We’re Playing Chicken With People’s Lives

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Those are the words of Fort Myers Beach town councilman Dan Allers regarding the lighting situation on Estero Boulevard. The Michigan woman killed by an alleged drunk driver on January 27th happened at the end of his street. The accident re-ignited the discussion about how dark Estero Boulevard is at night and who’s going to pay for new lights.

Mayor Ray Murphy took on the job of negotiating with Lee County last year to try to get the county to pay for the lights the Fort Myers Beach town council approved. Lee County owns Estero Boulevard. The town council wants new amber lights installed. Murphy told the council Monday, “I made a few phone calls. I’m still waiting to hear back.”

Up to this point Lee County has only committed to $1.4 million to pay for lights at 42 crosswalks as part of the Estero Boulevard road project. Murphy believes it’s the county’s responsibility to pay to upgrade all the lights on Estero Boulevard because it’s their road. You could also sense his frustration with the county because he says they are not responding to him.

Back in January we were told by Lee County that, “The town’s request for additional lighting on Estero Boulevard is not scheduled for a BoCC agenda at this time. Nothing has changed.”

When we reached out yesterday, there appeared to be some movement from that statement. “The county has received the town’s request and is evaluating it.” When we asked the county what that “request” was, we were told it was the town’s resolution (21-52) which recommends that Lee County enter into an agreement with FPL or another entity of its choosing to expeditiously install amber lights on Estero Boulevard.

When pressed by councilman Dan Allers about where the negotiations were, Murphy said he was given assurances there was something forthcoming. “That hasn’t happened yet. It’s their road and it’s their responsibility to do something. I’ve been assured they are going to step up. I just don’t know when. I’m waiting to see what they are going to do. Our demands are for you, Lee County, to step up and light your road. Fund the project.”

There was a suggestion that more council members, other than Murphy, put the heat on the county to step up and respond to to the town’s request to pay for the new lights.

Town Manager Roger Hernstadt jumped in and said he’s not been involved in the discussions but perhaps the town could find out what their strategy is to see how we can support that strategy. “I do think every time we indicate a sense of loss of patience, we’re hurting our cause. In some cases it’s a game of chicken to see who blinks first.” Why the town’s manager is not involved in the negotiations is puzzling. Isn’t that his job?

Allers wasn’t having any of that answer. “Roger, I kind of cringe at what you’re saying there. We’re playing chicken with people’s lives. We’re not doing anything. We need to move this forward. We need to do something. We haven’t even given the county a plan so they can analyze the cost.”

A consultant the town has so far paid $120,000 for a lighting plan provided the town council with several options (see below):

Turtle season begins in May and, if nothing changes, some of the lights now on Estero Boulevard will need to be turned off at night because they may contribute to turtle disorientation. With Estero Boulvard construction complete, new sidewalks in place, more people riding bikes, scooters and walking, and a non-existent off-season, many on the beach are saying the accidents and deaths on the Boulevard will continue.

Perhaps the latest accident will accelerate what gets done to improve the lighting. If Lee County decides not to pay for the lights, the town council may have to consider taking the issue directly to beach taxpayers and ask them if they are willing to pay for new lights on their own.

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. It’s sad how Mayor Ray and Roger the town clown manager claim the have great relationships with Lee county officials, yet they can’t even get someone to call them back on a topic FMB has been tiring to resolve for over 6 years, yes 6 years and Ray is waiting for someone to return his call. What a joke. Effective collaboration is key between governments and it’s concerning that No one appears to have any relationship with any lee county gvt official.

  2. We live mid island on Estero Blvd. The lighting situation is a certainty that more tragedies are waiting to happen. Couple the lack of lighting with peak season number of guests, walkers, bike riders, etc, AND the crazy drivers who feel that it is their right to use the middle turn lane as a passing lane, I’m very surprised we haven’t seen more accidents already. Bikers, please use lights at night!

  3. Is anyone really surprised that the Lee County Commissioners aren’t responding in a timely fashion? This project was started many years ago. Did no one consider a lighting plan at this reconstruction’s formulation? Perhaps someone in the Town Hall (I wouldn’t count on Roger doing it. He’d rather sit on his hands waiting for lights to magically appear.) should go back in the records to see what was initially presented at those meetings. Back then, there was a different Town Council, different Lee County Commissioners, etc.

    If those records don’t reveal any plans for lighting, then why would Town Council engage lighting consultants at TAXPAYER cost for a lighting plan that the Town had no intention of funding? This is like your kid coming to you and telling you that his consultant suggested that his first car be a Corvette. Would you run out and buy the car, or would you want to do your own research? Now you know how the Lee County Commission feels. The LCC should have been included from the beginning of this research, and if they were invited and declined, that’s on them. But I’m hedging toward believing that this Town Council went ahead without the foresight of engaging the very people who were going to inevitably pick up the check for this.

    Something needs to get done, and get done quickly. It is this writer’s suggestion that the entire Town Council put its collective tails between their legs and find out from the Lee County Commissioners what it’s going to take to get this done. Folding your arms, tapping your feet, and pouting until you get your lights just isn’t going to happen. You stepped on the LCC’s toes. Now you need to apologize and move forward.

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