As Donna Fiala, the District 1 County Commissioner for the last 20 years, tours around her District in Collier County, it is being likened to a farewell tour that a professional athlete takes in their final season. For those that have supported her during the two decades she has served, it is a bittersweet moment as she has endeared herself to so many within the District as an approachable and kind figure.
Last Wednesday evening she brought along what many refer to as the “usual suspects.” Those included long–serving County Manager Leo Ochs, who would quickly begin to reminisce in regard to working in his early days for Michael McNees when he held the position of Assistant County Manager many years ago. McNees now serves as the island’s City Manager.
Ochs spoke about the many factors which bring potential new residents to Collier County, such as the relatively safe environment, excellent emergency services, great schools, a healthy business environment and the local economy. He also pointed out the growth is not out of control within Collier County and compliment the control of that growth which is existing.
At the end of 2019, the total population in Collier is estimated at 376,706 residents. In 2030, it is estimated to grow to 449,500 and by the time “build-out” is reached Collier should be between 800,000 and one million residents.
Couple that with appreciating property values, low unemployment, a high medium income at about $76K per year, excellent public services and a capital improvement program geared to keeping up with growth projection and Ochs sees the future in a very positive light for Collier County.
The environment and maintaining a balance between it and the growth we are anticipating is considered a priority for the county according to Ochs.
Affordable housing, sometimes referred to as “workforce housing,” is a major focus for the county in the future. National numbers show that a family should not pay over 28% of their gross income for housing expenses. In Collier County, nearly half of the population is spending up to or more than 50% of their gross income, a disturbing number. Those kinds of numbers could prove to be an obstacle in attracting new businesses or industries to our area; if those entities cannot find a good pool of potential workers.
Water Quality Meeting Scheduled
Ochs announced a Water Quality Workshop would be scheduled for February 18 from 5 PM to 7:30 PM to discuss the challenges facing both the county and the cities within Collier County. That meeting is to be held at the Commissioner’s Chambers at the County Government Campus at the intersection of the East Trail and Airport Road.
A simulcast of the event will be shown at the Marco Island Historical Museum, should residents prefer not to travel up to Naples for the meeting. Comments and questions will be able to be asked and answered from the Historical site.
Multi-Purpose Facility Planned for Caxambas Boat Ramp
Steve Carrell, the Director of the Public Services Department, reported that the long–awaited new multi-purpose building will become a reality in 2020 at the Caxambas Boat Ramp and Park. It will replace the aging trailer that the Coast Guard Auxiliary presently uses. It will house offices and meeting rooms.
It will be an elevated structure that meets all FEMA Regulations and will also provide meeting space for educational purposes.
Goodland Road to Be Repaved Not Elevated
Jay Ahmed, the Transportation/Engineering Director for the County reported on the progress of the long–debated Goodland Road Project. For a number of years, the city engaged in extended discussions between the residents of Goodland, the County and members of environmental groups in regards as to how to best deal with the flooding that would temporarily overflow the only access and egress into and out of the small fishing village.
In 2002, the city took over the maintenance of the roadway known as 92A or Goodland Road. They did so with a promise that the city would receive $1 Million in lieu of impact fees for roadway maintenance, including that of 92A.
Over the years, residents continued to complain about flooding as the city sought cost–effective means of dealing with that issue. A plan to raise the elevation of the road by adding additional material and culverts under the roadway was rejected out of hand by the Conservancy and residents of Goodland during those negotiations.
On May 11, 2017, at a joint Commission and Council Workshop which saw a reserved and soft-spoken City Council Chairman Larry Honig request the following, “As soon as practical, we want to turn over our interest in the inter-local agreement to Collier County so you can begin to act immediately for the remediation action necessary.”
Honig went on to state that the city would walk away from the $2 Million owed to the city over the last two years under the provisions of the inter-local agreement and would write a check for $1.5 Million that the city was holding in impact fees to make the road issue a county responsibility.
Commissioner Fiala would bring up the issue of the 2002 inter-local agreement and stated she wanted to see that reinstated for the island, therefore providing a much-needed income source for roadway repair, which never happened.
The maintenance of the roadway would then be the responsibility of the county, however, there was no commitment to making it an elevated roadway during those discussions, a sticking point in previous negotiations.
“I’m not sure that the scope of the road will be as envisioned by some of the folks looking at it,” said Commissioner Saunders, commenting about what residents of Goodland were expecting.
Fast forward three years and the county at this recent town hall meeting confirmed that they would be proceeding essentially as originally proposed by the city. In essence, the city negotiated away $3.5 million and future roadway impact fees.
A public information meeting is being scheduled for March of 2020 when scheduling of the construction would be discussed and residents brought up to speed on the total project.
Other Updates Discussed
Updates concerning improvements to Tigertail Beach that will be a Lightning Detection, improved public restrooms, shade provisions for playground equipment and an improved set of restrooms for the concession area as well as boardwalk improvements.
Gary McAlpin, the Coastal Management Program Director, reported on the beach nourishment projects planned for the south end of the Marco Beach.
Updates were also provided on the Marco Museum and the Marco Island Executive Airport’s construction of a new terminal facility as well as new hangers to be built at the airport.
Fiala Honored by Historical Society
The Historical Society also honored Fiala for her support and encouragement which helped to make their efforts to build the Marco Museum a reality, not just a dream.