Rep. Val Demings (FL-10) announced formal requests for over $19 million in the fiscal year 2023 federal funding for 15 projects
in Central Florida, including one in Apopka and several in Orange County.
Among the projects selected by Demings for federal funding:
- $2,500,000 for the City of Apopka to replace 10.8 miles of asbestos cement pipes and 2.1 miles of galvanized water pipes. This is the entirety of Apopka’s current asbestos cement and galvanized pipe infrastructure, which is aging and leaking and puts residents at risk of water quality and public health issues, as well as the risk of total service loss during a natural disaster.
- $500,000 for Orange County to expand solar power capacity through the new Floating Solar PV Project, which will protect Central Florida air quality, combat climate change, and benefit Orange County Utilities’ customers by reducing operational expenses by 20%. By placing floating solar generation in existing stormwater ponds the county can move quickly to place the new solar panels, with plans to execute the Floating Solar PV project by January 2023.
- $184,500 for the Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) to fund Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which is a proven tool in the Office’s goal to reduce the use of force, reduce the number of involuntary commitments to mental health facilities (Baker Act), and reduce the number of arrests of mentally ill citizens. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 4 fatal police shootings between 2015 and 2020 involved a person with a mental illness. OCSO currently has 1,633 sworn deputy sheriffs and 145 non-sworn personnel, of which Only 538 have attended CIT training. In 2021 the OCSO, in partnership with Aspire Health, created a 40-hour Memphis Model-approved course. CIT training includes intensive verbal de-escalation skills with consistent attention to officer safety. All participants are required to complete scenarios with trained role-players. Also in 2021, the Orange County Sheriff's Office started the Behavioral Response Unit (BRU). The BRU uses CIT-trained deputies teamed with Clinicians or Clinician Interns who are Clinical Social Workers and/or mental health therapists. Working as a team, the sworn deputy sheriff and BRU Clinician respond to high-risk, potentially dangerous, and suicidal individuals who may have a mental illness, PTSD, and/or substance abuse problem and may be experiencing mental health distress, with the goal of improving their quality of life, reducing their exposure to the criminal justice system, lessening the frequency of negative contact with law enforcement, and referring them to appropriate community services.
- $48,972 for the Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) to solve cold murder cases through new genetic sequencing methods. The OCSO Homicide Cold Case Team has four full-time cold case detectives currently investigating the murder of 12 unidentified murder victims. Of these 12 victims, three are in various stages of identification through genetic genealogy. The remaining nine victims require genetic genealogy for identification. New technology is available that may yield positive IDs. OCSO is currently working with the University of South Florida’s “Left For Dead” project and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The cold case process requires extensive knowledge and hours of detective work, which this funding will support.
Rep. Demings’ previous fiscal year 2022 projects were fully funded, with over $6 million successfully secured for Central Florida for Orlando Police body cameras, youth homelessness prevention, clean water infrastructure, emergency power generators for senior housing, and more.
“I am excited to announce that I have filed formal funding requests for fifteen critical programs to keep Central Florida safe and prosperous," Demings said. "As Chief of Police in Orlando, I believed deeply in the power of community partnerships. That’s why I’m fighting this year for federal funding to support proven community projects that will support local law enforcement, ensure clean drinking water, expand access to healthcare, grow our economy, and keep Central Florida moving. Safe and efficient infrastructure, public safety, and public health are at the heart of every great community, and I am excited for all that we will continue to accomplish in the year ahead.”
Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson is thankful to replace aging infrastructure with new.
“With this funding, the city would be able to replace old cement pipes and galvanized water pipes," said Nelson. "These pipes are part of an aging system that needs to be replaced to improve our infrastructure and provide better service to our citizens.”