Lee County To Deny FMB Renourishment Request

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Back in January we reported that Fort Myers Beach submitted an $11 million request for Tourist Development Council funds that included 7 full-time, 1 part-time position, overtime pay and other items not typically paid for with TDC funding. The town was told their request is likely going to be rejected.

The TDC is a separate arm of the Lee County Government that awards tax dollars collected from tourists to be used to maintain beaches, shorelines, parks and piers.

The Tourist Development Council is expected to review funding applications at its April 14th meeting. Both the Fort Myers Beach town staff and Fort Myers Beach Town Councilman Jim Atterholt believe the request needs to be revised or it will be denied.

Town staff met with Lee County Operations Manager Steve Boutelle. Atterholt, who is a member of the TDC committee, met with VCB Executive Director Tamara Pigott. The VCB administers TDC funds.

Fort Myers Beach is gearing up to begin a $23 million beach renourishment project covering nearly the entire beach. Funding for that project will come from the state, Lee County and town taxpayers.

The town says $1 million of its $11 million TDC funding request is “for the equivalent of seven full-time positions (including overtime) and 1 part-time position, and 34% of beach patrol’s time to dedicate for beach and shoreline maintenance activities. These activities include litter, waste and recycling removal, landscape maintenance and maintenance to pedestrian pathways that provide visitor access. The money request also includes maintenance and upkeep of 29 Beach Accesses including repairs to existing boardwalks, the native landscape at The Mound House, 216 Connecticut Street native landscape, Newton Beach Park native landscape and janitorial requirements for the public restroom facilities at Newton Beach Park and Mound House and the Palm Avenue Beach Access Restroom Trailer.”

In addition to that $1 million request, the town is also asking for:
– $9.8 million for its major long-term beach renourishment project
– $205,000 for The Mound House
– $82,000 for Newton Beach Park
– $32,000 for Beach Profile Monitoring

Over the past 5 years the town has been awarded between $900,000 and $1.3 million per year.

Town staff was told that TDC funds are not likely to be approved for major renourishment projects. Lee County staff recommend the town sign an inter-local agreement with the county and have the county pay the town back for the project over a 2-3 year period.

The inter-local agreement amounts to an out-of-cycle request, which has been done for both Captiva and Bonita Springs.

Where the town would come up with the initial layout of funds for the renourishment project is not clear. The town does not have millions of dollars in its budget for this project and town manager Roger Hernstadt said Monday that decisions would need to be made during the budget process. He said cutbacks in other areas would need to be made in order to cover the cost and the town doesn’t have a place to borrow that money from yet.

Town staff suggested the town might also consider banking money over several years to cover the cost, however, that would negate state funding applications already submitted to fund the portion of the project expected to start next year.

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