Videos: toll road planning –E.D. Scott R. Koons & Ken Cornell @ NCFRPC 2019-05-23

Last Thursday, NCFRPC E.D. Scott R. Koons noted that Appointments to the task forces for each of the toll road corridors would start soon. Among the types of representatives that are supposed to be appointed, are environmental organizations (two of those listed in the bill are on record opposing it).

[Scott R. Koons, E.D., NCFRPC]
Scott R. Koons, E.D., NCFRPC

Koons also discussed approved funding for a hurricane evacuation study. Why, you may wonder, was the toll road bill, supposedly largely about hurricane evacuation, passed before that study was even started?

Ken Cornell of Alachua County noted “There’s a lot of election cycles before this is going to be done.” Indeed, a new governor could decline to implement this toll road boondoggle, and if enough elected officials on the task forces oppose it, that might even stop it. He also said:

[Planning, Ken Cornell, Alachua County]
Planning, Ken Cornell, Alachua County

Cornell asked for new Executive Committee members to get together before the next Council meeting,

So we can have some discussions at this Council like what we’re doing for Valdosta, and have a united front. Alachua County and I know many others will stand in support of this issue.

Suwannee Riverkeeper stands in support of the counties opposed to the toll roads.

Below are the WWALS videos from that North Central Florida Regional Planning Council meeting in Lake City, FL, with more details.

Executive Director’s Report –Scott R. Koons

Video. After talking about various accolades to NCFRPC, at 1:42 he listed bills that did not pass the Florida legislature:

  • A bill to add the State House Trust Fund to those that cannot be “swept”, that is, so that funds cannot be diverted from it: that bill did not pass.
  • The on-site sewage treatment requirement of inspection of septic tanks did not pass.
  • The growth management bill by Senator Perry and Rep. McLane [presumably SB 428] related to acquiring a private property element to local comprehensive plans did not pass.

He said two bills did pass. The first was HB 9, which requires community redevelopment agencies to require all appointees to complete four hours of ethics training each year, same as elected officials, and to put on their website digital maps of relevant maps. Plus it sunsets all existing community development agencies in the state of Florida by 2039 or sooner. But it does provide for the local city or county governments to re-establish those agencies if they make a finding of necessity.

SB 7068 toll road bill

The second bill that passed he remarked was the one that many citizens just spoke about, namely the toll road bill, SB 7068, that establishees “multi-use corridors of regional significance”. He outlined the corridors:

…and the third corridor would be a northerly extension of the Suncoast Parkway coming north through parts of our region to I-10, and ultimately to the Georgia line.

Representatives

Each of the task forces [I think he meant each of the corridors] will have a task force appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation. He is required to make those appointments by August 1st. There will be representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, from the Department of Economic Opportunity, Education, Health, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Ag. and Community Services [FDACS], Water Management Districts, Regional Planning Councils, local government elected officials and jurisdictions, metropolitan planning organizations, community members, and environmental groups.

The bill actually says:

(3)(c)1.l. Appropriate environmental groups, such as 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon Florida, the Everglades Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Florida Sierra Club, and the Florida Wildlife Corridor, as determined by the department.

Two of those groups, 1000 Friends of Florida and Sierra Club, were among the 90 groups that signed a letter urging the governor to veto the bill.

Notably missing is Suwannee Riverkeeper, which is the only Waterkeeper in the path of the bill’s Suncoast Connector.

He continued:

These task forces will be charged with evaluating the need, economic and environmental impact, hurricane evacuation impact, and land use impacts, in these multi-use corridors.

He didn’t mention that the bill includes a long list of potential benefits, including “Energy distribution.” LNG on trucks?

He continued.

There is a requirement that the task force hold at least one public meeting in each jurisdiction which the corridor would traverse.

Their report is due October 1st next year, 2020. So a very short timeline, a little over a year, to report to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Governor, and the Secretary of Transportation.

I don’t actually see the Secretary of Transportation listed as a report recipient. And what’s really missing is the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

He continued:

The bill states that to the maximum extent feasible, construction should begin in these corridors by September of 2022, with completion of corridors by December of 2030.

The legislation also calls for appropriation in fiscal 2020, which begins July 1st. Appropriation of $45 million, $12 and a half which will be for these corridor studies. An additional $10 million in the Small County Road Systems Program, an additional $12 million in the Small County Outreach Program, an additional $12 million in the Transportation Disadvantaged program, and $2.5 million to Workforce [development program].

And then, in fiscal ’21 through ’23, it calls for appropriation of $90 million for development of these corridors.

So, that’s the process that will be undertaken over the next year to year and a half.

Appointments

The Secretary will start making appointments of elected officials from each of the jurisdictions. Most likely the tentative corridors that were designated in the [inaudible] of the bill would come through Levy, Dixie, Taylor, and then up through Jefferson County. But the actual route is yet to be determined. That’s going to be the charge of the task force for each of the corridors.

Evacuation

And the last item I want to report on is the special project appropriation that the regional councils association requested of $1.2 million to begin the statewide update of the hurricane evacuation study, the behavioral study of how many individuals will respond if they are ordered to evacuate. Will they stay in place? Will they evacuate to shelter with family or friends? Or will they evacuate to commercial hotels or motels or will they need public shelters and other assistance.

That appropriation did pass the House and the Senate and is in the final budget that has not yet been submitted to the Governor. Once the Governor receives the budget, he will have fifteen days to either sign the budget as adopted, or exercise his line-item veto on certain items that he doesn’t agree with in the budget.

So he has not received the budget, so we’ll know in another few weeks whether that passes the review of the Governor.

E.D. Koons went on to remind them that financial reports were due, and to recognize some staff members who could not be at the meeting.

Affected counties discuss toll roads like Valdosta –Ken Cornell, Alachua County

Video. Ken Cornell of Alachua County thanked the citizen speakers for “coming up and giving us your thoughts.”

He noted that on the NCFRPC Executive Committee newly appointed members included one from Taylor County, one from Lafayette County, and a couple of Alachua County persons. (He didn’t mention Levy, Dixie, Taylor, or Jefferson Counties, I’m guessing because they were already on the Executive Committee.) He asked for them to discuss this toll road issue before the next NCFRPC meeting,

So we can have some discussions at this Council like what we’re doing for Valdosta, and have a united front. Alachua County and I know many others will stand in support of this issue. Getting more information so that…. There’s a lot of election cycles before this is going to be done. And I just think that it’s important that we as a body at least set that out.

He concluded by applauding outgoing Chair Louie Davis.

For the rest of the videos, including the eight citizens from across the region spoke Thursday against the toll road boondoggle, at the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council meeting in Lake City, FL, Thursday, May 23, 2019, see Citizens for water against toll roads @ NCFRPC 2019-05-23. There are more pictures on the WWALS website.

See also the Suwannee Riverkeeper op-ed in the Gainesville Sun, the agenda and Jim Tatum’s report for OSFR, which has good pictures of the citizen speakers.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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