MCBOCC Agenda and issues for Jan 23,2017
AGAIN…..BCC to address Public Right to Speak at County Commission Meetings
County Commission Tues. Meeting – a Summary of Issues by Ginny Sherlock, attorney and former AP
A discussion of the public’s right to speak – or not – at Martin County Board of County Commission meetings has been added to the agenda for Tuesday’s BCC meeting, which will begin following a joint meeting of the County Commission, School Board, and Stuart City Commission that gets under way at 9:00 a.m. on January 23 at the Blake Library.
Public comment will be taken at the outset of the joint meeting as well as at the beginning of the regular Commission meeting, whenever that may be. Residents who want to speak and can’t take the entire day away from work should plan to step up to the podium during the joint meeting public comment period shortly after 9:00 a.m. in the Blake Library auditorium.
The joint meeting includes staff presentations and annual reports about past and future growth and development in the City and the County as well as School Board plans for addressing the educational needs of the community. A special presentation has been scheduled by the Arts Council on “Arts and Economic Property”, and reports on School District graduation rates and the increasing costs of “student stations” are also on the joint meeting agenda.
Joint meetings generally last about 90 minutes, after which the County Commission convenes for its regular meeting in Commission chambers.
The Commission meeting agenda includes several items that will be heard at pre-set times – starting with a discussion of the proposed federal legislative program at 11:00 a.m. Agenda Item 8A2 will address federal proposals that Martin County may support or oppose during 2018, but no information was provided in the agenda packet.
A proclamation declaring January 19, 2018, as Arbor Day in Martin County will be presented to the Garden Club of Stuart at 1:30 p.m., although its not clear why the proclamation (Agenda Item 2A) is being presented after the designated date has passed.
At 2:30 p.m., there will be a presentation by the Martin County Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Committee (Agenda Item 7A).
At some point during the meeting, Agenda Item 8B3 will be brought forward to consider rules that govern members of the public who speak during Commission meetings. At a previous meeting, Commission Chair Ed Ciampi threatened to prohibit citizens from mentioning individual commissioners by name during public comment, saying that he would not allow speakers to criticize his colleagues. Residents objected to the attempt to censor their comments, and the Commission directed the County Legal Department to provide guidance for an agenda item to consider public comment rules.
In a memorandum released late last week, the Legal Department concluded that Commission rules cannot restrict the content of public speech or censor opinions or viewpoints of residents who appear before the Commission.
Florida’s Open Meetings (Sunshine) Law authorizes local government bodies to (1) limit the amount of time a speaker may have to address the local government body, such as the 3-minute limit that is currently in place; (2) require speakers to fill out a form requesting the opportunity to speak; (3) allow representatives of a group of residents to address a local government body on behalf of the group, rather than allowing each member of the group to speak; and (4) designate an overall period of time for public comment, such as a half-hour or an hour at the beginning of the meeting. No other restrictions on public speech are authorized by the law. Section 286.0114, Fla. Stat.
Another matter of interest is buried in the Consent Agenda as part of Item 4B1.
Staff is asking the Commission to approve payment of an additional $108,000.00 to Promet Solutions for “continued development” of the County’s website. The figures in the agenda summary don’t add up. (The summary says the original contract was $215,730.00 and previous change orders added $183,312.00 for a total contract value of $499,042.20. ) In any event, prior discussions about the cost of developing and “tweaking” the website were in the neighborhood of $750,000.00, so it’s unclear where any of the figures set out in Item 4B1 came from.
Nonetheless, staff wants to pay Promet an additional $108,000.00 to continue work on the website. It’s not clear what improvements the additional funds are expected to generate. The lengthy proposal from Promet that is attached to the agenda item is extremely vague. Taxpayer dollars paid to Promet over the last four years (in excess of $996,425.00 according to public check registry entries) have not produced a million-dollar County website.
In Agenda Item 6A, the Commission will consider charging a special assessment to properties owned by residents in unincorporated portions of the County and in the Town of Ocean Breeze and the Village of Indiantown for fire protection services, fire programs, facilities and equipment. The amount of the proposed assessment is not set out in the agenda item. The summary does not explain why County residents whose taxes already pay for fire protection services and equipment should be charged a special assessment or whether Ocean Breeze and Indiantown residents will be asked to pay the actual cost of providing fire protection services in the municipalities.
In other matters on Tuesday’s agenda:
– The usual “warrant list” of checks and disbursements appears on the Consent Agenda confirming that the Clerk of Court disbursed $15.6 million in County funds to employees, vendors, and other unidentified payees between December 20, 2017, and January 9, 2018 (Agenda Item 4B2).
– Agenda Item 8B1 asks Commissioners to authorize staff to refuse to pay assessments to the Pal-Mar Water Control District and Hobe St. Lucie Water Conservancy District and to challenge the legality of assessments levied against County-owned parcels in Pal-Mar and Hobe St. Lucie. Staff does not believe the assessments provide services which benefit the County-owned parcels. The South Florida Water Management District previously refused to pay assessments in the same subdivisions.
– Approval is sought in Agenda Item 8C1 to convert the former Seacoast Bank building on US #1 and Eugenia Street to a Culvers restaurant with drive-through service.
– And two new positions are being sought for the Martin County Landfill in response to an audit by the County Clerk which found deficiencies related to scrap metal recycling and scale house operations. The additional positions are expected to provide improved performance in these areas at an annual cost of $105,000.00 for salaries and benefits for the new employees payable from the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund.
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
Don’t forget that the joint meeting of the BCC, the School Board and the Stuart City Commission will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the Blake Library, and Tuesday’s BCC meeting will convene at the Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, after the conclusion of the joint meeting. Attend the meetings to express your views on these or other issues or e-mail commissioners at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected], with copies to the County Administrator and the County Attorney at [email protected] and [email protected].
LITTMAN, SHERLOCK & HEIMS, P.A.
P.O. Box 1197
Stuart, FL 34995
Phone: (772) 287-0200
Fax: (772) 872-5152
Sent by Donna Melzer, volunteer activist for more than 20 years for our Martin County quality of life.