Recently a memo was distributed to members of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association that provided misleading and, in some cases, blatantly false statements and accusations against the Lee County Mosquito Control District (LCMCD). The following are direct responses from LCMCD to these accusations.
- 1. The ad valorem taxes assessed by LCMCD for the FY17-18 was $21,826,337 based on an annual milleage rate of .280. The planned FY18-19 milleage rate is less than the roll-back rate which will result in no increase in taxes. The $19 million purchase of the six Airbus H-125 helicopters and spray equipment will be paid over eight years, while the older Bell 206s, Bell 407s, and Bell UH-1 Hueys are being sold. The purpose of purchase is to consolidate and reduce the size of the fleet, thereby reducing cost and increasing safety.
- 2. The LCMCD has partnered with the FAA to help draft new regulations for drone use over shared airspace to help enhance mosquito control operations and increase safety. The memo quotes a writer from U.S. News and World Report who wrote a story on the FAA program, and it incorrectly attributed the quote to Eric Jackson, Public Information Officer of LCMCD. At the time the article was published, the LCMCD Board of Commissioners were planning on holding a special meeting to review the new project, but instead opted to wait until the regularly scheduled meeting to discuss.
- The memo also states that drones used in the FAA project will fly lower than is now legal. The only legal requirement for drones is they must be flown under 400 feet. There is no law restricting altitude lower than 400 feet.
- 3. The District entered a lease agreement with the sellers of the Woodstock Airport for $10,000 per month for six months, with optional extensions for six months due to pending litigation. This is to secure the property and use the site for District operations as needed.
- 4. The District has been using helicopters to deploy granular insecticides for years from existing heliports throughout the county. The memo falsely states that the helicopters need to use the entire Woodstock runway to "barely take off".
- 5. The memo claims that there is "FAA required pilot training" for the new helicopters. There is no such thing. All of the District pilots are certified to fly rotor-winged and fixed wing aircraft, and received extensive training from Airbus, the manufacturer of the new helicopters, prior to operating the aircraft. The memo goes on to state that there are "many unanswered requests under Florida Sunshine Laws that have been ignored". This
- statement is false. All public records requests have been fulfilled within a reasonable time, which is addressed in the Florida statute.
- 6. The memo incorrectly states that LCMCD pays "their teachers 100,000 a year plus benefits and retirement". Our Education Resource Specialists are compensated according to the negotiated salary agreement between the Teacher's Association of Lee County (TALC) and the School Board of the Lee County.
- 7. The memo also states that LCMCD Commissioners travel "all over the world to attend conferences at tax payer expense". When available, LCMCD Commissioners may attend state and national conferences to further their education and understanding of best practices for mosquito abatement. This assists the Commissioners in ensuring that informed decisions are made on behalf of taxpayers.
The Lee County Mosquito Control District welcomes members of the public to attend the September 12th Board meeting and Budget Hearing at the Lee County Mosquito Control District Headquarters in Buckingham, beginning at 4:45pm. Information on the meeting is available on the District website: http://LCMCD.org.
Public Information Officer
Lee County Mosquito & Hyacinth Control Districts
15191 Homestead Rd., Lehigh Acres, FL 33971
(end of LCMHCD letter)
"We, the owners of the Woodstock Airport and the surrounding 28 acres, understand that some people may not want to have the LCMCD purchase the airport. However, since they are unable to produce any factual, relevant, reasons why the LCMCD should not purchase the airport they have had to resort to a campaign of misinformation, lies and attacks on us personally to try to disrupt the sale.Among other things; the “Woodstock Opposition”, the 4 Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Lee County and LCMCD, and officers of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA) have engaged in the following:
- Filed numerous Code Enforcement Complaints about our property, each of which was investigated by the county (spending everyone’s tax dollars) and none of them were determined to be valid complaints by the Lee County Code Enforcement Officers.
- Publicly claimed that we have built “un-permitted” buildings on the property. We have built agricultural buildings, which in the state of Florida do not require permits, as we have a “Licensed” Palm Tree and Fish Farm that have been in operation for many years.
- In court they tried to get Woodstock Airport, “our airport” shut down as “illegal”, even though it has been in existence for over 40 years, and is licensed by the State of Florida, permitted by Lee County and recognised by the FAA. Numerous complaint calls are continually being made to the FAA almost daily. As a note: Every property in the neighborhood of Gulf Shore Estates, was developed by our predecessor, who built the airport before selling any of the surrounding lots.
- Claiming that we have “closed road easements that they are paying taxes on”, including Berkshire and Gulf Shore roads. We have no idea what they are talking about. We have no property near either of the roads, and as far as we can tell those roads are open for their full length. Plus, as everyone knows, you only pay taxes on your own property, not on easements on other properties.
- And, strangely enough, they have publicly complained that we posted “no trespassing” signs. Well, we’ve had them up to keep people off the runway for decades and added some more after Claudia Bringe, President GPICA, publicly encouraged people to “go to the airport and look around”, a poor attempt at intimidation.
We have received tremendous support from our neighbors, some of which have lived here since the airport was founded and understand how, ourselves and other supporters of the LCMCD, are unable to raise our voices due to the viscous nature of the personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with the anti-airport parties.
We welcome an honest and open public discussion of the decisions of a public entity like the LCMCD, but at this point all we have heard are lies, untruths, accusations and misleading information from the above groups. If you want to know what the LCMCD is planning, we encourage you to call them, they work for you."
(Following are excerpts from a handout at the recent Greater Pine Island Civic Assoc. meeting)
Lee County Mosquito District 1st Public Budget Hearing
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 /4:45 p.m.
"Why you might want to go:
1. The average mosquito budget for counties in Florida is $2. 7 million. Lee County budget was $29 million in Sept. 2017. In February 2018 They added $20 million for new aircraft purchase for a total whopping $49million from the FAA, the department
2. Trying to establish experimental drone program with 80 ft wing span drones that will fly 30mph, at night, controlled from an unknown location, and will fly lower than is now legal. Though the LCMD has already committed $300,000 in this year's budget, the entire tax payer cost for this experimental program will be $1,000,000.
Quote from May 11, 2018 USA News by LCM D's Eric Jackson, "With its new recognition from the FAA, the department hopes to make use of a much larger, 1500-pound drone in its monitoring and pest treatment operations. Its status in the program will allow drone operators to fly at night, beyond a visible line of sight and directly over people, potentially at lower altitudes. All three of these stipulations are not permitted by law." (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2018-05-10/4-statesControl- 80-percent-of-venture-capital dollars) But details of how and when an unmanned drone weighing more than an adult grizzly bear will be flying over Lee County are still up in the air. Jackson notes the control district's location in the Sunshine State subjects it to particularly strigent public records' laws. He says mosquito control officials will hold a special commissioners meeting later this month(May,2018) to discuss how and when they will take their next steps with the program. (TO DATE NO MEETING HAS EVER BEEN HELD)
3. Are currently paying $10,000. A month to lease the Woodstock property where they hope to put a heliport. The committed $120,000. Will NOT be applied to the $1.S Million property purchase.
4. At the present time the LCMD is flying helicopters so loaded down with Granular insecticides that they cannot take off vertically, but rather have To use the entire length of the proposed runway to barely take off# #To report low flying aircraft call the FAA at (813) 287-4900. If you can Provide description (color, time, location, and photos if possible)
5. We do not know if the LCMD pilots have completed the FAA required pilot training on the new purchased aircraft. One of the many unanswered requests under Florida Sunshine Laws that have been ignored.
6. The LCMD pays their teachers $100,000 a year plus benefits and retirement to instruct schools and the public about the LCMD science and services
7. The commissioners travel all over the world to attend conferences at tax payer expense.
A group of dedicated Pine Islanders (Facebook: The Woodstock Airport Rezoning Opposition Group) have fought the LCMD from the very beginning of the proposed heliport on Woodstock Road. They won the first round at the Lee County Hearing, only to be overturned by a zoning board member who had no experience in the matter. This same group has financed a lawsuit and appeal holding off the heliport. During this time, the same group has found many illegal and questionable actions taken by the LCMD. Other lawsuits against the LCMD are also being planned at this time."
(Ed Note: If you don't want to live near an airport; #1: Don't move there or, #2: Move)