Beach Residents Turned Out in Force Thursday Night

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Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane brought his Long-Term Recovery Task Force to Fort Myers Beach Thursday night and the community showed up in force. The goal of the meeting was to gather information from Fort Myers Beach residents. That input, combined with input from other communities, will be used to formulate a plan to go after federal funds to help all of Lee County rebuild from Hurricane Ian.

Ruane announced that $113 Billion in damage was caused by Hurricane Ian making it the 3rd worst storm in the history of the United States. A third of that damage took place in Lee County. Fort Myers Beach was clearly ground zero due to the massive storm surge which, combined with the high winds and a slow moving storm, caused damage to every structure on the island.

Over 100 Fort Myers Beach residents showed up to the Thursday night meeting looking for information on how the $1.1 Billion Lee County has already received will be spent, and how they might receive additional assistance to rebuild their homes. And clearly the number one issue for Fort Myers Beach residents is getting back in their homes.

There was no public comment during the one hour meeting. Input was gathered interactively using an app called Slido. Questions were posted in the app and attendees in the audience and watching online could respond using their phones. When the question ‘How were you impacted by the storm?’ was asked, the top answer was “We lost everything.”

Following the presentation by the task force beach residents were given stickers to put n posters outlining what the top rebuild priorities were for them. Clearly, the top priority was housing. Over 13,500 suffered major damage in Lee County. Over 5,000 were totally destroyed, many of those destroyed were on Fort Myers Beach.

This is going to be a long-term process. The data from the Thursday night meeting will be combined with data from other Town Hall meetings the task force is hosting. An action plan will be put together in early December. Then the task force will use that plan to ask for funds from 26 different federal agencies to help Lee County rebuild. It could go on for years to come.

Upcoming Town Hall meetings include Lehigh (May 9), Cape Coral (May 10), Estero (May 11) and a virtual meeting by Zoom on May 16th at 6PM. Any Lee County resident can attend any meeting in any community.

Lee County recently received a $1.1 Billion Community Development Block grant, 70% of which needs to be used for low to moderate income housing.

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