BCC to consider referendum: $10M waterpark expansion, $12.25M to improve Martin County Golf Course, $10M for new indoor sports facility

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Martin County Commission will be asked on Tuesday to put a bond referendum on the ballot in November to raise millions of dollars for parks projects including an expansion of Sailfish Splash Waterpark and a new indoor sports facility.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will make a presentation at 11:00 a.m. in support of a referendum that will sound familiar to local sales tax referendum veterans.  
Citizens will be asked to approve issuance of 30-year general obligation bonds to raise funds to “maintain and improve existing facilities” pursuant to the adopted Parks and Recreation Master Plan.  The PRAB presentation focuses on needed  improvements for “existing conservation lands and facilities.”  
But most of the money raised if voters agree to increase their tax bills by an average of $190.00 to $312.00 a year would be used for a $10 million expansion of Sailfish Splash Waterpark, $12.25 million in improvements to the Martin County Golf Course, and $10 million for a new indoor sports facility.
While the list of candidates for funding from bond proceeds includes $8 million for “conservation, connectivity, greenways & trails” and $5 million for “deferred maintenance backlog”, Commissioners should have learned from last year’s sales tax referendum that residents will not vote to pay for unspecified projects or new “luxury” items like an indoor sports facility while everyday spending remains unchecked.
Until the Commission majority demonstrates a commitment to fiscal responsibility and cutting back on unnecessary and wasteful spending, voters will be reluctant to approve a plan to give local government a blank check written on the taxpayers’ account.
The bond referendum presentation, Agenda Item 8D2, is expected to last 30 minutes.
As always, Commissioners will be asked to approve expenditures on the Consent Agenda without any public discussion, including a $1.2 million increase in the previously approved cost of utilities treatment plant equipment and improvements.  Consent Agenda Item 4B1 seeks approval to increase the Capital Improvements Plan cost of the project from $4,139,348 to $5,384,034.00.
Also on the Consent Agenda is the usual “warrant list for disbursements” that shows $13.6 million in expenditures by the County between March 2 and March 13 – more than $1 million a day, including $6 million in unidentified, non-payroll disbursements.
Approval of initial assessment resolutions for the Palm Lake Estates Water Main assessment (which will provide public water to the Palm Lakes Estates subdivision at a cost of $6,500 to $7,500 per residence) and the North River Shores sewer project (which will cost homeowners an estimated $11,700 per residence) also are on the Consent Agenda as Items 4E1 and 4E2.  Public workshops will be conducted in April for interested residents, and public hearings on the final  assessment resolutions are scheduled for April 24.
Agenda Item 8A1 features more spending in the form of requests to apply for $550,000 in grants to apply toward the cost of the environmentally questionable Jensen Beach Mooring Field, followed by a budget presentation from the Business Development Board (Item 8A2).
In an unusual request from the County’s Legal Department, Commissioners will be asked to determine whether information provided by an applicant for a Wireless Telecommunications Facility (WTCF) made false representations to obtain approval for the project and, if so, whether the project should be re-considered, re-approved, or rejected at another meeting. 
In September 2016, the Commission approved a tower requested by Dynamic Tower, Inc., and Little Club Condominium, Inc.  Staff suggests that documents and testimony provided by the applicant during the approval process “may have misrepresented the height, width and depth (scale) of the proposed WCTF”.  
Litigation was filed in connection with the project and a competing project in the same area known as the Kenai Tower.  Staff says that during the litigation, depositions were taken in which a representative of Dynamic Tower, Inc., gave testimony that was not consistent with the information provided to the County in obtaining approval of the Little Club tower.
Earlier this month, Dynamic Tower filed a lawsuit against the County claiming that materials requested pursuant to the Public Records Act were not timely produced by County staff.
The request for re-consideration of the Dynamic/Little Club tower approval is Agenda Item 8E1, pre-set for 3:00 p.m.
In other matters on Tuesday’s BCC agenda:
– Agenda Item 8D1 is a pre-set presentation scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to update the Commission on Martin County Golf Course Design plans and proposals.
– At 1:30 p.m. the Public Works Department (formerly Engineering) will make a 30-minute presentation on an $80,000 stormwater utility feasibility study (Agenda Item 8B1).
– Another pre-set presentation is Agenda Item 7A, beginning at 2:30 p.m., by Ecological Associates, Inc., on the sea turtle nesting and protection program on Hutchinson Island.
– Staff will make a 15-minute presentation as Agenda item 6A to ask the Commission to reinstate the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (PACE) which provides financing for homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their properties.
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
Attend the meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, to express your views on these or other issues or e-mail commissioners at sheard@martin.fl.usefieldin@martin.fl.ushjenkins@martin.fl.useciampi@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and the County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and swoods@martin.fl.us.

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