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 Martin County


The Special Olympics needs a person in Martin County to coordinate the program. The person will be based in St. Lucie County but mostly working remotely in Martin. Their goal is to increase the number of athletes and coaches by 20% and 10% respectively.

Should this be funded by the county budget? Commissioner Heard asked about performance measures to make sure there is a metric to measure performance. Staff did say they do have the ability to do that. What is always lacking in these discussions is a governmental philosophy. In this case, is the government the proper vehicle for funding this position?

Gail Goldy, a citizen who made public comment, said that charitable organizations should not be counting on the county to pay for what private contributions should do. I agree entirely with Goldy. Yet the commission in a 3-2 vote (Heard & Hetherington dissenting) voted to approve the $85,000 position. You will see how ironic this is with the outcome of the budget meeting described below.

Last year, the commission adopted an ordinance ending the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in retail stores. There were two stores that sold these animals. It was recommended by the Animal Care & Control Oversight Board that a one-year exception be granted to those two stores. The commission decided that one year was too long and shortened it to six months.

After the “tee shirt” brigade protested, the commission did make it one year. They refused to grandfather in the two stores. County legal staff told the commissioners that if the stores litigated, they felt the county could win. The stores’ owners sued.

After a year, there is a proposed settlement grandfathering in the two stores. They can also move to other retail places of up to 3000 square feet even though the current stores are 1260 and 2400 square feet. The pet store entities can sell their businesses to others. The commission created monopolies in effect since there are no other stores allowed in the county.

I guess it wasn’t that easy to close existing businesses.  They could have had a much better deal last year by just allowing the businesses to remain open. There probably wouldn’t have been anything about selling or moving. This is the government at work.

The budget hearing was a surreal event.

Usually there is no one in the commission chambers for the budget hearings. It is largely a nonevent. Not this one. There were at least a hundred people spurred on by the Martin County Taxpayers Association and the Republican Executive Committee.

There was a tax increase of 2.649% proposed. No one wants to pay an increase. Speaker after speaker voiced their disapproval without many suggestions on where to find the nearly $8 million to have a budget neutral increase. It was the usual “low hanging fruit” that could be found and cut according to many.

Like so much in Martin County, some of the same people who were lobbying commissioners throughout the year for funds for their pet projects were now asking why there was a tax increase. Like the Special Olympics position, each spending line has a constituency that wants funds. Look at what happened earlier this year when a group of parents lobbied for $100,000 for ballfield improvements to Wojcieszak Park. They got the money.

The real problem is the uniformed services contracts. Sarah Heard stated that there were $20 million in increases over last year. Yet except for Heard, the other commissioners gave them that money. The public didn’t seem to care when those contracts were signed, giving supposedly 12% raises that are much closer to 16%. Even with the crowd ready to go to war over a tax increase of much less than the inflation rate, they gave applause to the sheriff when he spoke. He is receiving millions more in increased funds.

We may have the best fire/rescue and law enforcement anywhere in the United States. The question is how you pay for it if not by taxes. I once drove a brand-new Rolls Royce. It was one of the best feelings I ever had. But when the ride was over, I drove my Chevy home. Wishes are just that… wishes.

How do you trim $8 million. The board can say to the sheriff that he must have no increases. The sheriff would then go to the Governor’s Cabinet and appeal the decision. He would most certainly win. Yet it would show commission resolve.

At this point, the contract with fire/rescue is signed. There is a contractual obligation for the next three years. What you can do is cut all new equipment for next year and make do. Perhaps hiring the former union president to be fire chief was not the best move by the commission. Make no mistake except for Heard the rest of the commissioners are to some extent beholden to the fire union for their support at election season.

The argument was made public safety employees were leaving for more money elsewhere. I don’t doubt that is true to a large extent. That doesn’t mean you just throw money at the problem. Money you don’t have, and the public doesn’t want to spend. You may want the solution to be able to pay more. Sometimes, because of reality and circumstances, it doesn’t work.

Where will the cuts fall? They would almost have to come from the CIP. There is a little over $10 million in that category. Postponing improvements and cutting FARBs (Fixed Asset Replacement Budget) are where most of this money will be found. And a little public sacrifice from the sheriff. Otherwise, operations will have to be cut, which means closing parks and libraries for instance.

This budget currently does not include the ridiculousness of paying $4 million to buy a piece of property to remove from the tax rolls in Palm City. The reason that some residents object to a new development of 90 apartments is laughable. That item will come back in October when the budget is over and currently no provision has been made. Yet the money will come from tax dollars. It will be labeled a Palm City only expense. Even though the lost ad valorum over the life of the project would be in the millions for the entire county.

The time to start the 2025 budget process for the citizens of Martin County is now. Residents cannot spend 50 weeks a year begging the commissioners to fund a project or hobby and then at the last minute become a fiscal hawk. It doesn’t work for taxpayers and residents or commissioners.

The budget and millage were passed in 34 motions. It was what was presented with the increase. The commission by law had no choice. For the most part, four commissioners voted affirmatively because it was the responsible thing to do.

In two weeks, there will be a hearing where the final millage and budget will be approved. That is where the cuts and millage neutrality will be enacted. Then I would imagine the public will go back to asking for more expenditures and the commissioners giving in to the “tee shirt” of the week.

Until there is a philosophy of government that outlines its purpose in Martin County, expect more of this nonsense. Commissioners voting for outrageous contracts, residents demanding services, and all refusing to accept the reality of what 160,000 residents can pay for. 

You can see the budget presentation here 



There was a memo on the flooding that occurs off the Beeline Highway since it was enlarged to 4 lanes. This is an item that has been discussed before. The district’s engineer, Higgins Engineering, has contacted several agencies. They cannot find an engineering change that would have caused any difference. The board decided to not pursue this item further. You can see the report here

Three entities had made proposals to become the district’s maintenance supervisor. The prices range from $125 per hour to $55 per hour. TJ Mansell who had performed that work previously for the district was selected at $65 per hour with an 8-hour minimum per week. You can see his proposal here

At the last meeting in July the district’s law firm was terminated. The board has chosen Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau, & Rubin P.A. as their replacement. That firm represents several cities in Palm Beach County and Sewall’s Point in Martin County. You can see their packet here

The board also decided to begin recording and showing the meetings. And in my opinion, it is about time. Florida should mandate that all meetings be recorded and placed on a platform to be seen by the public. In 2023 it is impossible to claim that a government is transparent and then does not have a means for the public to see its workings.

There were two options presented, one for $150 and another for $300. For a $150 it will be a static view with no ability to see presentations or speakers besides the dais. The lesser amount is what the board opted for. For a few dollars more they could have had what the public has grown used to in televising meetings. But this is progress.

Mr. Gazza was called on to make his last report as the maintenance supervisor. But instead of a report he just asked questions. The prime one being the board’s decision to address the next mowing of the district’s works at the January meeting. Before he took over the job, apparently the mowing schedule was not as often as it was under him. I believe the board wants to go back to that approach.

Mansell from his seat in the audience went on about how in the past he would just find people to do the work at the Tractor Supply. It was a very folksy soliloquy. If the board wants to take a more natural approach, then he is the right person. I am going to suggest that he step up to the podium to make his speeches as opposed to the “cracker barrel” forum of leaning back in the audience seat. That way we all have access and it will all be recorded.

Sarah Heard asked that the sheriff’s office report at every meeting. While patrolling there were 5 or 6 arrests for crimes they witnessed. The reason their presence is so needed is that of indiscriminate gun fire that is not only dangerous to others within Pal Mar but neighboring communities like Trailside. Again the deputy said they are seriously constrained on what they can do in this regard.

It was also mentioned that if the counties, SFWMD, and FWC have surveys and post their properties then they could enforce trespassing against those on their properties. Is it expensive? Sure, it is. Is it necessary? More and more it is my belief that it needs to be done.

Without it the sensitive lands that are being destroyed by the weekend warriors will continue. Give law enforcement the tools it needs for the results you want.

It does seem that the board meetings are much more civilized than in the past. Kevin Cutting the newest small landowner board member is thoughtful and wants to do what is best for the district. He doesn’t seem to have any ulterior motives.

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