As at the state level, Hurricane Irma dominated September’s news related to our county and municipal governments and school district, and there is much to report. But I’d like to begin with this quote from Friday’s Naples Daily News editorial:
There will be a time to constructively dissect the Irma preparation and post-storm response. Now is too soon. Monday morning quarterbacks will best serve our community if they wait on the sidelines for more fact-finding.
In this post, I share the news as reported, and without comment. As you read this post, please consider each story from the perspective of the elected officials responsible. If you were they, would you have done anything differently? What facts would you be seeking in order to decide what to do next?
If ever there was an opportunity to see and evaluate your government in action, it was during Hurricane Irma. If you have comments, questions or suggestions about any of last month’s events, I encourage you to share them with your elected officials.
As a reminder, these are the local governing bodies that were/are responsible for providing services to our community:
|Collier County Emergency Services Center
8075 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples
The Board of County Commissioners — Their appointed County Manager and his organization (CMO) are responsible for the day-to-day operations of county government. As relates to Hurricane Irma, the Bureau of Emergency Services Division and the Public Utilities Department are part of the CMO. (Organization chart )
The Collier County Sheriff – The Sheriff and his staff are responsible, on a day-to-day basis, for “preserving and protecting the lives, property and constitutional guarantees of all persons.”
The City of Naples City Council, City of Marco Island City Council and City of Everglades City City Council and their respective City managers and staffs are responsible for providing services and protecting their municipalities. (Ironically, Everglades City’s mayor of 22 years resigned over problems with the City’s sewer plant just days before Hurricane Irma wreaked its havoc.)
The Collier County Public School Board — The School Board’s appointed superintendent and her staff provided hurricane-protected shelters for community members who evacuated their homes due to the predicted storm surge.
The stories, editorials, and commentaries noted below link to the Naples Daily News unless otherwise noted.
Top stories: Hurricane Irma
- Residents’ cars filled public parking garages before Hurricane Irma struck. City and County officials scrambled to find parking for employees, law enforcement, and first responders as a result.
- Dispatchers from other counties, states came to relieve Collier colleagues after Sheriff’s Office officials put out a request for help under a mutual aid agreement. State and regional leaders coordinated with teams around Florida and the country to send reinforcements.
- Collier County tallies $320M of estimated damage from Hurricane Irma. It left about 4.2 million cubic yards of fallen trees, torn branches and broken fences scattered throughout the County, said the deputy in the county’s solid & hazardous waste management department who is in charge of collecting the debris. It could take four to six months to remove and chop it all into mulch.
- Keys get FEMA trailers; Collier residents left homeless. Monroe County leaders sought housing help days after Irma passed. Collier and state officials did not request trailers from FEMA until Tuesday, 16 days after the hurricane devastated some of the poorest communities in the county.
- Widespread sewage leaks showed Florida’s dependence on electric pumps. After Hurricane Irma cut the electricity to Southwest Florida, raw sewage flowed onto streets and into homes, and some residents contracted water-borne diseases, all because public utilities were not prepared to manage the massive, days-long power outage.
- Immokalee graves covered in water. Some parts of Lake Trafford Memorial Gardens are covered in standing water from Hurricane Irma and recent rainfall. County Commissioner Bill McDaniel said the county is in the process of bringing down the floodwaters for good at the cemetery. NBC–2
- Related – pre-Irma: Immokalee family pushes for change after cemetery floods. Commissioner Bill McDaniel said he is concerned with the drainage and maintenance issues at the cemetery and will be following up on the issue. Immokalee Bulletin
- Hurricane Irma costs Collier County students four vacation days. School Board members voted unanimously to accept a revised academic calendar to make up for closures due to Hurricane Irma. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart agreed to waive two days from the required 180 school days.
- Collier to seek FEMA aid to rebuild beaches. The County’s director of coastal zone management said the beaches lost 635,000 cubic yards of sand — the equivalent of 128 million gallons of sand — due to the storm, which initial estimates show will cost $35 million to replenish.
Top editorials and commentaries – Hurricane Irma
- Editorial: Even with power mostly back, some repair work is needed. It is with those who remain upset, including some public officials, where there is repair work to do in customer relations.
- Editorial: Patience needed for monstrous tree debris removal process ahead. The cleanup could cost the County $100 million, dwarfing Wilma’s $26 million. Expediting the federal and state reimbursement process is one way we’re hoping to see government hurry up, not wait, in our recovery from Irma.
- Editorial: Let’s keep focus on recovery, fact-finding for now. There is still great human need in areas within our community. For example, as of Monday, there were 53 nonprofit organizations helping Immokalee recover.
- Commentary: #CCPSStrong – Back to the classroom together. As Irma changed direction and headed right for Collier, the storm surge predictions became dire and the evacuation zones expanded. Ultimately 29 schools provided shelter to over 17,000 guests. By Kamela Patton, Superintendent – Collier County Public Schools. CCPS
- Kudos & Kicks: Reviewing the good, bad and questionable. It’s hard to imagine the community making it through Category 3 Hurricane Irma without the dedication of Collier County Public Schools leadership, employees, and volunteers.
Top stories: Collier County
- Water managers approve $758M water budget with no discussion. The budget for the South Florida Water Management District, a regional governmental agency that manages water resources in the southern half of the state including Collier County, includes $369 million for land acquisition and restoration, $55 million for water resource planning and monitoring and $22 million for the Caloosahatchee Reservoir. News-Press
- Immokalee Water & Sewer District holds a groundbreaking ceremony for its USDA Rural Development Water Main Replacement Project. The IWSD received $17 million in loan money and a $4 million grant to replace 50 miles of the water lines in Immokalee. Immokalee Bulletin
Top stories and commentaries: City of Naples
- With new funding, Naples leaders eye River Park improvements. 7-Eleven will pay the city $166,000 to satisfy a requirement from the Naples City Council’s May 2016 approval of a controversial convenience store and gas station planned in River Park. Naples officials are preparing a River Park wishlist for the council’s review.
- Naples residents panel recommends big pay raises for mayor, council members. Every four years, a panel appointed by the council meets to consider a pay raise for elected officials. The mayoral and council salaries haven’t increased since 2007.
- Commentary: Naples must improve in tracking redevelopment spending. The Naples City Council and city staff should work together to adopt basic data collection and reporting procedures to guide our community redevelopment investment decisions. Linda Penniman, Vice Mayor – Naples.
Top stories: Collier County Public Schools
- Collier School Board won’t join other districts in lawsuit against state over controversial education bill. After nearly two hours of debate, the Collier County School Board voted 4–1 to refrain from joining a lawsuit against the state over a hastily passed education bill, however, the discussion is ongoing.
- Collier School Board approves $1.05 billion budget for 2017–18, an increase from last year. Board members Erika Donalds, Roy Terry, Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter voted in favor of the budget. Kelly Lichter voted against it.
- National Geographic explorer tells Collier students about cat-like fosa of Madagascar at Naples Zoo. “The fact that CCPS has the technology and the enthusiasm to bring an occasion like this to all of its schools is extraordinary,” the scientist said.
Looking ahead: ways to help
As mentioned above, there is still great human need in areas within our own community, and there are many ways to help. I close this post with just a few:
- Volunteer your time to help victims of Hurricane Irma in Collier County via VollunteerCollier.com/irma.
- Purchase needed items from the United Way of Collier County’s Amazon Wish List for Hurricane Irma Victims. The items you order will be shipped to the United Way, which will get them delivered to areas that need them the most.
- Make a tax-deductible donation to the Collier Comes Together Disaster Relief Fund, established to provide assistance to Hurricane Irma victims and their families. You can designate a geographic area (e.g. Marco Island, Immokalee, Golden Gate), purpose (e.g. food, housing) or nonprofit to benefit.
Thank you for wanting to be an informed voter and for making a difference in our community.