Suwannee Democrat

January 10, 2013

Regional planning council-Mission: To improve quality of life

Joyce Marie Taylor
Suwannee Democrat

Mayo — Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council  (NCFRPC) Scott Koons offered the Lafayette County Board of County Commissioners an overview and an update on the council’s programs and activities recently.

The NCFRPC encompasses a total of 11 counties and 13 municipalities, covering 7,000 square miles and serving a population of about 500,000 people. Their mission is to improve quality of life for its citizens by coordinating growth management, protecting resources, promoting economic development and providing technical services to local governments.

Regional planning council programs in Florida are either governed by state statute or by an executive order by Governor Rick Scott, Koons explained.

Members of the council are comprised of two-thirds local elected officials and one-third gubernatorial appointees. County representation is mandatory, but cities are voluntary. Commissioner Donnie Hamlin is the representative on the council for Lafayette County.

Member counties are Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union. Member cities are Alachua, Archer, Gainesville, Hawthorne, High Springs, Jasper, Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Newberry, Perry, Starke and Waldo.

“When the council was originally formed, it was Alachua County only in 1969,” said Koons. “It expanded to 11 counties in 1972.”

The council is governed by executive committee members. Lorene Thomas is the chairperson, Live Oak Mayor Garth “Sonny” Nobles Jr. is vice-chair, Kenrick Thomas is secretary/treasurer and the final committee member is Carolyn Spooner.

There are seven members on the board of directors from the different counties, as well as ex-officio members that include Enterprise Florida, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Transportation, and both the St. Johns and Suwannee River Water Management Districts.

“Most of our region is in the Suwannee River district,” said Koons.

One responsibility of the NCFRPC is to review all federally funded grant applications to be certain they don’t duplicate any existing regional programs or conflict with any local plans already underway, Koons said.

In the past year the NCFRPC has reviewed 107 projects, and federal assistance applications totaling over $400 million, as well as 35 local government comprehensive plan amendments and 30 block grant applications. They also reviewed 19 federal transit and five USDA grant applications.

The NCFRPC’s list of accomplishments go on and on with a focus on regional programs, public safety, economic development, local government assistance and transportation.

“Our annual budget is on average about $2 million, plus or minus each year,” said Koons.

Yearly expenditures amount to about the same as revenues.

Koons summarized by saying, “We are an association of cities and counties formed with an interlocal agreement with two-thirds elected officials serving our board and one-third appointed by the governor. We primarily are a planning, coordinating, facilitating, convening organization. We are not a regulatory organization. We have no authority or power. We don’t issue any permits. We can’t make anybody do anything. We can’t stop anybody from doing anything. All I can say is we have the power and authority and persuasion of good ideas.”

Koon added that he hopes the NCFRPC recommendations and guidance are followed more times than not.