Council Hears Reports on
Town Hall Lease and the Beach Pool
At their last workshop before the July break, the Town Council discussed the lease on the building that houses Town Hall and the possibility of adding new programs to increase usage of the Beach Pool.
Town Manager Terry Stewart opened the discussion on the Town's lease by explaining that the current lease expires this year.
"We have an automatic two extension so long as we notify the property owner, and we have done that so that extension is preserved,” he said. "The leasing agent has inquired if we would be interested in renting the entire building and Council instructed staff to do so and also ask about having a longer lease period and for an allowance to make improvements.”
Stewart said that the owners have returned with an offer of a five-year lease on the entire building for $16 per square foot and a ten-year lease for $15.50 per square foot. The Town currently leases 6,815 square feet out of a possible 12,588 rentable square feet.
"They also included $50,000 in allowance for the five-year and about $80,000 for the ten-year,” Stewart said. "However, this is the first offer, and I think they should do better.”
Mayor Alan Mandel asked to see a break down of exactly what the costs are for what the Town needs to do to complete the building.
Councilman Dan Andre asked if something could be done to improve the front of the building, such as adding banners or pictures of the beach, and Stewart replied that staff is working on that.
The council gave Stewart permission to continue negotiations for an extended lease that includes a rental of the remainder of the space.
The council then listened to a report from Bay Oaks Director Randy Norton on programs and participation at Bay Oaks and the Beach Pool, which included several new proposals to increase use of the pool.
"The proposed ideas are things like Family Fun Night - where the pool is open late, Family Movie Night where families can float and watch a flick, Teen and Tween Night and 'Every Beach Child a Swimmer', where we’d partner with Beach Elementary and get someone to sponsor the cost,” Norton said. "Different ongoing athletic programs have been proposed such as private water fitness, infant swimming, a master swim program, triathlon training, ‘100-mile Club’ for the daily lap swimmers, early bird swimming, senior swim Sunday, a high-impact aerobics class geared towards younger folks, arthritis swimming, Aqua Zumba, Aqua Pilates, paddleboard yoga, aqua jogging and the possibility of holding swim meets at the pool.”
Stewart explained that the Town is averaging a bit better than the national average of 71% for government-subsidies of their parks and recreation programs.
"We realize that the pool is a cost to the Town, so if we can get programs like we have at Bay Oaks to the pool, we think that would help reduce that subsidy,” he said.
Norton then reported that 880 new members have signed up for Bay Oaks membership since the 'Every Resident a Member' program began in January.
"Class participation has increased 64%, which netted us an additional $15,000+,” he said. "As far as our youth program, we’ve been up and down every year until this one. We now have 33 registered kids out of the 92 students at Beach Elementary who are eligible for the program, making us the largest after-school program on the island. Our Teen program has been struggling for a while, so we asked the kids what we should do and we decided to improve the Teen Room with things like new games and additional hours. With no change to our staff budget, we were able to do this and now have seen an increase in usage by about 50%.”
Stewart told council he thinks Norton is doing a great job with the additional tasks he’s been given in the wake of former Parks and Recreation Director Patti Evans’ departure, and Council agreed.
Mayor Alan Mandel then asked about portable restrooms at beach accesses, saying he's seen a number of emails from residents concerned that the proposal is being considered again.
"We worked with the Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) on the visioning aspect of improving beach accesses, but I don’t believe we ever talked about restrooms,” said Community Development Director Walter Fluegel, and Stewart replied that it is an issue that needs to resolved.
"If we look at what our community is, in that we have all these accesses and no place for people to use the restroom - it's not realistic,” Stewart added. "At some point we’re going to have to resolve this if we expect to be a world-class destination. Maybe we should have some kind of community outreach to find out what residents would be comfortable with.”
Councilman Dan Andre said he doesn’t think residents will ever be happy with a restroom located in a residential area.
Council agreed to give the issue of placing restrooms at residential beach accesses to the Marine Resources Task Force (MRTF), and asked staff to look into placing them in the downtown commercial district.
Keri Hendry Weeg
Photo courtesy of Town of Fort Myers Beach