Contact our Martin Commissioners: Speak out now or pay the bill

 

Donna Melzer

Melzer continues: Three big ticket money items to be voted on Tuesday, February 7 by the Martin County Commission deserve immediate attention.  Martin County has prided itself in the past on being fiscally conservative and pay-as-you-go.  Just like with the boondoggle of the Aquatics Center, that has apparently been changed by this, smooth-talking but big-spending commission majority of Smith-Hayes-Ciampi.  The Commissioners can be reached at 288-5400 or by email at  commissioners@martin.fl.us, eciampi@martin.fl.us, dsmith@martin.fl.us, phayes@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us, sheard@martin.fl.us.

Back on the Agenda again:  The $600,000 Western Studies — another $528,000 Glatting Jackson Study – Agenda 8.A.1. The Commission was to vote on January 24.  MANY of you emailed your displeasure. Chair Ciampi responded that he would not vote for this. Yet, late on January 24, Smith and Hayes pushed for a delay in that vote and it was granted. 

Now the item is Preset for a Time Certain at 1:30 pm — which usually means that Smith & Hayes will round up the pro-growth supporters of breaking the urban boundary to lobby for the $600,000 Study.  Speak out or pay the bill.

Money Vote #2 – $10 Million Line of Credit (maturity 2017) — Agenda Item 8.A.3.”for various capital projects”.  Spare change  or what IS the $10 Million for in these economic times?   Some guesses  —

Overrun costs on the Aquatic Complex?

Are roads been built that Hobe Grove and Harmony need — but the Commission majority already maxed out their borrowing gas tax and road impact fees through 2026 so they need “a little extra”?

Road repairs – not funded because millions were spent on a western road into Port St. Lucie?

Does Smith want to help more of the organizations he’s an officer of to get free county facilities — like the Maritime Museum?

Smith’s Jensen Beach Mooring Fields near his commercial property?

I’ve asked for the capital project list (not in the agenda item) and will share it when received. 

More “Power and Money” (words of the consultant) for the CRAs  – Community Redevelopment Areas.  The CRAs were begun in order to qualify for state and federal grants for blighted neighborhoods.  The state definition of “blighted” can include many of our neighborhoods because we have no sidewalks.  Getting water and sewer to older communities, helping on flooding issues and such was the original goal. That has expanded over the change of Commissioners and now there are $17,079,000 in Capital Improvement Projects for just the next 10 years — the wish list is higher.

The county gave up taxes from the designated seven communities (TIF monies – Tax Incremental Financing) to help out.  These tax millions would have otherwise gone to the county-wide budget.

Now, despite the millions of projects still on their list, the Tues. proposal is to give the Community Redevelopment Agency (not elected or accountable to the voters) more powers, more ways to spend/giveaway millions  —

  • the power to buy and sell land.  The sell can be at below market value.  The sell can be to CRA members or their family by state law
  • the power to borrow and create millions in debt
  • the power to give “incentives” to landowners and to developers in the CRA – a CRA members with a one-story building could sell his/her “air rights” to the CRA for hundreds of thousands or more.  The “air rights” would allow the CRA to someday build condos or apts or such on top of their building. 
  • to use public expenditures in private projects without any requirement of repayment.

Granted – some of these actions have to be given a stamp of approval by the BCC but the “consent” agenda would do it.

As the Consultant said, the CRA has powers from the State that are different and sometimes more than the County Commission.  The interlocal agreement can limit those powers — but today, the consultant seems to say the CRA has the ability to even make changes to the Comp Plan.

 State results and scholarly studies have shown that incentives have not proven to be successful. 

The consultant bringing this proposal forward (fee unknown) tells of a “success” story of another community giving $255,000 to bring a bank into the CRA without requirement of payback except the hoped for future higher taxes and fees.  With the bank bailouts, are we going to keep handing taxes over to this sector?

Another “success” story is for handing money over for a new hotel.  What about existing hotels in the county??

What happened to capitalism? 

 Any comments, opinions or additional information from residents regarding the above analysis is welcomed.  Residents working together make a community special, preserve our democracy.

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