The first Collier County Board of Commissioners Meeting for 2021 was held on Tuesday, January 12, at the Board of County Commissioners Chambers at the Collier County Government Center. Presided over by Chairman Penny Taylor (District 4), all 5 Commissioners were present for the meeting. After an Invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, the Commissioners got down to the business at hand.
Chairmanship from Commissioner Saunders was transferred to Commissioner Taylor. Commissioner Taylor complimented Commissioner Saunders on his leadership during the trying 2020 calendar year. Commissioner Saunders took the time to explain that in October, an ordinance was passed regarding the Chairmanship position that makes it now a rotation system. Commissioner Taylor takes over now with Commissioner McDaniel’s on deck for next year. Each Commissioner will get their opportunity to Chair.
The Board appointed its members to various councils, boards and agencies. Our own District 1 Commissioner Rick J. LoCastro was appointed to the Public Safety Coordinating Council. As explained by County Manager Leo Ochs, Jr., The Public Safety Coordinating Council is “a State statutorily required committee in each county whose job is to primarily develop strategies to limit the populations in jails and try to make for a more efficient criminal justice system in the county.” Commissioner LoCastro will also join Commissioner McDaniel as Co-Chair on the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. As explained by Mr. Ochs, the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council is another council established by the governor and State Statues and they “coordinate planning activities at a regional level”. Other appointments were Commissioner Taylor and Commissioner McDaniel Co-Chairing the Community Redevelopment Agency, Commissioner Solis to the Tourist Development Council and Commissioner Taylor to the Economic Development Board.
Minutes were approved and then the Employee of the Month was recognized (due to COVID, the employee is not present). Ms. Ivonne Garcia, Public Services Department Community & Human Services, is the November Employee of the Month. Ms. Garcia is a case manager and works with senior citizens.
A few proclamations were also approved. January 15, 2021, is designated as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast Day in Collier County and January 18, 2021, is proclaimed as a day to remember and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Mr. Vincent Keeys, President of the Collier County Branch of the NAACP, was on hand to accept the proclamations. January 2021 is proclaimed as Human Trafficking Awareness month.
Public comments were next, many directed towards the upcoming March meeting regarding the One Naples Project. There have been requests to move that meeting to a larger location as audience attendance is expected to be very high and the current location would not be able to accommodate everyone with social distancing requirements.
After doing procedural business the Commissioners discussed the process for hiring a new County Manager—Mr. Ochs will be retiring in May 2021. Applications have been received with the debate centered more on whether or not to hire an outside recruiting firm and establishing an end date for candidate applications. They settled on closing the process of accepting resumes by January 20th and will decide on January 26th whether to retain a recruiter.
Another area that garnered discussion was the potential expansion of the Big Cypress basin boundary within the South Florida Water Management District. At their last meeting, Commissioners had asked staff to gather information on the potential impacts of the expansion on Collier County in order to establish a board policy position. After this request to Staff, Senate Bill 406 was filed and did address some of the Commissioners questions—a companion House Bill, 209, was also just recently filed. The Commissioners noted some gray areas and inconsistencies in the bill, along with some technical deficiencies, that need more clarification.
After approving individual impact fee rates, Commissioners were asked to again consider an economic incentive to P6NT, LLC for the redevelopment of two parcels located in the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community. The motion to approve failed on vote.
During the General Comments portion, the Commissioners discussed the distribution of the COVID vaccine and the frustrations they are hearing from their constituents—lack of appointments, non-residents getting vaccinated. Commissioner Taylor reiterated that neither the Board nor the County has any sway, or say, in how many vaccines the county gets and when they arrive. Commissioners will be having a briefing on the COVID pandemic once a month so that the public can count on getting up-to-date information. The briefing is scheduled to happen at the end of the month and while it won’t include public comment—unless it appears as an agenda item—it will include discussion among the Commissioners.
Another topic discussed came from the public comments made earlier in the meeting regarding the upcoming One Naples Project meeting. The motion of exploring options to move the meeting has passed. This does not mean the meeting will be moved, only that the green light has been given to explore locations.
There is a wealth of information to be found on the county website pertaining to the Board of County Commissioners. Go to www.colliercountyfl.gov and click on “Your Government.” You will see “Board of County Commissioners” at the top of the last column. Selecting that takes you right to the Board of County Commissioners page. Here you can meet all the Commissioners, view upcoming meeting agendas and past meeting minutes, petition the Board and more. The Collier County Commissioners meet the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month and can be streamed live via Collier TV. The search bar on top is another convenient way to find the Count Commissioners page and Collier TV Online.