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Civic hears from county commission candidate

October 10, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Candidate for county commissioner Bill Taylor spoke at the Greater Pine Island Civic Association last Tuesday night, touting the need for better water quality.

Taylor, who is running without party affiliation, is seeking the District 2 seat on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners held by Cecil Pendergrass, a Republican.

Pendergrass declined an invitation because of a scheduling conflict.

Taylor has been in Lee County since the 1970s when his father retired from the Air Force and the family settled in Southwest Florida. He graduated from Fort Myers High School and went to Edison Community College.

Taylor is the founder and producing artistic director of the Theatre Conspiracy at the Alliance for the Arts, currently celebrating its 25th season.

"Why am I running,?" Taylor asked. "Because nobody else did and that's the God's honest truth. It is my firm belief that Lee County is at a tipping point. We either protect and preserve our natural resources and our unique communities or we lose them for forever."

According to Taylor's website, "The current path the County is on will make our area just more of the same in the blur of helter-skelter growth our great state is experiencing. Bill's top priorities are preservation of natural resources, protection of unique communities (Alva, Pine Island, Estero, North Fort Myers) and job growth in Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral which will ease the burden on our roads."

Taylor believes the single driving issue Southwest Florida is facing is the water crisis. "Green algae and red tide have to stop," Taylor said. "I watch the county commissioners and they blame the state and the feds. All of that's true but Lee County has to take certain steps in order to protect our waterways."

Taylor supports identifying pollutant sources and stopping the pollution into the rivers and waterways, creating Florida friendly landscapes and septic tank inspections every five years.

"We are contributing to this nutrient overload problem that is going on across the state and we can address that issue locally," Taylor said. "If we can reduce the impact by 20, 30, 40 percent, I say let's do it."

In 1996 the voters of Lee County voted in a referendum to approve the creation of the Lee County Conservation 20/20 program. The purpose was to establish a county wide conservation land acquisition program.

Twenty years later, in 2016, Lee County voters returned to the ballot box and voted 84 percent support for the Conservation 20/20 program to continue.

"In 1996 we voted to tax ourselves a .5 millage rate in order to buy conservation lands," Taylor said. "They were doing that for a long time and then in 2013 the Board of County Commissioners took $28 million dollars from the Conservation 20/20 fund to pay into the general fund to balance the budget. They didn't put the money back, they just took the money."

"That's why I've decided to run. This is not my lifelong dream to get into politics," Taylor said. "I've had a successful theater company in this area for 25 years, I love my job, going to work every day is an absolute joy but there are issues in this county that we have to tackle. No one else stepped up and I'm going to step up and make some changes."

The General Election is Nov. 6.

Lee County Commission seats are elected at-large seats, meaning all voters can cast a ballot no matter the district in which they live.

In other Civic business:

- Jim Roach, legislative liaison for the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, gave a short presentation about the legislative water issues facing southwest Florida.

- GPICA board member Scott Wilkinson read a letter from a resident who is donating 5-1/2 acres of commercial property on Matlacha to Conservation 20/20. The property is located at 4060 Pine Island Road (just west or Shoreview Road). The owner would "like to see the property remain forever wild'. The GPICA endorses and supports the donation of this property.

- There was also a presentation from the representative of a St. James City Resident who is making a zoning change request to construct a dock on his property that is longer than current zoning rules allow. GPICA members voted unanimously against the dock.

- A second presentation was made about a property at Maria Drive and Stringfellow Road that has been proposed for inclusion in Lee County's Conservation 20/20 program. The property is 92.64 acres and is being offered to the county for $1.4 million. GPICA members voted unanimously for the purchase.

- Lifetime Pine Island resident Tonya Player gave a brief update about the Lee County Mosquito Control District's proposed drone program. Player read a letter from Eric Jackson, LCMCD spokesperson. The letter addresses claims made by GPICA president Claudia Bringe.

"There is no 'experimental drone' program. We have been in a partnership with the FAA to help compile flight data for the purpose of drafting new regulations on drone use. It is a two and half year partnership, and we have been working with the FAA to determine the feasibility of continuing with the program due to the needed operational tempo. If Ms. Bringe is referring to the Teros drone that we were initially looking into for surveillance of waterways and small treatment missions, that was dropped from the program weeks ago."

Eric Jackson

Public Information Officer

Lee County Mosquito & Hyacinth Control Districts

Phone: 239.694.2174

- Resident John Saccucci was appointed to the GPICA board to replace Bryan Crane who wishes to resign. John will serve through the end of Crane's term which ends in early 2019. Saccucci could then stand for election to a full term.

Quick Q&A with Bill Taylor

Q: What are some action items we can take to get the most bang for the buck?

A: "The biggest thing you can do is vote right now because there's no one working to solve this nutrient issue contributing to our water issues."

Q: Isn't the damage already done? We see pictures every day about how bad it is?

A: "The damage has been done this year but if we don't do anything it's going to come back again next year," Taylor said. "Unless something is done when our ecosystem begins to rebound it's not going to have a chance."

Q: If elected how do you plan to get the current commissioners to engage in a clean water movement?

A: "My plan to try to help move the commissioners along is to get various non-profit organizations involved with the county as a joint effort. If we utilize organizations like the Calusa Waterkeepers - they're already doing water testing. Recently they did a fecal matter testing and if the value was 70 they would shut the beach down, Orange River came out at over 1,000 that was going into the Caloosahatchee. If we can get these non-profits to help the county we won't have the expenses."



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