Americans love to say they believe in the capitalistic system.

We believe that government should stay out of the markets. We should leave to the private sector to operate businesses, instead of bureaucrats. If the public sector is involved, it usually results in the product being more expensive. This has been proven repeatedly. Government needs to step in when the private sector won’t do so.

But in Martin County we must like government involvement. Two prime examples are the concession stands at the beaches and Sailfish Splash Park. I will admit the concession stands are small potatoes compared to the water amusement park but nonetheless it is emblematic of government intruding on the private sector.

This entire blog post was precipitated by something I read in Gil Smart’s piece on TCPalm this morning. Apparently, the Martin County Parks and Recreation Department wants to take back the stand at Stuart Beach. They intend to gut rehab the building and then have it be operated by Parks & Rec. I don’t believe that anyone would dispute the fact that the building needs to be refurbished.

I don’t have a problem with the County spending money on facilities. We should improve County property. I do have a problem with the County then bringing the businesses “in house” so that public employees can operate the restaurants. This is just what they did after rehabbing the Sand Dune Café at Jensen Beach. So far this year, according to Smart, that County operation has made $18,000.

I have a little familiarity with the restaurant trade having grown up in the business, worked in many and even owned a few through the years. I have to say that making $18,000 so far this year is nothing to brag about. Let’s remember the Sand Dune Café does not pay rent or must make a profit. I haven’t even factored in the cost of the renovations.

Presently the Stuart Beach concession known as the Chef Shack pays a percentage of sales equating to about $1000 a month. I am not a fan of leases that calculate rent as strictly a percentage of sales. I’ve seen those figures manipulated too many times.

So, these two assets, paid for by the taxpayers and residents of Martin County, are not exactly contributing money to the public coffers. Assuming, not unreasonably, that beachgoers might want to grab something to eat or drink while at the beach and that the stand should not be an eyesore, why does that mean the public sector should operate these concession stands? Why shouldn’t both have someone that knows the business and, just as importantly, have a financial stake in their success operate them? Why hasn’t there been an RFP soliciting private companies to bid on operating these businesses?

Martin County’s Parks & Rec Department should stop trying to build empires and concentrate on their core mission…parks and recreation. The sooner they do just that, the better off we, the taxpayers, will be. I can go on about Sailfish Splash Park, but I will save that socialistic endeavor for another day.

Reposted from Tom Campenni

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