COLLIER COUNTY COMMISSION BLOG: Commissioner says it makes fiscal sense to contract with more local professionals

UPDATE: 1:10 p.m.

Chairwoman Donna Fiala called today's meeting short and sweet. Breezing through the meeting, and with little public input, the session ended prior to 1 p.m.

After the meeting, Fiala said she was pleased that the commission was able to cover so much ground in such a short period of time. What she found most interesting: a discussion on expanding the local preference ordinance to include professionals; and consideration of $40,000 that has been routinely transferred out of transportation money to Bayshore Gateway municipal service taxing district.

County staff will be exploring both issues.

UPDATE: 12:38 p.m.

Commissioner Tom Henning wants an adjustment in the county's local preference rules for vendors expanded to professionals.

"I want to give staff direction to provide a location (in the law) for our process of qualifying professionals," Henning said.

Currently, professional services are rated by experience rather than location, and are exempt from local preference policy.

Changing that would save money for county and get some of that money circulating throughout the community.

Commission Chairwoman Donna Fiala loved the ideas.

Henning said that in addition to the professional contracts, professionals get paid for travel time, hotel, gas and meals.

"Hire a local, and he already has a place to stay, gas in his vehicle and food on the table," Henning said.

"These professionals here in Collier are taxpayers too," Henning said.

Commissioners say they never see these expenses when approving a hire.

That's because the staff goes in and negotiates the contract, Henning said.

Commissioners asked staff to revise the local preference ordinance passed earlier this year to include professional services.

UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

Commissioner Jim Coletta wants the county to address computer problems that have caused extreme down-time for Coletta and his aide.

Hours - and days - have been lost due to this computer problem, Coletta said.

"It's been extremely frustrating working with IT over this issue in the past few years," Coletta said. "There's a reason why we're having problems in office with computers (and) it's been intolerable."

County employees say the problems are caused by varying software.

Coletta asked administrator Sue Filson how many times IT has been in the office in the past few years.

"Many," Filson said.

County employees said they'll try, again, to clear up the problem.

UPDATE: 12:02 p.m.

Since 1999 there's been an automatic $40,000 transfer from county transportation to the Bayshore Gateway Community Redevelopment Agency.

Problem is, no commission ever voted on it.

County Manager Jim Mudd called it an autopilot transfer.

"I can't figure that out. That particular policy and transfer was not approved by commission. We (would just) be telling the (Office of Management and Budget) staff to get it off autopilot," Mudd said.

Commssioner Tom Henning called it an anomaly that never should have happened, although it was accepted for some time.

The issue will be raised again during the county's budget cycle.

UPDATE: 11:46 a.m.

Collier County Commission members asked employees to look into the living conditions of a sheriff's deputy.

The deputy, whose name was not disclosed, has been living in a house in Sugden Park. He's been told he has to move because the county is building a sailing club building there.

Commissioner Fred Coyle, who raised the issue, asked if the county can build somewhere else in the park, or at least find another place for the deputy to live within the park, citing the benefits of having a police officer on site.

"I think the deputy is being treated unfairly," Coyle said.

Commissioner Tom Henning said he'd already brought up this issue with staff, and there is no other place on county-owned property for the deputy's home. Futhermore, if county was going to do this, there should be a policy.

Staff will be looking at other options for the deputy.

* * * * *

UPDATE: 11:40 a.m.

Collier County Commission members decided against having its traditional post-legislative session with local representatives to the state House and Senate.

"I see no need for a post-legislative workshop. We had one," said Commissioner Fred Coyle. The bills the county protested were signed into law, so there's no use in meeting with legislators, he said.

Chairwoman Donna Fiala agreed.

"I kind of thought staff covered it all," Fiala said.

* * * * *

Collier County commissioners will send employees to the Public Services Commission in Fort Myers on June 19 to challenge Florida Power and Light's 12.5 percent rate increase, which Chairwoman Donna Fiala called the most expensive in the state.

FPL contends the company plans in the next five years to invest $16 billion in more efficient measures that are projected to save customers money starting in January 2010.

Commissioner Tom Henning noted that there's no guarantee that local costs are going to decrease.

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