Lee County, We Want A Meeting. No Wait, Nevermind

4
447

Thursday’s Management & Planning session will not go down as one of the Town Council’s best meetings. The council spent over an hour trying to come up with items they want to discuss with the Lee County Board of Commissioners, only to decide in the end, that asking for that meeting would be a bad idea.

The council discussed several projects before coming to the conclusion that the county probably wouldn’t even take their meeting. There really would be no reason for all 5 Lee County Commissioners to meet with all 5 Fort Myers Beach Town Council members. That’s because the town council is constantly asking Lee County to give them something, yet offers them nothing in return. They nixed the meeting because they realized they had nothing to give.

Here are a few examples.

One item the town wants to meet with the county about is the landscaping at the foot at the Matanzas Pass Bridge. When the state finishes the project that area will be turned over to Lee County. It will include lush landscaping adding some much needed greenery to what is now a concrete welcome mat.

The County wants the town to take over the maintenance of that landscaping. However, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt does not want to take on the liability that goes along with manicuring the shrubbery. So, the county’s response will most likely be, ‘OK, we’ll just put sod or rocks down, rather than nice landscaping, if the town doesn’t want to take on the responsibility.‘ That didn’t sit well with councilman Jim Atterholt who wants to see the entrance to the island as beautiful as it can be. Rocks and sod won’t cut it.

The town has zero leverage on this issue. They either take over the landscaping and the liability so the entrance to Fort Myers Beach is a well-manicured welcoming on-ramp to their island, or they get dirt and rocks. Why would Lee County even consider turning over landscaping responsibilities to the town and keep the liability? They wouldn’t.

Another issue is, once again, the lights on Estero Boulevard. Even though Lee County has repeatedly told the town they would not be contributing any more money to help the town light the boulevard, other than $1.4 million for the crosswalks, the money issue continues to come up. For some reason, Mayor Ray Murphy still believes Lee County should pay for the lights, and, they should pay for the amber lights that the town council wants.

After Murphy’s attempted negotiations to get the county to pay for the lights resulted in him storming out of a county board meeting, councilman Dan Allers took it upon himself to pick up the ball with Lee County and put together options. The boulevard is owned by Lee County so they have to be involved, through the permitting process at least.

Through conversations with Lee County staff, Allers has come up with a worst-case-scenario option. If needed, the county would do the work, installing new poles and amber lights on Estero boulevard. The town would have to pay for all the work, paying the county back over several years. Allers wants to continue those discussions at the same time FPL is testing an amber light that might be covered under the FPL Tariff (the best case scenario). If the light passes the FPL test, problem solved. If it fails, the town would have Allers’ plan B with Lee County.

Mayor Ray Murphy jumped into the discussion with Allers on Thursday saying in all the years the town has been discussing the lights with Lee County, nothing has been resolved. “It’s long overdo to settle it, and resolve it, and the only way is to put the two bodies in a room and work it out.”

Allers disagreed, stating all he’s trying to do is propose a start to a resolution. “It’s as close as we’ve ever been.”

A flustered Murphy interrupted Allers by saying, “That’s all well and good, and we’re willing to listen to all that. I want to hear it out of the horses mouth (Lee County). I want to hear it from them. Now is the time to sit down and see where the rubber meets the road. Let’s get them in a room and let’s hammer it out Everything is on the table, but there has to be a table to discuss it. You bring your option forward, they bring their option forward. That has to be the way it has to be.”

At an earlier town council meeting when councilman Jim Atterholt suggested a thawing of relations with Lee County, Murphy, who’s up for re-election in November, lashed out at Atterholt calling him “inexperienced.”

The reality is that’s not the way it has to be but Murphy doesn’t see that. For the record, despite what Murphy says, the county doesn’t have to bring an option to the table. They own the table. They own the chairs. And they own all the cards on the table.  They’ve made it crystal clear. They are not contributing any additional funds to light Estero Boulevard. Full stop. The County just spent $80 million to rebuild Estero Boulevard. They are spending millions more to rebuild the Big Carlos Pass Bridge. They are moving forward with the design phase of the 42 Estero boulevard crosswalks they committed to light. And, from the works Allers has done, they appear to be willing to install poles and lights, as long as the town foots the bill.

Lee County has always been crystal clear to the town. Lee County offers a certain level of service to each municipality. If a municipality wants services on top of what the county offers they have to pay for it themselves. It’s no different for Cape Coral, Sanibel, Bonita Springs or any other town in the county.

Not even mentioned at the meeting Thursday was that the town is going to want to cooperate with Lee County for a flashing traffic light at Lenell Road, a dangerous crosswalk on Estero Boulevard by Santini Plaza.

After going round and round for nearly two hours the council decided requesting a meeting with Lee County could wait.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. It seems this board in general, with some exceptions, has to many ideas on how to spend money they don’t have and they waste time trying to implement it.
    They spend a million dollars(of tax money) on a piece of property to add facilities for the sailboaters and then ask the tax payers about the idea and get shot down – now we have a million dollar parking lot.
    They spend time writing a new ordinance for 15% window tint, pass it and then ask the resident about the idea and get shot down – they vacillate 15% or 45% and seem to have settled on going back to the 45% – more wasted time
    They are still wasting time(7 years) and money talking about street lights when the county has always been clear. You have a mayor that thinks he can walk into a county meeting with his hand out and walk out with his pockets full.
    There are several board approved projects that have no real funding source, except to raise taxes.
    You have mayor that says “I want to own Estero Blvd”. Can you imagine. The north end is already 7 years old and showing signs of sinking around manholes. Can you imagine the cost to maintain this road. Will they send out their little fleet of 4 wheelers to do the work.
    The mayor has led the fight with the 2 residents over the beach walkover that is costing the taxpayers thousands of $$$ because the my way or the highway mayor can’t seem to understand and/or find a solution.
    This board needs a reset with people that know how to work with others and not break every dish in the china shop.

    • Right on all points Phil.
      This council is a circus of clown shows you don’t have to pay to see but you certainly will be paying to keep in town.
      As for Allers’ idea, surely the county would perform a due dilligence to determine if the town could afford the payments, which in itself may present a problem.

  2. Mayor murphy,

    Have you learned nothing in your tenure? Play politics, you don’t have to like it. But it’s the game you must play. Your, I’m the boss and what the boss says is how it is, just doesn’t work. Hasn’t worked in years. You must create an environment where the county or state can feel like they are getting the better end of the deal. Not you the town. You have to make them feel like you are giving them something, not asking, or demanding something. This isn’t a monarchy. You are not the king of this 2.5 sq mile patch of sand. You are just an appointed mayor whom the residents, all
    Of them, not the ones on your street, trust have their best interests at heart. Ego has to go by the wayside. You are supposed to be the maistro, you don’t make the music you simply bring it out of those around you. Use their skills to get to the end goal. Listening to a town manager and only the town manager is a recipe for disaster. Which is what you have on multiple projects. Open your eyes and ears to the other council men and women. They are your assets. Generals don’t win wars, soldiers do.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here