County Has No Plans To Pay For Estero Blvd Lights

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On Monday the Fort Myers Beach town council approved a resolution recommending Lee County install amber lighting along Estero Boulevard and authorized the Mayor to coordinate that implementation. Here’s what the county had to say about that resolution.

Town council members believe Lee County should pay for some – if not all – of the amber lighting the town has chosen to install on Estero Boulevard, which is a county road. We reached out to Lee County Monday to find out if the Lee County Board had any plans to pay for some – or any – of the Estero Boulevard lights the town council is planning to eventually install.

Lee County Communications Director Betsy Clayton responded by e-mail: “The county has no plans to pay for the extra lights the Town is planning. Our original agreement for the road project included (lighting the) crosswalks and that’s how we are proceeding.” County Board chairman Kevin Ruane said the same back in August on episode #176 of Beach Talk Radio. 

Mayor Ray Murphy recently said he met with Commissioner Sandelli and told him “crosswalks are not enough.” Murphy said he told Sandelli that the Estero Boulevard road project is not complete until the lighting is done.”

The town has paid several hundred thousand dollars to consultants to study a road it doesn’t even own. And now it’s clear they were spending that taxpayer money without having any sort of understanding with the entity that owns that road.

On Monday, councilman Bill Veach added several lines to the resolution he’s hoping will help the county understand how important Estero Boulevard is to them. Here’s one example of what Veach added: “Whereas Estero Boulevard acts as the main arterial road for Fort Myers Beach and serves a vital sector of the area’s economy and generates millions of dollars in sales tax revenue for the state and county.”

The resolution was unanimously approved.

The town council wants amber lights installed on Estero Boulevard to protect the turtles. That could cost millions of dollars depending on how many new poles need to be installed. Councilman Dan Allers has suggested it could cost over $4 million to install an amber system.

Right now the Boulevard has a mish-mash of different kind of lights. During turtle nesting season, many of the lights on the road need to be turned off to avoid disorienting the turtles after they hatch. The town’s lighting consultant reported that the high pressure sodium lighting now on Estero Boulevard is obsolete and expensive.

At the last town council Management & Planning meeting Town Manager Roger Hernstadt’s message to Lee County was: “This is your road. We’re giving you our input. Here’s what we’d like done. It’s really your problem to fix.” 

Discussing and studying the poor lighting on Estero Boulevard has been discussed and studied for years. It’s now up to mayor Ray Murphy to change the minds of the Lee County board members. He’s been given the assignment of negotiating with the county to try to get them to pay some of the bill.

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