Letter’s focus is Tuesday’s consent agenda hocus-pocus by Martin County Commissioners

Martin County Commission Chambers, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart

Dear Commissioners,

The Consent Agenda for Tuesday’s BOCC meeting is once again jam-packed with items that deserve public discussion and votes.

Consent Item 4B1 seeks approval to revise adopted CIP sheets for three projects but fails to explain the revisions. CIP revisions should not be placed on the Consent Agenda.  You are being asked to approve more than $1 million in changes to approved projects.  Taxpayers deserve to have these matters discussed and voted upon in public, not buried on the consent agenda.  Please pull Item 4B1.

Consent Agenda Item 4B2 seeks approval of a grant for the Jensen Beach Boulevard Sidewalk & Landscaping Project, with County taxpayers to pay “all expenses in excess of the total cost of the project and any deficits involved.”  The estimated cost of the project is $273,000.  Is that the amount of the grant?  What “expenses in excess of the total cost of the project” will County taxpayers have to pay?  Please pull 4B2.

Consent Agenda Item 4B4 is a revision to the County’s adopted fiscal policies.  This item clearly deserves public discussion. The BOCC’s function is to establish fiscal policies for staff to follow – not the other way around.  There is an entire section of the proposed revisions related to the Economic Development Fund.  What happens to the money that goes into the Economic Development Fund (from local business tax collections and ad valorem taxes from FPL in Indiantown)?  How much goes in each year and how much goes out?  Is this the fund which funnels $650,000 a year from Martin County taxpayers to the Business Development Board?  Please pull Item 4B4.

Consent Agenda Item 4D2 seeks approval for a one-year extension of the Jensen Beach Chamber of Commerce “use agreement” that allows the Chamber to use a portion of the old Jensen Beach library building for $1 a year.

The Chamber has not complied with the agreement in the past, which allows non-exclusive use of one specific area of the building.  The Chamber has taken over most of the building and prevented others from using it.  For instance, when a veterans group wanted to use part of the building for a monthly meeting place, the Chamber refused. Why should other non-profits pay $50.00 an hour for a single room in a public building while the Jensen Beach Chamber gets the use of an entire building at virtually no cost and shuts out taxpayers?

Citizens deserve to know which commissioners are willing to give the Chamber special favors – at taxpayers’ expense – while other non-profits are charged excessive fees for using public facilities.  Item 4D2 should be pulled from the Consent Agenda.

Ironically, staff says the County has no other use for the old library building while at the same time you are considering proposals to spend up to $6.4 million to purchase buildings for the Property Appraiser and County Utilities Departments (after previously spending millions more to buy offices for the Supervisor of Elections and the Tax Collector).  Why not put the utilities department in the old library building?  Why not use County-owned property at the airport?  (The agreement that the County entered into with the City when you purchased the MLK and Willoughby properties at exorbitant sales prices is hardly justification for wasting existing assets.)

Finally, Consent Agenda Item 4E1 is a request to approve participation in the South Florida Water Management District’s program to encourage water conservation in lodging facilities.  This is a great idea.  Most of us who travel have seen signs and cards in hotel and motel rooms encouraging guests to not require laundering towels and linens every day and other water conservation measures. But why should the County – rather than the hotels and motels that will save money by conserving water – pay the estimated cost of $1,200 a year for materials used to promote the program?  Why can’t this expense be picked up by the lodging facilities or by the CVB (which just got a big increase in County funding)?

Thank you.

Virginia P. Sherlock

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