Hernstadt: We Need More Money

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Town Manager Roger Hernstadt told the Fort Myers Beach town council there’s not enough money for the town’s three major renovation projects; Bayside Park, Bay Oaks and Times Square. And, while no exact amount was given, it appears as if the projects are under-funded by millions of dollars.

Councilman Jim Atterholt wanted Hernstadt to give the public a detailed update on the projects and where they all stood budget-wise. “It would be helpful if we knew the overruns on the projects. That would be good for transparency and public consumption.”

Hernstadt said in today’s environment it’s not possible to provide the council and the public an exact plan on how much money will be needed. “Because of the construction environment we’re in, if I told you a number it would be wrong. We need to wait for the bids to come in. We will need more money in the future.”

The town borrowed $10 million to help fund the projects. Back in October Hernstadt said the Bayside Park project would cost an estimated $885,000. On Monday he told the council that project is now expected to cost $950,000. The original goal for Bayside Park was closer to $500,000. Councilman Bill Veach said the Bayside Park cost was eye opening to him. “That came in way over budget.”

About $5.5 million was set aside for Bay Oaks and that project is also over budget. In fact, Hernstadt shared some new news on that project Monday. He told the council that even though there will be a new building, perhaps by the end of 2023, there is no money to buy anything to put in the building. He said, “It’s going to be a beautiful building without a chair to sit on.”

Times Square estimates have not really been discussed much in recent town council meetings. More should be known about the timing and cost estimates on the project later this Summer. Times Square is expected to start last with Bayside Park slated to start first then Bay Oaks.

The discussion about being over budget on the projects started when Councilman Atterholt objected to the town raising parking fees from $3.00 per hour to $5.00 per hour without having a solid plan for what that money would be used for.

Councilman Veach is pushing to spend the money on a parking app. Hernstadt said the first estimate he’s gotten on a parking app was “surprisingly expensive.” There’s also a possibility the money from the higher parking fees might be used to help make up the shortfall in these three projects. The town projected the increase parking fees will bring in another $600,000 in additional revenue.

Atterholdt stood his ground on getting some sort of plan from Hernstadt on what would be done with the extra money the town will soon begin collecting. “We owe the public an explanation. We need a plan, even a rough estimate so we can explain to the people what we’re doing.”

On Thursday the council will consider how to spend $3.5 million in federal COVID funds it was awarded from the American Rescue Plan Act. There are very strict rules on how that money can be spent. It sounded as if they will at least discuss whether or not it’s even possible to try to spend some of that money on these three projects.

Hernstadt also mentioned the possibility of raising taxes as an option to cover the shortfall.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Jim Atterholt. Your attention to detail and having John and Roger explain the complexities of each issue to the viewing public is essential. We elect the town councilors; we unfortunately have NO voice in our town manager or town attorney’s actions. Beware if you do question the actions or policies of John and Roger.

  2. The town has a cash shortage to pay for the current projects? This shortage will be downright insignificant compared to shortages the town will incur for the horrific amber lights they want to install. And how about the exorbitant costs of “owning” and maintaining Estero Blvd as is the mayors’ wish. Where on earth has common sense and fiscal responsibility gone? The 3-member voting cabal that’s responsible for bad policies and the absence of accountability is killing us!

  3. The Times Square project has been on the table years before the bayside project.its also included in the new waterline /storm drain project…

    Nixs the bayside asap

  4. I am surprised and dismayed that the Town Council has not conducted an audit and complete performance review of the Town Manager since new members were elected 3 years ago. Remember that an outgoing Town Council member passed a glowing “review” of the current Town Manager and a major salary increase just before her term ended.

  5. This is fiscally irresponsible to get to This point. Many of us have postponed projects because of the extreme price increases of materials and inflation. And to even mention raising taxes…. Time to figure out how and when to proceed with these projects within the budget as they were presented or rescale the projects. Time for a new town manager and the town council needs take a tighter more frequent oversight over these projects.

  6. What I don’t understand is…if they are over budget why can’t they revise the plan within the Budget?
    That’s what people have to do when their project is over budget, reduce or remove and get it IN BUDGET!

  7. Absolute administrative incompetence. And the council is just as accountable as their manager.
    Only now is the council pressing for numbers, public information that should have been settled three years ago.
    Why is this guy still drawing a paycheck? And why has this council so long left this issue wandering in the dark?

  8. Outdoor recreation is an allowable expense with the Covid money. Our town is putting in a new 13 biking trail. If you word the time square project just right, infrastructure upgrades is also an allowable expense.

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