CHIPLEY — Local residents got the chance to express their concerns and desires to state legislators on Tuesday when Sen. Don Gaetz and Rep. Marti Coley visited Washington County.
Gaetz and Coley were on a Legislative delegation tour, visiting towns through the Panhandle, and stopped by the Washington County Annex to visit with residents and community leaders and listen to what was on their constituents’ minds before the Legislature begins its 2013 session in February.
Karen Schoen opened the meeting by reading a prepared statement warning that the state of Florida is under attack by the United Nation’s Agenda 21 and “sustainable development.”
According to Wikipedia, Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development. It is an action agenda for the UN, other multilateral organizations, and individual governments around the world that can be executed at local, national, and global levels.
“The government wants to control every aspect of humanity,” Schoen said. “Agenda 21 has set us on a path to destroy Florida. Individual property rights have taken a back seat to the good of the collective.”
Neither Coley nor Gaetz had any comment on Schoen’s statement.
On a more local concern, Vernon Elementary School PTO President Tara Dockery asked the legislators to consider providing more funding to local schools to improve security. Dockery took her concerns to the Washington County School Board and the Board of County Commissioners earlier in January, and the BOCC recommended she also approach the legislators.
Dockery said she had a petition with 400 signatures of concerned parents she had presented to the school board. “We want to make safety a top priority,” she said.
“Right now in the House this discussion is being held,” Coley said. “This is a very timely subject.”
“If there are additional funds available, do you believe there should be flexibility in how the money is allocated or should there be a recipe on how to use the funds?” Gaetz asked Dockery.
“I would trust our school board to do the right thing, they have done a good job,” Dockery said.
Mike DeRuntz, the county’s senior planner, asked the legislators to help Washington County receive their portion of the RESTORE Act funding when it came available.
The RESTORE Act funds are federal and Congress will be the deciding force in distributing those funds, Gaetz said. “We’re out of the driver’s seat.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett asked for Legislative support in expanding the Washington County Enterprise Zone from 20 square miles to encompass the entire county.
“Twenty square miles does not cover quite what we could use,” Everett said. “Most counties have an ag field they call an industrial park, with no utilities or water, and that isn’t going to do much for bringing jobs to an area.”
Everett used Ebro as an example. “There is only nine-tenths of a mile of Enterprise Zone at the intersection of Highway 20 and 79 in Ebro, and I believe one day that is going to be the biggest intersection in the county.” However, now to expand the Enterprise Zone and offer incentives to businesses to locate there, the county would have to take away zone status from some other community.
“I can say that Marti Coley is one of the strongest voices in the Legislature for rural economic development,” Gaetz said.
“I understand how this could be beneficial to our counties,” Coley said of the request.
County Commissioner Alan Bush also asked the legislators to help with the Washington County budget, citing numerous cuts to county revenue from the state.
Gaetz said he doesn’t know where all the money Gov. Rick Scott has been proposing to spend is going to come from, but said the Legislature would be challenged in the coming session to fund everything.
“We’re waiting to see what the President and Congress do in March with this new fiscal emergency,” Gaetz said. “If they don’t step up, we can go into automatic sequester and the state will be drowning in red ink.”