Tuesday’s BOCC Agenda and a great big BOOYAH

 

Martin County Commissioners Fielding, Heard and Scott (Source: martin.fl.us)

 

From renowned local attorney and civic activist Ginny Sherlock: First of all, a great big BOOYAH to Martin County Commissioners Fielding, Heard and Scott for efforts to rein in public spending, explore cost-saving measures, study important issues like fiscally efficient use of public facilities, and otherwise practice sound governance in the face of unrelenting criticism, hate-filled anonymous e-mails and rants from shameless shills for Big Sugar, Big Ag and Big Rockpit.

 

Issues including the future of CRAs (which should be examined in the context of the state law that created them), economic development, fire/rescue consolidation, environmental preservation, the Customs facility, All Aboard Florida and restoration of our Comprehensive Plan have generated healthy debate throughout the community (with a dash of not-so-healthy peevish whining).

 

Martin County residents turn out for public comment in far greater numbers than elsewhere and speak on a variety of topics ranging from trash collection problems to public policy discussions. This is a sign of a local government with a majority who listens to what the public has to say and gives thoughtful consideration to decisions that affect residents.

 

We owe a big THANK YOU to Commissioners Fielding, Scott and Heard for serving in what is often a thankless job.

 

With that segue to this week’s BOCC meeting, here’s the rundown:

 

Item 8D1 on Tuesday’s Agenda is a 10:00 a.m. pre-set. The County Attorney is asking the BOCC to go into executive session to update the Commission on the federal lawsuit the County has filed to stop All Aboard Florida from railroading the Treasure Coast.

 

At 11:30 a.m., the Business Development Board will ask permission to give away public money that should be returned to the general fund. The BDB is prohibited from holding more funds in reserve than the amount it needs to operate for 90 days. Excess funds must be returned to the County or allocated for expenditures approved by the BOCC. The BDB has been sitting on $47,000 in excess funds since the end of last year. Item 8B1 on Tuesday’s agenda is a request to donate $20,000 from those funds to two training programs and pay $1,200 to an out-of-county marketing firm to create a BDB “blog”. The BDB wants to hold the remaining $25,800 in a “special restricted reserve fund” to be used later. This, of course, is precisely what the County’s contract prohibits. If the BOCC wants to use the BDB as a charitable arm to hand out taxpayer dollars to programs selected by the BDB, Commissioners should at least require the remaining money to be returned to the general fund rather than starting another BDB slush fund.

 

At 11:45 a.m., Item 7A is a report called Return on Investment aimed at persuading commissioners that funds were well spent on the BDB between 2010 and 2014 based on jobs and capital investment generated by BDB activities. It’s a slick report that’s positive and optimistic but fails to acknowledge that the BDB’s jobs and investment figures are projections, not realized or confirmed jobs and investments.

 

An ordinance providing for “reasonable accommodations” for disabled citizens is set for discussion at 2:30 p.m. as Agenda Item 6C. The ordinance is offered pursuant to the federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act in recognition of the special needs of disabled residents who may not be able to strictly comply with all County codes, procedures, rules and policies. Reasonable accommodations may include parking closer to a residence entrance than otherwise allowed or adjusting design standards for ramps or railings or other alterations to accommodate a disabled resident. The process established by the ordinance provides for a hearing before a hearing officer appointed by the County Administrator to determine whether an application for reasonable accommodation should be granted, with appeal of an unfavorable ruling directed to the County Administrator or his or her designee. The ordinance should provide for appeal to the Circuit Court or to an independent agency such as the Division of Administrative Hearings.

 

A workshop is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. to consider a presentation by commercial real estate consultant CBRE regarding an analysis of public facilities to determine the highest and best use of County properties. The consultant’s presentation, Agenda Item 8A4, appears to be informative and interesting. The consultant has had meetings with individual commissioners but no interaction with the public, which will not be able to view the workshop which is being conducted in a room with no video cameras to share the information with the public.

 

The growing use of workshop rooms to conduct discussions without allowing the public to fully observe by streaming or viewing video is a step backwards in restoring public trust and participation in local government.

 

Finally, the Commission will reconsider an earlier vote postponing the purchase of property for the Willoughby Boulevard Extension until after a joint meeting with the City of Stuart. Item 8C1 is set for 1:30 p.m. The staff report fails to accurately describe this item, which is a do-over requested by former Commissioner Ed Ciampi, whose employer owns the subject property. The Commission voted to discuss the project with the City of Stuart next month. The project is not moving forward anytime soon. Only a few parcels have been acquired, and there’s no reason for the County to spend money buying more land now — especially at the highly inflated price negotiated for the property owned by Mr. Ciampi’s boss. Mr. Ciampi made an impassioned – and lengthy – plea (prompting complaints from residents who are routinely cut off by the three-minute buzzer) for Commissioners to reconsider their decision to postpone spending public money on another “road to nowhere” while the County faces serious shortfalls in existing road maintenance and reconstruction budgets. Mr. Ciampi argued that the price will be higher if the County waits to purchase the property in the future, suggesting that it would be best for the public to move forward now. He neglected to tell the Commission, however, that there’s a big FOR SALE sign on the property, and if the County waits to complete its purchase, public dollars might go into the pocket of the ultimate buyer instead of Mr. Ciampi’s boss.

 

As always, please let your commissioners know your views on these and other matters. Attend Tuesday’s meeting or send an e-mail to 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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