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Town Council

09/04/2013 at 10:07pm

Center StreetCouncil Agrees to Look
Into Opening Center Street

At their workshop on Monday morning, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach agreed to look into the possibility of opening Center Street to help folks coming onto the island find parking and to move forward with recommendations by the Audit Committee on investment opportunities for the Town.

First, Council looked at a program designed by staff to present to businesses, individuals and groups who would like to sponsor an event for the Town. The proposal will be a way for the Town to offset costs for pay for things like fireworks, and offers several different opportunities with various levels and benefits. After a short discussion on whether or not to allow displays in Time Square, they reached consensus for staff to bring the proposal to them at a council meeting for final approval.

Councilman Dan Andre then presented his proposal for opening up Center Street.

"I just want to determine if this is even an option for us, now or in the future," he said, and Town Manager Terry Stewart reported that he has spoken with businesspeople in the area and they are interested.

"My recommendation is if - you're want to do this - we need to check with the state to see if they're willing to consider it and perhaps have a traffic expert look into it," he said.

Councilman Bob Raymond said he'd support the idea if it helps the Town and that he's not made up his mind one way or another.

"I don't want to open the street if we have no real idea what we want to do with it," he said.

Councilwoman Jo List said she'd far prefer to use that route to get to her home on Crescent Street rather have to drive onto Estero Boulevard.

"I think opening that up would peel off a lot of cars that would otherwise end up on Estero, and would reveal to our visitors more parking opportunities before they get to Estero," she said. Mandel agreed, saying he and Stewart are scheduling a meeting with the head of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for sometime in September for the purposes of looking at all traffic issues on the island.

The council asked Stewart to contact the state and find out how to proceed.

Town Financial Officer Evelyn Wicks and Audit Committee Chair Jim Rodwell then gave a presentation on the Town's investment policy.

"Unlike many other communities we don't have a huge finance department so we wanted to keep this simple," Rodwell began. "We have a judiciary responsibility to not lose money, so we need to invest in things with little risk. We focused on things like intergovernmental pools, investing with the Florida League of Cities - who handle investments for communities throughout the state - and highly rated money market funds that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Vice-Mayor Joe Kosinski asked if any of the Town's reserves are currently invested, and Wicks replied that $4.7 million is, with a return rate of 8% when the market is good and 3% when it's struggling.

Mayor Alan Mandel asked about a municipal insured government bonds, and Stewart said that is a possible avenue but that the committee backed away from them because they normally require a long-term commitment.

"One of the things we discussed is the council's desire to do long-term investments and we decided it wasn't a good idea because bonds like these would tie up the Town's money for 10 years," said Ed Lombard.

Stewart told council that his only concern with the committee's recommendations is the lack of diversity.

"It has been my experience over the years that some town have investment policies wi that include a component of high quality equities because it allows the opportunity for gain - at a limited amount of risk - when the market is doing well in that area," he said. "As far as long-term investments, I think we should focus on those with an average life of three years or less."

List asked for the committee members' opinions on equities, and Rodwell reminded council that they will be borrowing money for a long-term project and urged them not to take any more risk.

Lombard explained that the committee was focused mainly on 'safety of capital' so he doesn't recommend equity investments either, and Cote agreed.

Council agreed to move forward with the committee's recommendations, leaving out any equities or long-term bonds with the exception of intergovernmental pools.

Keri Hendry Weeg