Sunday, August 28, 2022

Indiantown election: Why did voters oust mayor, vice mayor? What's the newcomers' agenda? (TC PALM)

Indiantown residents, like St. Johns County residents, rejected overdevelopment in August 23, 2022 elections.  While GANNETT'S TC PALM newspaper competently covered the story, our incredible shrinking GANNETT-owned St. Augustine Record, long noted for developer-coddling, docility and flummery (under several successive corporate owners) has not yet shared the news with its readers. Wonder why?

From TC PALM: 


Indiantown election: Why did voters oust mayor, vice mayor? What's the newcomers' agenda?


Gianna Montesano
Treasure Coast Newspapers

August 26, 2022

Some Indiantown residents said they are eager to see the new Village Council members get to work on the area's biggest issues after voters ousted the mayor and vice mayor.

"Congratulations to the new council members," Mayor Jackie Clarke said in a concession statement on Facebook after the Aug. 23 election. "Now your work begins. The foundation has been laid very well."

Carmine Dipaolo and Angelina Perez — who won Indiantown's second election since incorporating in 2018 — could help change the course of such issues as building a Village Hall and improving infrastructure, including roads, drinking water and stormwater drainage. 

Aug. 23: Who won elections in Martin County? 

Village Hall:Residents want better water first

Charter high school:IRSC plans 2nd one in Martin County, near Indiantown

Carmine Dipaolo and Angelina Perez

"The biggest thing we already addressed by winning last night is the nixing of the Village Hall, the police department and the fire department," Dipaolo said. "That right there is a huge thing alone because it would have bankrupted (Indiantown)."

Clarke and Vice Mayor Anthony Dowling weren't acting in residents' best interests, said Linda Schwiesow-Nycum, who moved to Indiantown in 2014.

"I think they were voted out because people started to believe that they were listening to the manager, Howard Brown, more than they were listening to the residents," Nycum said. "A lot of people, including me, believe that Brown has an agenda that is not conducive with the rural community we all want."  

Residents want Indiantown to grow gradually and not become a bustling suburb that would negatively affect residents who have lived there for generations, Nycum said.

Indiantown Village Hall

Some residents oppose building a new, possibly three-story Village Hall with a community center, estimated to cost between $15 million and nearly $22 million.

Dipaolo and Perez agreed Indiantown should continue leasing space at 15516 Southwest Osceola St., which costs about $3,225 a month. Susan Gibbs Thomas, the only incumbent reelected Tuesday, has said residents should vote on the issue.

Council members Janet Hern√°ndez and Guyton Stone have not responded to TCPalm's request for comment on the Village Hall. Clarke would not give her opinion during a TCPalm Editorial Board interview, and Dowling said he supported it 

However, construction plans have been halted due to a lack of funding, according to Patrick Nolan, Indiantown utilities manager.

A rainbow appears behind the Indiantown Civic Center building after a storm on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Indiantown.

Drinking water, wastewater, flooding

Safe drinking water is a more urgent need than a Village Hall, said Perez, a lifelong and second-generation Indiantown resident. She did not have any immediate solutions to the problem, saying she must research the issue first. 

"I have to learn from the ground up," she said. "I have to get to know what the process is."

Dipaolo, who moved to the village less than two years ago but worked there for about 28 years as a retired Martin County Sheriff's Office sergeant, agreed water is an issue.

"I want to see a fast track to water and sewer," he said. "The water in the town is not very good ... Even with a good water system, it's not up to standard. ... That's my No. 1 priority because that's a health issue."

Flooding in Indiantown May 27, 2018.

The village has been addressing wastewater issues. Booker Park is undergoing a $2.2 million drainage project to prevent flooding, which is estimated to be completed by the end of this year. Dipaolo said the council should fast track its completion. 

Police and fire services

Now is not the time for Indiantown to fund its own police and fire services, Diapolo said.

The village manager told TCPalm there has been no talk of creating a police department, but the Village Hall plan included a space for a fire and police chief, Dipaolo said. 

The Martin County Sheriff's Office provides Indiantown with law enforcement services, with a substation on Warfield Road.

A 57-acre brush fire was contained near Indiantown on Friday, August 19, 2022. No homes were affected.

In 2021, the Village Council voted to create its own fire rescue department after a study revealed Indiantown could save about $2 million a year instead of paying Martin County Fire Rescue $4.6 million a year to provide service. The council later dropped the idea.

The council agreed to accept $1.5 million — or $300,000 a year for the next five years — for Martin County Fire Rescue to continue serving the village. The $1.5 million payment, from the American Rescue Plan, will be used to improve water flow.


Rebuilding the community 

Perez is eager to unite the community, which she thinks has become more racially divided since incorporating in 2017. She said the disharmony has become evident on social media, specifically in comments on Facebook community groups.

"Everybody took care of each other before incorporation," she said. "It was not, 'Oh, because you're Hispanic, you're Black, you're white' — and right now, there's a division." 

Nycum agreed.

"Prior to incorporation, Indiantown was a single community, with no distinctions between ethnicities. Our population has a majority of Hispanic people, then Caucasian, then African American — but we were all one," she said. "Over the last four years, we have become three communities. This is a major concern."


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