Council Discusses TDC Funding Requests
At their workshop on Monday morning, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach discussed what funding requests they would make from the Tourist Development Council (TDC) this year and what issues they plan to bring up at the joint Council-Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) meeting in February.
Town Manager Terry Stewart opened the discussion by informing the council that the TDC reviews the requests for its Beaches and Shorelines fund in February, and that staff will be bringing the final list to them for a vote at their January meeting.
Public Works Director Cathie Lewis then explained that this year’s application differs little from last year.
"We are still asking for more ADA-compliant things like additional Mobi Mats,” she said. "I’ve also including funding for rebuilding some of our walk-overs. I have included in here the purchase of two new vehicles because we use them seven days a week picking up trash. I’ve also included improvements to the bay and beach accesses - we are surveying Bay Beach and what little we can do to Delmar.”
Councilman Dan Andre asked about the work that the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) is doing to upgrade the beach accesses, and Community Development Director Walter Fluegel explained that he is in the process of hiring an architect to make the proposals clearer and that amount will be added to the funding request.
"The reason our beach access funding got turned down last year is because we were asking for survey work and everything else,” Stewart explained. "This year we are going to them with an actual clear concept of what we’d like.”
Andre asked about the life of a Mobi Mat (portable rollout pathway), and Lewis explained that they normally last six years, but some are wearing out quicker because people are riding their golf carts over the them - including jet ski vendors who essentially have no choice because they need to use the accesses to remove their vehicles at night.
"We could add a user fee into their leases to cover the wear and tear,” she suggested, and council liked the idea.
"I’d also like to find out who is taking them out there - maybe it’s someone who can’t access the beach any other way,” said Councilwoman Jo List. "People also may not be aware that these vehicles aren’t allowed on the beach.”
Council agreed to give the issue to CRAB.
Vice-Mayor Alan Mandel asked if a request could be made to fund studies the Town is doing on shoreline protection, and Stewart replied that that may be possible since the TDC does contribute money to beach renourishment.
"I’m confident that no one in Lee County has ever done this amount of research, and they can use this study in the future as solid, scientific evidence as to whether or not to support beach renourishment on Fort Myers Beach,” he said.
Mayor Bob Raymond then brought up the controversial subject of adding restrooms to some of the beach accesses.
"I know beachfront residents are against this, but we have a lot of people who come to the beach, and they need someplace to go to the bathroom so they and their kids don’t just use the beach or the Gulf,” he said. "I think we need to do more research and clear the locations with the people who live there and get this done.”
Lewis replied that the TDC has indicated they will fund this project if the Town moves forward with it, and that staff is planning to place one of the Town’s mobile restrooms at the Pompano access where there was little resident resistance.
"We can dust this off if you want, but I saw part of the last CRAB meeting where it appeared to me that the members don't support this because of the residents’ concerns,” she said.
List said that - while she understands residents’ concerns, many of whom have owned their properties next to accesses for many years - something should be done to address the needs of all who work and play on the island.
Stewart suggested getting the restroom at Pompano installed and see how it works for a few months, and then take that information to the residents at other beach accesses to alleviate their fears.
The council also agreed to have the restrooms decorated attractively.
Council members then agreed to discuss the following issues at the upcoming joint meeting: the rehabilitation of Estero Boulevard (the first mile is scheduled for the 2013/2014 fiscal year); the traffic problem, the cost of animal control services; the future of the Seafarer’s site and the possibility of creating interlocal agreements (ILA’s) to allow the Town to operate county-owned parks on the island.
Stewart said he’d like to petition the commissioners to create a meaningful process to ensure that the county and the Town work together better.
"I think Commissioner Kiker is setting up meetings with all the mayors and city managers,” Mayor Raymond replied, and Stewart said he’d like this to be a routine process that is supported by the entire BoCC.
Council agreed to put that on the list for discussion, saying that they will add it at the end.
Keri Hendry Weeg