Nothing seems to go according to plan on Fort Myers Beach following the devastation of Hurricane Ian. The latest disruption is the rehabilitation of the Bay Oaks building which needs to be completed before the next school year begins if there’s any chance the kids on the beach will return to their school.
The town has hired a company called The Gleason Group to clean the old Bay Oaks building. They were given 90 days to complete the project. The School District has told the town that in order for them to agree to any of the options to rebuild the Beach School by the Fall, Bay Oaks must be open to provide after-school programs for the kids.
This week when we asked Interim Town Manager Keith Wilkins if The Gleason Group begun the rehab work, here’s what he said, “Yes but we didn’t anticipate the (Fort Myers Beach) Fire District’s permitting requirement of plans for the old systems we’re replacing.”
The town inherited the building from Lee County and, according to Wilkins, nobody has the plans for the building so now the town has to draw up new ones. “We’re contracting an architect to do that but it is going to delay starting by maybe two months.”
When we asked Wilkins if that put the planned school opening in jeopardy he said, “It squeezes the schedule but we’re not throwing in the towel. I think there’s plenty of latitude in the schedule, our process and alternatives.” He did not say what those alternatives were.
Meanwhile the School District and the town have not yet agreed on an inter-local agreement and the school board will not vote on rebuilding the school until that inter-local is signed by both sides. The sticking point now appears to be that the district wants the town to show increased enrollment in 3 years and the town thinks that should be five. The reality is it’ll be at least a year, perhaps longer, until many local residents are even back in their homes on the island due to the total destruction left behind by the storm.
Maybe the parents can find an alternate after- care location for the time being? Parents should be consulted about this before the kid’s school year is disrupted again.Maybe they would agree to do without it for awhile. I’m sure 1st priority is have the children at school on island without being bussed off island…
Based on my experience with FMBFD, I would say they will work fast to resolve this but not at the expense of safety. They are not the holdup here. Lee County should be helping the Town find those plans.
The entire permitting process on FMB is set up to put up roadblocks for us to return to somewhat normal. If a school can’t get permits you can only imagine what home and condo owners face in red tape. I bet big developers with deep pockets don’t face such delays!
By the information in this article, my experience with the fire department is that their primary focus is life safety, most recently displayed my the extended search and rescue operation looking for survivors before allowing residents back on the island after Ian. How would you feel if your child got hurt because they loosened their safety requirements to get the Bay Oaks job permitted? I know nothing about the PTO requirement you mentioned but my guess is that FMBFD, like every other taxing authority on the island, is dealing with a dramatically reduced tax base.
You would think our Fire District would do everything in their power to work with the Town to expedite the opening of Bay Oaks for the summer. Island parents need Bay Oaks not only for the School to open next year, but for summer camp for the kids. Just another continued slap to these kids that have lost everything, first from our School Board and now from our own Fire District. Not to even mention the Fire District charging the PTO permit fees so the island kids can sing in Times Square. Government at its finest. What a shame.