Local News in Review – August 2018

While most of August’s local news was about the primary elections, there were other hot topics as well: the proposed stormwater utility fee for residents of unincorporated Collier County, and the new safety measures put in place at Collier County Public Schools in the wake of the Parkland and other mass school shootings. I’ll begin with these two issues, then share other news local residents should know.
But first, a clarification about terminology I used in my Recap and reflections on the August primaries. In reporting voter participation in various ballot questions, I used the terms “closed to Republicans” and “closed to Democrats” without defining them. A race that is “closed to Republicans” is a closed primary in which only Republicans can vote. A race that is “closed to Democrats” is one in which only Democrats can vote. Thank you to the readers who alerted me so I could explain.

Proposed stormwater utility fee

County commissioners will vote on a proposed new fee following a final Public Hearing this Thursday, September 6, beginning at 5:05 PM in Commission Chambers (directions). Click here for the meeting agenda and related materials.

Learn more, including the proposed fee to be charged for your property, at collierstormwater.com.

  • Brent Batten: Stormwater fee brings flash flood of opposition from Golden Gate Estates. An oft-voiced complaint is that people weren’t adequately notified about the fee. They also fault the methodology that counts gravel and shell driveways the same as paved areas, and point out that the plan does not give credit for the fact that large lots tend to absorb water before it runs off into the county drainage system. Naples Daily News, 8/23/18
  • Brent Batten: Stormwater tax passes easily — in Texas. In Collier, maybe not so much. Some residents of Collier County are finding that the stormwater fee, while technically not a tax, would increase the amount they pay to the county annually by 10 percent or more. Bill McDaniel is the only one of the five Collier County commissioners who has not gone along with the stormwater fee so far. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Brent Batten: Add a stormwater fee in Collier? What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 18 inches of rain on parts of Southwest Florida, filling swales and flooding low-lying streets. An already taxed drainage system was unable to shunt the water along, creating a backlog that lingered for weeks. Naples Daily News, 8/25/18

New school safety measures at Collier County Public Schools

  • New focus on mental health at CCPS after year tainted by Parkland, Irma. More than $1 million will be spent to add seven school psychologists and eight social workers to the district’s mental health staff, for a total of 31 psychologists and 16 social workers. Some mental health employees will receive school crisis intervention and trauma care training, at a total cost of $25,000, and teachers will receive training in suicide prevention and youth mental health assistance. Naples Daily News, 8/13/18
  • Collier Schools’ doors will be locked for safety. As of August 10, the front doors at all 50 CCPS campuses were locked and visitors must show a valid photo ID in order to enter. CCPS, 8/8/18
  • Collier, Lee school districts ban backpacks at sports events. Collier School Board member Erick Carter said, “I welcome feedback from parents as to what their thoughts are.” Naples Daily News, 8/29/18
  • Florida law requiring schools inquire about students’ mental health raises privacy concerns. The law, passed in the wake of the mass shooting on Feb. 14, does not explain or detail what mental health services parents should report on new student registration forms. Naples Daily News, 8/22/18
  • For more about CCPS safety programs, visit the District’s Keep Collier Safe website here.

Other County news

  • With new hospitals proposed for SW Florida, state hearings on need set for January. Ave Maria-based Braden Clinic was given preliminary approval to build a 25-bed hospital at its clinic site. At stake is a shake-up of patient market share that has been the status quo for many years. Naples Daily News, 8/10/18
  • Scammers trick Collier Mosquito Control District out of almost $100,000. CMCD staff is trained on cybersecurity issues, and they followed correct procedures. They were also insured for the loss, so the money has already been replaced. Naples Daily News, 8/10/18
  • Michael Reagen appointed to vacant seat on Collier Mosquito Control District Board of Commissioners. The seat was vacated earlier this year when David Chapman resigned from the elected position. Reagen will serve the District’s Seat 5 position through December 2020. CMCD News Release, 8/15/18
  • Controversial fire fee draws more candidates to North Collier Fire District races. Often, fire board members run unopposed or have only one opponent, but the fire fee referendum has spurred more competition in the November races. Naples Daily News, 8/18/18
  • At red tide forum, scientists tried to answer residents’ questions. More than 300 people attended a Public Information Meeting hosted by Commissioner Penny Taylor and the County. Naples Daily News, 8/30/18; recording here; materials here

City of Naples

  • Ethics Naples: Commentary: Unjust criticism of Naples mayor, attorney, council by Naples Daily News. There’s a difference between the Ethics Naples’ executive director’s “right” to speak as an individual and his “responsibility” as an appointed member of a city advisory board. By Bill Barnett, Naples mayor, via Naples Daily News, 8/11/18
  • Ethics Naples: Judge says council has right to question ethics referendum’s legality. Judge Hayes is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks regarding the referendum’s legality. Naples Daily News, 8/21/18
  • Naples council selects six finalists to interview for city manager job. A tour, public reception and formal interviews are scheduled. The council is expected to make a decision Sept. 14. Naples Daily News, 8/15/18
  • New traffic control system aims to make driving in Naples less of a headache. City council agreed to spend nearly $58,000 on software, training and license to operate the 20 new traffic signal controllers received from the Florida Department of Transportation. Naples Daily News, 8/16/18

City of Marco Island

  • Marco Island may have new city manager by Sept. 4. “This council and the community desperately needs (sic) a qualified, professional city manager to make our government effective, performance-based and citizen-oriented,” Vice-Chair Charlotte Roman said. Marco Eagle, 8/9/18
  • Related Editorial: Instability at top should concern Marco voters. Marco council will interview five finalists to fill the vacant city manager position in September. Each got three votes for consideration, but it takes five votes to hire anyone. Naples Daily News, 8/21/18
  • City council considering audit of purchasing contracts after employee’s mishaps. “It’s the city manager’s job to deal with city employee issues,” Vice-Chair Roman said. “However, the council has an oversight role for the stewardship of the taxpayers’ money.” Marco Eagle, 8/10/18
  • Marco Planning Board opposes changes to land development code for assisted living facilities. Staff expressed concern that the large facilities were not anticipated and may have unintended consequences for the health, safety, and welfare of the community during an emergency evacuation. Marco Eagle, 8/10/18

Collier County Public Schools

  • Editorial kudos to CCPS Superintendent Kamela Patton. She continues to excel, earning a well-deserved high rating in her annual evaluation by the School Board. Naples Daily News, 8/3/18
  • Editorial: CCPS budget tentatively approved 3-2. We applaud the district’s administration for putting money away annually toward a new high school in 2023 that could be built without having to borrow, meanwhile working to become debt-free. Naples Daily News, 8/6/18
  • CCPS to receive $1 million from the United Arab Emirates for Hurricane Irma recovery. The funding comes from $10 million the UAE is dedicating to Florida as part of a tradition of helping communities in the U.S. that are devastated by natural disasters. Naples Daily News, 8/8/18
  • Federal-state conflict on medical marijuana confuses Florida schools. Collier County is one of six Florida school districts that are complying with federal law, which still classifies all marijuana, medicinal or recreational, as an illegal drug. USA Today, 8/11/18
That’s it for August’s local news. The General Elections are about ten weeks away. Between now and the October 25 start of Early Voting, I’ll review the local and state elections, proposed constitutional amendments and referenda that will be on Collier voters’ ballots. There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll be starting soon!
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