That was the message over 150 Condo Association Presidents and residents told the Fort Myers Beach Town Council Thursday. The Council held the special condo meeting to find out what the town could do to get their buildings open sooner and people back living on the island faster.
According to the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department there are 162 condo buildings on Fort Myers Beach.
There are many reasons condo owners are still waiting to return home including parts being in short supply, a shortage of trustworthy and competent contractors and traffic on the island which delays workers getting to where they need to be to work on the buildings.
However, the biggest complaints condo Presidents and residents had were saved for the government, FPL and insurance companies. In the early days after Hurricane Ian, FEMA, SBA and FPL had so many boots on the ground they lead everyone to believe help would be on the way quickly.
The delays in getting an SBA loan (and the many strings attached) have forced many people to just give up on that financial option. FPL has become impossible to reach for help and many insurance companies have done nothing to help, with some doing more to fight claims as hard as possible, forcing homeowners to hire public adjusters and lawyers.
The financial hit condo owners will suffer will go on for years. Some have been assessed several times already and there may be more assessments coming their way. One condo President said he’s been dealing with SBA since November of 2022 and he’s still waiting for his money. Island Winds President Dave Nusbaum told the Town Council that FEMA keeps changing the goal posts on what needs to be done to meet their approval to get his building back open. George Kessler from Ocean Harbor said he’s been waiting for FPL to replace a transformer for nearly 3 months. Pelican Watch President Gary Fields applied for an SBA loan a year ago, and, is also suing his insurance company.
Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Scott Wirth and new Building Inspector Joe Specht were also at the meeting to answer specific questions related to permits.
When it comes to the federal government, FPL and insurance companies, there’s not a lot the town council can do. There is, however, strength in numbers and residents can file complaints with their elected officials and with regulatory agencies.
– For insurance complaints contact Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis at 850-413-5923 or YourFLVoice@MyFloridaCFO.com.
– For FPL complaints, contact the Florida Public Service Commission at 850-413-6100 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Florida Public Service Commission regulates FPL.
– It’s also an election year so contacting your Congressman and Senators will not hurt.
Congressman Byron Donalds
Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Rick Scott
One issue the Town Council is working on that can help is a requirement that condo buildings have a state-mandated reserve fund to deal with repairs. This was a law (SB4D) passed in May of 2022 by the State Legislature following the collapse of the Surfside Building. Right now, many condo associations on Fort Myers Beach have emptied out their reserve accounts to pay for repairs as they wait for insurance funds, which in many cases, will not be coming. A 2-year moratorium on that reserve fund requirement would help beach condos financially and perhaps prevent yet another assessment on owners.
Mayor Allers said he was working with the Florida delegation to get that moratorium and would be meeting with the members of the delegation later this month in Tallahassee.
Here’s feedback we received from a few folks who attended the meeting Thursday…
Tom McDonnell from the Estero Yacht and Racquet Club. “I thought it was a good meeting. It would have been nice to have had this meeting several months ago. It would also be nice to continue having such meeting to help resolve possible issues. The format was good because it gave everyone that had a comment the chance to make it and then the panel could answer them all at once.”
Island Winds President Dave Nusbaum. “The size of the crowd today was an indication of the many problems every condominium is facing as we work toward the goal of putting people back in their homes. The positive answers of Chief Wirth and Fire Marshall Campbell, the Mayor and Vice Mayor, Frankie and Joe Specht gave everyone some hope and guidance that we can accomplish that goal.”
Windward Point President Kevin Van Vuuren. “It was nice to hear what others are dealing with and it sounds like they really are trying to make it as smooth as possible to get things fixed.”
Seaside Board Member Todd Kluener. “I was extremely appreciative that the town spearheaded this roundtable. You can tell they care about the community, want to help and are leading with action. We also saw many associations that have their act together and need a little push to the finish line. Then there are others that are way behind that may need our community help to get Fort Myers Beach back to its better future self.”
Denise Klint from Sandarac said she thought the meeting with the Town Council was a great start. “Obviously, there are more issues going on than the town council was aware of. I think everyone finally felt heard.”
Klint has been put in charge of organizing a monthly lunch with Mayor Dan Allers and condo association Presidents, to keep this line of communication open. If you’re a Condo President and would like to participate, contact Denise by e-mail at Dklint848@comcast.net