Thursday, July 6, 2017

June 2017 Month in Review - Local News

An improving economy and continued growth have created both the need and the opportunity for major infrastructure projects in our community. Last month, elected officials began discussing several upcoming decisions with long-term implications. They will be deciding not only what to do, but also how to pay for it all. Wherever you are for the summer, now’s the time to consider how these upcoming decisions will affect you and let your voice be heard.

Here is Part 2 of my Month in Review, highlighting top stories, editorials, and commentaries about Collier County, the City of Naples, and the Collier County School Board. For highlights of news from the state capital, see Part 1 of June in Review here.

Top stories: Collier County
  • County official says Collier planning well for growth. In the year ending June 30, 2016, the population of the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island area grew 2.4 percent to 365,136. By 2040 the county's population is expected to reach more than 482,000. (NDN, 6/14/17)
  • Property values set Collier County record in 2016. Taxable value is a key input to the County Budget, which will be discussed by the board in September. (NDN,  6/12/17)
  • County weighs property tax increase, land conservation, backlog of projects. Commissioners gave their preliminary approval to raise the tax to bring back Conservation Collier in a 3-2 vote early this year, with Bill McDaniel and Andy Solis dissenting. Now that they are looking at hard numbers of next year's budget, they will have to vote again. (NDN, 6/15/17)
  • Trial sales tax balloon being floated around Collier County as a new funding source for roads, affordable housing, and environmental preservation. If a majority of commissioners agree, the tax could be on the ballot in November 2018 for voter approval. (NDN, 6/27/17)
  • Collier commissioners vote unanimously to raise bed tax from 4 to 5 percent, approve stadium and sports complex. The complex will cost $60 to $80 million and be paid for by issuing about $55 million of debt, using some of the tax increase to pay interest, using county general funds, and selling naming rights on the facility. (NDN, 6/13/17; Naples Herald, 6/14/17)
  • Commissioner seeks fee change to spur growth. Bill McDaniel is spearheading a pilot program that would allow impact fees to be spread over a decades-long period. The program could be rolled out county-wide if it goes well in an initial test area in a section of Immokalee. (WINK News, 6/29/17)
  • Commissioners agree to widen beaches, cap museum funding. The county will spend $2.5 million more a year to widen beaches and better protect them from erosion. About $1.5 million will come from the increased bed tax, leaving a funding gap partially made up by capping museum funding at $2 million, which is $500,000 below the current level. (Naples Herald, 6/27/17; NDN, 6/28/17)
  • Pine Ridge Road could see reconstruction to reduce congestion. The intersection at Livingston Road, just west of I-75, is the primary identified trouble spot. County officials say more than 55,000 cars a day flow through it as of 2016 and more than 75,000 are projected by 2040. (NDN, 6/8/17; Naples Herald, 6/15/17; )
  • County to build new ambulance station to keep up with growth along Collier Blvd. Commissioners set aside $2 million for it in a tentative budget to be finalized in September. The station will be large enough to fit a fire engine, should the Greater Naples Fire District decide to join the county at the site. (NDN, 6/24/17)
  • Commissioner Andy Solis brings community mental health program advocates together to talk strategy, need for aid. Seeks local plan to address the widespread mental health and substance abuse crisis facing the County. (NDN, 6/7/17)
  • County libraries to get more books, still far short. The increase in the Collier County budget would give county libraries a total of just over $1 million for books next year, which is still half of the $2 million-plus a year the county spent on books before 2008. (NDN, 6/25/17)

Top stories: City of Naples
  • Naples panel urges OK of $15 million 350-space parking garage at Fourth Avenue South and Fourth Street South. The City Council will consider the project for final approval in August. (NDN, 6/27/17)
  • City Council says no to closing Naples Pier at night; closing overnight parking at the Pier’s 12th Avenue South parking lot to be considered. (Naples Herald, 6/15/17; NDN, 6/14/17)
  • Habitat for Humanity plans home rehabbing in Naples' low-income River Park area. Naples City Council has signaled support for subsidizing the effort with revenue from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. (NDN, 6/25/17)
  • Three candidates file to run for Naples City Council seats in 2018: Jim Moon, a Naples attorney, Wynn Phillips, a former psychologist, and Mitch Norgart, a luxury real estate broker. Councilwoman Linda Penniman says she is running for a second four-year term but has not yet filed. (NDN, 6/24/17)

Top stories: Collier County Public Schools
  • Collier school district ranked fifth in the state by Florida Department of Education, up from 14th last year. It is one of 11 to earn an A rating, of the 67 districts in the state. Superintendent Kamela Patton credited “a focus on progress monitoring and ongoing adjustments to instruction.” (Sparker's Soapbox, 6/29/17; NDN, 6/29/17)
  • Superintendent's contract extended through 2021 by a 3-2 vote by the School board. Members Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter echoed the concerns of many public speakers at the meeting that Patton would be stolen away by another district if her contract was not extended. Members Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter voted no. (Naples Herald, 6/14/17)
  • School board votes to approve 5 textbooks with a 3-2 vote, unanimously rejects one, after hearing from more than 30 public speakers. The adoption process was contentious for both the board and the public and resulted in a lawsuit against the district. A judge denied the motion, allowing the board to proceed with the vote. (NDN, 6/1/17; NBC-2, 6/1/17)
  • Mason Classical Academy charter school board faces criticism, complaints about management. Just two of the six Mason board members who served during the school’s first academic year remain on the board. (NDN, 6/13/17)

Top editorials and commentaries

  • Editorial: Collier County commissioners are considering steps toward preserving important Southwest Florida sites in perpetuity. While the desirable goal of preservation seems simple, ongoing discussions involving key properties show the complexities involved. (NDN, 6/5/17)
  • Editorial: Collier sports complex could diversify tourism. We applaud the unanimous decisions reached by Collier commissioners and their tourism advisory board to pursue construction of an amateur sports complex. (NDN, 6/18/17)
  • Editorial: Options will abound for Collier tax manna. When there’s more money to spend, the tug-of-war begins among competing interests. We urge public participation in helping define priorities. (NDN, 6/27/17)
  • Editorial: Collier bed tax increase from 4 percent to 5 percent one of several good moves. Also good: changing the allocation of those funds. Beaches first at 42.6 percent; continued museum funding capped at $2 million; cut in tourism promotion avoided; agreeing to bond land purchase for amateur sports complex. (NDN, 6/28/17)
  • Commentary: Ball Fields Built on Sand. A destructive coastal storm, a fall-off in tourist funds, an unexpected call on county reserves. Big plans today — for ball fields and beaches — could end up as projects built on sand. (Dave Trecker, The Resident's Corner, 6/17/17)
  • Commentary: Mental health shortfall a major issue in Collier County. To try to solve the problem by reshuffling what we now have is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Innovative planning will be needed, but make no mistake about it, so will additional money. (Jerry Godshaw and Dave Trecker, Members, Community Paramedicine Roundtable, NDN, 6/28/17)

Let your voice be heard.
Take a few minutes to tell your county commissioner (find her/him here) how the upcoming decisions will affect you and how you want them to vote. Reach Naples City Council members here.

In case you missed it, some recent Sparker's Soapbox posts:

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Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker's Soapbox online at www.sparkers-soapbox.com, subscribe to posts by email at tinyurl.com/subscribe-to-soapbox, "like" Sparker's Soapbox on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.



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