Royal Harbor Update: 9/17/2015

Council has started up again after the summer with a lot of controversy. You may have seen that there will be a contest this next year for the Mayor’s spot. Former Mayor Bill Barnett has announced he will run against incumbent Mayor John Sorey. These two have been friends for a long time and worked together on the council in various capacities. I was told that Bill is running because he was approached by a group of citizens unhappy with the direction and style of Mayor Sorey and asked him to get back in. I am not personally involved in any of this but know many of the parties that are. It will be interesting, to say the least, and important to the city as there are many issues that affect us all coming up. Right now both candidates are trying to align supporters for their campaigns.

The firefighters are again a HOT topic. As many know, the Chief continues to ask for a larger staff and the council has denied his requests saying that there are enough firefighters to handle the number of calls that the City has. Now, one of the big issues is the fire station at the airport.

This is a very controversial issue and more so since the event last year when a home across Airport Road burned and the airport firefighters were not allowed (by the Chief) to respond and help fight the fire. Even at the request of the airport manager they were not allowed to leave their post, cross the road and respond. This event prompted a lot of investigation into the role and cost of this station.
The firefighters are again a HOT topic. As many know, the Chief continues to ask for a larger staff and the council has denied his requests saying that there are enough firefighters to handle the number of calls that the City has. Now, one of the big issues is the fire station at the airport.

This is a very controversial issue and more so since the event last year when a home across Airport Road burned and the airport firefighters were not allowed (by the Chief) to respond and help fight the fire. Even at the request of the airport manager they were not allowed to leave their post, cross the road and respond. This event prompted a lot of investigation into the role and cost of this station.

Many people have studied this and looked at the funding of this station as related to the Naples budget and the airport’s subsidizing portion of the station. Now some are calling for a separation of this station from the City of Naples. It is believed that the airport would be better served using a private company as firefighters and going it alone for their services. This would then leave 7 firefighters now employed by the city to be used in other capacities. The promoters of the plan say this will reduce the firefighter’s budget significantly just in not maintaining the station but It would also allow these extra firefighters to relieve the cost of much of the overtime expenses we now have.

Several councilpersons and some appointed volunteers have studied and have produced written reports showing evidence that this would be a prudent strategic move and save the city a lot of money. It would also, in their opinion, provide better control of services to both parties. I have followed this and feel this is the plan the city should follow.

There is also the issue of the unfunded pension liability in this department. It has grown to over 22 million dollars I am told. Where will this money come from is a big question. The city of Naples had been a leader in the State in tackling this problem and the issue is known by “the Naples Letter”. Nearly every city in Florida is facing a similar dilemma. Naples did reach a consensus with the Naples Firefighters’ and it appeared that this issue was getting resolved. However, on a State level, the firefighters Union Lobby has now successfully had a bill introduced that would negate any gains made on a local level regarding pension adjustments. This would be an economic disaster in the making, but I need not remind you, politicians are good at ignoring facts if it means losing votes. We will be watching how this turns out.

Another fire department issue is a fire boat. For the last 3 years the department has asked for a new fireboat and the council turned it down. However, It appears that now they have one that was brought in through the “Back Door”. I know several council persons who were unhappy over this. More on this later.

Besides these issues, the council will have a lot of growth issues to deal with. We will have all the new families in Grand Central Station area, the new families to the North of Bay front, the Hyatt Hotel, the new condos where the old Naples Newspaper building was and several more. All this will fill the area north and East of 41. All these people will drive cars, will want to walk across 41 to get to 5th Avenue, will need to cross Airport Rd and so on. It looks like a mess in the making. I have heard no one come up with any plan for this so far even after many, many group meetings and discussions.

Why am I telling you all this? This is your city and this is how they are planning to spend your tax money. These issues will affect your quality of life as you live here. Your opinions are important and you can voice your opinions at council@Naplesgov.com This email address goes to all council, the Mayor and city manager

Terry

 

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