People express frustration in Stuart over a proposed new fee to help fund the fire service

Disgusted, disappointing, and shameful are some of the words people used to describe city leadership in Stuart. They're frustrated after a nearly four hour meeting Monday night.  It focused on a proposed fee to help fund the city's fire service. 

The meeting attracted a large crowd that filled the room and spilled into the hallway. 

Dozens of people are opposed to a new fire department assessment fee. It would cost homeowners between $100 and $200 every year depending on their property value.

"We're still having hard times," says resident LC Jackson, "I think they need a reality check."

Many people were frustrated by the proceedings.

"I don't believe the commissioners took the time to understand what was going to be presented tonight" says businessman Tom Campenni.

The City Manager laid out their argument. The city of Stuart needs to fill a $1 million budget hole. Officials say the city has already reduced the number of employees and department budgets.

But residents say it can't be on their shoulders.

"They don't have any more to give you," says former mayor and commissioner Charlie Foster, "If you keep on going we're gonna be broke like Detroit."

Several people said if the fee goes through commission members could be out of a job after the next election.

"We will use the voting booth to take care of it," says Foster.

The mayor and city Commission listened to the public's criticism. Officials said they had to pass the resolution because of time constraints in the budget process. But it will not go into effect because a second vote is needed.

Their vote included the stipulation that the city meet with Martin County about consolidating the fire service. City officials also created a one year sunset for the assessment fee which means it will expire next year. The mayor and city commission will also review the entire budget for possible savings.

"Hopefully staff will look at some cuts," says city commissioner Jeff Krauskopf.

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