Early last month, city and county officials went before Senator Dwight Bullard and Representative Matt Hudson to discuss the needs of community agencies in the coming legislative session. Both Sen. Bullard and Rep. Hudson will be representing Hendry County in the 2015 legislative session, which begins March 3.
Public Works Director Sean Scheffler was first to speak on behalf of the city of Clewiston and emphasized the importance of U.S. 27 to the community. There is currently a work plan scheduled to overlay the portion of the highway that runs through the heart of the city, update traffic lights and sidewalks and bring signage up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliance. That project would be completed through the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and is scheduled to begin sometime during 2015 or 2016.
Scheffler asked Sen. Bullard and Rep. Hudson to push for a median curbing project along U.S. 27, which could potentially be added to the FDOT work plan. Curbed medians are often used for traffic calming and could improve not only traffic flow but the aesthetics of the highway. Recreation Director Lance Ramer was next to speak on behalf of the city, and asked Sen. Bullard and Rep. Hudson to take three funding requests to the legislature this session.
The first issue was to construct bathrooms at the Sweetest Town Playground, the second was to add more lighting at the Sugarland Sports Complex and the third to pave the entrance to the sports complex on Sonora Avenue and to add safety netting over the bleachers. Ramer asked for $50,000 for each project.
Rep. Hudson said it would be best to submit these funding requests through the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP), a state-funded program that provides grants to develop or acquire land for public outdoor recreation use. Rep. Hudson said every small FRDAP grant submitted last year was funded and it would be more difficult to get these projects funded without submitting as a FRDAP grant. This year’s submission period ended at the end of October.
Speaking on behalf of the county, County Administrator Charles Chapman asked for funding for Airglades Airport projects, including waste water infrastructure connecting the city of Clewiston to the airport.
Chapman also voiced concerns about the increased costs of Medicaid the county will be experiencing in the future. According to Chapman, the county could see a 155-percent increase in Medicaid expenses over the coming years.
Next, Superintendent Paul Puletti asked Sen. Bullard and Rep. Hudson to consider tackling the issue of increased standardized testing, which now take up 12 weeks of each school year, while Pat Dobbins, administrator at the Hendry County Health Department, addressed the issue of lack of funding for rural counties in the healthcare arena.
Gulf Citrus Growers Association asked for $2 million to continue a grassroots effort to fight citrus greening and Library Director Ava Barrett proposed an idea to set up mobile libraries in the five unincorporated areas of Hendry County. Barrett described them as “Redboxes for books” and said $150,000 should be enough to put a box in each outlying area.
The legislative session begins the first Tuesday of March 2015.