June 16, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

As we build our subscription base (33,000 plus), Friends & Neighbors wants all to know what we do is a real community effort. All of our columnists write on subjects that are not covered anywhere else in Martin County and do so as volunteers. Sheriff Snyder joined those ranks with his first column in this edition.

Our government coverage is based on our deep understanding of the issues. Over the years we have built up relationships with elected officials as well as government employees. This is how we can present so much in-depth reporting.

We try to be fair and have as many contrasting opinions as possible. Our only caveat is the pieces express a viewpoint but not be mean or hateful. I believe that is the way all news organizations should operate.

Commissioner Jenkins, who is not running for re-election, has chosen Friends & Neighbors to issue a challenge. Blake Capps, one of the candidates for his current seat has been vocal in speaking out against Rural Lifestyle and his being asked to resign from the LPA by Jenkins who appointed him. Harold wants to debate Mr. Capps’ on the issue. This column is something all of Martin County should read.

We report on the opening of the new CRA project, The Patio in Old Palm City. City Manager Mortell breaks down development in the city during a presentation to the commission. The School Board looks at next year’s budget items. Village Manager Kryzda informs us about Terra Lago, the new housing development currently under construction.

Let me issue my own challenge to 100 of our readers to give $10.00 by going to the section of the website and pulling out your credit card. Friends & Neighbors is an expensive endeavor that brings you what is important to know for the people of Martin County. We don’t cover daily murders or traffic accidents.  We do cover the government meetings that affect your quality of life and your pocketbooks through taxes.

Have a Happy Sunday Morning!  

Parks & Tracks

My dreams are not as vivid as they once were. I am glad of that because it is one less thing, I need to keep track of. What I do find myself doing is daydreaming more.

Often it is something vivid I remember from early childhood. The first time I went to the corner grocery by myself. The book fair in 1st grade where I bought a copy of “Mary Poppins.”

Or when a bigger kid pushed me down an apartment staircase causing me to have stitches over my eye. It occurred after I had lunch and listened to the “Lone Ranger” on the radio. I remember it as one fluid incident, but for all I know, those 2 incidents could have also been two days or weeks or months apart. I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old at the time.

I remember sitting in my uncle’s ’49 DeSoto convertible in the parking lot of Belmont Racetrack with my younger brother and my cousin, Nicky, who is almost 6 years older. It began to pour.

The adult men would go inside for the day. Usually going to Belmont was a good place to hang out as a kid. It was bucolic. There were trees and picnic tables. One of the adults would come down to the wooden fence separating the “in” from the “out” every couple of races and bring peanuts or a soda or, if winning, a frank

If my grandmother took me to the track, I would go inside with her. I picked up the discarded betting tickets which were in different colors, and I had a make-believe army for a week. We would always go by subway and bus, so it was an all-day affair.

A couple of times my Aunt Marie, Nicky’s mother, drove us over to Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey to see a show (one time I saw Fabian there and another Dion & The Belmonts) and go on the rides. Other times we would end up at Rockaway Beach to go on their rides. We weren’t Coney Island people. For some reason, Brooklyn was treated as a far-off land.

These are the things that occupy my mind. Not very weighty or lofty but remembrances of things past. No Proustian madeleines…just the mind digging up my bygone early youth.



Talk About Inflation

I have been a vocal advocate of price transparency on restaurant menus.

One of my biggest complaints has been the price differential between cash and credit card payments. In today’s economy, cash has almost become extinct. To add a processing fee to a customer for paying in a very efficient manner for the business is just wrong.

However, I think it is equally wrong for credit card processing companies to charge a fee paid as a percentage of the gross price. It doesn’t take anymore effort to process a charge of $30 than it does $300. It is unfair to the business owner.

California has passed Senate Bill 478 which makes it illegal to tack on fees to the list price. The customer will be able to bring a lawsuit much as they can with the ADA. While that certainly affects restaurants, it is also aimed at hotels and concert venues. There is something to be said for transparency in all pricing. Customers should know what they will pay just by looking at the menu.

The law is intended not only for those credit card fee charges but also other tacked on service charges…the increased charge for ice in a drink, those crazy resort fees at hotels. What it doesn’t address are bank fees charged to the businesses owner for processing a credit card.

Once a business practice starts, it is hard to stop. We see it with the ubiquitous tip jars. If you are working at a counter, I am not tipping for you selling me a soda. If your employer is not paying enough to be there, get another job. If prices go up because of your increased pay, I will decide whether what is being sold is worth buying.

Should the government step in and outlaw fees? In my opinion, they need to immediately stop credit card issuers from charging such unearned fees. They are not partners with the businesses accepting the cards. The banks are gouging their customers who, in turn, are passing the charges onto their customers.

Restaurants and hotels should charge inclusive prices. No more credit card fees, service charges, resort fees, or other hidden charges. The customer shouldn’t have to take out a calculator to figure out the final bill when ordering.

Educational Vouchers

Educational vouchers and their uses are expanding throughout the country. Is such a development going to ruin our public schools?

I don’t think so. As a firm believer in competition, I know it can only make all schools better. At some point, big companies become behemoths that want to stop innovation. They stifle new ideas to preserve the status quo. Our public education system is a big business and the status quo is not good.


Recently, I was reading essays written by high school seniors. Punctuation was nonexistent in some. It was hard to follow their train of thought. I can’t understand how after 12 years of education, this was the result.

Is it so terrible that parents should want something better? Can we turn around this mess and prepare kids for the rest of their lives? I think we can.

I have heard all the arguments for why charter schools take money away from traditional public schools. Most arguments don’t pass muster. A few have merit and need to be addressed such as kids with special needs. But when one sorts it all out, there is no reason why tax dollars meant to educate kids should continue to be spent on a failed system.

The money should follow the child…it does not accrue to the school district. Even the argument regarding spending tax dollars on sending kids to religious schools doesn’t meet the test. In order for any school to receive tax dollars, the students must pass mandated tests. Those tests should be the same no matter where a student goes.

Recently in New York, it was discovered that certain yeshivas (Jewish religious schools) were not educating their students to N.Y. standards. Schools like those should be closed and be unable to receive tax dollars. But if a school has a component of a religious education, what is wrong with that? If the student can pass the mandated standardized test, then the allocated tax money spent accomplished the goal.

As a society, children’s education is of prime importance. That can be accomplished in many ways. The choice of where the child is sent to school should be the parent’s as well as the state’s.

Property Values

We have seen another dramatic rise in property values this year.

New construction, approved years ago, has come online. The other contributing factor is the increase in the value of real estate. However, for government purposes, not all values are the same. There is market value, assessed value, and taxable value.

Market value is determined by what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller for a parcel. Assessed value is what the property assessor believes your property is worth minus any assessment limitations such as Save Our Homes. The taxable value reduces the value by any exemptions. Florida has the most bastardized real estate tax system imaginable.

To further complicate the issues, at times reducing the tax rate can still mean a tax increase. There are also other problems when the real estate market is in a recession. For example, the 2008 Great Recession resulted in decreased market values. In Stuart, the commission further reduced the tax rate. Because of Florida’s unique property tax laws, it took the city until 2022 to collect the same amount in real estate taxes than it collected 2008.

We are now undergoing just the opposite with property price inflation. If there is one thing we can count on, it is that at some point the market will correct itself. That is why tax authorities need to be very careful when looking at tax rate reductions or even roll backs. It is much better to leave rates steady and place any surpluses into reserves.

Market corrections will occur. By placing surpluses into reserves now, taxes won’t have to be raised during the worst of a recession. When that happens, the reserves will be available to keep government spending on an even keel. The closing of parks, cuts to the number of employees including first responders, and other draconian measures can be avoided, and the reserves can be spent.

Since it is impossible to raise taxes as needed in Florida because of exemptions, state mandates, and caps, the state almost forces local government to have boom/bust cycles. When your favorite park is no longer maintained, the road outside your home is not repaved, and a fire truck is mothballed, blame the state for taking a perfect value system and turning it into a political fumble.

Form 6 Injunction

A Tallahassee Federal Court judge has put a hold on municipal officials from having to file Form 6 detailing financial information including income and net wo worth. Form 6 has long been filled out by state and county elected officials. It was new to city ones until this year.

U.S. District Judge Melissa Damian granted the injunction because the state did not prove that there wasn’t a less intrusive way by Florida in curbing corruption and increasing transparency. Damian included in her opinion that the law (SB 774) was likely unconstitutional.

Most municipal elected officials do not receive compensation for their public service. It is more and more a thankless job. Will this really result in less corruption?

By all means, Sunshine and Public Records laws should be adhered to and in fact could be made more transparent. But if someone is a thief then all the financial disclosure laws in the world are not going to stop someone from taking a bribe.


I would guess there is less corruption today in public life than at any other time. Whether you agree or disagree with a decision, the public fallback position shouldn’t be that the commissioner was somehow tainted.  That supposition may make a good movie or story but is very rare in real life.

More than 125 municipal officials resigned because of the law. Men and women, we will never again see in public service. For them it is too late. How many more good people decided not to run.

There is still a long way to go before this is over. Another pending lawsuit brought by 45 elected officials is winding its way through the courts. We will be keeping our eye on this developing story.

Blake Capps Debate Me On Rural LifeStyle

By Commissioner Harold Jenkins

I’ve happily called Blake Capps my friend for decades and believe in my heart that he’s a good man. But judging by his conversations with local media recalling why I requested his resignation from the Local Planning Agency shortly after appointing him, it’s clear that either his memory is a bit fuzzy or something funny is going on.

As longtime residents of Hobe Sound, we both want to preserve Martin County’s natural environment. South county is especially sensitive about keeping rural lands rural in character. Over the years, several large-scale projects were proposed along Bridge Road, galvanizing local opposition. More than 10 years ago when a couple of projects proposing thousands of units came forward, I wasn’t a commissioner or even thinking of becoming one. But I fought like hell against them, and Blake joined the many locals alongside me in the effort.

Years later when Knight Kiplinger proposed Pineland Prairie (now known as Newfield) on land he owned in the northern corner of Palm City, many Hobe Sound residents could comfortably support it. Most understood that it addressed the county’s genuine need for a wider selection of new home inventory without posing as much wholesale change or impacts as a similarly sized project would to Hobe Sound.

Any clear-thinking person could conclude that preventing the urbanization of rural Martin County would require innovative options that incentivized landowners to provide sizeable pieces of property for conservation in perpetuity.

That’s why I strongly advocated for Rural Lifestyle.

Its requirements are stringent: Minimum 1,000-acre parcels, 70 percent in open space, donating—when applicable to the project—at least 500 more acres of natural or agricultural land for conservation, the developer paying all maintenance costs, and three-tier legal agreements permanently protecting the land. It also prevents the proliferation of septic tanks along the headwaters of the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

The amendment locks large parcels into green space while keeping them on the tax rolls.

Allowing only one unit per 5 acres, Rural Lifestyle is consistent with the comp plan’s existing 5-acre ag-ranchette zoning. It appeals to low-density projects more than what large national builders seeking thousands of rooftops generally want.

Blake understood all of this as we discussed it multiple times. Had we not had a meeting of the minds on this and other important matters, I never would have asked him to serve on the LPA. 

Discovery Land Company’s Atlantic Fields provided us with a compelling test case as the first Rural Lifestyle proposal. Seeking 317 homes on 1,500 acres, the owner offered more than 70 percent open space and stripped the development rights of the 800-acre Becker Tree Farm to keep it in agriculture. To ensure it remains that way, the owner agreed to a three-party conservation easement co-held by the owner, the county, and an established nonprofit committed to land preservation.

With destinations such as Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas and Yellowstone Club in Montana, Discovery is the creator of some of the world’s most exclusive resorts. Atlantic Fields is its first project in Florida. Those 317 homes are expected to generate the annual tax revenue of 8,000 houses.

Yet when the Three Lakes Golf Course came before the LPA as the second project seeking to apply the amendment, Blake seemed to forget everything. Although the project proposed no homes—zero—he continually pressed on how many homes could be proposed. He then questioned what properties the amendment applied to, even though the criteria had been discussed in-depth and was the subject of public debate and press coverage.

When it came time to call the vote, Blake ran through his pro-con list on the amendment.

“This is a policy issue,” he said.

But the policy had already been set, challenged, confirmed, and codified. His job, as LPA member, was to make a staff-informed recommendation whether the project met its specifications—not pontificate about his various political theories—at least one of which was so inaccurate it prompted a swift and thorough correction from the county attorney.

That’s when I realized his vote was not about good policy or limited growth, but a calculated move for his future political run. His comments to Blake Fontenay of TCPalm.com and on a local podcast further confirmed that. He was playacting commissioner then in attempts to become one now.

So, to clarify the issue, I propose a debate between him and I on the merits and detriments of Rural Lifestyle. The voters deserve a fair airing of the topic and a full appreciation for where he stands

Harold Jenkin's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.



I am in receipt of Commissioner Harold Jenkins’ invitation to a debate on the subject of the Rural Lifestyle Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan.

I have been Harold Jenkins’ friend for many years. We both own small businesses in our home town of Hobe Sound – just one mile apart from each other.

While I appreciate the commissioner’s invitation, I feel that debating a sitting commissioner, who will be vacating his seat in just a few months, would be very unconventional and would not serve the residents of Martin County in selecting who should be the next commissioner for District 3.

Though Commissioner Jenkins and I have come to some disagreements about Martin County policy, I want to say that I appreciate him as a person and as a friend. I’m thankful for his service on the commission and to our community, and I wish him the best in his future pursuits.

Blake Capp's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Fletch's Perspective

Keith Fletcher
Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, President & CEO

With more than 600 members in our clubs daily and more than 6,000 kids impacted annually by our outreach programs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGC) staff is well versed in helping our members resolve all kinds of conflicts that arise among them.

But some situations have little to do with the trivial differences between two quarreling members and reflect a deeper concern.

This is where our Social Service Specialists come in. Led by licensed social worker Laura Contrera and composed of similarly credentialed as well as master’s level counselors, the team provides individualized, trauma-informed, confidential counseling to our members and their families for free.

Perhaps most importantly, the team operates proactively, creating community conversations aimed at destigmatizing mental health matters.  

“This is an invaluable service provided to club members as we can meet them where they are at,” says Laura, “thereby reducing the barriers to accessing services.”

She employs a comprehensive approach called the “Four-Tier Program” that anticipates each level of intervention.









Team Members Christine Henry and Sarah Ciampi

Tier One: Certified teachers provide weekly programming encompassing social-emotional learning where participants learn to recognize signs and symptoms of trauma and how to administer Mental Health First Aid.

Tier Two: Club members exhibiting troubling behavior enroll in H.E.R.O. (Helping Each Other Realize Opportunities), receiving one-on-one and group mentoring through activities that break down patterns of isolation, improve social skills and encourage engagement.

Tier Three: Master’s level counselors conduct behavioral interventions and crisis de-escalation measures in one-on-one counseling sessions often involving tailored treatment plans.

Tier Four: Trusted community partners visit the clubs to provide services as well as referral information to parents or guardians of club members in need of more formal psychiatric assessments.

Strong support networks are essential to mental wellness. But such networks must be built. So the Social Service Specialists organize events with our members and their families that:

  • Address current trends
  • Instruct on identifying signs and symptoms of concern
  • Separate facts from myths
  • Advise steps for emotional/social self-care
  • Reveal how to speak with people contending with mental health challenges.

Regular training keeps our Social Service Specialists sharp and attuned to the needs of our members. They earn certifications in Youth Mental-Health First Aid and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), a suicide prevention technique.

Sobering national statistics remind us how vital this work is. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in six young people ages 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder. Even more alarming, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 14.







Team Members Vivian Nguyen and Yessinia (Jessy) Aponte

This is our why—why we’re so committed to offering a top-tier team of highly educated and dedicated professionals to perform such services.

The wholistic health of the young people entrusted to our care requires vigilance and knowledge, gentleness and strength. The Social Service Specialists possess these traits and so much more in spades. While their efforts remain largely lowkey—especially when compared to our recognition of members’ achievements in academics, athletics, leadership and career skills—their contributions to the outcome are immeasurable.

Keitch Fletcher's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Why Is It So Cold in Florida?

Yes, cold.  I lived in Minnesota for 8 years and moved to Florida so I would never be cold again. 

And, yet…the grocery store, the doctor’s office, church.  I have to drag out my jeans, which I never otherwise wear, put on socks, closed-toed shoes (an anathema to our area), and a sweater (preferably with a hood) to go to a theatre!  I look like a heroin addict or at least a burglar.   Every receptionist I see is wearing a sweater.  I don’t get it, so I did a little research and found some interesting answers. 

First the government…
“the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends a temperature ranging from 68 degrees to 76 degrees, depending on the nature of the business occupying the building. For most commercial buildings, however, the ideal temperatures in the comfort zone range from 73 to 76 degrees.”  What do they know?  They’re all wearing suits.

A retailer explained that we are like chipmunks.  If we are cold, we’ll eat more or buy more stuff.  Not me.  I’m outta there!  I will not return to a restaurant where I can’t enjoy my meal because I’m too preoccupied with my toes falling off. 

I get it.  The chef needs to stay cool.  It is hot in the kitchen.  Too bad.  Why am I suffering because of your career choice?  And, paying for it!  You don’t see firefighters demanding to drive around in refrigeration trucks.  That’s right, they know the consequences of their career choice.  Deal with yours!

Buying more things in a store because I’m cold?  That’s just ludicrous.  If I’m shopping for something I really need, I’ll be in and out.  I’m not going to linger to check out what’s trending in a refrigerator. 

Medical people you can almost believe.  I’ve heard “It’s cold to stifle the spread of germs”.  Isn’t that what all that hand sanitizer is about?  WHY must you leave us dressed in paper sitting on a cold vinyl bed for 30mins before you breeze in not only fully clothed but wearing a coat! 

Besides, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), (We certainly trust them…don’t we?) cold air and even snow do not kill germs, bacteria, or viruses…” The flu virus can be more cold-resistant and can thrive in cold weather during the winter. Also, when bacteria and viruses enter the body, the host usually will have a warm temperature, where they can thrive, if they have the right temperature, which is usually the case.”  Seems like the germs will be drawn to my warm, albeit shivering body!   That must be what they mean when they say people get sick in hospitals. 

And hospitals, there’s another icebox.  My mom was in the hospital a few times.  I froze every time I visited her.  I spent the whole time trying to keep her warm.  What is with those blankets?  They shouldn’t even be called blankets.  They’re as thin as a paper towel for heaven’s sake.  Sick people don’t want to be cold.  They want to be warm and comfy. 

In the end I only want a good balance.  I don’t want to walk into a 90-degree temperature change from outside.  It may feel good at first until I’m holding my nose ‘cause it feels like a dog’s.  I think I’ll go visit my friends in Minnesota.  They probably still have the heat on.

Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors nor the Martin County Taxpayers Association's viewpoint.

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

There’s Good News.

I have been saving it up.  We have a lot to be thankful for. Americans answered the call. They enlisted, and went overseas and saved the world, and democracy. Twice.

Thank you.

I honor my father, who enlisted in the Army. He was embedded in England,  and Belgium. He marched into Paris, one of the US troops following behind General De Gaulle and the French army. Daddy never talked about the war to me. Once he told me a story.  You are fighting and you win the skirmish. Then you have a choice: how you decide what to do with your prisoners: march them back, let them go, or not.

This choice may haunt you the rest of your life or kill you in the next fire fight.

I honor my brother, a Viet Nam war time medic, serving two tours of duty. He became a Physician’s Assistant and as a member of the Army Reserves, he activated many times over the years to set up medical services in various locations when the call to service rang.

In Ohio a mammal thought to be extinct is not. The fisher is a mammal, related to river otters and weasels.  Also called a fisher cat, it is not a cat and does not eat fish. Hunted to death in Ohio, the weasels are migrating back to Ohio from Pennsylvania where the species survived. 

In bird news, the early birds have come, nested, birthed their chicks and moved on. The cardinals and blue jays sweet talk some other landscape.  Ravens are everywhere, my mourning doves are back, and I have several new visitors that I need to identify.  Helpful Hint: If birds start dive bombing you, it usually means they have chicks nearby.

In Florida news, Publix continues to create wonderful baked goods for its customers. My friends and I debate which location is the best. It really doesn’t matter since the secret ingredient is the Publix icing.  When  I start seeing  hurricane lit skies, and breathing humidity, I will be the  old timer at the bakery counter asking for special icing for my hurricane cake. Helpful Hint: If you are new to the area, get a Hurricane Planning  guide and use it to prepare.


Nicki van Vonno’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Hafner's Corner

David Hafner
UF/IFAS, 4-H Youth Development Agent

Election season is once again upon us. Over the next 5 months we will have candidates from local to state to national levels vying for our votes. They will likely promise a new direction or a better way to complete a path already begun. Whatever the political strategy, change will be in the vocabulary.

Not only will the candidates be working for your vote, so also will your friends, neighbors, and community organizations be lobbying for you to vote their way. I encourage you to keep an open mind with all the candidates until you have a chance to hear from each one and to form your own opinions.

Much like cheering for your favorite sports team, politics has very much taken on the “for us or against us” mentality with little room for middle ground. There will be a lot of polarizing statements made. People will say you are either for or against “X” and how you vote will dictate where you stand on the topic.

We need to reclaim the middle ground, invite an exchange of ideas, and encourage friendly debate. Can we intelligently elect a candidate without knowing all the options? Can we really know the candidates without fleshing out how they are similar and different from each other?

What if the other candidate is more in line with what you believe or what you feel our community believes, but instead you vote the way someone else told you to vote. You are doing yourself a disservice and are giving away your vote. Maybe your friend is also only voting that way because someone else told them they should do the same. These are just some what ifs, but they are very plausible.

In the end, candidates will be elected, and those candidates may not be the ones you supported. If you don’t take time to get to know each one before the election, you will have no idea who they are or where they stand on topics and issues important to you. And more importantly, they will not know you and where you stand on the issues- and they will be voting for you.

In closing I offer this: at a minimum visit each candidate’s website or social media page and read what he or she is about. Then call them and ask them what they are about and make sure they match. If you like the answers, ask them to meet with you and your neighbors or ask when their next event is and go listen to them speak. A little bit of effort could go a long way to making sure the person who best aligns with your needs and beliefs ends up representing you.

David Hafner’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

House of Hope proudly operates three thrift store locations across Martin County, all of which play a key role in the success of our organization.

The primary store is The Hope Shop at 2525 SE Federal Highway in Stuart, and is open seven days each week. Our other locations are located in our service centers in Hobe Sound and Indiantown. Thanks to the generous donations of items from the community, our stores are a key revenue source for our organization. Last year our stores generated 19% of the funds needed for House of Hope to provide our programs and services across the area that help to empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship.

There are different sales and great bargains all week long at our thrift locations, but we are so much more than a store. Our Clothes Closet Program, which provides clients access to clothing, housewares, linens and more, distributed nearly 160,000 items at no cost last year to neighbors in need. The stores also provide free books to other non-profits and teachers to encourage reading. The Hope Shop also provides the community with no cost access to medical equipment such as crutches, canes, wheel chairs, shower seats and other items as available.

House of Hope uses all of our facilities, including our thrift stores, to provide job skills training. At The Hope Shop, we work with clients and other non-profit partners to provide a positive learning environment for individuals seeking employment in retail. This store has over 14,000 square feet of retail and storage space where participants may learn merchandising, customer service, cashiering and a variety of important soft skills that provide a foundation for future success.

Recently, at The Hope Shop in Stuart, House of Hope started selling fresh hydroponic produce grown locally in Palm City at our Growing Hope production farm. The produce is also for sale in Palm City at Palm City Farms Produce & Market, our generous landlord who helped us to achieve our vision of creating our own farm. We hope that you will stop into one of these locations and take home some fantastic produce and support our mission in the process.

House of Hope depends on our amazing volunteers to help us be successful and have an impact on those we serve. This is especially true at our thrifts stores. This time of year many of our more experienced volunteers are gone for the summer and we are looking to fill those gaps. So if you are looking for a way to make a difference, meet great people, and be a part of a wonderful team, please consider sharing your time with us.

At House of Hope, we remain grateful for the privilege to serve our community. We know that our success and impact happens because of the generosity of so many of our neighbors who share their time, treasure and talent. If you want to learn more about us or find ways to support our mission or access our services, please visit us at www.hohmartin.org

Rob Ranieri’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Michele's Medical Moment

Michelle Libman, M.D.
Treasure Coast Urgent Care, Physician

More than 70% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin D!

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone. It gets into the nucleus of your cell and interacts with your DNA. It recognizes the Vitamin D response element which actually turns different genes on and off. If you don't have enough Vitamin D things won't be running the way they are supposed to operate.

About 5% of the protein encoding genome is regulated by Vitamin D. Vitamin D also plays an important role in protein synthesis as well as influencing the size of adult muscle cells. Vitamin D has also been found to be a potent antioxidant and can counteract the inflammation that leads to aging.

The Vitamin D receptor is also found on our immune cells. Vitamin D can modulate the innate as well as adoptive immune responses. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in auto immune diseases as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. Supplementing Vitamin D is also very important with respect to bone health as Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption in the small intestine

There is also an association between Vitamin D and breast cancer.

If you get your Vitamin D levels checked, you want to have your levels be close to 60 ng/ml. If you are deficient you should supplement with about 4000 IU daily. Once you bring your levels up to adequate levels 2000 IU daily should be sufficient. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which means it gets stored in our fat cells so you can develop toxic levels of Vitamin D.

Now let’s talk about omega 3's.. There are three forms of Omega 3's. There is ALA which is found in plants and there is also DHA and EPA which is the marine source found in seafood. A Harvard study found that omega 3 is one of the top 6 preventable causes of death. Omega 3 index is the best marker of Omega 3 levels in your body.

People with a high Omega 3 index of 8% have a 5 year increased life expectancy compared to people whose Omega 3 index is 4%! Most of the people living in the U.S. have an Omega 3 index of 4%

Interestingly in a randomized study they found that people with the highest Omega 3 index who don't smoke have the longest life expectancy. Conversely people with a low Omega 3 index who smoked had the shortest life expectancy. Most interestingly they found that smokers who had a high Omega 3 index had the same life expectancy as nonsmokers with a low Omega 3 index!

2 gms of Omega 3 a day can bring you from a low Omega 3 index to a high index. If you are vegetation, you can use an algae source of Omega 3.

If you are going to take a supplement you want your product to be tested by a third party to make sure the Omegas aren't oxidized. If they taste fishythey are already oxidized and are bad. Any supplements you take should undergo rigorous 3rd party testing to make sure you are getting a quality product.

Micronutrient deficiencies can lead to poor health and are certainly easy enough to fix!

Michele Libman’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

I told our publisher that I would be on vacation when my next deadline was scheduled. He said I should write the column before I leave for Italy, France, and Spain. Needless to say, I missed my deadline and am writing this as I float comfortably on the Mediterranean between these three countries.

I had an opportunity to spend an hour with my counterpart in Cannes, France. Penelope and I discussed our markets and the similarities and differences. Quite frankly, there are few similarities besides a willing buyer and seller.

In France, every seller finds an agent who will sell and market their property. Likely the agent will not cooperate with other agents, especially from competing offices. Once a buyer and seller arrive at a “deal” it will take several weeks before the notary (similar to an attorney) can write the deal, do research and convey documents. Nothing prohibits either party from renegotiating or canceling the transaction. Once all is signed … expect another three months or more before ownership is transferred. I prefer our system.

Much has been written and said about the changes that will take place in our real estate sales arena in the next few months. I am hopeful that the changes are less significant than some real estate leaders are forecasting. Despite the decision of a Missouri jury - our system was fair, transparent, and worked well for 100 years.

The MLS system is going to change and I think less affluent buyers will be the group most negatively impacted by the upcoming changes. When younger families save and sacrifice to gather enough for a down payment what will happen if no one can help them because they cannot “afford” the Realtor? I am confident that Realtors will find ways to help all buyers and sellers in the new sales environment.

Currently, in Martin County, I would say our real estate market is stable and well balanced. Prices continue to increase along with a larger inventory. More homes on the market are leading to an increased time from listing to closing (see chart).

Reasonable sellers and clear-headed buyers are making deals and closing transactions. Well priced properties are selling quickly because our community is a highly desirable place to live.

Please, be sure to consult a local Realtor whenever you are considering a move.

John Gonzalez’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

Frank Valente
Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, President & CEO

Exotic Pet Care

Some people may not know that our shelter at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast cares for more than just dogs and cats.

We also house small critters such as rabbits and guinea pigs. They may seem like easy pets, but they do require specialized care and attention. Before bringing one of these small animals into your home, it's important to understand their unique needs.

Rabbits and guinea pigs need plenty of exercise and will thrive in a large xpen instead of a cage. They need extra room to stretch out and explore their surroundings, as they are very curious creatures. Taking them out of their xpen daily to let them roam a separate area like a bathroom would be ideal for their physical and mental health.

In addition, providing the proper enrichment to keep their minds active is also crucial for the well-being of these pets. Our shelter has a very fun critter enrichment program which includes creating a variety of items such as hay stuffed toilet paper rolls, shoeboxes with holes filled with veggies, and much more. If cared for properly, they can even be trained to do tricks, use the litter (hay) box, and come when called.

According to the Rabbit House Society, both rabbits and guinea pigs need a diet of fresh hay and greens daily, and a small amount of pellets. What many people do not know is that hay makes up 85% of their diet and should be offered 24/7 since their metabolisms are so fast. Unfortunately, not all store sold food and treats are safe. Make sure to stay away from purchasing any colored pellets or pellets with seeds as they are not healthy for your critters.

Rabbits and guinea pigs are very social creatures and will flourish with a bonded friend and regular attention. It’s important to educate yourself on how to properly bond a rabbit or guinea pig together so ensure that it goes well. Forcing two critters together without taking the proper steps can result in fighting and harm for your pet.

Sadly, our shelter receives many stray rabbits from people who have gotten bored of their pet and dump them outside. Although we frequently see wild rabbits living fulfilling lives outdoors, domesticated rabbits cannot survive in the wild. If you or someone you know cannot properly care for your small pet, please reach out to our shelter for assistance at 772-223-8822.

We have so many small pets ready to find their forever homes here at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast. Some of these critters are singles and others are bonded pairs. We constantly strive to educate the public on proper care so that each one of our small animals can have the best paw forward to their new forever home.

If you’re ready to make the decision to adopt a critter, please come visit us at 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave, Palm City, FL. With the right knowledge and preparation, rabbits and guinea pigs can make wonderful, rewarding companions.

Frank Valente's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

The Palm City Chamber of Commerce is an advocate for local employers. We would like to inform you of some recent revisions in a few laws and rulings that affect employment practices and, possibly, your role as an employer.

  1. Are the individuals working for you properly classified as an Employee or an Independent Contractor?

Effective March 11, 2024, the Final Rule of the Department of Labor (DOL) was issued that states regardless of the industry or number of employees, all employers should review the classification of individuals currently viewed as independent contractors to ensure compliance with the law.  Tu are encouraged to review the official revised ruling on the DOL website:https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/13-flsa-employment-relationship

  1. Are the employees on your payroll properly classified as exempt or non-exempt (hourly)?
  2. here are a number of categories when an employee may be classified as exempt (not eligible for overtime pay).   To qualify for exempt status, the employee must first satisfy the duties test for the appropriate category associated with the employe’s assigned duties and level of responsibilities.  If the employee satisfies the duties test, he/she must also satisfy the standard salary level dictated by the DOL.  Effective July 1, 2024, the salary threshold for an employee to be classified as exempt will increase to no less than $43,888 annually ($844/week).  In January 2025, the salary threshold will increase to $58,656/annually ($1128/weekly).

There is a special duties test for certain highly compensated employees (HCE).   Effective July 1, 2024, the total annual compensation for this exempt (executive) category is $132,964 annually; $151,164 annually on January 1, 2025. 

When calculating both the standard salary level, as well as the HCE’s annual salary threshold, the DOL states that an employer can include non-discretionary bonuses (i.e., incentive payments, commissions, and production bonuses).   Other key provisions of the revision include that:

  • non-discretionary bonuses can satisfy 10% of the standard annual salary threshold of a properly classified exempt employee;
  • the exempt employee must be paid a weekly salary no less than 90% of the weekly standard salary level to maintain exempt status; and
  • the employer must ensure that the employee is paid an annual compensation in alignment with the DOL’s required annual salary level.

More information on this regulation can be obtained from the Department of Labor (Wage and Hour Division):  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/17a-overtime

  1. Do you require your employees to sign a Non-Compete Agreement?

In April 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the organization that enforces antitrust and consumer protection laws, issued its Final Rule broadly banning all new, post-employment Non-Compete Agreements citing contractual conditions that prevent the exiting employee from taking a new job, commonly with a competitor, within the same industry or within a geographic area, and/or starting a new business in the same or like-industry.  (Note that for-profit entities are required to comply with the new ruling; however, most non-profit organizations and some insurance companies and banks are exempt from compliance.) 

The new rule makes all existing non-complete agreements unenforceable, except for those agreements currently in place with senior executives.  More information on this ruling, that goes into effect on September 4, 2024, can be found on the FTC website:


Missi Campbell’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It is June 10th and the heat of summer is upon us.

The summer surf fishing kicked into high gear when the winds of late May backed off and surf conditions became pretty darn good. Light winds and a calm surf were all we needed to start the great fishing for Florida's best eating fish - the whiting and croaker. This past weekend my family and I put over one hundred of these great tasting fish in the cooler.

I did spend some time at the fillet table, but I have quite a few happy friends and neighbors who will now be able to enjoy a "South Hutchinson Fish Fry". The other game fish that is showing in numbers is the snook. This is a catch-and-release fishery during the summer, but they are chasing and eating the croakers that have moved into the area. Live lining a live croaker in the first trough at beaches like Glasscock, Tiger Shores,  Bryn Mawr and Stuart beach are are giving anglers some great catch-and-release snook fishing ranging from 25 to almost 40 inches. 

As far as tackle and bait to put some whiting and croaker in the cooler, a 7’ rod with a 3000 to 4000 sized spinning reel is all you will need. The two Fishbites baits that have been producing best for me are the Chartreuse Bloodworm and the new Chartreuse/Shine/Flesh Shrimp baits. Tip your hooks with a small piece of fresh or frozen shrimp along with the Fishbites and start bending a rod.

The time to target your fishing trips should be an hour or two before high tide to an hour after the tide turns. The whiting have been holding in the near shore trough 5 to 10 yards from the edge of the beach and the croaker have been stacked up 20 to 40 yards off. Sunscreen, Gatorade, water, and a cooler with ice are all necessities at this time of year.

The light winds will make it feel much hotter than what the thermometer is reading but the nice fact about this type of surf fishing you do not need a full day to put a nice catch together. This action should continue right into July so get your kids, grandkids, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews up to the beach and have some fun.

I hope everyone has a great summer and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. You can text me at 609-903-8243 or email me at dsperco@yahoo.com. Good luck this month and catch 'em up.

Paul Sperco’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

As June approached and I began reading and hearing about Pride Month celebrations, I was reminded of a Martin County School Board (MCSB) meeting that drew a crowd protesting the LGBTQ+ History Month Proclamation that I requested the board approve. The Proclamation was developed to recognize the contributions LGBTQ Americans made including:

  • working to strengthen our society;
  • helping to create the social, legal and political worlds we live in today;
  • renewing our commitment to the struggle for equal rights for LGBTQ students and staff;
  • ensuring the Martin County School District (MCSD) is committed to the academic success of all youth, and to removing barriers to that end;
  • supporting LGBTQ youth so they feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment or discrimination;
  • providing support to LGBTQ educators, students and families so they can live an affirmative life with dignity and respect;
  • partnering with community-based organizations and community leaders to educate, support and provide resources to promote safe learning environments for all students and families; and
  • promoting equal protection of all MCSD students and staff, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Proclamations are official announcements made in public to bring awareness to an issue, and just like other times when proclamations have been approved by the board and read into the record, there would be no other action taken. This proclamation was meant to ensure that our students and staff knew that as a school district, we value, support, and celebrate diversity.  However, the rumor mill was in full throttle and the mood in the building during this school board meeting was emotionally charged because, as I learned from citizen comments made during Open to the Public (OTP), people who were against the proclamation somehow understood the proclamation was tied to curriculum and instruction. 

The lobby outside the board room was filled with loud, hostile community members aiming to dissuade the Board from approving the proclamation. I do not believe these public protestors were representative of our community because Board members received many emails from citizens supporting the proclamation. Several members of the community contacted me directly wanting to speak publicly but were fearful because of the hostile climate outside and inside the board room. What struck me during OTP were the number of pastors from our community who expressed their disdain toward the LGBTQ community. When speaking in opposition to the proclamation, they tried to express they were not being judgmental; however, the perception by many was that they were being judged. As a Christian, I struggle to understand their interpretation of the Bible…They reminded me of the Pharisees in the Bible. Jesus said to the Pharisees,

                               “He who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” John 8:8

Several speakers shared that these students were not the only ones to be bullied and asked why we should single out this group.  State legislation targeted this population, and I believed it was critical as a school board that we publicly expressed our support. As school board members and educators, we have a moral and ethical obligation and responsibility to provide students with an effective teaching and learning environment that is physically and emotionally safe, and we must teach and build respect for the worth, dignity, and equality of every individual.

“There is no Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,

              there is no male and female for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:28

Victoria Defenthaler’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group

E-bikes on Sidewalks: What Happens When Someone Gets Hurt?

Bicycles with electric motors—E-bikes—have become extremely popular. They operate like ordinary bicycles in many ways, but often at twice the speed. This can pose a serious danger for pedestrians when an E-bike is operated on the sidewalk.

So, is it legal for people to ride motorized bikes on the sidewalks of Stuart and other towns in Florida? What happens if an E-bike rider causes an accident?

Florida Statutes Treat E-bikes Like Regular Bicycles

Under Section 316.20655 of the Florida Statutes, those riding E-bikes are entitled to all the privileges and subject to all the duties of individuals riding other types of bicycles.  E-bike operators are not required to have a license or to have insurance, even though these bikes are allowed to operate at speeds of up to 28 miles-per-hour.  Riders are authorized to operate on streets, bicycle lanes, bicycle paths, and multi-use paths. Although sidewalks are not specifically listed as acceptable places of E-bike operation, Section 316. 2065 refers to bicycles operating legally on sidewalks, and since E-bike riders are afforded the same privileges as other bike riders, they are allowed to operate on sidewalks.

However, while state law does not prohibit E-bike operation on sidewalks, the statute does allow local governments to adopt regulations that prohibit or restrict the use of E-bikes on sidewalks.

Local Restrictions

Local municipalities, such as St. Pete Beach and  Fort Myers Beach have enacted rules prohibiting E-bike operation on sidewalks. There does not appear to be any such restriction in the City of Stuart.

Liability of E-bike Riders

Even when E-bike riders are allowed to operate on sidewalks in Florida, they still have a duty to operate safely. Pedestrians on sidewalks are vulnerable to injuries when hit by any bicycle, and E-bike riders are subject to the same responsibilities as other bicyclists. If an E-bike rider fails to exercise reasonable care while riding, particularly on a sidewalk, they can be liable for any injuries they cause. Additionally, as with bicycles, under Florida Law, E-bike riders on sidewalks must yield the right of way to pedestrians. The ultimate responsibility falls on the E-bike rider to proceed with caution on sidewalks.

Since state lawmakers have not put restrictions on E-bikes and local municipalities are not acting uniformly to restrict E-bike usage in crowded areas, it may take several major lawsuits leading to significant liability to motivate E-bike riders to stay off sidewalks.

Talk to a Lawyer if You are Injured as a Pedestrian

Pedestrians in Stuart and other parts of Florida often feel like they are under siege from those on E-bikes, scooters, hoverboards, and other micromobility vehicles threatening to run them over. Until lawmakers set limits on the use of these vehicles, pedestrians have no choice but to be watchful at all times. However, when a collision occurs, the operators of these vehicles can be held liable. 

Gene Zweben’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Sheriff"s Section

Sheriff William D. Snyder
Martin County Sheriff

As your Sheriff, my foremost responsibility is ensuring the safety and well-being of our community.

Over the past 12 years, we have made significant strides in addressing public safety issues that directly impact the quality of life in our county. Most recently, the growing problem of traveling vagrants and panhandlers has come to light. I would like to share with you the efforts of the Martin County Sheriff's Office in minimizing the presence of traveling vagrants and preventing the establishment of an oversized sober home/rehab facility that would undoubtedly bring unwanted public safety issues into our community.

Traveling vagrants pose a unique challenge to our County. They often move from place to place, lacking stable housing and the means to support themselves. This transient lifestyle can lead to an increase in crimes, public disturbances, and a general sense of insecurity among our residents. To address this issue, our office has implemented several measures aimed at reducing the number of vagrants traveling through and settling in Martin County.

Firstly, we have increased our Community Policing efforts in areas known for transient activity. For years, my deputies have worked closely with social service providers and veterans support services to engage with our homeless and transient population. This includes trying to assist the homeless and find ways out of the crisis they find themselves in.

Unfortunately, nearly all those who have been offered such help have declined. While working with our local homeless population, we discovered an alarming increase in traveling vagrants, many with non-extraditable criminal warrants from other states. These individuals were creating camps on private property, being combative with our citizens, littering, vandalizing, being uncooperative with law enforcement, and expressing a complete disregard for our hometown.

Through that, we learned that a local social organization providing daily meals and tents to these individuals was overwhelmed by transients drawn here by rehab and detox programs. Once their sessions ended, they were abandoned only to become our newest homeless residents. Since that discovery, we have worked with local social organizations to create new service guidelines that will eliminate the appeal for transients to seek out or remain here.

Additionally, I strongly opposed a zone change that would allow for a 120-bed sober home/live-in rehab facility in Martin County. While we recognize the importance of sober living facilities, it is crucial to consider the potential negative impacts of such a large establishment in our community. The proposed facility would have brought hundreds of individuals from around the country with histories of substance abuse, criminal behavior, and other issues that could increase our homeless population and disrupt the safety of our neighborhoods. The zone change for that project was unanimously denied by Stuart City Commissioners for now. I realize our efforts to address such concerns is a long game, and we will stay on it.

In conclusion, I want to assure you that the Martin County Sheriff's Office remains dedicated to protecting our community and preserving the quality of life for all our residents. By addressing the challenges posed by traveling vagrants and preventing the establishment of oversized sober homes, detox facilities, and homeless camps, we are taking proactive steps to ensure that Martin County remains a safe and peaceful place for our residents.

William D. Snyder's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Forever

Preserving Martin County’s Natural Lands – Forever








Committee Members Jim Snedeker and

Merritt Matheson, former Mayor, City of Stuart

How Preserving Martin County’s Natural Lands Will Benefit its Residents

Guest Author: Student - Cat Villano

Introduction and Wrap-up by Jim Snedeker and Merritt Matheson

This fall you’ll be asked to vote on a Referendum that will appear on the ballot like this: “Lands to protect water quality, natural areas and wildlife habitat one-half percent sales surtax.”

 So why should anyone consider supporting this?

It’s been mentioned in past Martin County Forever articles how it took more than a year of hard negotiating to build in legally binding “guardrails” that will firmly control how the money generated will be used, including a nine member Citizen Oversight Committee and annual audit. Now we’ll look at how the younger generation and a future leader perceives the Referendum and the value of saving natural lands.

From Cat Villano, 2022 Pine School graduate and junior at University of Florida:

“As my parents and I exited I-95 onto Bridge Road in the summer of 2017, I looked out the
window and observed the green expanse of land that unfolded before us on our way to our new house in Hobe Sound. I had lived in Miami, Florida for my entire life. My last few years in Miami were defined by construction, traffic, and excessive development. Here I was, only 90 miles north, feeling like I was on another planet: an oasis nestled between mangroves, pine scrub, river, and ocean without a high rise in sight.

I have now called Martin County my home for seven years, and I have learned so much about the environment just by living here. I have chanted “Stop the Discharges!” at the top of my lungs during River Kidz rallies, taken walks through the sand pine scrub while attending the Pine School, and hesitantly handled snakes and spiders while volunteering at the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge.

As a Pine School graduate and a current student at the University of Florida, I’ve had many great teachers during my formal education. However, the Florida ecosystem has taught me innumerable lessons beyond the classroom. During my hikes through Jonathan Dickinson State Park, scuba dives in Martin County’s mosaic of waterways, and relaxing afternoons at Blowing Rocks Preserve beach, I have seen nature work in instinctual harmony: every mangrove, insect, and mammal doing its part. Observing this ecosystem (some of which is nearly untouched) has given me an understanding of interconnectedness, balance, and beauty.

My greatest hope is that future generations will similarly experience the joy of exploring and learning from this great oasis, and with that hope comes a charge to change the culture of environmental disruption in Florida. A myriad of problems threaten Florida’s diverse ecosystem, including pollution, biodiversity loss, and water insecurity. Land development has provoked and exacerbated these issues in the past, and we cannot allow history to repeat itself. Draining the swamp, diverting Lake Okeechobee runoff, and destroying pine forests in the name of development cannot continue the way it has for so many decades. This is why Martin County Forever’s land conservation initiative is an essential mission for safeguarding our future.

It is often said of my generation that we are the first to feel the impacts of climate change and the last to be able to do anything about it. A great responsibility has been assigned to the youth and future generations of America. Working with River Kidz, I have found great comfort in meeting many inspiring young people in Martin County who embrace this responsibility.

Protecting our future means recognizing the vision of initiatives like Martin County Forever.

The great environmentalist Jane Goodall once said, “The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” To echo her sentiments, I say take responsibility. Strive to be bold in the effort to conserve Martin County.”

As Cat explains, Martin County is a very special place - and we want to keep it that way. This conservation initiative is our best chance - and maybe our last chance - to purchase these undeveloped lands from willing sellers and ensure they remain that way during our lifetime and for future generations.

If you’d like to dive into the details, the full referendum and ordinance language can be found here.

Any questions? Please reach out to us at martincountyforever@gmail.com

For much more info visit www.martincountyforever.com. Follow us on Facebook at Martin County Forever Facebook  or on Instagram at Martin County Forever Instagram.

Snedeker & Matheson's opinions are their own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices

Helping People Succeed’s April Showers Gifted Families May Flowers

By Glenna Parris

                                  Paul Gargolinski, Ann Mehling and Sheryl Britton

Thrivent and Helping People Succeed celebrated the end of another outstanding month-long “Baby Showers” event on April 27 with a catered brunch at the nonprofit’s Jensen Beach headquarters.

For over 10 years, this community-wide event has collected baby necessities for families in need who are served through Helping People Succeed’s Healthy Families program and Baby Steps, which offers support and services to families who may be experiencing stress in their lives that makes parenting more challenging.

Jan and Walt Hanssen

These services are offered through home visits with a Family Support Specialist which may start before or shortly after the birth of a baby, and can continue until the child’s fifth birthday.

The major event, held on April 27, was an actual Baby Shower with a buffet brunch – catered by Jan’s Place, games, music and more.

Christine Sears, Heather Bleier and Patty Pollak

The team from Pathfinder Financial Group of Thrivent, who sponsored this brunch, were on hand to show their appreciation to generous donors. They wholeheartedly believe that money is a gift to be stewarded; to help make a positive impact on our community. They understand it’s hard enough to raise a child under normal circumstances. Helping People Succeed walks alongside families to help them flourish; which is why Thrivent’s Amy, Rob, and Heather partnered to amplify the impact of April Showers.

Cher Fisher, Amy Whitlach, Carolyn Moses and Claire Nash

Helping People Succeed is thankful for the support from Thrivent as well as that of the entire community. Over thirty businesses in Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties hosted “Shower Boxes” in their businesses. These in-kind donations equate to a $17,000 gift to Helping People Succeed. Suzy Hutcheson, CEO of Helping People Succeed said “April Showers brings happiness to so many of the families we serve who don’t receive new gifts or baby showers. Rob, Amy and Heather are great examples of how giving, especially to those who truly need it, makes our community and our world better”.

                                            Marian Vitale, Jan Robson and Trish Blake

Helping People Succeed is celebrating 60 years of service to the community. Through its diversified, effective program services and initiatives, hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable local children, families and adults have been able to transform their lives through education, counseling, training, and employment. For more information, contact Glenna Parris at 772-320-0778


Martin Artisan Guild’s Annual Summer Salon

By Jackie Holfelder

The red-hot Summer Salon presented every year by Martin Artisan’s Guild will take place from July 3- August 31 at Palm Room Art Gallery and Artisans Boutique, located at 3746 SE Ocean Boulevard in Harbour Bay Plaza, Sewall’s Point.

                                                                                                      Alexandra Akerberg

The popular opening reception is set for Wednesday, July 3 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. with appetizers and cash bar.

Barb Bucci

The Meet the Artists event is always a fun-filled gathering and this one will be no exception. Plan on dropping by Wednesday, August 7 between 4-6 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

Exhibiting artists include:

·        Alexandra Akerberg

·        Barb Bucci

·        Chris Kling

·        Danuta Rothschild 

·        James J. DeMartis

·        Jane Lawton Baldridge

·        Jose Farinas

·        Laura Kay Whiticar Darvill

·        Lynn Morgan

·        Marian Vitale

·        Sue Klahne

·        Susan Clifford

·        Dot Galfond

·        Tepa Charles

·        Mallo Bisset

·        Michaelann Bellerjeau]

Laura Kay Whiticar-Darvell

Don’t forget to check out the special, one-of-a-kind items in the Artisans Boutique.

The Palm Room Gallery is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from noon - 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

For more information, visit www.martinartisansguild.org

Photos provided by Martin Artisans Guild


We recently had the honor of holding the graduation ceremonies for our VPK and 3rd Grade graduates. Our VPK students graduated from Banner Lake Early Learning Center and most of them will be attending Banner Lake Academy in the fall. We are so glad to have the opportunity to continue to guide their education. Historically, children that graduate from Banner Lake Early Learning Center score higher than the national average in reading and math. For this reason, we are confident that our recent graduates will be starting their Elementary education with an excellent foundation.

3rd grade graduation is always bittersweet for the staff and volunteers at Banner Lake Academy. We have watched many of the children grow from babies to the young people that they are today. We feel an incredible sense of pride for their accomplishments and a deep joy for being able to be a part of their childhood. Their families have become our family. We wish them all the best as they continue their education. Our graduates will attend a variety of schools to finish their elementary education. Some of the schools that our graduates will be attending include, Good Shepherd Episcopal School, Jupiter Elementary, and Pinewood Elementary.

As an end of year trip, the 3rd grade class spent a day filled with fun and learning at the Hobe Sound Nature Center. The children experienced Seining, which is a type of net fishing. During this trip they explored and observed fish and other local marine life. During the graduation ceremony the children expressed gratitude to their families and educators through poetry, songs, and dance. Each student also received a small cash stipend to go towards their future educational endeavors.

Even though they will no longer be Banner Lake Academy students, we can look forward to seeing many of them at BLAST (Banner Lake After School Time) which has programs for each grade level. We will also always be willing to partner with and support them and their families.


Ready for Adoption…The Panther Edition!

Olive is a very petite little gal who is barely 2 years old and has already cared for a litter of kittens.  She has a sleek shiny black coat with a hint of white at the tip of her tail.  Despite so many showstopping attributes, Olive is a quiet sweet soul who just wants to live a quiet life with people she loves.  She welcomes attention and affection in a quiet and appreciative way…come meet her!

Payson is a total mush!!! He has never met a stranger and will make a superb addition to any family.  He is a scant 1 years old, playful, gets along with other cats, and is a cuddlebug too.  What more could anybody want?


Jasper is just a “hunk of burning love.”  And, we mean a big hunk! Weighing in at a whopping 18 pounds, he wants nothing more than to sit by your side and be adored.  In return, Jasper will be your constant companion, your soulmate, and your admirer.  He was adopted from CFF when he was a kitten but was recently returned as his owner could no longer care for him.  This sweet guy needs to go home with you…today!


Last Friday, community members gathered at the Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center in Stuart to honor and celebrate past and present cancer patients, along with their loved ones, during Cancer Survivors Awareness Month. The special event featured inspirational stories, delicious food, live music, and displays from various area support groups.













The 2024 Dancing with the Martin Stars Line-Up Announced for the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition September 21 Event

Stuart, Fla. - With a burst of silver confetti, the 2024 Dancing with the Martin Stars contestants discovered on May 16 which local professional dancers will be their partners for this year’s dancing competition on September 21 to benefit the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition.

Nine volunteers from all walks of life have signed on to the challenge to dance like a star in a professionally choreographed performance, plus raise funds from supporters eager to cheer them on.

“If you’ve ever had to dance in front of a crowd that came with high expectations,” Martin County Healthy Start Coalition CEO Samantha Suffich said, “you know the courage and determination it takes. We’re so grateful that our 2024 Martin Stars are willing to take the stage to help in our mission to ensure that every baby is born healthy, every mother is supported, and every father is involved.”

This year’s Martin Stars lineup includes Christian Anderson, dancing with local professional Daisy Krakowiak-Wiebe; Casey Caplan, with Brian Spector; Lorna Day, with Angel R. Tamayo III; Matthew Durban, with Emily Matos; Jonathan Garich, with Tanya Chaves; Stephanie Martinez, with Michael Chaves; April Milner, with Bob Murray; Matthew Right, with Marianella Tobar; and Sue Whittington, with Jang Don.

Will it be a waltz, a cha-cha, a tango, or a foxtrot that takes them to victory? The answers will be revealed on September 21 at 7 pm at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Stuart.

Dancers will be judged on their performance and will also earn points for the funds they’ve raised in the quest to become the 2024 Champion. Last year’s event raised more than $200,000 for the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition mission. This year’s contestants are determined to beat that amount.

“If you have a favorite dancer, or just want to support the work of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition,” Suffich says, “we encourage you to give them a vote of confidence on our website and to join us at the event in September. And just a word of warning, it always sells out!”

Sponsorships ranging from $600 to $20,000 are still available. For more information, visit https://www.mchealthystart.org/dancing-with-the-martin-stars/2024-stars-dancers/. Ticket sales begin in August.

Carol Briseno of Martin County Parks & Recreation and her dancing partner Jang Don walked away with top honors and the coveted trophy for highest combined scores in both dancing and fundraising for 2023. 

About Martin County Healthy Start

Martin County Healthy Start is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every baby is born healthy. It provides educational and health services to pregnant women, new mothers and their families at no cost, particularly expectant mothers who are at risk for late or no prenatal care.

Part of a statewide coalition, Healthy Start connects pregnant women and young mothers with essential services including prenatal care, home visitations by a nurse or social worker, breastfeeding support, parenting education, car seat and sleeping safety, a free diaper pantry, and access to other community partner agencies through the Betty Moore Prenatal Outreach Center. The David Cardno Fatherhood Initiative, also part of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition, helps fathers to become more involved in parenting and offers legal assistance to fathers who are separated from their children.

The programs of Martin County Healthy Start Coalition are voluntary and available to all Florida residents at no cost.

For more information about Martin County Healthy Start Coalition and its ongoing programs, visit www.mchealthystart.org, call 772-463-2888 or follow the organization on Facebook.


Jensen Beach Garden Club Helps Cultivate Future

with Scholarship to Local High School Grad

The Jensen Beach Garden Club presented local high school senior Emma Giesing with a Scholarship Award on April 25, 2024. Emma has a remarkable academic and athletic record. Her experience in playing and coaching lacrosse has helped her develop her communication, problem-solving, leadership, and community involvement skills. Her impressive commitment to protecting our natural resources and dedication to actively volunteering in the community has influenced her future goals. And Emma's lifelong passion for the environment has made her want to pursue a career where she can make a positive impact.

Emma's achievements and dedication to excellence have made her a deserving recipient of the award. She will attend Florida State University, where she plans to study Biology. The Jensen Beach Garden Club is proud of Emma and excited to see her continue to excel. Congratulations Emma!

L-R: Dee Mertz JBGC Member, Emma Giesing, Linda Menikheim JBGC Member, and Dana von Rinteln, JBGC President. Photo courtesy of Cady Studios


Success at the 23rd Annual Robert F. Novins Memorial Golf Tournament Benefiting VIM Clinic

STUART, Fla. — The 23rd Annual Robert F. Novins Memorial Golf Tournament was a tremendous success, continuing the tradition of drawing golfers and supporters from near and far. This year's event, held at The Yacht & Country Club of Stuart, was sold out with a waiting list, a testament to its enduring popularity and support of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic.

Carson Novins and Fred Caimotto

The tournament raised over $160,000 for VIM Clinic, bringing the total amount raised over the past 12 years to more than $1.1 million. These funds are crucial in providing free medical care to low-income, uninsured friends and neighbors in Martin County.









Jack Nicklaus, Jr., Carson Novins, Junius Tillery, Jeff Bradley, and Bryan Sullivan

"We are immensely grateful for the overwhelming support from our community," said Mary Fields, Executive Director of the VIM Clinic. "This event celebrates the memory of Robert F. Novins while embodying the spirit of giving and community that he cherished. The funds raised make a significant impact in the lives of our patients and their families."

Grant Mortell, Michael Izzolo, Jr., Clark Mortell, and Reid Mortell

The success of this event would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of its hosts Carson Novins and his sisters, Beth Novins and Jeffrey Hartt. Their passion and commitment to honoring their father's legacy through this impactful initiative are truly commendable. The continued support and camaraderie displayed each year are a testament to Robert F. Novins' spirit and the values he held dear.

The festivities kicked off the evening before the tournament with a lively pre-tournament reception party at Carson's Tavern on Friday, May 3rd. On May 4th, participants enjoyed a fabulous day of golf, an exciting putting contest, and the highly anticipated helicopter ball drop. The day concluded with a watch party for the Kentucky Derby in the beautiful clubhouse. Congratulations to this year's winning team: Tom Grimmer, Les Shekels, Ryan Slater, and Steve Burleson.

                                    Carson Novins, Les Shekels, and Troy Dean

Every contribution, sponsorship, and participation makes a significant impact, helping to improve the lives of VIM Clinic patients and their families.

Interested in joining next year? To inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please email Volunteers in Medicine Clinic at golf@vimclinic.net or visit their website at vimclinic.net.

About Volunteers in Medicine Clinic

Since 1995 Volunteers in Medicine Clinic has been providing comprehensive medical care to uninsured Martin County adults, through the efforts and expertise of a small staff and volunteer medical and lay personnel, at no charge to the patient. VIM Clinic is located at 417 SE Balboa Avenue in Stuart, Florida. For more information, please contact 772.463.4128 or visit online at www.vimclinic.net


Letters From Readers

I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to TOM CAMPENNI or fill out the form on the website.

Amy Pritchett

Dear Tom,

I would like to address the article written about the MCSB, specifically the speakers’ innuendos and your comments, in a meaningful and most importantly, accurate fashion.

I have no contact, friendship, or otherwise affiliation with Bridget Ziegler. Being a member of Moms for Liberty and a school board member does not automatically lump me into her indiscretions.

As an MCSB member, I belong to the Florida School Board Association, (FSBA) through a group membership paid by the district. However, to become a Certified School Board member, one must accumulate 96 points. Each point counts as 1 hour. Through FSBA, I amassed hours/points through attendance at conferences throughout the past year and a half. 

Some of those conferences dealt with Finance, Policy Making, Governance, and School Budgeting. This participation yielded 65 hours/points. The remaining 31hours/points were completed by me, independently. Those hours were spent online, and they were completely free of charge. I was able to find interesting courses, relating to education, safety in schools, as well as Ethics, legislative issues, etc. 

At no time was the district asked to pay for any of my independent learning. For public speakers or anyone to insinuate that is reckless and unwarranted. I was certified by FSBA, not by Hillsdale College. I participated in a 9.5 hour course titled “A Proper Understanding of K-12 Education: Theory and Practice.” This course was done online, in my home, and was free of charge. 

Our Student School Board Representative for the 23-24 school year will be attending Hillsdale College in the Fall. The speakers who made these comments denigrating Hillsdale showed no consideration for the student or the truth.

Before speaking about any of this publicly or writing about it, wouldn’t it have been better to ask me directly, instead of making assumptions? 

Facts matter!

My Response:

Amy :

I report what is said at the meeting. I then may give it my spin.

I also said that I have been a contributor to Hillsdale. I still believe that any tax paid school board member education should be accomplished at a Florida based school preferably a state college or through a Florida based education organization..

I am glad you wrote and made your positions clear. I enjoyed your column here before you became a school board member. I have offered a column to your successor at Moms For Liberty but she has declined several times.

Thank you for taking the time to write your letter.


From Sean Reed

Thank you Tom for the invitation to share more information about my comments made on 6/10/24 regular City Commission Meeting.  As I stated at the meeting, the number of units that were approved since 2017 was much closer to 2800 than the 2300 referenced by Mr. Mortell during his presentation. 

The 2800 units based off of the residential development pipeline graphic published on the City of Stuart website.  This graphic included all of the developments and the number of units from 2017 to 2021.  After the meeting I was shown an updated version of that pipeline graphic that put the number of units above 3000 from 2017-2021.  This pipeline chart was published originally on the City of Stuart website.  I am including the website link, the page still remains though the graphic has since been removed.

The 2846 units referenced at the meeting was calculated by recording how each commissioner voted on the projects and the number of units they approved from 2017-2021.

As you can see whether it’s 2800 or 3000 units, we are a far cry from the 2300 referenced during the presentation.  Which is why I felt compelled to correct the record during public comment.  More than an exact number of units my take is residents are upset that such a large number of apartments were approved in the City of Stuart.  Whether it’s the 378 at Costco, the 172 at Central Parkway Lofts or the 212 apartments at Indigo, when I go door to door residents are saying “enough is enough”.


Tom Explanation:

Sean is a candidate for City of Stuart, Group IV. This is in response to what I wrote about the last city commission meeting. Reed also has included a spreadsheat that he created. I urged Sean to make an appointment to discuss this issue with City Manager Mortell. I said I would try to be there if both parties agreed.

 Sean's Spredsheet can be found here

Martin County


It was time to renew the dock lease to the Port Salerno Dock Authority for the commercial pier. The Dock Authority is an independent commercial fishing organization.

At times in the past, the relationship between the county and the authority has been more contentious. A few years ago, there were some questions as to whether the Dock Authority was fair to all the commercial fishermen or were they keeping certain fishermen from being part of the group. There was also the question as to whether those outside Martin County were being leased space.

For the current commission majority, it seemed that all is now right with the world. It was all about keeping an industry firmly based in Martin County. It is part of our heritage. However, not all the commissioners took that view.

Commissioner Heard brought up the fact that the pier was a valuable asset for all of the people of Martin County. She also went on to say that 10 slips are rented to nonresidents.  Smith’s reply was that the industry moves around and that when Martin County fishermen are following fish, other entities are just as accommodating to our fishermen. 

All the speakers were in favor of the lease and the four extensions which would bring it well toward the end of this century. The question is whether government should be involved in private business and using taxpayer dollars to subsidize even a heritage industry. The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.

Drew Bartlett, from the South Florida Water Management District spoke on Ecosystem Restoration. The district was formed 75 years ago as a flood control district. It has recently been transformed to provide better water quality monitoring.

The C-44 Canal is open and can take up to 10 feet of water. As an STA, it can now be used for recreational purposes. Every approved project in the IRL is now under construction. This is something that we can thank our federal and state partners for doing. After many years of false starts, by 2030 all of the projects slated for water storage will be under construction.

You can see the presentation here  

The Patio

On Saturday June 1st, I was milling in a crowd that had formed for the grand opening of the Patio at Palm City Place.

Ed Ciampi Master of Ceremonies

This is not the type of thing where I usually enjoy going. In this case, it seemed appropriate because this project is how CRA dollars should be spent. How do you bring together an area if not by having a true community gathering place?

We are all familiar with retention ponds, but this one became a focal point of the project, and its incorporation into the design of the park is lovely. According to Commissioner Ed Ciampi’s remarks, the “lake” acts as a drainage area for most of Old Palm City. So, it is practical plus aesthetically pleasing.

United Way CEO Carol Houwaart-Diez and CRA Administrator Susan Kores

With its fountain, fishing pier, and walking path, it doubles as a recreational amenity. Make no mistake though…it is a stormwater treatment area that will stop roads and properties from flooding. That is why the project is partially funded by the Department of Environmental Protection Land and Water Conservation Fund. The matching grant came from District 5 Commissioner Ed Ciampi’s district fund and the CRA.

Susan Kores, Manager of the Office of Community Development, said; “This is the beautiful result of the community and the county working together to achieve a common goal and vision. The Patio will be the place that memories are made for many years to come.”

Commissioner Doug Smith & School Board Member Mike DiTerlizzi

The Patio is ½ acre with a covered place to have concerts. There are benches, ping pong tables, chess and checkers tables, and cornhole tables. While all made from concrete, they were seemingly very comfortable. BYO paddles, balls, bags, and chess sets.

Like everything on opening day, dignitaries showed up…master-of-ceremonies Ciampi, Commissioner Doug Smith, School Board Member Mike DiTerlizzi, County Administrator Don Donaldson, and many more.

Asst. Admin George Stokus, Don Donaldson, and Asst. Admin Matt Graham 

When we look at the purpose of CRAs, Old Palm City has entered Phase 3. Phase 1 is improving the bones of the area. Mapp Road is not the same place as it was a few years ago. Phase 2 is encouraging businesses and property owners to invest in upgrades. This has certainly been accomplished.

Phase 3 is the Patio. A public space where community members can come and enjoy their neighborhood. Jordan Pastorius, the project manager and Assistant Community Development Manager, wrote, “The Patio at Palm City Place embodies our commitment to creating spaces that foster a sense of community and belonging.”

Ed Ciampi, who envisioned this moment told me. “Parks like this one help to build a sense of community and offer our residents a gathering place to spend time together with friends and neighbors.”

John Leighton Sr. & Ed Ciampi

This is what the CRA is all about. The Palm City CRA is operating as intended. Much of that credit goes to the local community that brought a vision to fruition, staff that executed the vision of the community, and Commissioner Ciampi who husbanded a cacophony of ideas into an approved funded plan.   

Port Salerno NAC

Darlene VanRiper

Notes on Port Salerno NAC meeting 6/13/24

It was a rainy evening so a mere 30 or so residents attended this usually packed monthly meeting which one resident who is a regular stated has devolved into “nasty and noisy”. 

Public comment is always the most exciting part of these evenings.  One person from New Monrovia spoke claiming that her neighborhood “never said they didn’t want septic to sewer”, only that they wanted to be treated “fairly”.  Afterall, she had heard that Commissioner Heard’s mother got assessed only $4000 for hooking up.  And, that Commissioner Ciampi “got money to buy that land over in Palm City” so why can’t the County come up with money to treat New Monrovia “fairly” when it comes to the septic transition.  She doesn’t want it placed on “the back burner.

A couple of residents expressed their disappointment and anger that Commissioner Heard, whose district encompasses the commercial fishermen’s docks had voted against renewing the Dock Authority’s lease.  One resident claimed that years ago the docks were “left” to the commercial fishermen, not to Martin County as Commissioner Heard claimed.

Casey Cass, a big personality leading the Save Our Salerno effort, wanted to set the record straight.  He explained that they (SOS) aren’t there to fight all development.  Just to “minimize the negative impacts to our community”.  The development should “fit the envelope” that is Port Salerno.

Then a truly American moment happened.  A man wanted to build a metal garage in his back yard.  Initially there was a lot of mumbling that it didn’t fit the character of the neighborhood.  The mood of the room was leaning against the resident.

At that point a member of the public reminded everyone that “he should be able to build what he wants on his own property”.  After an NAC board member commented that he has a real problem telling another man what he can and cannot build on his own land, the tune of the room swung back in favor of the requestor and the motion carried unanimously. 

City of Stuart


I have always had immense respect for Manager Mortell. This meeting reminded me why.

New development projects have dried up in the city, so the commission meetings have been low-key events. The first meeting of the month is one that has the arts moment, proclamations, employee recognitions, and presentations. Mortell gave the presentation on development.

He went through what the comprehensive plan is. It is the guide for the future growth of the city. Mortell showed the city by aerial photo of what it looked like in 1974 and what it looks like today. It looks pretty much the same.

He then showed the population of Stuart, Martin County, St Lucie County, and Port St Lucie from 1920 to the present. Back in mid-20th century, Martin’s population was larger than St Lucie County. Stuart was more than 25% of the county’s population until 1970, and it has since gone down to 12%.

Even though some believe that this decrease is a good thing, sales taxes and other taxes are based not on where in the county the tax is paid but rather by Stuart’s percentage of the population as compared to the county’s total population. This is another reason why thinking that commercial development is preferable to housing development is an absolute fallacy.

In 2023, zero new units were approved in Stuart. Martin County approved 5,883 new units. From 2010 to 2024, new units totaling 2,307 were approved in Stuart. Of those, 63% have been completed, 15% are currently in construction, and 22% have not been built.

According to Mortell, the comp plan for the past 40 years shows Stuart being slated to have a population of 25-30,000 people when fully built out. With current projections if every piece of land was built to maximum density, we could have no more than 23,900 people. And even that won’t occur.

During public comment, Sean Reed who is running against incumbent, Troy McDonald, stated that his spreadsheet of approved units since 2017 was 2,846. He did not explain how he came up with that number. Using city records, Mortell has shown us that there are many fewer.

If Mr. Reed is looking at individual changes to development orders, then he could be counting the same approved unit twice…once when originally approved then again if the developer asked for a change such as adding a commercial space to the project.

Mayor Brunner’s opponent, Laura Giobbi, also said nearly 3,000 units were approved when she spoke. I believe if Mortell is “cooking the books,” then he should be terminated. As a close student of government, I am inclined to believe the official version and not a number pulled out of the air.

As Giobbi said there is nothing wrong with being a small town and there isn’t. But being small should not equate to pulling up the drawbridge. Giobbi lives in a multi-family condo development that was built around 1970. Perhaps if the commission at that time was a no-growth one, that property would have never developed. It didn’t ruin Stuart nor will anything that has been approved, is being built, or has been built ruin the city.

If you believe nothing else that Mortell said believe this…Stuart is built out. We will never reach the comp plan goal of a minimum of 25,000 people. There are no big pieces of land to annex.

Given our continuing slide in Stuart’s population relative to Martin County’s growth, we may just run out of the funds needed to maintain all the current civic services. That means taxes will have to rise. See how fast the people come out when that happens.

You can see the presentation here

Commission Meeting 2...CRA Undergrounding


For decades, the CRA has been debating whether to bury the power lines underground in Downtown. For this purpose, Downtown is defined as Seminole, Osceola, and Flagler Streets between St. Lucie Avenue and Colorado Avenue.

The price has climbed to over $14 million. The last time it went out to RFP for a contractor to do the work, one applied. The bid was rejected.

The staff now wants to hire a construction manager to come up with the price and bid documents and to manage the bid process. Probably the company chosen, Burkhardt Construction Inc. for $67,800, will end up being the company that does the undergrounding for what is known as the Guaranteed Maximum Price. In other words, there are no change orders or price increases for equipment. The final price Burkhardt gives is the most that can be charged.

So, what is Downtown being saved from? It is large concrete hardened polls being placed there by FPL. The thing to be determined is whether it is worth the $5, $10, or $15 million dollars to do this project. What is the return on the CRA’s investment?

Currently on Osceola and Seminole Streets, there are smaller concrete poles. On Osceola Street they bumped out the sidewalks where they placed the poles. Why not do more of that? Seminole would be harder but still perhaps doable.


If the utilities are underground, many of the buildings will have to spend thousands of dollars to hook up since they receive their power now through connections on the roofs and upper levels of buildings. That is a cost that will be borne by the building owners and tenants.

Since we are using CRA Tax Increment Funding, how much does each parcel that will benefit contribute to the fund? In 2024, the entire CRA will have $13 million in revenue. There is $4.3 million that has been saved for this project.

Shouldn’t a decision to spend 100+% of the yearly fund on three blocks of the CRA (three important blocks) mean we closely examine the economics of the project? The CRA is a fund. It should be treated as a business decision not a sop because of politics.

The commission made a political decision when they voted 5-0 to go ahead with the preliminary study. Once the cost is known, it will come back to the commission for a final determination.

Martin County School Board

The board discussed next year’s budget.

This is probably the most important one function the board has. It is clear that a bureaucratic soul is needed to put all the pieces together. How Carter Morrison can prepare all the funding pieces is a wonder.

The budget person needs to take some dollars from Columns A, B, through Z to fund programs because of budgetary constraints which are nothing more than state directives. To see what state control can do to local control, look no further than school boards. The state tells them how much of both local and state school dollars can be spent on many things.

As of February 2024 (the last school census figures), the district had 19,120 students. That is 113 more than the previous census in October of 2023. However, that is the total number of students including scholarship and charters. The increase in Martin County’s traditional public schools climbed by only 25. The rest of the increase belongs to the other two types of students.

Morrison then proceeded to run through scenarios for different funding with different millage rates. The current millage for the referendum tax rate is .5 mills. He ran the scenarios for different rates starting at .4 going up to the maximum.

Here are some of the things that the millage would cover if approved. If the critical shortage supplement is kept for teachers at Indiantown Middle, the cost would be $200,000. A new state mandate for fingerprinting personnel on an ongoing basis could be as much as $221,000 this budget year.

The staff presented an option to the board about lock-proof pouches for student cell phones. The use of cell phones in the classroom not only for calls but for making videos and social media has become a problem. The pouches to eliminate the students access to their cell phones would be $218,000. While the board wants to do something about cell phones, they didn’t think the daily confiscation route was the best option. The money should stay in the budget for possible other solutions.

At a recent conference, the district discovered that it was leaving money on the table because certain students were eligible for Medicaid funding for their transportation. It would cost approximately $106,000 for a Medicaid manager for one year with a payback of over $624,000. Seems like a no brainer to me.

There were other initiatives such as the “Accelerator Reader” program in the total figure. One such item was to fully fund new science textbooks for all grades. The teaching material was already approved. It seems good sense to do it all at once.

The addendum millage that staff is recommending funding all the extras would be 0.425 mills, which is less than the current year. When they are asking taxpayers to re-authorize up to .5 mills of taxpayer money, it is nice to see that the district is appearing to be a good shepherd of our dollars.

You can see the presentation here 

Village of Indiantown


Indiantown Has New Housing Coming

By Town Manager Taryn Kryzda

After a long history of big promises, bold predictions and near starts, Indiantown is finally receiving a selection of new home inventory that’s uniquely designed with the local community in mind.

That translates into ensuring attainability, respecting the existing community, and offering amenities that reflect local priorities.

I’ve gotten to know Joshua Kellam—president of The Garcia Companies and founder of the incoming Terra Lago project—over the years and have been impressed by his vision, capabilities and consistency.

From the onset, he’s listened closely to the community and remained sensitive to local concerns. I’ve been especially encouraged by his appreciation for the patience Indiantown residents have shown, anticipating long-deferred development that would meet their needs and respect the local culture. Kellam knows all eyes are on him to deliver big. He certainly appears up for the challenge.

Terra Lago—currently under construction—is a master-planned, mixed-use community designed with multigenerational functionality in mind. It will offer 2,500 single-family homes, townhomes and apartments and a 200-bed assisted living facility. The project also includes 100,000 square feet of retail space. More than 40 percent of the total 800-acre parcel will remain in open space for playing fields and pickleball courts as well as walking trails and 100 acres of wetlands and lakes ideal for fishing.

Selecting Ryan Homes and Meritage Homes as the builders, Kellam expects to see the townhomes priced on the higher side of $200,000s and single-family around $350,000.

By offering new homes at attainable prices, Terra Lago will help meet the needs of the existing and new residents, attracting businesses, services and retail options long desired by the local population.

From the Village’s perspective, the addition of new homes means a much-needed boost in property tax revenue. It’s no secret that tax revenue derived from FPL comprises the lion’s share of our ad valorem budget. Responsible fiscal governance requires a diversification of funding, better ensuring the Village’s ability to provide quality, reliable services.  

Further enhancing our blend of future revenue sources, the village council has fortunately approved several industrial businesses over the last year or so. The net result is an estimated 300 or more full-time jobs open to qualified locals as well as new arrivals, who will find nice homes among the options available at Terra Lago. 

It’s understandable to hear the facts and figures associated with a large project and imagine that it all comes at once. Even with the energy and focus that Kellam and The Garcia Companies are bringing to Terra Lago, total buildout is estimated to take 10 years. 

The last time everyone expected growth to come to Indiantown, it was on the very site where Terra Lago is being constructed today. A local newspaper wrote of an “estimated 15,000 new residents over the next 20 years.” That was back in 2005. Since then, the population of Indiantown has increased by about 1,100 people—or 58 a year. Not nearly enough to attract significant outside investment.

With attainable housing options truly on the horizon, the associated commercial options, employment opportunities and tax revenue will follow suit. In the meantime, we can take comfort knowing the history of Indiantown—well known to the locals and well respected by the right partners—can guide and shape the bright future awaiting Florida’s youngest municipality.

Taryn Kryzda’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors nor the Martin County Taxpayers Association's viewpoint.

Final Thoughts

Thoughts On D Day

The 80th commemoration of D-Day is over.

I was not alive when it happened. I remember those of my father’s generation who had fought in the war, and some had been at D-Day. My mother’s husband was a veteran of the landing. Though he never mentioned anything more than to say he was there.

As a child in the 1950s and early 1960’s, I watched all the war movies on TV. We played army as kids. All of us died a thousand deaths and were home in time for dinner.

As an adult I never thought about D-Day again until about a decade ago when my wife and I went to Normandy and toured the battlefield. We went to the American cemetery and walked among the crosses and Stars of David. Even all these years later with really only the most tangential connection to any of those who died there, I shed a tear.

World War II was the last war where thousands of Americans were laid to rest outside the U.S. In Korea, there are 40 U.S. personnel buried at the U.N. cemetery. I couldn’t find any in Vietnam or our Middle East adventures. Perhaps that is a good thing that we return all fallen service members to their families in the U.S. They can rest close to other loved ones and at veteran cemeteries throughout the country. Yet there is something fitting about those that rest close to their comrades.

And maybe World War II was the last time Americans felt that they were fighting for a cause greater than any individual or themselves. General Eisenhower called it the Great Crusade. It was the American chance to save the world for democracy, and in some respects, we have been doing so ever since.

Perhaps we are tired of the world looking to us for leadership. Responsibility is harder than just hiding as one of the pack. Our entire national being should not be turning inward because every time we have done so we have ended up on the brink of having a world on fire.

Few of those boys who participated in that crusade on June 6th are still alive. Those that are still with us have seen a century of life. 9,388 of them never left that first Normandy battlefield. Many others died on the way to the defeat of the axis powers, and the rest through the years that followed.

Would we make the same sacrifices to preserve democracy today as they did?

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE www.friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com


Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.

Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email: thomasfcampenni@gmail.com


Tom’s Articles

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'Voting & Vaccines"


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The New York Times: "Stuck is a Starter Home"


Florida Phoenix: "Report: Revision to 'Live Local Act' reduces stock of affordable/workforce housing in Florida"


The  Washington Post: "Costco is the hero America needs right now"


The Capitolist: "Property insurance analysis: 'cautiously optimistic'


The Washington Post: "Real estate agents are fleeing the field. Is that good for homebuyers?"


Florida Phoenix: "Politics have seeped into school board elections: Amendment 1 could make it official"


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