Council Holds Workshop on Water Rate & Budget


    At their workshop on Monday afternoon, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach directed staff to move forward with plans for stormwater improvements (see story on page 1), accepted a water rate study conducted by the consulting group Raftelis, discussed the Town’s emergency operations plan and the budget for the coming fiscal year.

     Council had few questions on the water rate study (outlined in last week’s Sand Paper), so Interim Town Manager Jim Steele said that Raftelis would be back in August with a final review, and that he would be looking at some things that ‘might help’ in the meantime.

     “We hope that this will passed by Council in August, so it will appear on customers’ bills in September,” he said.

     Senior Planner Megan Will said that the county’s new ‘All Hazard’ guide is complete and available for pick up at Town Hall.

     “We are also handing out the new reentry passes, good for two years, and people can sign up for the Town’s Code Red text program so they can get emails and even download the app,” she said. “We also have a plan for people who need help getting off the island and/or have no place to evacuate to.”

     “The Town’s Emergency Operations Plan was completed in 2006, and though there have been many efforts over the years to update it, that hasn’t happened so we are working with the county and the Fire District – who actually determines the entire plan, including when we can use the bridge again – on that this summer so all of ours dovetail together,” Will continued. “When we move past that, we’ll be working on our post-disaster recovery plans and updating them.”

     Gore asked what happens if a hurricane comes before the plan is updated.

     “Where do I go? Where does staff go?” she asked.

     “Currently, should we be evacuated, we set up an off-site Town Hall in the emergency trailer at the old Emergency Operations Center (EOC),” Will replied. “I will be sitting inside the EOC to serve as the information conduit and making sure there is communication back and forth. All emergency information will be going through the Lee County EOC.”

     Finally, Council discussed updates to the budget for the coming year.

     “What I did with the preliminary budget was highlight areas we discussed at the meeting on June 13,” said Administrative Services Director Maureen Rischitelli. “We did add $20,000 in for the sale of vehicles, and I did a contractual amount of $500/week for a Public Information Officer (PIO), left special events at $40,000 – which are the town costs related to New Years’ expenses outside of fireworks, increased legal services to $100,000, put in $100,000 for the pool deck, $150,000 for dock replacements and $50,000 for software – which leaves us $376,000 short if we leave the mil rate at .8.”

     Council again discussed the $90,000 placeholder to hire a consultant to deal with whatever new proposal Tom Torgerson may bring for the large amounts of property he still owns downtown.

     “We don’t know how many staff hours it will take to process an application of that size and how much time,” Councilmember Anita Cereceda cautioned, and Councilmember Rexann Hosafros suggested reducing the amount held to $45,000.

     “It will definitely have an impact on our ability to do turnaround, if it (Torgerson’s new proposal) is going to be as large as we think it is,” said Program Developer Kara Stewart.

     Vice-Mayor Summer Stockton suggested getting rid of half of the money for the docks, bringing that amount down to $75,000, and eliminating money for the PIO.

     “How much would the millage rate have to increase to cover all the things we want?” she said, and Rischitelli said staff recommends setting a tentative rate of .9, a number that – per state statute – can be reduced but not increased.

     “Come July and August, we’ll know about additional revenues plus we’ll have Town Manager Jim Steele’s recommendations, so we’ll know exactly what we need,” she said.


    Keri Hendry Weeg