County Commission Priorities Reflect Community Challenges

Guest Correspondence

The County Commission this week approved its strategic plan for 2023. It was developed at the annual retreat for the commission in December 2022. This plan is important as it sets the tone and focuses administration and staff’s timing on certain issues. 

With 40% of the commission being new this year, this is a peek inside the focus of the newest iteration of the commission and it gives you an idea of where the county is headed. 

This year, the list of priorities was lengthy. There were 12 of them in total. They are not ranked in a particular order. They all share equal importance to the commission and some of them had some specific direction and explanation to them.

  • Affordable Housing
  • Contracted Social Services
  • Design Flood Evaluation: FEMA lowering base flood
  • EDC Future
  • Fruitville Expansion Phase 1 and 2
  • Health of the Bay: Midnight Pass and future openings
  • Indoor Sport Facility Design- Employee Shelter Opportunity
  • Jail Future State
  • Review Opportunities for Increased Public Access to Preserve and Protected Lands
  • South County Regional Park Planning
  • South River Road Public/Private Partners
  • SWFWMD Project Funding

This is a healthy list that crosses many different areas, from transportation to parks to environment and water quality. It reflects many of the hot button issues of today and shows the commission will be taking on some challenging and controversial issues over the next year.

The next step in the process of dealing with these priorities is for staff to focus on implementation of the plan. The County Administrator’s memo indicates the Board will receive monthly updates on these items. 

The timing of setting these priorities is important as the fiscal year for the county runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Staff is now beginning to put together the budget process for 2024 that starts Oct. 1 of this year. Staff will evaluate what priorities can be implemented this fiscal year before Oct. 1 and will budget some items for next year. That is why the timing of the approval of these priorities is so important.

While we may not necessarily agree with the outcomes of some of these items in the future, we applaud the commission for taking on tough issues head on and not shying away from them. It is too easy to let problems and controversial issues sit and gather dust, and also let another future commission deal with them.

Transparency will be key to the community understanding the progression of these priorities, we hope the monthly updates will be prominently accessible to the public, not just in quarterly commission meetings, but every single month. 

Congratulations to the commission on setting your road map for 2023. You have a lot of work ahead of you, we are glad you filled your plate with meaningful, pressing and important priorities.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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