At their April 28 meeting, Hendry County commissioners received a report on the 2015-16 Legislative Session. According to the report, Hendry County received a “very healthy infusion of state appropriations from Tallahassee” during the session.
Commissioners learned that the Legislature approved the county’s request for a $500,000 appropriation for the Old Courthouse. Long-put off renovations to the historic building can now be made, including the roof and the foundation. The board approved “piggybacking” with Lee County’s construction management firm to fast track renovations, especially roofing and windows before the rainy season begins. Structural stabilization also has a deadline for completion.
The Legislature also preserved funding for the current Florida Department of Transportation work program.
An amendment to the county’s solar energy tax exemption initiatives allow the county to collect Tangible Personal Property (TPP) ad valorem taxes, paving the way for the FPL solar plant to begin construction in southeastern part of the county. The tax is mainly paid on business equipment.
The county received a promise from the Florida Forest Service to repair the Devil’s Garden Fire Tower on CR 833 and also Keri Tower. This will allow the county to continue to access and maintain emergency communications antenna at each tower.
In other business
An issue with a Pioneer property prompted a discussion on finding a better way to handle SHIP contracts so the county won’t get stuck with properties when the homeowner dies, leaves or there are other complicating factors.
County Administrator Charles Chapman noted that the H.E. Hill Foundation will pick up the $100,000 tab for survey for police protection in Montura. Chief Deputy Kevin Nelson explained that the funds will stay in Montura and be used for a full time deputy and equipment. He said a 4×4 truck had already been purchased. The deputy will be working flexible hours. In last year Hendry County has lost 18 deputies, the chief deputy said, with 4-5 more leaving. He added three locals are being hired in July and will be attending the academy.
There was also some discussion on setting it up so public safety employees who leave before their contract is up would not receive benefits and not be in good standing.