Lee County will contribute $1.4 million toward lights on Estero Boulevard. That’s the dollar amount the county and the Fort Myers Beach government agreed to as part of the Estero Boulevard road construction project.
That $1.4 million will be used to light 42 crosswalks along Estero Boulevard. At this time there is no plan for any additional county contributions for lighting. Mayor Ray Murphy has said he told Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli that lighting the crosswalks is not enough and the Estero Boulevard project “is not complete until the lights are done.”
The town council has assigned Murphy as the negotiator with Lee County on the issue. Since being given that assignment, several meetings ago, Murphy has not updated the council on how those negotiations are going, nor have any of the other council members asked for an update.
Lighting up Estero Boulevard has been an issue for many years. As we pointed out in our previous story, it’s a Lee County road, so the town cannot simply install lights without their approval. And, FPL is a player in all of this as well.
Many in the town believe the Boulevard is dangerously dark at night. Not only are some of the lights old and technology-challenged, during turtle season, many have to be turned off.
The town recently paid a lighting consultant well over $100,000 to produce several lighting options to consider along the Boulevard. The council chose to go with turtle-friendly amber lights. However, a system that’s FWC approved as turtle friendly is not yet available on the FPL shopping list. Working with FPL seems to be the best financial solution for the town. FPL would cover a lot of the costs if the town chose one of their systems. Depending on how many new poles need to be installed, to make amber lights effective, the cost could run into the millions. And that’s why the town wants help from Lee County.
We were told the county offers communities a basic level of service and if those communities want to add to those basic services they may need to find ways to fund those add-ons themselves. In other words, it appears, at least for now, unless there’s a serious sell job by Mayor Murphy, additional funds for the lights are not on the table. If Murphy can convince Sandelli the county should contribute more, he would have to take it back to the full county board for consideration.