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$30M Transfer to the State for the Veteran’s Facility

Funds in the amount of $30M were successfully transferred to the State Veteran Services on May 2023 as requested by the Collier County Board of County Commissioners for the Veterans’ Facility. I  reiterated my concerns for the process, not only on this project but including similar concerns for ongoing projects moving forward:

  • The funding has been provided earlier than necessary. The required funding was set aside by the voters of Collier County and budgeted in the Infrastructure Capital Fund.  This should havesatisfied the State’s matching requirement. The contract does not define nor guarantee any rate of interest to be paid on the funds. At a minimum, SBA rates should have been committed.  Documents from the records requested indicate that the earliest construction would begin is in 2025.  Fees will be charged on the escrowed funds for the state statutory costs of holding funds. This reduces the funds available for the project.
  • There are no specifics in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA): no timeline for the project, statement of construction costs, the amount required to be appropriated by the legislature, nor when that might occur. The legislature has approved $500,000 for beginning design, which now awaits the Governor’s signature. Consequently, Collier may lose interest opportunities that would otherwise be available if funds were retained in the County’s control for investments.
  • The MOA and Escrow conflict in the description of the account as an “escrow account” describing the account as an asset of the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs (FDVA). The “three party Escrow agreement” provides that the FDVA Comptroller or designee shall be the sole signatory on the account and shall have the sole authority to withdraw funds.
  • We will be dependent upon the escrow agent to provide quarterly reports for financial reporting purposes, upon County request. If construction begins, reporting should be monthly to provide oversight. I appreciate that the county has offered to share the reports they are able to request.
  • The property has only been tentatively identified but has not been determined as “suitable” by either the state or federal authorities.
  • In reviewing other projects in Florida in the last few years, it does not appear that other Counties have contributed public land or dollars
  • The CFO’s letter represented to us as allowing advance payment, in fact states that the CFO lacked the authority to grant a waiver to a Clerk of Court to make an advanced payment.
  • There is no indication that these funds are sufficient for the completion of the project; and no other funds have been designated.
  • The facility does not have a confirmed design or total cost estimate.

Again, I fully support services to veterans. I look forward to a successful project. However, as Comptroller, the lack of specificity for a $30M transfer concerns me and will continue to be monitored.  I have made the transfer to the state based upon full confidence of the Board and representations that the Board is comfortable with the fund’s controls and project commitments from firsthand discussions with the state and federal representatives.  I am relying on the good faith that has been represented.

In the future, I hope that we can work together at the beginning of a project to mitigate these types of concerns. We will continue to monitor the project for the taxpayers.