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Summer 2019 Newsletter

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A Message from the County Manager

Dear friends,

I’m pleased to present the first of several regular e-newsletters straight from my desk.

This e-newsletter will allow me the opportunity to regularly connect with residents and visitors to share updates on major projects and important events in our community. It also provides a conduit for me to directly communicate with you should our community once again face a threatening weather event or other emergency situation.

On the topic of hurricanes, have you enrolled in the county’s new emergency alert system, Alert Collier? The Alert Collier system allows us the ability to send alerts directly to you by phone (landline and cell), email or text about severe weather events, evacuations, power outages, boil water notices, etc. If you haven’t enrolled, please do so now at www.AlertCollier.com. If you’d like assistance enrolling, please call us at 3-1-1 or 239-252-8999.

While our Alert Collier emergency alert system allows us to contact you, we’ve recently launched a new service that makes it easier for you to contact us, we call it Collier 311. How easy is it? Now you only need to remember one phone number for all non-emergency county services and offices… 3-1-1. In the first three months, operators in our call center have personally assisted over 10,000 callers.

But calling us isn’t the only way to reach us. Collier 311 offers an App for smartphones that allows citizens to report an issue with a photo and uses GPS technology so county staff will know the exact location of the issue. The Collier 311 App is available for free through the Apple App Store or Google Play. But that’s not all…there’s also a new webpage (www.Collier311.org) where citizens can initiate a request for service or find the answer to just about any question related to county services and programs.

The summer season is a chance to “reclaim” our town and enjoy its many amenities in a less crowded, more laid-back environment. It’s a perfect time to enjoy one or more of the County’s wonderful museums, parks, libraries and beaches. You can find detailed information about these services at www.CollierCountyFL.gov.

The County Commission just completed its initial review of the proposed fiscal year 2019/2020 budget. Two public hearings will be held in September culminating in final budget adoption on September 19. Next year’s proposed budget holds the line on property tax rates and provides the resources needed to maintain the high level of programs and services that our residents and visitors have come to expect from their County government.

Finally, I’ve enclosed a brief update on the capital projects underway as a result of the electorate’s decision last November to enact a one percent increase to the state sales tax. We are excited to have the opportunity to provide these critically important facilities to our community.

I’m grateful for your support and for all you do to make Collier County the best community in America to live, work, and play. Please encourage others to subscribe to my e-newsletter, as well as our popular news releases and e-notices.

It’s an honor and pleasure to serve you.

Leo E. Ochs, Jr.
County Manager


Alert Collier slogan bannerAlert Collier: Collier County's New Emergency Notification System

In 2016, the Florida Legislature approved a multi-million-dollar, multi-year contract managed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management to provide local County Emergency Management programs the ability to implement all or parts of a mass wire and wireless notification system. This system is provided by the global software company, Everbridge®. The Everbridge® System, termed “Alert Florida” at the state level, is capable of rapid notification via landline, smartphone, email, and text to provide a community-wide or area-specific emergency alerts, warnings, or messages. Thousands of calls, texts, and emails can be sent within minutes to deliver emergency messages regarding a variety of events including severe weather, hazardous conditions, power outages, road closures, and utility failures.

In the spirit of consistency with the state initiative, the Everbridge® platform is being marketed, at the local level, as the “Alert Collier” Emergency Notification System. In addition to providing public notifications, Alert Collier can host large group calls for multiple purposes, such as mass casualty incident management, first responder special team recalls, and county employee recalls and messaging.

One good news item to note is that the cost of hosting and the cost of local updates of the Alert Collier emergency notification system are borne statewide by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the designated legislative funding.

Cell phone notifications, email, and text messaging require residents to opt-in. Residents can sign up for Alert Collier at www.AlertCollier.com. When you sign up, you can enter up to five addresses within the county’s geographical boundaries that you would like to receive emergency alerts about. That could include your home, your work place, school, a relative’s home, or any other address that’s important to you. You can sign up with your cell phone number to receive calls and/or text messages, your email address, and your home or business phone. There is even an option to receive notifications to hearing impaired devices. The addresses are important in that the system has an option to send messages either countywide, or to designated geographic area such as a specific community. For example, should a wildfire necessitate the evacuation of a specific area of Golden Gate Estates, we can draw a boundary around the area and send notifications only to those residents within the specified area. This means you won’t be bothered by receiving messages that don’t apply to you.

In addition to multiple addresses, you can sign up to receive messages through multiple contact paths, such as cell phone, landline, text message, and email. Once an emergency message is sent, the recipient must confirm receipt. If you don’t confirm receipt of the message on your primary contact path (say, your cell phone number), the system will try to reach your second contact path (perhaps your landline), and continue through all your contact paths (text, email, etc.) until you do confirm.

I want to assure you we respect your privacy. Collier County will never share or distribute anyone’s personal information unless required to do so by law. Additionally, we will never use a person’s information for any purpose other than to send emergency notifications or information pertaining to Collier County.

The system is perfect for our seasonal residents as well as our full-time residents. Seasonal residents can opt to turn off alerts when they are not in residence in Collier County. If they want to continue to receive emergency notices concerning their property here while they aren’t, that works too. You don’t have to be in the county for the system to reach you. You can also set “quiet times” if you don’t want to receive alerts in the middle of the night.

To sign up for Alert Collier, visit www.AlertCollier.com, create a username and password, then create your account. It’s easy, takes only a couple of minutes. Do it now as we are quickly approaching peak hurricane season.

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Domestic Animal Services kitten season

Kitten Season, All Things Cat in Collier

While Florida panthers may be the largest cats in Collier County, they certainly are not the only cats. From ancient relics, cuddly kittens and our CAT transit system, Collier County is cat country. Speaking of panthers, each summer Collier County Domestic Animal Services (DAS) is flooded with the panther’s smaller counterparts – kittens.

Summer not only brings hot days and afternoon showers, it also brings litter after litter of kittens. Those that work in the animal welfare industry refer to this as kitten season, and while kittens are fun and adorable, kitten season is not necessarily a good thing. The influx of kittens is a result of the unsterilized cat population in Collier County, and there are not enough homes for them all. Since kitten season began this summer, DAS has taken in more than 534 kittens, and that does not count the nursing mothers.

So where do all of the kittens go? One of the major hurdles of kitten season is that kittens cannot be sterilized until they weigh at least two pounds, and they cannot be adopted until they are sterilized. This is why foster homes are so important this time of year. This summer DAS has sent 229 kittens to foster homes, and there is an overwhelming amount of kittens waiting for foster homes. If you are interested in being a foster home, now is a great time to get involved. Contact DAS at (239) 252-PETS (7387).

Another way you can help is to ensure that your pets are sterilized and are not running at large – both of which could land you a citation per the Animal Control Ordinance. Also, if you are seeking a new pet, adopt from DAS. Adoptions include sterilization, vaccinations, microchip and more. During the month of August, all cat adoptions are only five dollars, and DAS always offers two-for-one cat/kitten adoptions.

Collier County’s most famous cat is not as cute or as large as some of the kittens at DAS, but it has quite the history. Who would have imagined a tiny cat could travel through time and over 1,000 miles to return to its birthplace on Marco Island in Southwest Florida? That's the amazing story of the Key Marco Cat - a world famous enigmatic half cat/half human 6-inch tall wooden carving created by the Calusa Indians or their ancient Muspa ancestors 500 to 1,500 years ago. The intriguing and remarkably well-preserved artifact has been described as one of the finest pieces of Pre-Columbian Native American art ever discovered in North America.

For the first time in more than 100 years, the wandering feline is reunited on Marco Island with other rare artifacts discovered there in 1896 during a Smithsonian-sponsored archaeological expedition led by archaeologist and anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing. The Marco Island Historical Museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island, Florida 34145, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Lastly, the largest of the Collier cats – the CAT system. Collier Area Transit (CAT) has been moving Collier residents and visitors from point A to point B since 2001. Starting with only five routes, ridership for the first week of services was a mere 1,052. Over the years, CAT has grown leaps and bounds, offering 19 routes. The average weekly ridership now is roughly 20,000. CAT also offers paratransit service helping the transportation disadvantaged become mobile. CAT makes nearly 450 paratransit trips each day.

Not only does CAT help those in need of mobility, it also helps reduce traffic and pollution. For each CAT bus on the road, there are less cars on the road, reducing 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions contributed by light-duty vehicles. CAT also helps family finances. The American Transportation Association says that a two-person household can save nearly $9,000 by utilizing public transportation.

As CAT grows, new amenities will become available to riders. Later this year, buses will be equipped with WiFi, allowing riders access to the internet while they commute. Mobile ticketing is in the works as well. This will streamline and simplify the process of purchasing bus fares. CAT will continue to serve the people of Collier County becoming even more the Purrrfect Ride.

As you can see, there’s no need to venture into the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to experience the ‘cats’ of Collier County. We have cats of all shapes, size and age right here.

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One-Cent Surtax Project Updates

As readers may recall, on the November 6, 2018, General Election ballot, a majority of Collier County voters approved the one-cent infrastructure sales surtax to fund important infrastructure improvement projects and other high priority community projects. The projects include:

  • Transportation projects, including improvements to sidewalks, bridges, and several key roadways;
  • Facilities and other capital projects, including the Sheriff's Facilities, Big Corkscrew Island Regional Park, and hurricane resiliency projects; and,
  • Community priorities, including a career and technical training center, mental health and addiction treatment facility, and a workforce housing land trust fund.

On January 1, 2019, the Florida Department of Revenue began collecting the one-cent infrastructure sales tax. Collections from the first quarter of Calendar Year 2019, as reported by the Florida Department of Revenue, were approximately $26 M. Of that total approximately $23 M has been distributed to the county with the remaining revenue distributed to the three municipalities, City of Naples, City of Marco Island and City of Everglades City. The one-cent sales tax is expected to generate, on average, $70 M a year, or $490 M over seven years.

The Board of County Commissioners formed a seven-member Infrastructure Citizen Oversight Committee to validate that the planned projects meet several criteria based upon the ballot language, county ordinance, and state statute. The committee has held four public meetings since its inception and has discussed 14 projects seeking to utilize surtax revenue. The committee has validated the expenditure of approximately $202 M in surtax revenue. The Board of County Commissioners has approved eight of these projects thus far. The projects validated include Roadway and Bridge improvements as well as facilities improvements consisting of roofing, HVAC, hurricane resiliency, new buildings, and a public park.

A list of current and ongoing capital projects can be viewed on our Capital Projects Updates page. Additional information about the voter approved one-cent infrastructure sales surtax and the infrastructure projects can be found at www.CollierOneCentTax.com.

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eleven bridges project

Eleven Bridge Replacement Project

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) provides biennial inspections of our county bridges. These inspections provide condition ratings used to determine whether structures need to be repaired, rehabilitated, or replaced. Condition ratings for 11 bridges east of SR 29 on Immokalee Road, Oil Well Road, and County Line Road indicate that they should be prioritized for replacement. The county is moving forward on the Eleven Bridge Replacements Project, which includes improvements to existing two-lane rural roadway approaches and shoulders.

HNTB Engineering, Inc., was awarded the design contract in 2017 for all eleven bridges. Design production is currently at the 60 percent phase and permit applications are expected to be submitted at the end of this phase. The current proposed bridge typical sections and maintenance of traffic during construction include:

  • Bridge No. 030136 east of the Immokalee Regional Airport entrance will be replaced by a bridge that includes two 12-foot travel lanes, a 12-foot center turn lane, 8-foot shoulders, and 6-foot sidewalks.
  • The remaining bridges on Immokalee, Oil Well and County Line roads will include two 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders.
  • No planned detours or road and/or bridge closures during construction.
  • Two-lane roads will be reduced to a single travel lane within the construction limits. Two-way traffic will be regulated in work zones by temporary traffic signals, flaggers, and signage during construction. Nightly closures may be necessary at driveways and will be coordinated with the affected property owners.

Once the design is complete, construction companies will be invited to bid on this project. The company that meets all requirements at the lowest price will be awarded this contract. Any qualified US company may participate in this bid process. It usually takes about six months from the start of the bid process to the award of the contract.

Construction is planned to begin in the fall of 2020 with completion in late 2022 to early 2023. The estimated cost for design and construction is approximately $35 million with funding being allocated from the Collier County One-Cent Sales Surtax and Gas Tax.

You can learn more about the Eleven Bridge Replacements Project on the Transportation Engineering Division web page.

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Vanderbilt Country Club Lakes pond

Pollution Control Offers Customized, Free Pond Evaluations for Your Community

Collier County Pollution Control offers free on-site pond evaluations and recommendations for communities with the goal of making them beautiful, functional, and sustainable.

Beauty varies from person-to-person, which can sometimes make achieving a “pretty pond” seem like a Herculean task. It’s easier to agree that the community never wants to see algae, mucky water, or even trash in the water. Surprisingly, plants along the shoreline are one of the biggest ways to prevent all of these. An on-site evaluation provides Pollution Control the opportunity to customize recommendations to prevent pollution and increase the longevity of a pond, as well as make plant recommendations appropriate for the pond’s unique conditions.

Functional community ponds are a very important, and often overlooked, piece of the modern habitat of Southwest Florida. Community ponds are first and foremost a part of the engineered stormwater system put in place to prevent flooding, recharge drinking water, and absorb or sequester pollutants before releasing water downstream. Additional benefits of a functioning pond include maximized waterfront access to the community and increased habitat for native wildlife.

Sustainability in a community’s pond means many things, from reduced chemical applications to saving money on maintenance because there are fewer algae blooms, to simply not using too much water when irrigation is pulled from the pond. By using a holistic approach to pond maintenance, the overall economic and environmental sustainability of the pond improves.

Pollution Control offers on-site pond evaluations, presentations, educational brochures and more at no cost. To schedule a pond evaluation or presentation, request educational resources, or just to ask questions, please call (239) 252-2502 or email pollution_control@colliercountyfl.gov.

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