LEE COUNTY — Taxi drivers may soon face background checks before operating in Lee County.
The county’s ordinance stands out as lax compared with neighboring counties and cities, said Libby Walker, public resources director, Monday at the Lee County commission’s monthly planning meeting.
Collier and Charlotte counties as well as Fort Myers and Cape Coral all require background checks and photo identification to be visible in the cab.
“We do not want to regulate these private businesses,” Walker said. “We’d like to talk to stakeholders to tighten up the ordinance and make it more enforceable and have something more consistent with other counties and cities.”
Walker said she wanted to talk with cab companies, some of which are in favor of tighter rules, as well as the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to review options.
Her suggestion had support of the board.
“I’m embarrassed we don’t have background checks that are required or photo IDs,” said Commissioner Ray Judah.
Commissioner Tammy Hall agreed.
“We have 5 million visitors that come here a year,” she said. “We need to make sure they’re safe.”
Still, Commissioner John Manning said this question has been raised several times in the past.
“The reason we didn’t come to a certain conclusion was the administrative nature of what the outcome would be,” Manning said, expressing concerns about budgetary constraints facing the county.
He said new technology since these discussions came up in the past may limit those administrative burdens, but it was important to keep that on the table.
In other news:
■ Lee County may still have to consider tax increases if the economy doesn’t roar back to life soon.
Assistant County Manager Pete Winton told commissioners in a budget update that even after cuts, including 413 positions in recent years, the county will be dipping into its savings by $42 million.
A booming economy and rising property values could ease the burden on the county’s budget, even as it continues to cut expenses.
But the county may still face a situation where it needs to find more revenue.
■ People interested in installing solar water heaters, or other home renewable energy items, may get some help from the county.
Staff will begin investigating several options to incentivise clean energy for county residents, said Doug Meurer, utilities director.
An analysis of various programs will be ready by April.