Martin BCC: A million here, a million there – it’s only (taxpayer) money

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Just two weeks after the Martin County Commission declined to consider a referendum asking residents to authorize 30-year bond financing to raise millions of dollars for parks projects, Commissioners will be asked to approve more than $13.9 million in contract expenditures, including wages for temporary employees at Sailfish Splash Waterpark.
Also on Tuesday’s meeting  agenda is a workshop on the 2019 fiscal year’s Capital Improvements Plan.  Big-ticket projects for virtually every department are proposed for preliminary review before budget approval in September.
As usual, the Consent Agenda for Tuesday’s meeting is overflowing with spending requests that will not be discussed in public unless Commissioners insist that the items be pulled from the non-public portion of the meeting.  Among five-year spending requests hidden on the Consent Agenda (Item 4B1) are:
– $1 million for generators and generator maintenance for County facilities
– $600,000 for tree trimming and stump removal on County properties
– $1.2 million for Mapp Road resurfacing and Clifton S. Perry Beach improvements
– $11 million for temporary employment services
The County has 120 year-round temporary employees and another 20 temporary employees who work only during the summer months.  Temporary employees are assigned to Sailfish Splash Waterpark, the library system, general office positions, and other duties.  Temporary employees are hired through a service that charges a 34% to 40% markup on the wages paid by the County.
Much of Tuesday’s business will be conducted without public discussion, with the Consent Agenda also containing hiring choices for the County Extension Service and the Utilities and Solid Waste Department directors.  
Jennifer Pelham, an arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture in San Diego, California, is slated to become Martin County Extension Director on April 27.  (Item 4E1)
And City of Stuart Utilities Director Sam Amerson is set to take over the beleaguered Utilities and Solid Waste Department on April 23.  (Item 4B3)  Long-time landfill director Pat Yancy resigned earlier this year after a County Clerk audit cited questionable practices at the landfill, and department director John Polley retired last month.  
Attorney Ethan Loeb, who persuaded the Commission majority to pay more than $12 million to settle a contract dispute involving the Lake Point rockpit last year, has already notified the County that he is looking into landfill dispute issues for a recycling company that does not agree with certain fees and contract awards.
More than $14 million in County expenditures between March 14 and March 27 are identified in Agenda Item 4B2, without specifying exactly how more than $1 million a day in taxpayer dollars was spent. 
The CIP Workshop (Item 9A) is worth a listen.  Some proposals will be familiar as carry-overs from past CIPs – such as the ill-conceived Jensen Beach Mooring Field – but several new or revised items also are being put forward.
NOTE TO COMMISSIONERS: What’s the status of the Customs facility at Witham Field which was heatedly debated in CIP discussions over the years but seems to have disappeared from the radar screen since construction commenced?  Is the May 2018 expected completion date on schedule? Is the project under or over budget?
In other matters on Tuesday’s BCC agenda:
– Agenda Item 8A2 is a “debriefing” on the recently concluded legislative session to present information about bills that were approved and those that weren’t as well as anticipated state budget impacts on Martin County.
– Agenda Item 8B1 seeks approval of a plat for the previously 25-unit Berry Avenue residential development in Palm City.
– Agenda Items 6B and 6C are requests for adoption of a comprehensive plan amendment and a re-zoning for three parcels in the area near Pettway Street in Hobe Sound.
– Agenda Items 6D and 6E are amendments to the Old Palm City Redevelopment Overlay District and the Hobe Sound Redevelopment Overlay District set out in the County Land Development Regulations.
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
Attend the meeting 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, and, with copies to the County Administrator and County Attorney at and

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