The following is a highlight of the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners workshop and regular meeting held on Tuesday, July 11 at the Commission Chamber in LaBelle, Florida.
· Discussion of Possible Residential Rental Housing Pilot Program - The Board of County Commissioners was presented with a programmatic outline in follow up on direction given to staff on April 25, 2017. The purpose of the outline was to highlight the potential program to provide staff with policies whereby a new permitting and inspection process would be engaged for residential rental housing units in Hendry County. The initial problem to be addressed as discussed by the Board was the growing number of unsatisfactory rental units in the County that are becoming more and more prevalent as housing prices continue to rise. Unsatisfactory in this case can be defined as units that are being utilized for rental housing that a) do not comply with the County’s Land Use Code or b) are non-compliant with the Florida Building Code. The Board directed staff to table (postpone) further development of this pilot program until the County experiences greater successes in the standard code enforcement process.
· Information Session about the Code Enforcement Process - Discussion was had between County staff and the Board regarding the relative flow charts of various code enforcement violations and the time frame from the opening of a code case to closure. Discussions by the Board included concerns of staffing levels to be able to address the code enforcement infractions occurring in the County. For reference, Hendry County employs three code enforcement officers to cover all properties, including residential and commercial properties, located in unincorporated Hendry County. The Board also shared concerns with how much time is being given to work with code offenders to cure their violations. Staff has been very committed to work with land owners and giving them additional discretionary time above the statutory mandated and best management practice time frames. The Board gave direction for staff to adhere to the code mandated timeframes to increase the closure rates on code cases. The Board also asked that staff take a look at examples of various code infractions in each Board district., for the follow up workshop. Staff is to review these cases, take photographs and bring back information on each code case and what is to be done to remedy them in accordance with the Florida Statute and/or county code.
AWARDS, APPEARANCES AND PRESENTATIONS
· Update Progress Report of Crossroads Behavioral Health Center – Mr. Greg Finer, CEO of Crossroads Behavioral Health Center addressed the Board regarding his concerns about financial stability for State of Florida funds through the various regulatory agencies. The concern is the rigorous amount of requirements built in to “draw-down” available state funds for services. Crossroads is working through the processes, but is experiencing difficulty in receiving all of the funds that are allocated to them. The Board has asked staff to work with Mr. Finer to see what can be done with the State to make the funding flow better and continue to support the establishment and future expansion of behavioral health services in Hendry County.
· Adoption of Ordinance Revoking Ad Valorem Tax Abatement for ALTAIR Training Solutions, Inc. – In follow up to the approved direction of the Board at the June 13, 2017 meeting, the Board held a public hearing and approved the revocation of the ordinance affording ALTAIR Training Solutions, Inc. a tax abatement for five years. Reasons for the revocation include failure to comply with new job creation requirements and reporting as required by the County’s agreement with ALTAIR and ordinance for the specific tax abatement. The Board approved the revocation following the public hearing unanimously.
· Adoption of Amendments to Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Ordinance – In June 2017 the Board considered significant revisions to the process of considering Ad Valorem Tax Abatements. The improved program includes a streamlining of the program responsibilities, the implementation of a scoring matrix for interested businesses that measures the anticipated benefits of their business to the County, and an independent review committee process to consider whether or not the applicant merits an economic development tax incentive. Following the public hearing, the Board approved the amendments unanimously.
· Consideration of Membership to Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) - The Board was presented background information and analysis on the recent events whereby Sarasota County, Lee County and Charlotte County have provided notice of intent to withdraw from the SWFRPC. Membership in a regional planning council is mandated by Florida State statutes and the membership to the SWFRPC was determined by an inter-local agreement dated in the early 1970’s. The Board directed staff to stay engaged with the SWFRPC for one more year and then to re-evaluate the value of the membership to this organization.
· Local Vendor Preference Renewal – The Board reviewed a report provided by staff regarding the Local Vendor Preference Ordinance set to sunset in August 2017. The Board determined with some minor adjustments to give additional purchasing discretion to staff in terms of choosing local vendors in the procurement process, renew the program and refresh the ordinance for another term. The ordinance is set to come before the Board in August 2017 for public hearing and adoption.
· Medical Marijuana Dispensaries’ and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers – The Board voted unanimously to table this topic until for further discussion. Commissioner Turner expressed intent to visit an operating facility to review its operations. Commissioner Swindle had already visited a facility in Alachua County and expressed his perspective that the facility was highly regulated and well run. The moratorium on medical marijuana facilities is still in place till November 2017.
· Update of Solid Waste Franchise Agreement. – At the June 13, 2017 meeting the Board directed to set the Truth in Millage at $240 with two day a week waste pick-up. The Board and staff are to negotiate with the Solid Waste hauler and seek out solutions which would help reduce costs to residents. Negotiations have continued and the current update is that service levels and programmatic features will remain the same as today’s services. Additional information will be forthcoming at upcoming meetings in August along with budget discussion.