It’s time for the Town of Fort Myers Beach to pay for a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy to attend Town Council and Local Planning Agency meetings as a matter of routine.
The proceedings and decisions made at those meetings are serious enough that our taxes pay for an attorney to be present. They are also serious enough to trigger emotional outbursts in those who perceive that things are not going their way or those who just have a beef with the town or the world.
These outbursts in public meetings are no longer extremely rare events.
This week’s LPA meeting made that abundantly clear when an applicant went ballistic and started screaming and yelling, without provocation, at an LPA member whom he has had issues with previously. The LPA member kept his cool, but the applicant just completely lost it and had to be removed by his attorney. You can hear it on the meeting video on the town’s website fmbgov.com from 1:10 – 1:13. There’s no video because once again, our town’s recording equipment wasn’t recording video, but audio is enough.
Ahh, you might think, just another beach character. We have plenty of them, providing a colorful backdrop on our Island. But this was not the run-of-the-mill slightly odd suggestion or tirade voiced during Public Comment. This was flat out adult-man-totally-out-of-control.
Luckily this man’s attorney was able to physically remove him from the room. What if he was not there? Our parking staff should not be tasked with Town Hall meeting security, which seems like the current plan.
What if he’d fought off his attorney?
What if the next guy is armed?
Are we willing to be the next American town that blinks in the national news spotlight and says, “We never thought it would happen here?”
Or are we going to be proactive and protect those who serve our Town and those who attend public meetings?
Council chambers has three doors. Two of them are locked to the public and board members. That by itself is a risk.
It’s time we realize that our little town needs to address some of the same security risks that big cities face.
I am not an alarmist. I’m not easily frightened. I’m not a delicate flower who wilts at loud voices. I grew up in a yelling family, so raised voices are standard. Yet I sat an arm’s length from the drama on Tuesday and wondered what if? And I didn’t like the answers.
We need an LCSO deputy at Town Council and LPA meetings all the time.