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Pier Upgrades to Begin in Late July

06/14/2011 at 3:44pm
Soaring EaglePier Upgrades to Begin in Late July
Caption: Artist Marlin Miller has finished
transforming the old oak tree in front
of the Old Lee County Courthouse
into a soaring eagle

The Board of Lee County Commissioners thanked Naples artist Marlin Miller at their meeting Tuesday morning for completing his work transforming the old oak tree in front of the courthouse into a soaring eagle. Commissioners also agreed to enter into a construction manager agreement with Fowler Construction for the maintenance work on the Beach Pier. The upgrades, originally scheduled to begin in May, will now commence in late July and last until the end of December.

The meeting began with Commission Chairman Frank Mann reading a resolution recognizing Unitarian Universalist Church's 50th anniversary in Lee County on June 20, 2011. Commissioner Ray Judah then read a resolution declaring June 15th to be Elder Abuse Awareness Day, informing everyone gathered that the declaration would be commemorated Wednesday with a ceremony in Centennial Park.

Commissioner Brian Bigelow announced that Lee County recently received another award for their work on the 130 square mile DRGR (Density Reduction / Groundwater Resource) area near Estero, thanking the private citizens and county workers who labored to get the area protected for all their hard work. The award – the Form Based Code Institute's 2011 Driehaus Form Based Codes Award – is the third award that the county has received for its work preserving this critical piece of land from development.

Just before the regular part of the meeting began, Mann invited artist Miller to address the Board. The chainsaw wielding sculptor was chosen by the commissioners to turn the 150+ year-old dying tree into sculpture after much debate over its fate.

Miller handed Mann a fountain pen carved from the wood of the old tree, and told him it was an honor to work on a tree that means so much to so many. Miller did his work free of charge for Lee County, and the extra wood will be made into more pens, bowls and other sculptures that will be offered for sale.

"I've been overwhelmed the last few days by the hundreds of people who have come up to me to tell me why it was important to see that tree turned into an eagle,” he said. "It's more than just a sculpture.”

Mann then invited Miller to remain for the rest of the meeting, quipping, "This is a form of art, too.”

On the Administrative Agenda, the Board approved Fowler Construction as construction manager for the $1.2 million makeover to the pier, which will be paid for by tourist bed tax dollars. Lee County Utilities' Patricia DiPiero explained that the project is a continuation of work that began last year.

"They are going to change all the hardware to stainless steel, replace the handrails, fill in cracks on the decking, put in PVC pipes and replace the areas that folks use to cut bait on,” she said, adding that the project is part of regular maintenance.

"Considering the pier is in harsh elements - the sun, wind, saltwater - these are things that have to be done to be able to maintain the facilities for all of us to use," she explained.

In April, the Sand Paper reported that the pier project was set to begin in early May (see Sand Paper issue 529, April 1, 2011) but Patricia told us today that it is now set to begin in late July.

Finally, the Board deferred a final hearing on the Lee County Towing Ordinance and new maximum rate schedule until their meeting on September 13th.

The next meeting of the Board of Lee County Commissioners will be on Tuesday, June 21st at 9:30am at the Old Lee County Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers. This will be the last meeting before their July break. Meetings will resume on August 2nd, 2011. Go to for a complete transcript and to download an agenda. The county recently went paperless, so agenda copies are no longer available for pickup before the meeting.

Keri Hendry