A New Perspective 7-06-04: Waterways

Golden Gate Gazette

July 6, 2004

The county is fighting to find ways to get more money to accomplish the many demands placed upon them. Rather than lumping the needs all together and setting the taxes to accomplish their objectives, County staff is attempting keep funding levels as they are and garner more money by setting up areas of strong demand into definable projects and asking additional funds be taxed separately for  the specific projects.
We were given the 20 year plan for stormwater management utility tax proposal.
In the list was a project called Natures Point. This area is in the River Reach neighborhood and was dredged at a cost of $96,000 earlier this year. The project had nothing to do with stormwater run off, but actually dredged out a boat dock area along the river that has silted up over time. The dock area was in front of the home owned by Naples Daily New Publisher Bob Burdick and couple of his neighbors.
We followed a long line of emails from the publisher to get staff to dredge his property. We also saw a commissioner’s email that expressed anger that staffs weren’t doing their job in delaying projects specifically related to this Natures Point project.
Dredging an individual property owner’s boat launch had never been done in the history of stormwater management work. An exception was made and it was done for the Publisher of the Naples Daily News. This need seemed to supercede most other flooding areas in the county.
Funds were available from another agency to help in the project. The project was called the Burnett property in emails because that is Bob Burdick’s wife’s name. These additional funds weren’t received because of a staff error. The additional funding source would be delayed, but the pressure got too strong to delay the dredging until additional outside funding came in the next year’s cycle. We paid for the whole thing out of stormwater managements coffers this year to take the heat off.
Was there a heavy hand of influence peddling going on? We don’t know. After questioning the reason for the personal dredging project from stormwater drainage funds, we now are asked have to have our conversations recorded by stormwater staff if we want to talk some more.
We do note that if the tax increase is passed for the stormwater utility, the Estates area will pay the same tax rate as the rest of the County and will receive very little benefit.
The Golden Gate City area was given a token amount of money for Australian Pine removal which they would have received anyway because of a grant that was received for the project.
County staff stated the priorities in funding stormwater projects will be determined politically. We see by the projects already funded that influence may be everything.
Commissioner Tom Henning is pushing to have stormwater needs taken care of by setting up special taxing districts to have neighborhoods take care of their own areas.
In the meantime, what other groups will apply the most political pressure to get their area done before those less organized or equipped to apply pressure. Need isn’t necessarily as big of a determining factor.