Charlotte County commissioners voted unanimously last week to put off supporting a climate change study and an opiate addiction resource guide proposed by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.
Commissioner Bill Truex wanted to decline all support, calling the regional council’s proposals “duplicative” of work already going on in the region. But the commission agreed to give the Fort Myers-based council a few more weeks to provide information on the projects.
“You talk about resiliency and all those things,” Truex said of climate change concepts. “There’s a group working on that right now that will have a lot more information to benefit all the communities.”
Truex told the Sun his objection is to the council’s work, not to the idea of climate change. He cited eroding shorelines and an increase in the water table level as climate change related issues in this region.
Director of Community Services Claire Jubb later told the Sun about the project Truex referenced. Scientists at Florida Gulf Coast University recently hosted a meeting with representatives from all of the governments from Charlotte County down to Naples, Jubb said. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of a “Resiliency Compact.” It would be similar to ones already in place in the Tampa Bay and Miami areas.
Commissioner Christopher Constance said Charlotte County should let the regional council know about this work.
“Maybe she just wasn’t aware,” he said of the council’s executive director, Margaret Weurstle.
The county’s Human Services staff also confirmed Truex’s assertion about the opiate resource guide.
“The commissioners were correct in their statement that this information is already available to county residents,” Senior Manager Colleen Turner told the Sun in an email.
In fact, she said, the county recently upgraded its 211 information system for human services, available to the public online or by phone.
Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch criticized the regional council at the meeting, saying: “I’m not sure their existence is a real good expenditure of tax payer money.”
In 2017, the board voted to withdraw its annual financial support of $50,000 to the council, citing duplication of services and an unclear mission. It is still a member, however, by law.
Constance advised board members to refrain from “a rant” about the council, and focus on the proposed projects.
Commissioner Joe Tiseo reminded the board that other poorer counties in the region may depend on the council for service they cannot afford.
“There may be some things in here that would benefit other fiscally constrained communities that may not have the resources we have. So we need to keep that in mind,” he said.
The regional council did not immediately return calls from the Sun.