Be Careful Out There

Editorials

76

Estero Boulevard is in the process of a major renovation. The road is being taken down to bare sand level, utilities replaced, water, sewer and gas lines replaced and then built back up. The finished product will have sidewalks and three lanes, including a center turn lane with a drainage system under it to treat and carry stormwater that falls on the road to the back bay. The construction zone begins just south of Carolina (Hooters) and continues to Madera (near Publix).

All parts of that work zone have two lanes of traffic open. Depending on what the crews are working on, drivers will find themselves in a different lane than normal. And those lanes are narrow and bumpy. There may be barrels or a wall defining your lane. In some cases, the very narrow “sidewalk” is right next to the traffic lane and there’s nowhere else to put it.

Simply put, it’s a very dangerous situation right now whether you’re a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian. We all have to watch out for each other if we’re to make it through this together alive. And that’s our goal. Sure we want a nice new road and wide sidewalks and bike lanes (south of downtown where the right of way allows space for them), but what we really want is to not see any serious injuries or deaths on Estero Blvd during this construction. To that end, we share some basic reminders:

-Slow down.

-Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists.

-Stop at crosswalks.

-When traffic is backed up, leave space at cross streets to allow left turns-it keeps traffic moving.

-Wear white at night if you’ll be anywhere near the street. Carry a flashlight.

-We know it’s frustrating to sit in traffic when you want or need to be somewhere else ten minutes ago. Do like Elsa and Let It Go! We’re all in this together.

-When all else fails, put your windows down and appreciate that you may be stuck in traffic, but it’s traffic in paradise!

 

Our Town

We have a lot of seasonal residents arriving this month wondering what is going on with our town. Some have stayed in touch over the last 4-6 months and have some inkling. Others haven’t pondered our town much until they came over the bridge. In our office, we have the opportunity to talk to quite a few folks who wander in asking, “What’s up with the Island?” Some ask the question with a bit more salt in their word choice.

In a nutshell, here is what’s been going on with our Town…

Last March, we had an election that shifted the focus of our council dramatically. Council meetings have been fiery and the confrontation level is right up front, nothing subtle about it. We’ve lost track of the number of times at least one council member has walked out of a meeting. Many votes have been 3-2, with battle lines clearly drawn well before the votes are counted.

What are they arguing about?

Firing the Town Manager (June), stormwater, side street water lines, leased parking in business lots, leased parking in the public right of way, a $20K + sidewalk to nowhere next to the Beached Whale, more stormwater, special events, floodplain rules, fireworks…and those are just the high points.

There has been no tension over any downtown redevelopment because the application for the latest plan has not been accepted by the Town yet.

Council meetings are so ‘entertaining’ that we hear some local bars are considering picking up Comcast so their patrons can watch the meetings live on Channel 98.

We are a Town that can’t seem to keep a Town Manager or Town Attorney or professional staff for very long. Our latest Town Attorney gave notice a while ago and we put out a call for legal services. There are several hundred attorneys in SWFL. Only one firm submitted a bid. And two of the three attorneys in that firm were fired by Lee County in February 2015.

That’s embarrassing.

The word is out that Fort Myers Beach is a difficult place to work, especially if you’re a professional, say a lawyer, manager or planner. Your decisions will be second-guessed to death. You’ll have to explain fairly simple concepts repeatedly. And you’ll be accused of misinterpreting town documents.

Who wouldn’t want to work here?

We fear we’ve passed the tipping point. That point at which the very people who have the skills and ambition to help turn our community around are not willing to risk their careers to work here, so we’re caught in a downward spiral.

Our next best chance to pull out of that spiral is the March 7th election. We have three seats on the ballot out of a 5 member council. We’ve urged citizens to run. Now that the slate of candidates is set, we urge citizens to get to know the five candidates and vote for the three that have the ability to turn the tide of our Town.

 

Missy Layfield