Town of FMB Makes Requests
The Lee County Legislative Delegation met in public session on Wednesday, October 30, on the Fort Myers Campus of Florida SouthWestern State College, for their annual meeting to hear State funding requests from 59 Lee County governmental, non-profit and community-based organizations. In addition to funding, the Delegation’s hearing included information on local bills and other issues for which people or organizations wanted to speak. Present were Senator Ben Albritton, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, Representative Dane Eagle, Representative Heather Fitzenhagen, Representative Spencer Roach and Representative Ray Rodrigues. Senator Kathleen Passidomo was unable to attend as the Collier County Legislative Delegation met at the same time.
Representative Eagle began the session as the returning Chair, stating, “We are anxious to hear what is on your mind and what you want us to take to Tallahassee, to fight for what you are speaking about.” He then turned to Representative Rodrigues to address a prospective legislation relating to LeeHealth’s Enabling Act.
“Many of you may recall that in the last session, we removed the requirement for a Certificate of Need before a hospital can begin construction,” said Rodrigues. “LeeHealth approached us with the request to change its Enabling Act to allow them to compete on a level playing field, as this is essential to them, to give them the ability to compete outside of Lee County into Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades Counties, so we need to change their Enabling Act.” The Lee County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously to forward the LeeHealth request to the 2020 Legislative Session.
Chair Eagle next moved on to a housekeeping item: “Due to term limits and other circumstances, we need to look to someone to take over this Legislative Delegation mantle as we move into the next session.” Senator Benacquisto stated, “We need to look to our new guy – Spencer Roach! We often talk about this Board as a family with great team work and that is 100% accurate. Spencer had his ‘Freshman Moments’ but overcame them quickly and is responsive, dedicated, and hard working to the members of our community, so I nominate Spencer Roach to head this august delegation!”
Following Roach’s unanimous election, outgoing Chair Eagle said that “I have no doubt Chairman Roach will make this delegation proud!” Roach, in taking the gavel, joked that “I wonder what some of those ‘Freshman Moments’ were, but I am happy to be here!”
Lee County & Lee Schools
Lee County was the first of the 59 entities to address the Lee County Legislative Delegation, with Acting Board of County Commissioners Chair Brian Hamman noting, “The Lee Legislative Delegation has a history of working well together and that congeniality is our secret weapon! As you know, water quality continues to be a priority to us, so keep those appropriations and funding on-track, especially for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary protection, efforts to eliminate Harmful Algae Blooms like Red Tide and Blue-Green Algae, support for the Big Cypress Basin that is south of the Caloosahatchee Watershed, and support for the Tourist Development Tax to allow Lee County to use the Bed Tax to promote and improve our fishing piers that our tourists and residents love.”
Commissioner Hamman added, “Lee County requests $3.4 million for Water Quality projects; $750,000 for our Water Treatment Master Plan; $3 million to match our $5 million for the Sanibel Causeway shore stabilization, structured parking and enhanced amenities; and 50% matching funds for the Alico Road Extension, Burnt Store Road South Segment, Corkscrew Road and Three Oaks Parkway.”
Lee County School District Board Chair Gwynetta Gittens informed the Lee Legislative Delegation that “there are four major areas of our Strategic Plan: Early Childhood Learning, as we are among the lowest in State in Pre-K enrollment. We work hard to increase that, as early learning is essential to a quality education. Other components are College & Career Technical Readiness; Community Engagement to reach parents and all community members; and a Comprehensive Health Plan to keep our students safe. The need to assist students with mental health issues calls for a robust program that includes drug abuse, suicide prevention, nutrition and more. We must educate the whole child and can use this as a model Statewide and potentially nationally. We have the responsibility to educate over 95,000 Lee County children and that is growing, to achieve their fullest potential while being fiscally responsible.”
Town of FMB Requests
“Thank you to the members of the Delegation for your work on behalf of Southwest Florida, Lee County and the Townspeople of Fort Myers Beach,” said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt. “The Town is undergoing $60 million Stormwater and safe drinking water projects funded by our 3,110 customers in the Town, so our request is to help us to continue our projects to improve water quality into Estero Bay that the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection designated as regionally important outside of the Town of Fort Myers Beach. I am sure the Delegation is well aware that Fort Myers Beach is the #1 tourist destination in all Lee County, with an estimated 1.8 million visitors annually, so I do not need to lecture you on the importance of water quality projects in Florida and Southwest Florida to our economic survival. Thank you for your time and for your leadership on water quality for our residents and visitors.”
In its submitted proposal, the Town requested $500,000 for Stormwater Outfall Improvements for the design and construction of new outfalls and Stormwater Best Management Practices to treat stormwater runoff, and an additional $500,000 for the design and construction for the replacement of water mains, lines, and associated appurtenances necessary to provide adequate and safe drinking water, while noting that the Town is spending nearly $60 million to protect regional and State water resources. Should the Town receive State support, these would be the third such allocations to the Town for these programs.