No discussions or explanations on the agenda as Martin Commission spends our taxpayer $$$

Virginia Sherlock

Sherlock continues: As usual, the BOCC Consent Agenda this week is overflowing with expenditures of tax dollars that the County Administrator does not want the public to know about. The March 13, 2012, Consent Agenda features a bonanza of expenditures of our tax dollars, including:

 Agenda Item D2 seeks approval to spend $149,000.00 to purchase a parcel of property in Leilani Heights for access to the Warner Creek stormwater treatment area.   

The property is assessed at $83,220.00 (the value on which the owner is taxed).  The County got an appraisal showing a value of $115,000.00. The owner purchased the property two-and-a-half years ago for $109,000.00.

So why are County taxpayers paying 30-40% more than the market value of the property? 

Don’t taxpayers deserve to hear an explanation and to see how our commissioners vote on this giveaway?   Agenda Item 4B2 seeks approval of more than a quarter of a million dollars in matching funds to apply for various state grants.Staff wants authorization to apply for grants

— to help cover costs for the County’s pump-out vessel ($18,953.00 local match)

— for new technology to simplify check-in, sorting and return of library materials at the Blake Library ($177,890.00 local match plus future annual operating/maintenance expenses of $8,000.00-$9,000.00)

— for a “digital literacy lab” at the Cummings Library ($31,480.00 local match plus future annual operating/maintenance expenses of approximately $8,000.00)

– for 13 new stretchers for Emergency Services ($38,415.00 local match)

These may all be worthy programs and projects, but since local taxpayers are being asked to pay more than $265,000.00 and incur future annual operating/maintenance expenses for years to come, why not give us an explanation and an up-or-down vote by Commissioners? 

Agenda Item 4B1 authorizes the County to spend up to $4 million over the next five years for a consulting firm for the Martin County Airport — the same fine folks who brought us the EMAS and the Customs Office money pits. 

The agenda item summary is not clear, but it appears the BOCC is being asked to approve a continuing contract with Hanson Professional Services for up to a total amount of $4 million, with the Airport director authorized to negotiate the amount of individual services without further discussion or disclosure. 

This seems like an awful lot of money to just throw into the pot and let the Airport director dole out without competitive bidding or at least shopping around for the best deal.  And it’s not clear where the money is coming from — the airport fund?  the general fund? the consultant fund? 

Speaking of Witham Field, Agenda Item 4D2 (also on the consent agenda) allows free use of the airport by the private organization sponsoring the Sailfish Regatta for parking and shuttle service during the two-day event.  No charge. Nada.

How does this compare with the charges imposed on local non-profits and civic groups to reserve a single meeting room in a public facility ($50-an-hour or more) or a public park for a tennis tournament (hundreds of dollars a day)? 

Citizens are constantly facing new fees and costs imposed by staff without oversight or public discussion at the same time services are reduced or eliminated due to budget constraints.  Some organizations are charged exorbitant fees to use public facilities while others are charged a nominal amount or nothing at all.

We are told there is no money for ballfields, yet each and every week the BOCC is asked to approve expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars for something or other without debate or explanation. 

Whose money is it, anyway?

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