Tuesday’s BCC: Look upward for cell towers, staff salaries/benefits


Look for residents to continue to speak out during public comment on the inexcusable devastation of once heavily vegetated property in Jensen Beach for the Langford Landing development (which looks more like a sand mine than the beginning of a residential community) …


From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Martin County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday will resume consideration of a request to construct a 120-foot-high cell tower in South County over opposition from nearby residents and will also hear a presentation on a consultant’s report suggesting that County staff salaries and benefits be hiked by $895,000.00 to $1.25 million a year.


Look for residents to continue to speak out during public comment on the inexcusable devastation of once heavily vegetated property in Jensen Beach for the Langford Landing development (which looks more like a sand mine than the beginning of a residential community) and continuing concerns about the high kill rate, questionable euthanasia practices, and inadequate animal care at the Palm City shelter operated by the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, which receives more than $560,000-a-year in taxpayer dollars.


The Kenai cell tower application, Item 6A, is pre-set for 9:30 a.m. when Commissioners will resume a hearing to determine whether the proposed telecommunications tower meets County Code requirements for a “stealth” tower. The Code allows new cell towers to be built only if there is not enough room on existing towers to “co-locate” additional communications equipment. For a tower adjacent to residential property, the Code requires a structure to be disguised to appear to be something that an ordinary citizen would not recognize as a cell tower, such as a flag pole, pine tree, or sign stanchion. At the May 10 meeting, the BCC seemed ready to decide that placing fake pine branches on a 120-foot-tall structure on a .92-acre parcel with virtually no landscaping or surrounding vegetation would not “fool” an ordinary citizen into thinking the structure was anything but a cell tower. But after the applicant offered to reduce the height of the tower to 80 feet and to include additional landscaping, the hearing was continued to allow for consideration of the revised proposal. Residents of the Little Club Condominium Association, who persuaded the Local Planning Agency to unanimously vote to deny the Kenai tower application, continue to object to the tower, and an application to intervene was filed last week on behalf of the North Passage and Turtle Creek property owner associations to express additional opposition to the tower.


A Martin County employee “classification and compensation study” conducted by Evergreen Solutions is Item 8A2 pre-set for 1:30 p.m. It will come as no surprise that the consultant recommends salary increases and additional benefits for County employees. The public sector suffered the same recession and economic downturn as the private sector in the past decade, as taxpayers found themselves unable to pay higher wages and benefits to public employees while their own wages were stagnant or reduced. The recession is over, the consultant says, and it’s time to restore public employee salaries and benefits, using salaries and benefits paid in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, the St. Johns River Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District and other “market peers” as a yardstick. Implementing the Evergreen recommendations will cost taxpayers $895,000.00 to $1.25 million per year. The staff report says the County has experienced “recruitment and retention issues” that make it difficult to fill vacancies and to maintain experienced employees. The Evergreen report examines only the needs and desires of County employees with respect to classification and compensation; there is no discussion of the ability of taxpayers to pay for significant increases or any method to evaluate the quality of services provided to the public. Staff is recommending less sweeping salary adjustments, proposing a program that would cost $400,000.00-a-year, with much of that cost coming from gas taxes and enterprise funds rather than ad valorem taxes.


Item 8A1 is a presentation that was postponed earlier this month on surplus real property owned by the County. Consultant CBRE evaluated real property owned or leased by the County and made recommendations for disposal of some properties to generate sale proceeds and to return the properties to the tax rolls. Staff anticipates an hour-long presentation to review 26 County-owned properties that may be suitable for sale, including the old Jensen Beach Library building on Ricou Terrace, which was once a US Post Office. Two former, no-longer-in-service fire stations are proposed for possible sale (not existing, operating fire stations) along with a number of vacant lots that were acquired by the County over the years. The aggregate value of the properties is in excess of $4.25 million.


In other matters on Tuesday’s BCC agenda:


– An executive session is pre-set for 11:30 a.m. to allow Commissioners and staff to discuss on-going labor negotiations with the County firefighters’ union (Agenda Item 8A2)


– A request by Port Mayaca Investments to complete the required infrastructure for the Port Mayaca Plantation Phase I, which has been continued from prior agendas over the past few months, is finally set for approval (Agenda Item 8B1)


– The BCC is being asked to appoint two Commissioners to serve on a committee with two City of Stuart Commissioners to discuss consolidation of City and County fire/rescue departments (Item 8A4)


Please let Commissioners know how you feel about these and other issues by attending the meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday or by e-mailing them at sheard@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us, ascott@martin.fl.us, jhaddox@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and mdurham@martin.fl.us.

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