At their work session on Monday morning, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach will be discussing the annual funding requests from the Tourist Development Council and what do with existing unused funds already received by the TDC.
“Each year the Town has presented a request to the Tourist Development Council (TDC) seeking funds to offset costs related to maintenance and operations of various beach and shoreline infrastructure; as well as improvements in infrastructure that meet the criteria eligible for funding,” Administrative Director Maureen Rischitelli explained in a memo to Town Council, Town Manager Don Stilwell and Public Works Director Scott Baker. “The TDC approves funding for the maintenance of Lee County beaches, for beach renourishment projects, and for beach and shoreline capital projects such as piers, boardwalks, parks and re-vegetation.”
The TDC itself was formed in 1982 after Lee County residents voted to form a tourism organization. A 2% tax on short-term accommodations (bed tax) was also approved, which was increased to 3% in 1988 and 5% in 2005. The TDC is a nine-member Council that serves as an advisory committee to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC). Last year approximately $38 million was collected in bed taxes in Lee County. Bed taxes are collected on any rentals for 6 months or less in the county. The county has specified that funds are to be used as follows: advertising and promotion – 53.6%; beach and shoreline improvements and maintenance – 26.4% and stadium debt service – 20%.
So far, the Town has received a total of $500,000 for Newton Park, $4,931,276 for beach maintenance and $2,518,624 for capital projects and management plans.
“This discussion provides an opportunity for the Town Council to set policy direction related to the continued maintenance of the Beach and Bay accesses as well as capital improvements,” Rischitelli said.
According to Rischitelli – as of September 30, 2015 – the Town has $120,388.13, which includes a Town match of $2,000, for ADA portable restrooms – an amount Town staff plans to return to the TDC or request that it be reallocated to a different project. Staff also recommends a funding request for interpretive signage at Newton Park, new pathways for the Mound House, safety improvements for a kayak launch at the Mound House, a new electric tram to transport visitors to the Mound House and island-wide beach access improvements that will include removal of boardwalks, installation of ADA compliant mobi-mats, installation of showers, drinking fountains, shade, ropes and bollards as well as landscaping.
Specific accesses included in that request are Access #15 – Sterling Avenue – for a mobi-mat since the walkover dune is not in compliance with ADA requirements, and other amenities such as a shower and drinking fountain since that access is in a highly populated residential area. Two other named accesses are Miramar (#30) and Avenue E (across from Key Estero Plaza) for removal of non-ADA compliant walkovers.
As far as bay accesses, Palermo Circle and Bayland Road (by Publix), the request is for funding for improvements to allow paddlers to enjoy the Great Calusa Blueway.
For beach and shoreline maintenance, the Town will be requesting funding for the repair and maintenance of the equipment used for beach and shoreline operations, including the costs for trash and recycling removal.
New requests for the fiscal year 2016/17 that Council will discuss include the evaluation of and/or improvements to Bayside Park (Town Fountain), which has needed constant attention and repair over the last couple of years. Also, Museum Director Alison Giesen would like to seek funding – with the help of the Friends of the Mound House – to create a travelling exhibit showcasing the offerings of the historic Case House, Shell Mound Exhibit, beautiful grounds and observation pier; as well as being part of the Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail.
Keri Hendry Weeg