The Collier Citizens Council presents The Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award Honoring 2024 recipient Linda Oberhaus

The Collier Citizens Council is pleased to announce that Linda Oberhaus, CEO of the Shelter for Abused Women & Children, is the winner of this year’s Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award, given annually for extraordinary contributions to the community.

Ms. Oberhaus has over 30 years of professional experience in the human services field. With BS and MS degrees in social work from the University of South Florida and executive training at the Harvard Business School, she has set new standards for sheltering the abused and forgotten in the Naples and Immokalee areas.

Her work has generated several outreach offices and over a hundred beds, plus plans for a complex where the abused can live for an extended period. An untold number have benefitted from her services and care.

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

Upstream vs. Downstream Water Quality Improvement Projects in Florida – What You Need to Know

Eugene Wordehoff

“Downstream” water quality improvement projects attempt to mitigate the “impacts” of pollution. This is where most of Florida money is spent to “improve” water quality. Same for Marco Island. Marco water quality improvement projects attempt to treat the impact of pollution, and do not address the root cause.

As one example, $17,000,000 for the San Marco Road culverts will not reduce any sources of pollution. Downstream projects are easy – there are no special interests to oppose the projects. Just taxpayers who do not understand what is going on. Gives the appearance of doing something with “other peoples money.”

“Upstream” water quality improvement projects reduce or eliminate the actual sources of pollution. These projects reduce nutrient inputs to the ecosystems from the actual sources of pollution including agriculture and sewage treatment plants. Upgrading the Marco sewage treatment plant to reduce nutrient pollution is an example of an upstream project. These projects are a benefit to the environment. Upstream projects are hard – the special interests complain and make the politicians life difficult. Nothing is accomplished. This is the Florida Problem.

When the City of Marco Island is accused of doing “nothing” to improve water quality on the island, this refers to an absence of “upstream” pollution reductions. The city responds by saying
that they are implementing “many” projects to improve water quality. Of course, the city is referring to “downstream” projects, where there are no actual pollution reductions.

Reducing nutrients at the source is more cost effective and efficient than restoring ecosystems after they have been impacted by nutrients. Politicians feel the need to appear to be doing
“something” about water quality, even though they are actually doing nothing at all.

The public does not understand the difference.
Eugene Wordehoff
Collier Citizens Counci

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.