Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy doesn’t like seeing Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno’s big face on the side of a trailer as you come over the Matanzas Pass Bridge. He says it’s a violation of the town’s sign ordinance and the town is giving Marceno free advertising for his next campaign.
Murphy’s angst with the sign was part of a discussion about the LCSO outreach center trailer that is temporarily being housed at the foot of the Matanzas Pass Bridge. The council was considering a resolution to accept $100 per month in rent from LCSO to use the property for the outreach center.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros, who’s term on the council expires in two months, wanted more rent money from LCSO. She said the rate of $100 per month was incredibly cheap. “This is out of whack. This certainly seems too low for a piece of property on Fort Myers Beach. And we just got an e-mail from the Sheriff that said they would be raising the rates on all the services they provide. This doesn’t have any relationship to reality.”
Councilman Jim Atterholt was willing to waive the fee completely to have the outreach center in that location. Councilman Bill Veach said, “They are not putting a food truck there. This is a real benefit to the community.”
Murphy compared the fee for the outreach center to fees the Sheriff charges the town. “I don’t know when we’ve ever had a fee that low for various and sundry duties that they perform down here. It does seem rather low to me.”
Veach said having the outreach center is incentive to have the Sheriff’s department spend more time on the island, to which Murphy responded, “If I knew that was going to be the case, I would have a change of heart. From what I see from the last outreach center that he had over there, it was only staffed with clerical type people. The only time deputies were there would be to get out of the heat.”
Councilman Dan Allers said that’s not 100 percent true. “People stopped into that facility to report crimes. It led to several quick apprehensions of people that were doing things that they shouldn’t do. I would argue that it being there did deter some people as well as catch some people.”
Atterholt agreed with Allers that there was a deterrence factor. Veach was also onboard stating that if people see a crime, they know where to go, as opposed to inaction, which happens in a lot of cases. “It’s a piece of dirt they are improving. I’m OK with this”
Allers made a motion to approve the agreement for another year with the Sheriff. Both Murphy and Hosafross objected to the motion. That’s when Murphy went off on the sign tangent. “We have a sign ordinance we all have to follow. The Sheriff has a picture of himself (on the trailer) that is larger than life. When we run for election down here, we’re allowed to put our signs on the street 30 days before the election, and that sign is the size of a pizza box. That’s how we’re restricted down here. What we’re doing here is giving the Sheriff free advertising for his campaign that he’s running already.”
For the record, Marceno is not up for election in November. Murphy is.
Murphy was so flustered about the situation, he never called for an official vote on the motion so it’s unclear if it actually passed. The council simply moved onto the next item after his rant about the photo.
There was also no clear indication if the town plans to write the Sheriff any tickets for violating the town’s sign ordinance.