Local Leaders Look to New Year
As we bid a fond farewell to 2013, the Sand Paper decided to look forward to the coming year by asking our local leaders what they think will be the most important issues coming down the pike in 2014. Since the March 11th elections means that there will be at least two new faces on our Town Council in a few months, we also asked the outgoing council members to reflect a bit on their years of service and what bits of wisdom they would like to leave to those who will take their place in Town Hall.
Councilman Dan Andre
"I look forward to seeing the continuation of our water replacement system,” said Andre, a resident of Mango Street where the project began a couple of weeks ago. "They are doing a great job so far. I also look forward to seeing the beginning of our long awaited reconstruction of Estero Boulevard, and to continue to try to find relief from the new flood insurance program.”
As far as Council items, Andre told us that he'd like to see folks work together more to get issues like the accessory structures, elevated pools and the noise ordinance solved.
"Those are the obvious things,” he said. "I'd really like to see staff and council work together on 'maintaining the rhythm of the neighborhood' - to borrow a phrase from the City of Sanibel's elevated pool ordinance. And now that the rainy season is over, I hope we all don't forget about our water problems - we have to keep pushing for solutions.”
On March 11th, the current face of our Town Council will change as Bob Raymond and Jo List - having served two full terms – are not eligible to run this year per our Town Charter. While it's likely that Vice-Mayor Joe Kosinski will seek another term, at the very least this means that two new people will be sworn in when Council meets following the election on March 17th. Andre, who will remain on Council as he has another two years on his current term, said he hopes the new members continue to work together.
"I would like to see us continue the work that's been done so far,” he said.
Vice-Mayor Joe Kosinski
Joe told us that he is looking forward to the coming year.
"Fort Myers Beach has a lot of major projects completed, started, and pending and I look forward to the challenge,” he said. "North Estero redesign and beach re-nourishment, completed by previous councils, both have that "beachie” look and feel. South Estero Blvd is under design to resemble N. Estero and is set to begin in 2015. The water utility replacement and the North Basin projects have been started.”
Kosinski then reflected over his past three years on Council, saying he has thoroughly enjoyed serving the residents of Fort Myers Beach.
"I have greatly enjoyed working with the town staff, advisory committees, and this council,” he said. "I believe our town is blessed with a great group of skilled and dedicated workers, all of whom are committed to providing our residents with the best service.”
Joe told us that he sees traffic, parking, and storm water management as the major challenges facing the island.
"I would like to concentrate on these issues,” he said. "A lot of people say these problems are unsolvable, but to me they are merely challenges. No singular idea is going to solve all of our island’s problems; it will take a combination of projects and approaches as a beginning, and our island has the talent to approach them.”
"I extend best wishes for 2014 to everyone who lives, works or visits our small island paradise,” he concluded. "Welcome back to all our friends from up north! In the coming years, I foresee this island as being an even more sensational place to live, work and play.”
Councilwoman Jo List
The 2014 election will be a bittersweet one for many islanders as we say goodbye to List, who has spent the last six years bringing her unique style of 'come together' leadership to Town Hall. Her biggest hope? That consensus building and cooperation will be her legacy as the new council moves forward.
"I hope with all my heart that the uproar over elevated pools will lead to meaningful discussion and resolution of the vagaries that we found in our Town codes,” she said. "As long as lawyers can find something to argue about in our codes, than our codes are not working. I hope to see us sit and hammer this out so that no lawyers have to come in and argue different points about our codes.”
List agreed with Andre on the water quality issue, saying Council should not let up on the 'powers that be' to come up with a resolution.
"Water quality is essential for our health and our quality of life,” she said. "I also hope that Council continues to partner with the air noise group and their conversations with the airport authority to improve overall quality of life regarding planes.”
As far as after her term ends, List told us she will remain very interested in those issues that affect all islanders and urges future council members not to get bogged down with emotions and concentrate on the issue as a whole.
"It's very easy to get drawn into the minutiae of an argument, as well as emotions and strong opinions, and thus lose track of the goal,” she said. "No one ever wins when we square off and one side gets their way. Leaders need to stay open with their constituents and come together to solve problems that affect the entire Town.”
Mayor Alan Mandel
The following is the Mayors personal message:
"As Mayor, I wish you all a Happy New Year.
"I am pleased to provide a status report on projects initiated by prior Councils and those undertaken by your current Council and Staff.
"The potable water project, underway on Mango Street, will replace all pipes to deliver safe water to our residents and guests. In addition, water pressure should be improved for both residents and our Fire Department. See the Town website for information and updates.
"Developing and funding a storm water system has started for both Town side streets and the County controlled Estero Blvd. The goals: eliminate the flood conditions on our streets following heavy rains, and treat the runoff water before it reenters our canals and bay.
"The County Commission, led by former Mayor and now Chair, Larry Kiker, approved work on Estero Blvd. Five segments, from the draw bridge on the south to about Crescent on the north will be improved. The goal is to model the sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping already completed by the Town on North Estero.
"The grants awarded by the State will enable completion of Mound House. The excavated room, kayak building, and grounds are complete. Work is ongoing to complete the Observation Deck and house restoration. An international conference is envisioned this year celebrating both the opening of Mound House and VIVA 500 Florida.
"The Seafarer site includes not only the former Seafarer Building, but also the Helmerich properties. Both the County and the Town have agreed this property should be developed for the highest and best use; possibly a public private partnership which could improve traffic flow, eliminate pedestrian/auto conflicts, maintain the view corridor from the bridge, and contribute to the Town’s tax base.
"The Town is considering the annexation of Mound Key and neighboring islands. Mound Key is culturally related to Mound House as residences of the Calusa's. Mound Key will enhance educational tourism on our Island as well as contribute to a potential reduction of FEMA flood insurance rates for our residents. Negotiations are ongoing with the property owners and the State of Florida. The Town envisions the property as a passive park for people along the Calusa Blueway and kayakers from Mound House.
"Taxes and number of Town employees have been held fairly constant over the last four years. Property values this year turned up for the first time during this period. Taking a long-term view, the Town has started to fund a Capital Improvements Plan.
"Council and Staff have moved many projects from plan to implementation. The year ahead has opportunities and challenges in which we are prepared to engage. Future articles will focus on Federal issues, beach nourishment, and updating Town codes.”
Alan Mandel, Mayor, Fort Myers Beach
Councilman Bob Raymond
The smiling face of Bob Raymond is another familiar visage on Town Council we sadly must say goodbye to in the coming months, as his six years on Council also comes to an end on March 18th. Over the years, Bob's leadership on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) helped plant the island's traffic woes firmly into county planners' minds and his dogged persistence has contributed to the final completion of the Mound House - something that is expected in 2014. Fret not, however, as even though he won't be on Council anymore he has no intention of fading away.
"The greatest thing about 2014 is to finally see shovels in the ground for the reconstruction of Estero Boulevard,” he said. "To me, that and seeing something happen to the Seafarer's Mall
property are the biggest things.”
Raymond told us he believes that the accessory buildings issue and the noise ordinance - both of which come before Council on Monday morning - are two things he thinks the current Council will be able to finish before he leaves office.
"Before we're done, we should have both of those put to bed,” he said. "And we've started on stormwater and the water utility - I'm so happy we've accomplished that.”
As far as the future, Bob says he thinks traffic issues on San Carlos Boulevard will be something addressed in 2014.
"Lee County Department of Transportation (LDOT) will have their survey completed on whether or not to have a dedicated trolley lane this coming year,” he said. "That's extremely important. Also, I really hope the future council does not pursue the
idea of a parking garage at the foot of the bridge. People don't want to drive onto the island and have the first thing they see be cement.”
We asked Bob about his post-council plans, and he laughed, saying, "Don't worry - I'm not going away.”
"I may serve on one of the Town's advisory committees, or I might run for something else - who knows,” he said. "I'm definitely not going to just sit around.”
Chief Darren White, Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District
"We look forward to continuing the great service we provide to the community and to our citizens,” White told us, adding that the 9/11 Memorial planned for Fire Station #33 on Lenell Street should be completed in the coming year.
"Pretty much, though, I'm looking forward to a quiet year in 2014,” he said. "Which is exactly how we like it!”
Dr. Leroy Hommerding, Director, Fort Myers Beach Library
Dr. Hommerding told us that he is happy to report that usage of the new Beach Library has increased more than 50% over the past year.
"I look forward to continued satisfaction and growth,” he said. "I hope that 2014 offers staff and volunteers the enthusiasm to expand our service and that the library staff and users can share genuine pleasure in each other's presence.”
Hommerding went on to say that he looks for inspiration in the words of Joseph Campbell:
"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
"And finally, we've been evaluating our digital storytelling and have thought that putting things in six words may provide the impetus we need for stimulation an creativity,” he continued.
"So, if I put the practical side for 2014 in six words, they would be: 'Create daily schedule. Follow daily schedule'. Six words for the inspirational side of 2014 are: 'Feel blessed, looking forward to more'.”
Keri Hendry Weeg