At the Fort Myers Beach Town Council Management & Planning meeting Thursday it was decided that Estero Boulevard should have Amber lights year round. How that becomes a reality could be as complicated as it was to choose which light to use.
The plan now is for Mayor Ray Murphy to meet with Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli and pass the word along that the town wants Amber lights on Estero Boulevard, which Lee County owns.
During the meeting Town Manager Roger Hernstadt chimed in with this message for Lee County. “This is your road. We’re giving you our input. Here’s what we’d like done. It’s really your problem to fix.”
Who will pay for the installation of new poles and any new lighting system is going to be the next debate and negotiation. Council members were tossing around estimates in the millions of dollars because more poles may need to be installed to cover the entire Boulevard. Councilman Dan Allers suggested it could cost over $4 million to install an Amber system.
Amber lights are obviously not as powerful as bright white lights so more poles and lights will most likely be needed. Amber lights are also recognized by FWC as turtle friendly. However, it’s not clear what system Lee County will decide they want. There have not been any direct discussions about those specifics between the two government entities. Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros stated, “Our negotiations with the county have never been super friendly.”
To date Lee County has only committed to paying for lighting at crosswalks. Mayor Ray Murphy said he met with Commissioner Sandelli recently and told him “crosswalks are not enough.” Murphy said he told Sandelli that the Estero Boulevard road project is not complete until the lighting is done.”
Several council members said they believe the economic benefit Fort Myers Beach brings to Lee County should be a factor in who pays for the lights. They believe it is an unsafe county road, Fort Myers Beach brings in significant tax revenue for Lee County, so the county should foot a good part of the bill for the lights. At least, that’s where they would like the negotiations to begin.
The town just spent $185,000 on a lighting consultant for Estero Boulevard that finished its work without making a recommendation to the council. It’s been clear for about a year that this council wanted Amber lights which frustrated councilman Dan Allers “Why have we been debating this and spending all this money for five years where there is only one solution.” Allers wanted to at least bring a second option to the County for them to consider. He was shot down by Murphy who said, Sorry you are on the losing end of this. It’s going to be Amber.”
Murphy also said, “I’ll tell you right now it’s not going to go on for another five years.”
The photo in this story is from Clearwater Beach