what unincorporated residents do.
The current Fire MSTU is $6 million for Indiantown. For that price, you not only have Station #24, but Indiantown has every other station in Martin County to answer calls when #24 is busy. The depth of service cannot be recreated with a stand-alone department. If you bow out of the County coverage, you also must somehow pay for 911 service and dispatch.
There is a term called “mutual aid.” That is if there is a large brush fire or a traffic accident that involves multiple cars, then other departments will come to Indiantown’s aid. Mutual Aid does not mean that if their department is handling a heart attack and another medical emergency call comes in at the same time, then Martin County will answer that call. They may, if asked, but that would be under an Interlocal Agreement. The County would charge for those calls.
While the MSTU is currently about $6 million, 86% of that amount is paid by one taxpayer, FPL. If FPL, for whatever reason, decides to reduce their footprint in Indiantown, then how would the Village make up the difference. While the consultant and staff are saying that Indiantown would save $1.2 million, in actuality 86% of that would be a savings to FPL. It appears to me there is much risk but little reward. By the way, the County does not have to take the Village back if this experiment fails.
The consultant believes that the alternative is to contract with a private company to provide EMS/Fire services. There would be some start-up costs such as building or buying a station. Though the Village would not have to buy equipment or hire employees under this scenario.
Under the existing Interlocal Agreement, if the Village will decide to provide for their own Fire/Rescue, they need to inform the County by May 1st and have their new department ready to go by October 1st. It is doable according to the consultant. My question is why? What is the advantage to the residents of Indiantown?
I did not hear any answers except it would be cheaper. It would be cheaper for FPL and marginally less for most homeowners. No figures were presented.
The presentation can be found at:
The contract for the consultant can be found at:
The third consultant of the night spoke about the Village evaluating whether to remain with the County for this service or contracting with a provider directly. There were no projections or other figures presented. The County is currently doing their own RFP regarding waste. The cost for Indiantown to remain under the County’s contract won’t be known for several weeks.
It was decided to wait until the County had gone through the process before bringing this back. A motion was made, and it passed 4-1 with Dowling voting no.
The presentation can be found at:
EVALUATING THE MANAGER
According to Brown’s contract, he should be evaluated every year. The evaluation is a bit overdue. I believe the Council is very happy with his performance, and I would suspect he will receive a high rating. It will be interesting to see if there will be any comments on how he could improve his performance.
Mr. Brown is a manager with knowledge of local governments. I would expect his evaluations to take that into account. Is there room for improvement? There is always room for improvement. That is especially true in the realm of hiring outside consultants. Perhaps the Council is pushing Brown to hire more and more employees and hire more and more consultants to bring services under the Village’s umbrella behind the scenes?
Soon, the County will begin pushing back. When they do, Indiantown won’t know what hit it. I am surprised the County hasn’t already. Brown better get his evaluations in before it occurs.
Evaluation information can be found at:
The actual form being used:
From The February 23, 2020 Edition
Why is it so important that the order of the meeting be changed?
This agenda item sought to change the Council Members’ and Manager’s comments until the end of the meeting. What is the purpose of that? It seems if the order were changed, the length of their remarks would be substantially shorter because there would be fewer people in the audience. Is it to prevent some Council Members from telling us what they did since the last meeting?
Stone and Clarke are a bit taciturn when speaking. Whatever they say, if anything, is brief. Hernandez can meander, but she tries to keep her remarks on point as does Gibbs-Thomas. Dowling does tend to tell you much more than anyone cares about though its up to the audience to listen or not. The order is currently working so I don’t think it needs fixing.
Interestingly, the item called for all public comment on agenda and non-agenda items to be up front before any one item is presented or discussed by the Council. While it may be within the parameter of the statute, it is a way to shut down public discussion. How can a member of the public comment on an agenda item if they haven’t heard the presentation or any Council discussion? The public is being deprived of an opportunity to put their two cents in after hearing what the item is all about. Just look at the ridiculous way the School Board does it.
Is it to stop concerned parties such as Scott Watson and the Powers’ brothers from speaking? By placing all public comment up front, it has a silencing effect on the people making their opinions known to the Council Members. The School Board handles public comment as this agenda item suggests. It is just wrong. The Council took a long time in finding the right balance…don’t do something that will make the meetings less democratic.
A motion was made by Thomas and seconded by Dowling, but it failed 3-2. Clarke made a motion to table the item and it passed 4-1. Freedom of speech is still alive in Indiantown.
Quest Corporation was chosen from the RFP process to be the Village communication consultant. My question is why do they need the service? Of all the pressing needs of the Village, this is not one of the stand outs.
The other two bidders that were local businesses were Upstairs Communication and The Firefly Group. Both had the capability to craft a plan for the Village. The Firefly Group proposed an extensive amount of services, requiring up to 40 hours per week, which would have cost an estimated $90,000 per year. Both firms have all local personnel. Upstairs Communications is a one-man shop that estimated it would devote 11 hours per month at $175 per hour rounded off to $2000.
Quest is not based locally but looks very capable and can handle the contract. Their price is a flat fee of $90 per hour for 10 hours per week or $46,800 per year. The two not selected are old Martin County standbys with an ability to touch the right person during a crises management situation or to defuse a problem. However, if I was on the committee, I may have chosen Quest also.
But again, I am asking the question why a firm like this is needed to provide these services? Whether you spend $90k, $47k or $24k it still is money that could be going into more basic things. Pave a few more roads or tell a story? I know where I would put my money. A motion was made by Hernandez and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 4-1 with Dowling dissenting.
You can find the proposals at:
Like a communication’s expert, all large cities need lobbyists. Only Indiantown is not a large city.
Dowling, Stone, and Hernandez just came back from a junket in Tallahassee supposedly advocating the legislature. Indiantown’s travel budget must be huge! I have some familiarity with advocacy having been a member of the Treasure Coast team and for Florida League of Cities Advocacy Committee. An elected official has the most sway with the state government when it comes to policy matters.
Lobbying for dollars is quite a bit harder. Usually an elected official speaks to his representative and that representative will try to get the project into the budget. Very few council people can reach out to other legislators who do not represent the Treasure Coast. Even fewer can do so for the right legislator outside their region to influence a budget decision. This is where a lobbyist would come in.
Most large municipalities will have a lobbying firm. If, after a session or two, the firm doesn’t bring in enough project dollars, they are fired, and another firm hired. A lobbyist needs to be able to get your project into a budget and then carry the item through committees and have it still be there when the budget goes to the governor for signature. Of course, the governor can veto the project if he wants.
The triumvirate of Dowling, Stone and Hernandez that went to Tallahassee probably had no effect on any appropriation. They may have gone to a committee meeting but what would be the reason? There needs to be a purpose to go to the capitol.
If you are going to hire any lobbyist, it needs to be someone to get your appropriation through the Tallahassee labyrinth. Any of the firms that submitted an RFP would be fine. They each received similar points by the selection committee.
It is my belief that the utility consultant is the person that will put together the financing for the water plant buyout. The Martin County Fair people have their ask, and Indiantown is an interested party. And County Commissioner Harold Jenkins spoke at the meeting and said that the County’s lobbyist would work with Indiantown for now.
Clarke moved to table this matter until the July 9th meeting. It was seconded by Stone after I think he passed the gavel. It passed 4-1 with Hernandez voting no. I think it was a smart move.
Jim Anniston-Karas made his final presentation of his visioning plan for the village. This is the culmination of his contract to design a new logo, hold visioning sessions, and make two videos.
The videos were not yet ready and so are not up on the Village’s website yet. The power point link to his presentation is below.
Indiantown Latest News
February 9, 2020 Edition
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 30, 2020
The controversy surrounding Manager Brown continues. The Council feels that it needs to defend Brown against what is negatively being written about him in the Indiantown Currents and on the Indiantown Community Facebook page. They are making a mistake.
As elected officials, they represent the people not Brown. It is true they picked him and thereby feel invested in their choice. However, their responsibility lies in finding out the truth. I don’t know whether what has been written about Brown is true or not. And that is the point.
The Council based its hiring choice on the advice given by the ICMA association retirees that volunteer their time. That is fine as far as it goes, but they do not conduct background checks. They take the information presented and then rank the candidates. Is this good enough? These Council Members and countless other ones believe that it is. It isn’t.
In her remarks, Gibbs-Thomas was brief and addressed the rumor mill. Dowling stated that Brown is moving mountains and that he was vetted. He may be moving mountains, but there was not a proper vetting of someone responsible for millions in taxpayer dollars.
Hernandez said she had reviewed every resume. I believe her. She also stated that she had someone check into him. When I asked later who that someone was, she said a friend who could google him with fresh eyes. She did say that she had met one of Brown’s former bosses from another Council and that he wanted him to return.
Stone asked how many ICMA-credentialed managers were in Florida? Brown apparently was an ICMA member but had let his credentials lapse. It appears he has not subsequently renewed them.
The entire way Brown was chosen is flawed. Having to meet the candidates and then choose your next manager the same day is dangerous. There is no time for reflection or thought. When you don’t have candidates investigated as to their credentials, work history and whether there is abhorrent behavior in their past, problems can arise. A bad or embarrassing hire could be alleviated with a thorough background check.
If I were on the Council, I would want to put an end to these accusations. This is hurting the credibility of Mr. Brown, the Council and ultimately the Village. It is not too late to do a discrete investigation of Brown’s work life to put the rumors to rest.
ONE STEP CLOSER TO BEING A UTILITY
Under Florida statute 180.301, the Village needed to have a hearing to determine whether they should buy the water utility.
The Council acts as judge to determine whether the Village has met the threshold to move forward with the purchase. The Village Attorney questioned the Village consultant, Gerald C. Hartman, to determine his qualifications to be accepted as an expert witness to advise the Village. After presenting reams of documents that were accepted into the record, the Council accepted his expertise.
Hartman testified as to why the Village should buy the private utility. There is no question that the utility has not been maintained causing the customers, Village residents, to suffer. There are leaks and other problems. The infrastructure is not in the best of shape.
Because the Village is a public entity, much of the now private owner’s cost will be substantially less. According to Hartman, rates would be able to be reduced or by keeping existing rates, money could be allocated to improve the system. The Village is planning on obtaining the money needed for the purchase through grants and very low interest loans from the state and federal governments.
The negative impacts that Hartman named were latent defects due to the age of the system. The Village would be assuming the operation of the plant which is a 24-7 operation and would take a minimum of 7 employees. He estimates the repairs and improvements to be $9.8 million over the first 5 years. The Village would lose $14,000 in taxes per year and they would not be able to institute a franchise fee. The utility could pay the Village an in-lieu payment to substitute for the lost tax money.
The purchase price is $8.5 million, and the closing must take place no later than September 2020. The Village does not have to close if they find the financing to be unsatisfactory.
Only Scott Watson spoke during the public comment. His questions were spot on and seemed supportive. Hernandez made the motion to move forward and was seconded by Dowling. It passed 5-0.
The Village needs to buy this utility. Without reliable water and sewer, Indiantown cannot grow. Martin County passed on the purchase a couple of years ago. Jupiter Island’s utility is interested but is waiting to see what would happen with the Village. Acquisition by another private entity would only drive the costs to the customer base higher without guaranteeing needed expansion.
Owning the utility is one of the only ways that the Village can responsibly grow. If someone other than the Village buys it, the Village will be seriously limited in its ability to do so. If it decides to annex a property, then without water and sewer, it may not be developable. New businesses will not locate in Indiantown and existing ones won’t expand. This is a necessary purchase.
The entire report is listed below:
Indiantown Latest News
COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 23, 2020
There has been a scathing article written about the Manager, Howard Brown. I saw it on the Facebook page entitled Indiantown Community. If the allegations are true, this should concern the Council and the people of the Village. Barbara Clowdus, the author, who publishes the Indiantown Currents is a journalist that has a wide following throughout Martin County. What she researches and writes should be taken seriously.
I am not going to comment here on whether her reporting is accurate or not. I do believe the allegations contained in the piece are serious enough to warrant Council action. The process by which the Village and most government boards follow to hire their managers is flawed.
Only cursory background checks are employed. This is unfathomable given the seriousness of the position. This person will be responsible for millions of dollars in taxpayer money. If the professionals that Boards employ to help them in the searches can’t even verify things like credentials and degrees, why are they being used.
There is an undercurrent out there between different factions that is becoming detrimental to the cohesiveness of Indiantown. Many believe, especially those living outside the boundaries of Indiantown, that they should have an opinion in how Indiantown should develop. And that is fine!
The ultimate deciders though are those that live within the Village boundaries. They elect the Council. Guyton Stone and Janet Hernandez are ending their terms this year. Both will run for re-election. Will anyone challenge them? If so, can they beat either Stone or Hernandez? If the electorate believe that the current Council Members who direct the Manager should remain then the people have spoken.
That in no way would mean that the Council should not take Clowdus’ reporting seriously. There is a solemn trust between those elected and the people. Mr. Brown is the CEO of a large and growing organization. The Council which is the Board of Directors owes the stakeholders good governance. The Council needs to act including hiring a reputable investigator to provide a complete report on Mr. Brown’s professional qualifications and work history. This would be a way of putting allegations regarding his past to rest.
We should debate whether the path Indiantown has embarked on is the right one. Both citizens and non-citizens can discuss policy. What needs to be eliminated from discussion is whether the Manager was hired because he provided an inaccurate work history.
The above reference article which is in the latest edition of Indiantown Currents can be found at:
JOINING THE BIG BOYS
Indiantown will now be required to participate in the joint meetings with the County, School Board, and City of Stuart. Under Florida Statute 163.31 when there is a school located within a municipal boundary you become a member of the club. The Council will now participate in the biggest waste of time in Martin County. The joint meetings are held at the Blake Library with the next one scheduled on February 13th.
Imagine 21 elected officials sitting around the table listening to boring presentations. For these are official meetings of the different governing Boards. Usually no motions or decisions are made but because they are official meetings matters can be considered.
The governing structure is spelled out in an Interlocal Agreement between the parties. That is why Nikki van Vonno, the head of County Growth Management, was at the meeting making this presentation. Welcome Indiantown!
The presentation can be found at:
The little things in Village bureaucracy can take the most time.
The concession stand at Big Mound Park is currently being operated through an inherited agreement from Martin County and the Tropical Soccer League.
After listening to the presentation, I am not sure who is taking their place. Is it one organization or will the different leagues that play at the park be the concessionaires? There will be improvements made to the concession stand, I think. The agreement has products that cannot be offered for sale such as vaping paraphernalia. Can anything that is not listed be sold?
At least to me the presentation was muddled with the Parks Supervisor, a Village employee, and the Parks outside consultant falling all over themselves to be incoherent. Wouldn’t it had been better and more logical to put out an RFQ for the running of the stand and have any income received dedicated to the Village for park recreation programming?
A motion was made to accept the agreement by Dowling and seconded by Hernandez. It passed 5-0.
The agreement can be found at:
Speaking of Parks, the Council voted to make the part time administrative person a full-time position. The Manager stated that person will now be available for other administrative options. Like almost all decisions the Council approved 5-0
SHELTER AND STORM WATER
Kimley-Horn made a study concerning having the Civic Center become a shelter during a hurricane. The building is currently not up to code to safely shelter people during a hurricane. The facility would need to be retrofitted and with the study that was performed not every defect was discovered.
What is known is that the roof is not adequate nor are the doors and windows. The roof alone would be $200,000 plus. While a new building would be between $350,000-$400,000. Martin County will provide a generator if the Center will sign an agreement for 15 years to act as a pet-friendly shelter. Indiantown is looking to be reimbursed for the $6,000 study from the state.
The Village does not own this building. The providing of shelters is the role of the County. I can’t think of a worse place to have any shelter than a single room structure without adequate facilities for hygiene or the preparation of meals. This is the current Civic Center. I am at a loss as to why the Village is involved in this process. Don’t they have enough on their plates?
That study can be found at:
Kimley Horn had a second study that was presented regarding storm water improvement projects. The Village assumed this responsibility from the County last year. They needed a complete assessment. Now they have one. A capital improvement project list can be developed.
The study can be found at:
Indiantown Latest News From The March 14, 2021 Edition