While he was here in Marco Island, former City Manager Roger Hernstadt convinced a skeptical Council in 2013 to invest in the services of Ron Book, member of a lobbying firm in Tallahassee for at least 20 cities, counties, school boards, hospital districts and large corporations. He represents our interests to seek state funding for local projects and protect our interests regarding impending legislation that might affect the welfare of local taxpayers. Hernstadt had engaged the services of the powerful lobbyist during his time in Miami-Dade and in Marathon, Florida.
Since 2013, Book has been successful in bringing home a significant amount of state funding for Marco Island projects such a those with the utility department and on the replacement of Fire Station 51.
At the November 19 special called meeting of the Council, Book schooled councilors on the challenges being faced by legislators in the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session, especially the debate over how best to utilize the “Rainy Day Fund,” billions of dollars in surplus which the legislature carefully set aside during the last several years of positive revenues.
He warned Council to sharpen their pencils and ready projects for immediate implementation should they receive a thumbs up from the legislators and dodge the veto of the governor. “Focus on one good shovel–ready project that stays under a $500,000 request for State monies – well under $500K – in the area of $440,000 or $460,000,” said Book. He also suggested that they find one other “transportation” style project to keep at the ready should the opportunity arise.
Prior to Book joining with Council via video conferencing, City staff had presented to Council its suggestion regarding a “Tide-Leveling” Project which would entail installation of a 48” culvert under San Marco Road to join the northern and southern canal areas presently separated by the roadway. The project would allow a better “flushing” effect, acting to improve water quality in those waterways.
After hearing from Book, Council revisited the project to bring financing numbers more into line with his suggestions.
Another area which Book told Council to be aware of was the potential impact by trial lawyer lobbyist attempts to change some of the protections municipalities are afforded under present “sovereign immunity” legislation. Changes to those protections could have a serious impact on the need for government entities to acquire expensive legal protection for employees and their agencies.
Book concluded by pointing out the advantages of the strong working relationship between Collier County and Lee County Legislative Delegations, as well as the powerful leadership position of State Senator Kathleen Passidomo.