Naples leaders strategize on distributing the penny sales tax revenue

Hurricane Irma was devastating to the area. (Credit: WINK News)
Hurricane Irma was devastating to the area. (Credit: WINK News)

Collier County narrowly gave their approval to a new penny sales tax in November. It is expected to generate as much as $70 million a year in revenue. That money will be split between the county, Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City.

City leaders plan to divide the new $26 million in revenue in three ways – mobility for people, safety enhancements and hurricane preparedness.

The tax is only for seven years, so on Thursday, the city council discussion surrounded the best ways to spend the money wisely and in a timely fashion.

An immediate area of need comes after Hurricane Irma. The hurricane is still fresh on the mind of Brook Michie of Naples.

“In three days our whole world just flipped upside down,” Michie said.

Recovery did not take days or weeks, but months in some places.

“It was slow,” Michie said. “It was very slow a few restaurants were open and a lot of trees were still down and it was devastating this park itself was completely covered with trees.”

The rebuilding struggles are not lost on Naples city leaders.

“Looking at design features that not only achieve the cities vision and goal of being a walkable, friendly pedestrian and bicycle community,” said Charles Chapman, Naples city manager, “but also using that as a dual purpose.”

With the millions of dollars beginning to come in thanks to the new penny sales tax, Naples plans on how to spend the money focusing on fixing roads and walkways to alleviate debris that could pile up after a storm.

That would help ease travels for first responders to pass through. Hurricane preparedness would involve getting emergency generators, construction on government buildings to harden them up for storms and beach end cameras to monitor areas that could flood, improving safety.

All this while the project will be in the works to improve water quality.

Michie said after seeing how Naples bounced back after Hurricane Irma, she is optimistic about the plans going forward and into hurricane season.

“A lot of us were in the dark,” Michie said. “I feel like were to come back and when the water was going to be working again. But, if they have this money going towards it, I think that’s a good peace of mind and it’s only a couple months away.”

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