Collier County Commissioner Candidate Forum

A public forum featuring the county commissioner candidates for District 3 and District 5 will be held on May 8th in the County Commission chambers at 3299 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 303.  The forum will be televised live on Comcast 97/Summit 98 and will be available for later viewing on the county website.

At 5:00 pm five candidates vying for the District 3 seat will debate.  They are Richard Conover, John Johnson, Frank Roberts, Burt Saunders, and Floyd “Tag” Yarnell.

At 6:30 pm two candidates who filed for the District 5 seat will discuss their positions and priorities.  The candidates are Bill McDaniel and Ralph Rodriguez.

Issues to be discussed include growth and how to manage it, shoreline protection, traffic and congestion, affordable housing, mental health challenges and recreational marijuana.

The public is invited to attend.

The CBIA, Collier Citizens Council, Greater Naples Chamber, Greater Naples Government, League of Women Voters, and NABOR are sponsoring the forum.

Fire District Consolidation? A Study?

In a 2016 Straw Ballot, County voters authorized a study to determine the benefits of combining all Fire Agencies in unincorporated Collier County into two (2) or one (1).

This initiative stalled and the possible benefits for improved medical, rescue and fire performance were not fully assessed. Nor were potential tax reductions from increased efficiencies and cost consolidation.

Thereafter in 2018, the North Collier Fire and Immokalee Fire Agencies requested additional funding, proposing a Fire Fee over and above ad valorem taxes. Voters rejected additional taxes – 79% North Collier Fire and 67% Immokalee Fire.

Question: should Collier County Commissioners reactivate the voter approved 2016 Study of combining the current three (3) Independent Fire Agencies, partially or fully?

Recommendation: Engage a Professional Consultant with the participation of the three (3) Independent Fire Agencies, and the County Productivity Committee. Then bring back the issue to voters / taxpayers in 2024 or 2025.

It is noted that the County operates one (1) Sheriff’s Department, one (1) Emergency Management Department and one (1) emergency Medical Service Ambulance Department. Is it plausible a Study will document improved efficacy from a combination of three (3) Agencies into two (2) or one (1)?

Interesting facts pertinent to the Study:

All Fire Agency responses are based upon “closest, available, appropriate unit” disregarding Agency borders.

The average cost of each response (total budget divided by responses) ranged from $2,287 (North Collier Fire), $1,976 (Greater Naples Fire) and $1,482 (Immokalee Fire).

84% of Fire Agency responses are medical, 15% are rescue/other, and only 1% are fire.

The three (3) Independent Fire Agencies are funded by different tax rates based on the assessed value of residential and commercial property. The rates vary from 1 mill (North Collier) 1.5 mills (Greater Naples), and 3.75 mills (Immokalee).

Immokalee Fire states that its equipment and personnel are inadequate to respond to all   emergencies.

Let your County Commissioner know whether you support a revived Study to improve possible medical, rescue and fire benefits for yourself and neighbors.

Would a Chief Resiliency Officer Be Beneficial?

When you talk about resiliency these days, it’s likely you’re referring to the shoreline. That’s certainly the case in Florida, the flattest state in the country with 1,350 miles of coastline and 76% of its residents living in coastal communities. Storms and flooding put up to a trillion dollars of property at risk.

Thomas Jeffery Ph.D. of CoreLogic says, “Of all natural disasters, storm surge has historically been the deadliest and most destructive hazard we deal with.”

That applies in spades to southwest Florida, as we learned with Hurricane Ian. Beaches were washed away and thousands of structures were destroyed. Flooding extended well inland. Property values declined and insurance rates went through the roof. says the Naples area has 6,700 properties with a chance of being severely damaged by floods over the next 30 years. CoreLogic says greater Naples is 9th in the country at greatest risk from coastal storms, with a reconstruction cost value of $43 billion.

And shoreline vulnerability extends well beyond water incursion. There’s also toxic algae and Red Tide and inland pollution that fouls the coast.

No question, the risks are many. How do we provide protection and, more importantly, resilience? We currently have a patchwork of agencies and self-appointed organizations offering advice and dealing with parts of the problem. That includes numerous departments in city and county government, regional “waterkeepers,” the Conservancy of SWFL and others — all competent and well meaning, but fragmented.

The Rockefeller Foundation has suggested another approach. Recognizing the stress facing communities around the world, it established the “100 Resilient Cities” program in 2013, an initiative that morphed into the “Resilient Cities Network,” a movement that’s active today.

Central to it all was the establishment of the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), one person dedicated to coordinating the whole thing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis got on board early and appointed a Florida CRO in 2019. Wesley Brooks Ph.D. serves in that capacity today. Scores of local CROs have since been hired and serve in cities and counties around the state.

Would a CRO be beneficial to Collier County? Most probably.

Imbedded in county government and reporting to the county manager or deputy county manager, the CRO would be the point person on shoreline resilience, providing advice in addition to monitoring and coordinating efforts. He or she would consolidate plans, discourage redundancy and expedite programs, working closely with departments in the city and county.

As we see it, this would be a standalone position. Adding another layer of government bureaucracy is neither recommended nor needed.

We propose the focus be solely on the shoreline area. Inland resiliency would not be part of the remit. The CRO would not deal with things like drought, crop recovery, traffic, population growth and wildlife.

Rather, we feel he or she would concentrate on things like building codes, property protection, drainage, tidal lagoons, diversion canals, pollution control, building and roadway elevation, beaches and mangroves. Experts would be consulted every step of the way and, where appropriate, grants would be sought.

The highly publicized U.S. Army Corps of Engineering study — unlikely to deliver anything before 2030, if approved at all — would be monitored as part of the overall program.

In conclusion, we feel that establishing a Collier County CRO would be a useful step toward protecting our shoreline.

The Collier Citizens Council plans to take a closer look. ¦

The Collier Citizens Council is a coalition of civic leaders whose purpose is to represent interests of county residents by influencing local and state policies.

Upgrade the Collier County Wastewater Treatment Plants

Oxygen is an essential component of the aquatic environment. The most important measurement of water quality, oxygen indicates a waterbody’s state of health – that is, the ability to support aquatic life. Watersheds with oxygen concentrations of 5 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or higher can support well-balanced, healthy biological communities.

Oxygen in the 23 watersheds managed by Collier County has steadily dropped by 35% over the last 20 years to 3.5 mg/L, 30% lower than healthy levels. A “hypoxic dead zone” has formed in the center of Collier County, overlapping the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Oxygen levels are 0.9 mg/L in Immokalee and Ave Maria, 82% lower than healthy levels.

Excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) delivered to a waterbody can lead to both overgrowth of algae and eutrophication. As dead algae decompose, oxygen is consumed in the process, resulting in low levels of oxygen in the water. Because there are increasingly more people living in coastal areas, there are more nutrients entering Florida’s coastal waters from wastewater treatment facilities, runoff from land in urban areas during rains, and from farming.

The Collier County Pollution Control Department (PCD) recommendation 7.6 (FY22 Collier County Surface Water Report) states; “Reduction of nutrient pollution should remain a priority
County-wide. Reducing nutrients at the source is more cost effective and efficient than restoring ecosystems after they have been impacted by nutrients. Source reduction strategies should be considered and include the following: require low impact development for new and redevelopment; agricultural operations (including golf courses) should be following assigned best management practices (BMPs) for their operations and verified that the BMPs being implemented are effective; permitted discharges not meeting water quality standards should be remediated; and converting existing wastewater plants to advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) technologies.”

We encourage the Collier County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to implement PCD recommendation 7.6 and mandate that all WWTP in Collier County be upgraded to AWT targeting the reduction of sewage reclaimed water nutrients to current (2023) Limits of Technology (LOT).

Eugene Wordehof

Collier Citizen’s Council

Best Use of Taxes – Fire District Service

Marvin Easton

Private companies are in business to sell their products or services, for the benefit of their customers, and also for a profit, for the benefit for their company owners. They compete with each other to that end.

This differs from Taxpayer Funded Public Safety organizations, such as local Fire Agencies.

Why is it better for the residents and taxpayers of Collier County to have multiple public service Fire Agencies, (Greater Naples Fire, Immokalee Fire, North Collier Fire, Ochopee Fire operated by Greater Naples Fire, Big Corkscrew Fire operated by North Collier Fire, Marco Island City Fire, Naples City Fire)?

  • Each with its own paid Elected Governing Commissioners
  • Each with its own paid Command Staff Structures
  • Each with its own duplicated support Staff Functions
  • Each with its own responding trained Paramedics and Emergency Medical Service Technicians
  • Each with its own fleet of responding firefighting vehicles & supporting equipment
  • Each with its own backup fleet for their responding vehicles and equipment

Each with different annual property tax rates from 1.0 mills per year for North Collier, and 1.5 mills for Greater Naples and Isles of Capri Fire, all the way up to 3.75 mills for Immokalee Fire and Big Corkscrew Fire, and 4.0 mills for Ochopee Fire, all providing the same public-service functions for the residents and taxpayers in the county, where 1% of all calls are fire related, 84% are medical related, and the remaining 15% are rescue related and other responses?

Each Fire Agency responds to emergencies outside their taxing territories with North Collier and Greater Naples Fire being net assistance provider agencies, and Marco Island Fire, Immokalee Fire, and Naples Fire being net receivers of assistance.

Is our present structure, with multiple taxpayers funded Fire Agencies, the best organization now for Collier County?

Or as so many other Florida Counties have done, by consolidating their multiple Fire Agencies into fewer, or even into one for the entire county, they have reduced unneeded duplicated overhead, and other unneeded duplication in staffing, and unneeded duplication of backup equipment and used the savings of taxpayer funds to increase their services (such as adding more responding medical vehicles & responding staff, and reducing their response time by enlarging and increasing the number of their station locations.

Or in Collier County the potential to reduce the significant differences in tax rates paid to operate our current multiple Fire Agencies throughout the county for their services.

Is it time for Collier County to consolidate fire operations? You may want to let your elected officials (Fire Commissioners and County Commissioners) know your thoughts.

Respectfully submitted: Marvin Easton

Kristen Coury Awarded 2023 Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award

Kristen Coury

The Collier Citizens Council is pleased to announce that Kristen Coury – a stalwart of the arts in Collier County – is the winner of this year’s Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award, given annually for extraordinary contributions to the community.

Ms. Coury, previously active in New York theater, came to Naples in 2004 and founded, then served as CEO and Producing Artistic Director of the Gulfshore Playhouse. She has directed over 40 productions for the Playhouse.

Recognizing the need for a larger arts center, Ms. Coury recently led efforts to raise funds for a new and expanded complex in downtown Naples. The Baker Theatre and Education Center, a major addition to the local arts scene, is now under construction and scheduled to open in 2024.

Nina Gray Awarded 2022 Citizen of the Year Award

Nina Gray was named the recipient of the 5th annual Murray Hendel Achievement Award for her tireless work in aiding the needy of Collier County.

The award was presented by the Collier Citizens Council at the Naples Hilton on February 23rd.

Established to honor Murray Hendel, the Collier Citizens Council’s cofounder and first president, the award is given annually to a county leader who has made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Nina Gray fits that description.  She has served the county professionally and through volunteer work for over 40 years, helping to establish several organizations to aid the ill and underprivileged.

She helped launch Avow Hospice and became its first CEO.  She later served as president of the Neighborhood Health Clinic and most recently as founder and CEO of the Collier Resource Center, a broker for the needy that puts hundreds of struggling people a year in touch with volunteer professionals who can provide help.

Holding a BA in education from Arizona State University and an MS in counselling and rehabilitation from the University of South Florida, Ms. Gray says, “Service is the rent we pay for living.  I am committed to improving the quality of life for our residents.”

Previous recipients of the Murray Hendel award were Carrie Kerskie, for her pioneering work in fighting identity theft (2017); Judge Janeice Martin, for her relentless work for the mentally ill in the county’s treatment courts (2018); Nancy Lascheid, cofounder of the Neighborhood Health Clinic, for bringing health care to the less fortunate (2019); and Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, for his enlightened law enforcement to safeguard the residents of Collier County (2021).

Renew Thoughts on Fire Consolidation – By Marvin Easton

Automatic Aid/Mutual Aid where the Closest, Available, Appropriate Unit (or units) responds, as administered by the Collier County Sherriff’s 911 System, no matter the fire agencies’ borders, which is participated by all 5 fire agencies in Collier County (Marco Island, Naples, Greater Naples, Immokalee, and North Collier) is a great benefit to the residents, visitors and commuters to Collier County and must be maintained.

In fiscal Oct 2021 – Sept 2022 there were 69,017 EMS calls: 13.6% or 9,371 were fire or fire alarm calls; 65.4% or 45,123 were medical or medical alarm calls, and 21.0% or 14,523 were rescue or other calls.

The IFD budget was $7,496,079 divided by 4,879 responses = $1,778 per call

The NCFD budget was $48,518,776 divided by 28,958 responses – $2,211 per call

NCFD responded to 379 calls into IFD, and IFD responded to 59 calls into IFD, for a net of 320 calls @ $2211/call or $707,520 funded by NCFD resident taxpayers to respond to IFD territory incidents.    

The annual tax rate for NCFD residents is 1 mill

The annual tax rate for IFD residents is 3.75 mills

Potential solutions:

  1. Modify the borders between IFD and NCFD such that more for the areas that NCFD in mostly responding into IFD territory are legally transferred to NCFD.

The advantage to the NCFD taxpayers is the cost of responding into that area is funded by the resident taxpayers of that area versus being funded by the taxpayers of NCFD.

The advantage to the current IFD taxpayers is their tax rate could be reduced.

  1. Consolidate IFD into NCFD as was done a few years ago when 6 Independent Collier County Fire Agencies combined to form NCFD and Greater Naples Fire Dept (+ Immokalee, Naples, and Marco Island) that improved both operational efficiencies and backoff efficiencies.
  2. Similar to 1 Collier County Sherrif Office, and 1 Collier County 911 System, and 1 Collier County EMS system, combine the 3 Independent Fire Agencies (GNFD, IFD, & NCFD) into 1 agency as a separate Collier County Fire Agency,

or as 1 department combining with the County EMS system,

or as 1 Collier County Public Safety Dept (combining the Sherrif, EMS, 911 and Fire).

  1. There are approximately 30 counties in Florida who have organized their fire departments into either one department for the entire county,

or one department for the unincorporated part of their county plus additional “city” based fire departments.