HENDRY COUNTY — I have had the privilege of serving as county commissioner for District 2 for 17 years. Continuing to create an environment for growth in all areas of the county has always been one of my priorities. I have enjoyed working with the dedicated staff members in Hendry County government. Together we continue to work with the residents of Hendry County to achieve our highest potential. However, there is still room to grow, and we would like nothing more than to fulfill those needs in the most efficient way possible.
Putting our residents first has been, and will always be, my top priority. With our residents as our main focus, we continue to create the highest quality of life possible and achieve growth. One of the ways we can achieve this is by investing in and installing infrastructure — roads, sidewalks, sewer and water lines — that is needed to lay the foundation for growth in our county. Having infrastructure in place will enhance the overall quality of life in Hendry County by allowing for more housing development and business attraction.
The Board of County Commissioners approved a project to construct sidewalks along County Road 78 from Crescent Aveue to the existing sidewalk near the intersection of County Road 78 and Old County Road 78. Paid for by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), this project has been completed. We have also approved sidewalks and paving projects for various areas of District 2 and the rest of Hendry County, including Fort Denaud Road.
These sidewalks will complete the alternative transportation right-of-way improvements in these areas. We believe that having sidewalks along these roads is a public safety issue, but sidewalks are so much more. Many people walk, jog or bike along our roadways as a primary source of recreation and exercise. The approved and future paving projects offer residents and visitors safe routes to reach their end destinations. While public safety is a top priority, these projects complement both safety and recreation — directly improving quality of life experiences for our residents and visitors.
Sidewalks provide greater access to outdoor activities for families to safely ride bikes or walk dogs. Sidewalks are shared spaces that allow for more interaction with our communities. Whether it’s a fun run or a quick walk to pick up groceries, our goal is to connect our communities together.
Naturally, the county must prepare to welcome and provide for the expansion of our population, which will also add depth to our tax base. A look at local records indicates that from Oct. 1, 2017, through July 20, 2018, the county issued permitting for 70 mobile homes, 127 site-built homes and four modular homes — a total of 201 new residences. Most of these are in Port LaBelle. In addition, the City of LaBelle issued permits for approximately 15 new homes.
In the area of safety, the county is working to place a fire truck in the North LaBelle area.
Hendry County is preparing for the sale of Airglades Airport, which will diversify the local economy, provide job growth and increase the county tax base. Hendry County entered into a public-private partnership for this project, as the county is not in the financial position to develop the airport project on its own without increasing the tax burden to its residents.
The county has been working hard to be ready for the future in many ways. Some of these projects include:
• The LaBelle Airport Terminal is currently under construction, funded 100 percent by FDOT — which shared in funding for its design with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Remarking the runway and taxiways — also FDOT-financed — was completed in January.
• FDOT is footing the bill for the total design and construction costs for the reconstruction of the threshold lighting and runway end pavement modification project at the airport. The design is complete, and the invitation to bid for construction has been issued.
• The master plan update for LaBelle Airport is under way, again with FAA and FDOT funding.
• Design and construction for paving Rodeo Drive from SR 29 to LaBelle Airport is being totally funded by FDOT. Design plans are currently 60 percent complete.
• Design for rehabilitating the existing aircraft tie-down apron at LaBelle Airport is also under way. The county is funding 10 percent for its design, with the FFA covering 90 percent.
• Engineering reports much action on Hendry County roads as well, starting with the long-awaited, FDOT-funded Helms Road Extension. The initial two lanes are in and crews are working on the other two.
• Design plans for Forrey Drive are nearing 90 percent completion. Work is expected to begin in September. Again, FDOT is funding the entire design and construction of the project from Cowboy Way to State Road 80.
• Improvement plans for Fort Denaud Road are at 60 percent.
• Two major road projects remain for Hendry County. The expansion to four lanes of SR 80 should be complete in about two years, and SR 29, from the bridge to the county line, is to be made four lanes by FDOT.
• State Road 29 south from the intersection of Cowboy Way is to be expanded to four lanes for 5 miles. Three different turn options have been discussed in particular: the Porterfield Oil turn issue has been resolved with ingress and egress at Rodeo Drive; turn lanes for Wilson and Evans roads are still being discussed.
FDOT’s five-year work program for Hendry County includes:
• Resurface SR 80 from north of Bee Creek to north of Fort Thompson Avenue; project design, engineering and construction, 2018-19.
• Resurface Cowboy Way from SR 80 to Bridge Street, 2019-20.
• Widen and resurface Fort Denaud Road from SR 80 to Fort Denaud Bridge Way, 2018-19.
• Widen and resurface CR 78 from Kirby Thompson Road to Fort Denaud Bridge Way, 2018-19.
Of course, not everything is “in progress.“ Some completed paving projects include:
• Nobles Road
• Alex Boulevard
• Whidden Road
• Ivan Avenue
• Caloosa Estates
County recreation projects include:
• Four backstops were added for four practice fields and water lines for restrooms at the Sports Complex on Forrey Drive.
• For Davis-Pratt Field, the county added a 20- by 30-foot open pavilion, upgraded backstops and fencing and added new drainage to the entire parking lot.
• The county has added fencing around five soccer fields at the Hendry-LaBelle Sports Complex.
• Kid Jones Park has been improved with four oak trees and a gazebo.
• At Bob Mason Park, the river banks have been cleared to enhance its appearance and use, with gazebos, picnic tables and barbecue grills.
• The Rodeo Grounds have been improved with new bucking chutes and a concrete slab under the pavilion.
Hendry County is participating in the future of energy production with the FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, which opened operation March 1, 2018, on 400 acres off Sears Road.
Hendry County has been hosting cleanup events throughout the county over the summer. The final cleanup will take place in South LaBelle on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the LaBelle Rodeo Grounds. Residents are encouraged to bring their yard waste, old tires, household hazardous waste and other items they would like to dispose of. This is for residents only; commercial/ business waste will not be accepted.
I look forward to building opportunities for recreational activities throughout our county and increase public safety. I will continue to make people my priority and strive for the potential the county can reach. I believe we should be mindful to reduce the tax burden on our residents, but we must remain committed to offering the highest quality of services to our residents. I believe that we can lay the foundation for continued growth as well as improve and ensure a high quality of life in Hendry County for generations to come.
All the commissioners of Hendry County have concerns for the entire county. We are all working together to make Hendry County a better place in which to live, work and raise our families.
Please feel free to contact me 24/7 with any concerns or questions at 863-673-5475.