County Board proclaims Hendry a ‘Purple Heart County’

Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 696 executive team and the Hendry County commissioners pose with a Purple Heart. (Special to The Caloosa Belle/Tara Ionescu)

The Hendry County Commission meeting of Tuesday, March 27, started off with the proclamation of the county as a “Purple Heart County.” Hendry County has a highly decorated veteran population including many Purple Heart recipients. The Hendry County Board encouraged citizens to show their appreciation of the sacrifices that Purple Heart recipients have made, and recognized and honored the combat-wounded veterans residing here.

Commander Jack Wagner and the executive team of The Military Order of the Purple Heart of Chapter 696 were in attendance to receive this dedication. Chapter 696 encompasses all of Lee, Hendry and Collier counties.

Also during the meeting, former Hendry County Commissioner Donald Allen Davis was remembered and honored. He passed away March 22, 2018, in Lehigh Acres. The Hendry County Board proclaimed that, annually, May 25 will be known as Commissioner Don Davis Day as a celebration of his life.

First thing on the agenda was the problem of code enforcement cases and existing liens, and commissioners reviewed a PowerPoint report submitted by Margaret Emblidge, director of planning and community development. From 2011 through 2018, she said, there have been a total of 297 liens on 124 properties, with the amounts varying from $280 to $6,660, totaling $114,930. The main problem with these liens is enforcing them, she says.

At the moment there are three code enforcement officers for about 40,000 people. The county does not have the manpower to enforce these rules, which leads to neglect of properties, which in turn affects the aesthetic value of whole neighborhoods, the report showed. Commissioners discussed how to enforce community pride and to move communities in an upward and progressive fashion. County Administrator Charles Chapman asked the board to review the report and get back to him on how members wished to proceed.

“By the way, we are proactive and reactive” on these cases, Ms. Emblidge said.

She also presented an amendment to the Hendry County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 1-14.5, on noise control, for consideration, specifically to provide exceptions to the noise restrictions for the Airglades and LaBelle airports, local railroads and sugarcane farming activities.

“What we’re proposing today is revisions that would basically exempt the activities that are within both the Airglades Airport and the LaBelle Airport, as well as stating that the railroad operations and such would be exempt. Some of this is given, but it’s better to have it on paper for the sheriff to be able to enforce this. The other item was specifically for exempting sugarcane activities because that’s such a mainstay with our economy,” Ms. Emblidge said.

She noted that it was a public hearing, but no one asked to speak.

After Commissioner Michael Swindle made a motion seconded by Commissioner Emma Byrd to approve the changes, Commissioner Karson Turner asked, “So the recommendation is to completely exempt airport activities from having any noise control whatsoever?” Ms. Emblidge replied, “Yes. It’s the industrial and aeronautical activities that are located within the properties of the airports.”

There followed a long discussion during which the commissioners expressed concern about land uses that might come after the airport expansion and potential noise from those that might be greater than that of jets taking off or landing.

Ms. Emblidge and Administrator Chapman said that from what they were hearing, the noise control exemptions needed to be changed or limited, and he suggested that the board continue the public hearing.

The conclusion was that most commissioners did not feel the county should act to allow a full exemption of the noise control on both airports at present, so Mr. Turner made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Swindle, to continue the public hearing on this ordinance to April 24.

Geoffrey Ionescu can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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