LABELLE — A Clewiston resident pleaded with the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners Sept. 28 to remember to tend to the little things he feels are being overlooked as the county focuses on new developments and bringing businesses into the county.
Ken Bowers, who resides in the Seven K Estates subdivision, said he understands how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted county services, but said he and his neighbors are experiencing dire circumstances particularly when it comes to the roads in the area due to a lack of repair work there.
Flooding, road erosion, missing speed limit signs and failed drainage ditches were some of the “little things” he urged commissioners to at least come out and investigate.
The current conditions make it difficult for residents to get to and from their homes and it may impede emergency vehicles to reach some areas.
“As you are looking at your future terms, please don’t outgrow Hendry County,” he said during the public hearing segment of the BOCC’s regular meeting.
“This is not Miami or Tallahassee or DC,” he said. “This is Clewiston or LaBelle and I’m afraid some of the little things are being forgot about while we’re planning on the big airports and the lake level and the lake drainage and the algae.”
Bowers invited commissioners to tour the subdivision with him so they can see first-hand the deteriorating conditions.
Because he’s lived there since 1978, he said he can show commissioners how things have changed since then, especially on Flaghole Road.
Commissioner Karson Turner asked if potholes aren’t being repaired there.
“I’m not going to say they don’t get repaired,” Bowers said, adding that a 2-foot by 2-foot pothole quickly turns into a 5-foot by 5-foot one due to traffic and rain.
Turner pointed out the volume of water due to rain the area has experienced in the last 20 days is unprecedented and that the county has been working nonstop to repair roads and bridges due to the subsequent damage.
Commissioner Ramon Iglesias said he visited Flaghole road recently to see where the water was going.
“It’s going to take time for water to drain,” he said, in part because of the rainfall and partly due to how the South Florida Water Management District directs water drainage paths which presently is a trickle of movement.
Public Works Director Shane Parker said Flaghole drainage ditches were cleaned in 2014.
“We’ve been in there since then and started again today on the ones you call the Flagholes,” he said.
Part of the problem is that the county has no jurisdiction over some of the ditches as they are personal property.
“If landowners give us an easement, we’ll draw it up” and clean out existing ditches, he said.
Another issue was the tax money the department receives for work there – a little over $2,000 for Flaghole for which Public Works gets 80% which is quickly used up.
“There is an MSBU, but they’re assessed zero dollars for maintenance,” he said.
The MSBU, or Municipal Services Benefit Unit, is created by local governments for certain areas to provide essential services and improvements such as potable water, paving and drainage, etc.
Turner suggested that it might be time to revisit the drainage system there once the area dries for winter.
“There are swells or ditches, drainage easements behind peoples’ estates on Flaghole that have never been cleaned … because the county had never been given the easements properly,” he said.
Turner said he’d make time to visit the area as soon as possible.