The Longest Day
When I was a kid there was a black & white horror film on the Late Late Show called “The Thing That Wouldn’t Die.” That memory rekindled during the over 9-hour workshop and meeting for the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council on Monday, December 19.
Prior to beginning the council meeting segment at 6:30 p.m., Mayor Dennis Boback per fire regulations cleared at least half the overflowing Chambers, as many people arrived to speak on the Stormwater Ordinance, Red Coconut RV Park Ordinance and topics such as water quality testing.
Of the roughly dozen people who spoke on water testing, Zach Mody was genuine emotion, talking about the eight amputations to his leg after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria on Fort Myers Beach, asking Council “how many more people have to die or lose their legs like I?” John Heim, conversely, wildly shouted and pounded his fist, prompting the Mayor to warn him to harness his emotion, and causing mammoth Public Works Director Scott Baker to inch forward, to intervene if necessary.
Under Public Hearings, Council unanimously approved variances for homeowners on Donora Boulevard and Ostego Drive.
More than six hours since beginning their day with a workshop at 2 p.m., Council turned its already tiring attention to the first public reading of amendments to the Stormwater Utility Provision. Everyone in Chambers present for the workshop already knew Council would doom it by not sending it for a second public reading by a 3 to 2 vote, with Mayor Boback and council members Tracey Gore and Joanne Shamp against, and Anita Cereceda and Rexann Hosafros for, as they telegraphed that during the afternoon workshop.
Rather than simply voting, Council regurgitated the same workshop material for another one hour and six minutes before declining to send it to a second hearing by a 3-2 vote at 9:08pm.
By now, more than 7 hours into the sessions, the lethargic leaders were visibly tired.
Council considered the second public hearing for a Land Development Code Amendment to modify the Right-of-Way setback for the Red Coconut RV Park. Beverly Grady, attorney for the Red Coconut, reminded Council it created a Village Zoning District just for her client in 2003, without a 20-foot distance to separate on-site vehicles from the publically-maintained street. In 2005, however, without notice, Council adopted new requirements never enforced until Labor Day 2016, causing detriment to her client. Grady requesting Council to settle this by “the removal of the 2005 language that places restrictions on the Red Coconut.”
Cereceda made a motion to repeal the provision, with Hosafros saying “I like 5 feet for safety reasons but if the majority of Council wants to go back to the pre-2005 situation, that is not bad.” The Mayor would “like to see the 5 feet stay for safety reasons.”
At 9:55pm, council approved, to enthusiastic applause from the many Red Coconut residents, the second public hearing 4 to 1, with Mayor Boback Against.
Under the State Revolving Fund Stormwater Application, the Interim Town Manager requested Council approval to submit the appropriate documents. Gore stated that “I will not support this.” Cereceda countered, asking Scott Baker if “this will solve a substantial amount of our stormwater issues,” and he replied in the affirmative. “This will take care of all our major street flooding issues,” Cereceda said. “This is very important.”
Shamp commented that “it is late and we are all thoroughly exhausted; can this wait until January?” Baker replied that “the State Revolving Fund only meets twice a year, and one is upcoming. If we miss that, they do not meet again until July. That will delay Estero Boulevard construction at least six months.”
Shamp asked if the Town sought the $6.8 million loan, would it have to use that entire amount, with Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert saying it is under no obligation to do so. The Interim Town Manager reminded Council it already accessed $6.9 million for water line replacement, but to date only used $3 million. The Mayor asked if the project required Council to directly allocate the $6.8 million, with Baker replying “every penny!” The Mayor said, “then I am good with it. I really do not want to be the one to stop the Estero Boulevard project for six months.” Council passed the motion 4 to 1, with Gore against.
Council next addressed replacing the Town Attorney, who submitted her resignation effective January 12, 2017. Cereceda asked if Lehnert would consider extending that date until Council can name her replacement, like the situation with the Interim Town Manager. Lehnert is agreeable to this discussion, “but it is 10:15 and I would like to talk about this when I am a little more alert!”
Hosafros said the Town must consider individual lawyers as well as large firms, “because they will work for us, with no conflict of interest. With a firm, their biggest clients get the most attention. By not employing a firm, we save thousands of dollars.”
During Council Member Comments, Gore said she wants the Town to pursue water testing: “No one is doing the kind of testing the citizens are talking about. It is not expensive, then we post the results.” Cereceda asked, “test where? We are an island, not a vacuum.”
At 10:54 p.m., Cereceda implored her colleagues to “never, ever have another meeting like this! This is a disservice to the people we serve.”
Bay Oaks & Boardwalk
Steele announced that Sean De Palma is the new Bay Oaks Community Center Director, and will start between January 9 and 16, 2017, depending on his relocation. The Town Attorney stated it won its case to withhold construction of a private boardwalk for now over the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area, meaning it will host the Florida Environmental Protection Agency division hearing on the matter in Chambers from June 12 to 16, 2017.
Mayor Boback asked if Council needs procedures to remove unruly people, considering the earlier outburst, as “we do not have and do not want to have a deputy sheriff here.” Hosafros finds a firm admonishment brings most people under control, but the Mayor feels they require a proactive system. The Town Attorney said “anyone can call 911; other than that, you use the muscle you have in Chambers.”
Finally, after just over 9 hours, and 57 minutes short of the Bewitching Hour and Tuesday, council adjourned at 11:03 p.m.
Sidebar: 543 Minutes!
Between its workshop and meeting on Monday, December 19, the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council began at 2 p.m. and concluded at 11:03 p.m., totaling 9 hours and 3 minutes. Below are nine things you can do in less time; one for each hour:
-Win The Ironman Triathlon: The men’s mark is 8 hours, 3 minutes, 56 seconds; the women 8 hours, 46 minutes, 46 seconds.
-May the Force Be With You: Watch the original Star Wars Trilogy, throw in the new Rogue One, and still have 32 minutes left.
-Hit the Road: Drive from Fort Myers Beach to Macon, Georgia most of the year, or from Lovers Lane to Crescent Street In-Season!
-Mickey’s Dog: Send a signal from Fort Myers Beach to Pluto and back.
-Long May You Run: Win the New York City Marathon – Four Times – and still have enough left over to run a 10K!
-The Friendly Skies: Fly from Fort Myers Beach to Anchorage, Alaska in 8 hours and 30 minutes.
-SAT Down: Take your SAT Exam With Essay Twice, with more than an hour in-between for lunch – or cramming!
-Let It Flow: Sail a ship through the Panama Canal.
-Walk It Out: Walk from the north to the south tip of Fort Myers Beach and back – and back! When passing Town Hall do not stop; do not collect $200!