In December 2013, the Town of Fort Myers Beach began an epic, island-wide project to replace its aging water utility called the ‘reFRESH Waterlines Replacement Program’. With that project well into its third year and a new Town Council sitting on the dais, the team tasked with working on it – three members of Town staff, the engineering firm Tetra Tech, Mitchell & Stark Construction, Johnson Engineering (surveying) and Kaye Molnar of the Public Relations firm Molnar & Associates – gave a presentation at Monday’s Council workshop covering the history of the project, what’s been completed so far, and what’s next.
“The Town needed this project because the existing water infrastructure was failing – it was installed in different time periods dating back to the 1950’s, faced water flow issues that were safety hazards and had a non-functional stormwater drainage system in many areas,” said Public Works Director Scott Baker. “In 2007, voters on the island overwhelmingly (92%) approved a referendum to finance a program to fix it; in 2008 the Town completed a water system analysis to identify ‘greatest needs’ areas and in 2011 the Town successfully completed a water main replacement for North Estero Boulevard – the only mile of the road that it owns.”
In December 2013, work began on the ‘Basin Based Neighborhoods’ – Alva Drive to Gulf Beach Road – first because the town had received a grant to also do storm water (drainage) improvements on some of those streets – work that needed to be completed by 2015 in order to keep FEMA grant money given to the town after Hurricane Charley. This was followed by the installation of new water mains on Bay Beach Road and in Laguna Shores.
In order to coincide with Lee County’s Estero Boulevard Reconstruction Project, ground broke on the first part of the Estero Boulevard section of the waterline project – work that included the installation of a natural gas line – in August 2015.
“As the Town progresses, we need to stay out ahead of the county and address the stormwater on the side streets, which the county would then pay to connect to,” said Tetra Tech’s Danny Nelson. “We are doing this project using a design-build approach – while we work on one section, we are designing the next – this allows for cost savings and an accelerated schedule.”
“Moving forward, the next phase for the Estero Boulevard part of the project will be from Red Coconut to Madera Road (just south of Publix),” Nelson continued. ‘We hope to start construction on that in June, and later this year we’ll begin the north-end side streets – Palermo Circle to Carlos Circle (2016/2017) – followed by Madera to Albatross on Estero Boulevard (2016/2017), followed by those side streets, then on to the south end – with a completion date of 2020.”
At the end of the workshop, Council member Anita Cereceda said she’d like to see an updated map as to what’s done and needs to be done, along with a cost sheet.
Cereceda then asked when work on Time Square would begin, and Baker replied “one year from now.”
After the meeting, we asked Kaye Molnar how the waterline replacement project was being paid for, and she replied that it is being funded through resident utility bills, with no rate increase planned. A new Water Rate Study will be completed by the middle of this year, however, so that may either change or stay the same.
For more information about the waterline replacement project, visit their website at refreshffmbeach.com
Keri Hendry Weeg