Hendry County BOCC discussion on repayment to continue

The Florida PACE Funding Agency took quite a bit of discussion time at the August 25 Hendry County Commission meeting. Altair, the military training facility in the south end of the county, is hoping to use the agency to expand. Altair CEO Brian Jones appeared at the meeting with an agency representative who tried to answer all the board’s questions. Mr. Jones said that Altair is in a fast growth stage and needs additional buildings for pending contracts. He said, “I think its a great thing for us,” adding that the facility be here for a long long time.

County Assessor Phillip Pelletier was concerned about the payback method. He feared that the county could end up on the hook for repayment. If the borrower defaults, the property would go on the tax roll for sale. At that point the tax certificate could be purchased, but if it is not picked up, Mr. Pelletier pointed out that the county would then get stuck with the bill.

Although Pace representative was dubious that that could happen, there was no definitive answer for this question.

In situations including individual residents, the board also expressed concern about a “vulnerable population.”

Johnathan Schafer of the Florida PACE Funding Agency said judicial validation would shield the county from liability, but could not guarantee it. He said Pace represents 14 counties and 28 cities, and that has never happened.

However, the board saw the potential for the county to be on the hook. Commissioners Michael Swindle and Don Davis all had strong reservations

The board all agreed that Altair has made an incredible investment in Hendry County and wondered if they could participate in the program with Altair only. Still they opted for more study, and in the end the board tabled the question till the first meeting in September to gather more information.

Legislative update
Joe Spratt presented his annual Legislative Report and Budget Update, characterizing it as a difficult Legislative session, adjourning three days early without the required balanced budget. However, a $78.7 billion budget (approximately $1.6 billion increase over last year) was passed in the June Special Session and included over $400 million is tax cuts,

He said it was a good year for roads and appropriations. Small counties, like Hendry, received funding from the Small County Road Assistance Program and Small County Outreach Program, along with $42.2 million in budget sources such as $600,000 for Phase 1 of the wastewater infrastructure to Air Glades; the same for Port LaBelle’s gravity sewer system and $250,000 for the Townsend Ag Center and FDOT work programs. Mr. Spratt offered thanks to county staff, Rep. Matt Hudson and Senator Dwight Bullard for their hard work throughout the session.

Rep. Matt Hudson was also on hand with a glimpse at what is on the legislative horizon.

Funding for road projects included:
SR 82, SR 29 (Cowboy Way),
Flaghole Road
WC Owens to US 27
SR 80 four-laning

Rep. Hudson called resources alloted to Hendry County “robust,” saying they would increase employment, safety and quality of life. He also noted that redistricting is still undecided and referred to the Supreme Court. He did say he expects that when the Supreme Court rules that Hendry will be in one Congressional district only.

Another special session for redistricting is set for October.

C-43 Reservoir
Southwest Florida Water Management’s Phil Flood updated the board on the C-43 construction. He said construction is to begin shortly on the first cell and has been given priority by Governor Scott in light of Everglades Restoration. He said the first of four contracts $10.8 million has been let to Blue Goose Construction of Fort Pierce. The initial contract is for two years, with an expected 78 jobs resulting. The project is expected to continue until 2020.

Emergency Management
Emergency Management Director Brian Newhouse read the National Preparedness Month Proclamation and also recognized community partners CERT coordinator Margaret England, along with 200-300 CERT members, long time ham radio operator Frank Harris and RACES operators, the Hendry-Glades Health Department and EM Planner Amy Howard.

The next regular board meeting had been changed to Wednesday, September 9, and will be held at Clewiston City Hall.

Patty Brant, can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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