The Town Council of Fort Myers Beach approved a contract with Mitchell & Stark for Phase II of the Town’s Waterline Replacement Project at their meeting on Monday afternoon. They also agreed to join the City of Sanibel in urging the state and Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a project to store more water south of Lake Okeechobee.
During Public Comment, Jim Stevens brought up a number of items he is concerned about, including traffic, downtown development and council cooperation. He urged council to help improve the downtown area and find a way to ease traffic.
“Remember that – during the Council election – non-Florida residents couldn’t vote and 55% who did vote, didn’t vote for those who got elected…Council needs to work together – argue less and accomplish more.”
Joe Stockton voiced concerns regarding the noise ordinance and special events, indicating that he would like to see noise measured by staff at the point of origin rather than at the receiving property when a complaint is registered. He said he would prefer to have Town staff monitor and enforce the ordinance rather than the Lee County Sheriff’s office.
Jean Shaw spoke to Council regarding water. She urged Council to keep attending meetings related to Lake O discharges. She also commented on the stormwater and potable water projects.
“This Town has kicked the can down the road and it is now costing more than if it had been done sooner. We need better advance planning to finance capital improvements. I urge you to keep the millage rate up so that these projects can be completed in a timely manner…if we have dirty water on our beaches, drinking water lines that frequently break and street flooding after storms, the island will have no visitors, no businesses and homes with decreasing values.”
Several speakers expressed concern about the inclusion of Bay Beach in the stormwater plan before council, reminding council that Bay Beach has its own stormwater management plan and has been excluded from the Town’s plan by council.
During Local Achievements and Recognitions, Mayor Boback recognized Council member Tracey Gore for completing 18 hours of instruction at the Florida League of Cities’ Institute for Elected Municipal Officials in Jupiter, Florida.
Waterlines & Rate Study
Frank Davis from the consulting group Raftelis, who presented a water rate study to Council just before their break on June 20, returned to them to say that his firm has identified additional costs that will bring the total for the waterline replacement project up to $47.5 million from the projected $40.9 million.
“$2 million of that has already been completed, and the Town has been approved for a State Revolving Fund (SRF) for $6 million,” he said. “We’ve identified additional funding sources – about $2.1 million coming from the gas tax, and we’re also assuming some additional cash funding of that program. I really think with this magnitude of project, that the town look at the rates each year as so many things may change, up or down.”
During a discussion on the 2nd phase of the waterline replacement project, Steele reported that the county may require the town to remove the old, asbestos pipe before putting in the new one – something the Town did not do during the first segment and will add an additional cost of $1.5 million.
“It depends on how deep that line is – how far from the new line,” Steele said. “If it’s far enough away, we can leave it.”
Council approved the contract with Mitchell & Stark for Phase II of the Estero Boulevard Waterline Replacement Project (Lovers Lane to Madera Road), with Council member Anita Cereceda – participating via Skype from Spain – commenting on the ‘exceptional job’ done by Mitchell & Stark. They also approved a resolution allowing Interim Town Manager Jim Steele to enter into a second loan agreement for the project.
Gore then said she doesn’t want to vote on the Stormwater Facilities Plan because ‘it isn’t complete’, despite Council member Rexann Hosafros explaining that it is a necessary step in order to apply for the SRF loan.
“I wouldn’t go after funding until I know what it is we need funded,” Gore said.
The decision was tabled (4-1, Hosafros dissenting) until August 22nd, when Cereceda can physically attend.
In response to concerns about Bay Beach, Tetra-Tech’s Danny Nelson said that Facilities Plans are ‘largely general’ in nature and Bay Beach is identified as having its own system – something that the Town can’t legally do anything about.
“The plan is to show the geographical areas where the Town will actually be doing work, but we can add something in the Executive Summary to say that Bay Beach is not included,” he said.
At the behest of the City of Sanibel, Council agreed to join them in a resolution to urge the state of Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate planning and design for a project that will provide storage and treatment areas for water south of the lake.
They also appointed Bruce Butcher to fill an empty seat on the Audit Committee and agreed to allow the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce to hold an ‘after hours’ event at the Mound House.
The final item on the agenda was the introduction of Ordinance 16-03, designed to bring the Town’s Special Events Regulations in line with the Town’s Noise Ordinance. A public hearing on the new ordinance will be held on August 22.
“This was brought to you at a workshop on June 6th, and this is changed based on your recommendations at that workshop,” said Senior Planner Megan Will.
Gore reiterated her stance that yearly events need to come before Council.
“If it shuts down the road, if it affects the Town, who cares if it happens every year – we should have a say, the people should be able to speak,” she said. “Things keep getting more and more liberal and benefit the people who hold the events, not the residents of the island.”
Boback, Hosafros and Cereceda disagreed, saying the language pertains to the events themselves, not waivers.
“Any waiver of the noise ordinance, alcohol, et cetera, has to come to Council, period,” Will confirmed.
Keri Hendry Weeg