Inauguration of new commissioners, election of chair and vice chair highlight Tuesday’s meeting

Attorney and civic activist Virginia Sherlock details this Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, highlighted by the election of a new chair and vice chair and inauguration of Commissioners Anne Scott and John Haddox.

There also will be new committee and board appointments as well as the opportunity for the new commission to revise BOCC procedures and policies to finally restore the traditional “9:05” public comment period to encourage and expand public participation in local government.

Maggy Hurchalla will be making a special presentation on proposed revisions to the comprehensive plan at 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday’s agenda also contains a Consent Agenda loaded with items that should be discussed and voted on in public. Approval is sought on the Consent Agenda for acceptance of state and federal grants to fund more than $4 million in projects, mostly at the Martin County Airport.
I hope our new commissioners carefully review the airport grant proposals.
The “assurances” or conditions attached to acceptance of these grants are onerous. By accepting more than $3 million in federal grant funds (which require more than $200,000 in local matching funds from the Airport Enterprise Fund), the County agrees to oppose or not approve any future land use or zoning requests for properties around the airport that may prevent airport expansion or affect operation at the current level. This is a promise by commissioners to reject future land use requests that haven’t even been made yet, regardless of the evidence presented or circumstances existing at the time a request is put before them.
The grants for which approval is sought on Tuesday are for new runway lighting and noise mitigation. A large chunk of the $3.25 million in noise mitigation grant funds will be paid to the airport’s outside consultant and will not be used for actual noise mitigation purposes.
Are the proposed airport projects really worth giving up local government’s ability to control future growth near the airport? Why not fund these projects from the Airport Enterprise Fund and save a save a bundle of money that is being paid to the outside consultant as a “commission” for securing grant money?
Also on the Consent Agenda are several items relating to leases or easements for tenants at the airport.
No wonder the public has no clue what’s going on at the Martin County Airport. Virtually all airport business is conducted on the Consent Agenda.
Another Consent Agenda item is the Neighborhood Stabilization Program monthly report. The report lists properties the County is interested in purchasing with NSP grant funds, but the format is unclear. The NSP allows the County to acquire distressed properties for fix-up as affordable housing. The County’s housing director says there are not enough properties available for acquisition because investors and speculators are snatching up distressed properties before the County can make an offer.
But the County does not appear to have made much of an effort to publicize the program to attract willing sellers. I referred a client who was interested in selling a property in Port Salerno to the housing director to see if a short sale could be arranged with NSP grant money. She said she was told the County does not participate in short sales and they wouldn’t even talk to her about her property. This doesn’t jibe with the NSP report on the Consent Agenda, which lists a number of properties as short sales.
I have spoken with several local realtors who are not aware of this program and would be happy to help the County find distressed properties to acquire. Perhaps public discussion would improve the program’s viability.
On the regular agenda at the end of the day is a request for reconsideration of five items that were approved November 13 by the outgoing majority. Commissioners Heard and Fielding voted with the majority to allow for reconsideration on Tuesday by Commissioners Haddox and Scott.
Among the items for which reconsideration is requested is a “revenue enhancement opportunities” request by Parks and Recreation to allow alcohol sales at Sailfish Splash waterpark. I guess more folks will be willing to go down the giant aqua-slide if they’re all liquored up.
Nothing says kids and waterpark fun quite like “Have another beer, Junior.”
Also up for reconsideration will be the contract for the County’s purchase of the eyesore and public health hazard known as the Rio Mobile Home Village. While almost everyone supports acquisition of the property to relieve neighboring residents of the blight on their community, the contract which staff negotiated raises many questions. At the November 13 meeting, outgoing County Attorney Steve Fry said he was unable to answer commissioners’ questions because he didn’t draft the contract.
Hopefully, the outside counsel hired by the county who drafted the contract will be present at Tuesday’s meeting to answer questions. Commissioners and the public need an explanation of several issues, including whether the proposed acquisition is really a “short sale.” The contract does not contain a short sale contingency.
There are other questions to be answered about the contract, such as why the County agreed to indemnify the seller of the property for any costs arising from undisclosed contracts or agreements made by the seller. And what will be done about the 14 open lawsuits pending in Martin County Courts involving the property and the seller? Will County taxpayers be responsible for cleaning up the court files as well as the property?
We look forward to the inauguration of Commissioners Scott and Haddox and what we hope will be the election of Commissioner Heard as BOCC chair as well as the installation of Carolyn Timman as our new County Clerk.
Congratulations to voters and to all residents of Martin County — the real winners in this year’s elections.

Martin County Board of County Commissioners Inauguration Events Sequence November 20, 2012

8:00 AM – Commissioners group portrait photographed in the Chambers Well. Individual portraits, for those Commissioners desiring a new photo, will be done immediately following in the MCTV Studio.

9:00 AM – Inauguration ceremony commences. Seating for all Commissioners in the Well. County Administrator Kryzda, Judge Levin and Chaplain L.C. Campbell in front row of chambers (look for your name on the chairs).

1. Vice Chair Heard will serve as Emcee and begin by welcoming those in attendance.

2. Vice Chair Heard will then ask everyone to stand for the Invocation offered by Chaplain L.C. Campbell and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

3. Vice Chair Heard introduces those in the well and elected officials in the audience.

4. Vice Chair Heard will introduce the Honorable Steven Levin, Chief Judge of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, to commence the proceedings.

5. Judge Levin will next invite Commissioner Smith, District One, to come forward. Lynn Smith will join the Commissioner at the lectern holding the Bible. After issuing the Oath of Office, Judge Levin will step to the side to enable Commissioner Smith to address the audience as District One Commissioner. Upon completion of his comments, Commissioner Smith and party will return to their seats.

6. Judge Levin will invite Commissioner-elect Scott, District Three, to come forward. Phoebe Scott Volpe will join the Commissioner-elect at the lectern holding the Bible. After issuing the Oath of Office, Judge Levin will step to the side to enable Commissioner Scott to address the audience as District Three Commissioner. Upon completion of her comments, Commissioner Scott and party will return to their seats.

7. Judge Levin will invite Commissioner-elect Haddox, District Five, to come forward. Josephine A. Haddox will join the Commissioner-elect at the lectern holding the Bible. After issuing the Oath of Office, Judge Levin will step to the side to enable Commissioner Haddox to address the audience as District Five Commissioner. Upon completion of his comments, Commissioner Haddox and party will return to their seats.

8. Taryn Kryzda will come to the lectern, make any desired comments, and present County seals to the new Commissioners.

9. Vice Chair Heard will return to the lectern, make concluding remarks, and invite all to a Reception in the lobby. At the conclusion of the reception, Vice Chair Heard will call the Organizational Meeting of the Board of County Commissioners to order (approximately 10:00 AM).

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