Let’s start off with a little good news about roads! I just received this note, which I am copying right onto this column, and I’ll call it “A Note from Zac at FDOT.”
“Thanks for reaching out. The lights on the Jolley Bridge and the poles on Davis Blvd. were damaged by Hurricane Irma. Repairs to lighting like those are deemed non-emergency repairs by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), so the repair contract took longer to get approved by them. FDOT has recently received approval for the repairs from FHWA and will be repairing those lights, as well as many others around the District, later this year. We have asked the contractor to prioritize the Jolley Bridge first, since there has been so much concern expressed about the lack of lighting there.
After working with you regarding the resurfacing of SR 951 from Fiddler’s Creek to the Jolley Bridge, the project was advanced and is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2019. (Note: This is what we call “The Washboard Road.”)
The lighting project on US 41E from SR 951 to Greenway Road, that we also worked with you on, is scheduled to begin in the late spring or early summer of 2019 as well.
I think that you have a lot of upcoming good news to tell your constituents. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
Speaking about “right from the FDOT!” There you have it!
◼ Many of you might not have seen the news regarding a new business coming to Davis Boulevard, which will replace the old Honda dealership and used car lot. This new site will become a Germain BMW Dealership. Wow, that corridor is really coming up with some sparkling new and luxury businesses! First the fantastic Porsche dealership, and then some new boat dealerships, and now a BMW dealership! It looks like the area is sprucing up and getting ready for the long awaited new, luxurious development coming to the Gateway Triangle. It couldn’t come fast enough for me! The contrast from driving into this area from the City of Naples is disheartening, to say the least, and most of us are ready for a new face on an old area. When I say old, East Naples was settled long before properties in the north end of Collier County. First Everglades City, then the County Government moved the County Seat to East Naples, where it still exists.
◼ I just read a nice message from Chief Kingman Schuldt in the Isles of Capri “Coconut Tele” about collecting things for the kids to use to start back to school such as shoes, socks, clothes, school supplies, etc. It’s a wonderful gesture, but the problem for the children who have many needs in East Naples is they have no way to get all the way to the other end of town (the huge fire station at 951 near Immokalee Road) where it will be distributed, when, if the family has a car, Dad has it at work and Mom cannot get there. So, although most of us know the tremendous need in the area, there is no way to answer those needs through the fire department, and I’m afraid there is little other way to carry through the delivery. I realize there are other agencies like East Naples Merchants Association, East Naples Kiwanis and Marco Island Kiwanis who distribute at a school or to a certain grade level, whichever they can afford to help, and agencies who distribute to their own client’s needs. But how do the other kids receive all the things we citizens collect and give through the Fire Department and would like to get to them? It really is a problem that needs solving. The Fire Department used to distribute to kids in each area they serve, such as the firehouse on Davis Boulevard and another in Golden Gate, but now they only distribute at the one at the other end of town. I will write Chief Schuldt to see if he can help with this problem. Hopefully he has an answer that will help all of these kids.
◼ Anyway, that brings up another subject. One of our agencies has a wonderful program that allows people to buy their first home with 500 hours of sweat equity plus $1,000 the new owners have saved. The new owners know they bought their home through their hard work and savings, and feel a great deal of pride as they say to themselves “Look what I did for my family!” The county started a new practice a few years ago to give these same people an additional $25,000 (even if they have that much in a saving account) for down payment assistance even though they already met the required down payment the agency wanted. That has been a stumbling block for me – using tax payer dollars to augment a program that already was doing the job so well, and giving the owner a feeling of pride at doing it himself! It means so much more when you have worked for it, or at least it felt that way a few years ago.
◼ I believe many households have received the American Community Survey from the U. S. Department of Commerce. The U. S. Census Bureau conducts this survey to give our country an up-to-date picture of how we live — our education, employment, housing and more. The survey collects this critical information to be used to meet the needs of communities, such as where new schools, hospitals and fire stations are needed. It explains that you were not chosen personally but instead your address has been chosen, and IT REQUIRES YOU BY LAW to respond to this survey. I was surprised and glad I read it. Just in case you get one, make sure you read it also. Don’t just throw it away. Actually I received two of them: one via e-mail and now one in the regular mail. I’d better get busy and fill it out because maybe the next time I hear from them they’ll have someone knocking on my door! I’ll get busy as soon as I finish this column!
◼ One last comment: It is amazing how the public will find a good place or business even if the community is small or they have no advertising. Good things spread quickly. I’ll explain. On vacation we stopped at a new restaurant that took over an older, rather tired place that had good food but not a lot of action. The new owners changed it completely, upgraded its appearance and selections and opened the door for business without any advertising. It caught on so quickly that even in a distressed area, people were standing in line to get in! I think quickly about Texas Roadhouse, as a for instance, even though it is not the business I was referring to. No sooner did they open the doors and it was crowded and has remained so ever since! People say, “Oh, don’t go to that area, your business won’t survive,” but this great business has the right idea. They even won an award recently in a paper! It’s the only one in town and it is flourishing. I’m actually thinking of bringing an Amish furniture store to this area to see what will happen. I bet it would catch on immediately! I know an assisted living facility in town that is about to have Amish cabinetry, case goods and/or mill work plus furniture installed that is made in Ohio Amish Country! I’d love to attract them to open a business right here in our area to sell, distribute and display their product. Hmmm…I wonder if they would bring the Amish workforce down here as well to install it.