The Clewiston News

Airglades Airport at center of priority lists for Hendry County

At their last regular meeting, the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners approved the Capital Improvements Schedule (CIS) for fiscal years 2014 to 2019. The schedule was discussed during a public hearing on Nov. 15 at Clewiston’s City Hall.

The CIS lists capital improvement projects by priority and provides options to finance those projects.

The 2014-19 CIS contains proposed improvements to Airglades Airport, including plans to construct a sewer force main from the airport to Clewiston — a project the city of Clewiston is also involved with — building a runway and taxiway system, and building an education center on-site. The cost of the improvements for Airglades Airport in the five-year plan totals just under $192 million, all of which are currently unfunded.

The CIS includes plans to resurface roads in the city of Clewiston and surrounding county in the next five years, as well, including U.S. 27 from the Industrial Canal to Merchant Street, Flaghole Road from Woodland Boulevard to U.S. 27, Sonora Avenue from W.C. Owen to Davidson Road, East Basilian Crescent from W.C. Owen to Dean Duff Avenue and Francisco Road from Sonora Avenue to U.S. 27. The transportation improvement projects are numbers one, nine, 12, 14 and 24 on the CIS, respectively.

Apart from resurfacing projects, the CIS includes a plan to landscape along U.S. 27 from the Industrial Canal to Central Avenue, a project that would be funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) and is expected to cost $251,964 in total. It falls at number 20 on the list.

Plans to add sidewalks on Ventura Avenue from Lopez Street to Berner Road are also planned and sit at number 26 on the list. The project would be funded by the DOT and is expected to cost $90,000.

There is also a plan to construct a weigh station on U.S. 27 this fiscal year, which would be funded by DOT.

A rail safety project sits at number 31 on the list of transportation improvements and includes construction on W.C. Owen from Basilian Crescent to Aztec Avenue. The project is expected to cost more than $235,000, all of which would be funded by DOT.

Also included in the CIS are improvements to East Hendry County Recreation facilities, such as the Harlem Gym and Bo Pelhman Park.

Commissioner Darrell Harris made a motion to approve the CIS after some discussion and Commissioner Janet Taylor seconded. Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the Capital Improvement Schedule.

Commissioners also discussed the 2015 Legislative Priorities at the night’s meeting, which would be presented to the Florida State Legislature during their 2015 session.

Chairman Karson Turner expressed his desire to see as small of a legislative priorities list as possible and said he wanted the Wastewater Force Main project to be priority number one.

“This has been on the legislative priorities list since I came on the commission six years ago,” he said.

If funded, the Force Main project would construct a sewer line from Airglades Airport to the city of Clewiston. The county would have to ask for $6 million from the state in order to make the project happen. County Administrator Charles Chapman suggested the project be separated into phases, and the board ask only for the cost of each of the phases. The idea is the smaller chunks of money would be more palatable to the state legislature.

The first phase of construction would include designing and permitting and would cost roughly $500,000. Chapman suggested the board request $500,000 during this legislative session to get the ball rolling on the project.

Another top priority on the 2015 list is providing relief for the pending increases in costs for Medicaid which stand to boost Hendry County’s Medicaid costs by 155 percent.

The legislative priorities list states the county would likely need to raise property taxes by an additional .35 mills in order to offset the rise in costs.