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Hamman provides county overview

September 28, 2016
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

There are positives - and some not-so-positives - on the table for Lee County, according to Commissioner Brian Hamman.

Hamman, who represent District 4, which includes parts of Cape Coral and North Fort Myers, was the guest speaker for the monthly North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Business Leader's Luncheon held at the Smokin' Pit last week.

On the good side, Lee County continues to improve after the Great Recession. Property values improved by 8.5 percent, which followed five years where property values shrank.

"This is great news. Many homeowners are no longer underwater with their mortgages. During the recession we lost half of our tax base, but we expect values to continue to increase, just at a slower pace," Hamman said.

Also, unemployment in Lee County is at 4.7 percent, as opposed to 5.4 percent last year and in double digits during the worst of the recession. The county is fifth out of 67 counties in job growth and the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area had the greatest job growth in the hospitality industry he said.

Hamman also spoke about the budget that was passed by the county the previous night that lowered property taxes for the first time in more than a decade; $10 for every $100,000 in taxable value, or $6.5 million going into the economy, not the government.

Even in the face of adversity, the are some positives, he added.

"We've been burned this year," Hamman said bluntly. "With Zika and water quality, to see our employers have the confidence to hire people speaks volumes for how hard the area has worked."

Water quality remains at the top of everyone's list. With that in mind, the county has put aside $6 million into water quality projects, Hamman said, adding some of the issues are from Lake Okeechobee, but most of it is locally derived from roadways, yards and from old septic systems.

Another concern is the influx of people that has crowded roadways and created a greater need regarding public safety.

"We want to retain and hire more deputies and more paramedics so we can get a couple more shifts and crews out there," Hamman said.

In North Fort Myers, Hamman lauded the new library, which is on track to open in 2019, and a new boating area for people to have greater access to the water.

What hasn't come out is the long-awaited North Fort Myers business study commissioned by the BOCC, which was originally scheduled to be released this summer. Hamman said it's frustrating, but they need time to get the analysis done.

"We have the data and the numbers, but numbers without analysis don't mean anything. We're going through each county department, look at the data and give us an analysis we can use," Hamman said. "I wanted this done faster, but I'd rather it be done right."

Hamman also discussed the upcoming vote to continue Conservation 20/20, the need for a bus stop at the library, a boat ramp in North Fort Myers and for more athletic fields for amateur soccer.



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