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Water utility meeting informs community

November 27, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A failing water system that dates back to the 1950s era on Estero Island will be getting some much needed improvement work in the near future. At completion, water service, fire protection service and street flooding issues will be improved upon.

Fort Myers Beach residents of side streets within the Basin Based Neighborhood as well as Bay Beach Lane and Laguna Shores were provided an overview on Phase 1 construction work regarding the Town of Fort Myers Beach Waterline Replacement Project last Thursday.

Those in attendance at the pre-construction meeting at Chapel by the Sea studied construction plans and heard details of the first part of the project that is specific to Beach roads from Tropical Shores Way north to Carolina Avenue, called the Basin Based Neighborhood.

Article Photos

Johnson Engineering's Andy Tilton explains stormwater design work to residents of one of the streets in the Basin Based Neighborhood.

"We added the Basin Based Neighborhood to the Phase I project to accommodate the stormwater project and the water replacement at the same time," said Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. "The Bay Beach Lane project was identified as a priority because of it's high rise condominiums and their fire service really isn't adequate for the number of units and heights of the buildings. The Laguna Shores area is one of the older developments on the island, and it truly has probably the most deteriorated water system on the island."

Contractor Mitchell & Stark Construction Company will begin actual waterline work and stormwater work simultaneously in December after the Town celebrates with a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 2. Construction activities include surveying, trenching to install new and same-sized waterlines and water mains, drainage system work and post-construction restoration.

"The pipelines will all be larger than what we have in the ground now," said Lewis. "Currently, we have pipes anywhere from two inches to 10 inches, and all of our distribution mains that accommodate your services on the side streets will all be sized at eight inches."

Work will first begin on the bayside of Mango Street and move to (in no particular order) Tropical Shores Way, Fairweather Lane, the bayside of Delmar Avenue and the bayside of Pearl Street and Bayview Drive, due to a time-restricted FEMA grant to help fund stormwater improvements. The grant, in the amount of $646,000, is based on an April 2014 completion date.

From there, work will continue on Chapel Street, Cottage Avenue, the gulfside of Mango Street, the gulfside of Delmar Avenue, the gulfside of Pearl Street, Virgina Avenue, Palm Avenue, Ohio Avenue, Miramar Street, Avenue E, Ostego Drive and Carolina Avenue.

After the Basin Based Neighborhood, work will move to the other two cited areas.

The funds to improve such infrastructure was originally approved through referendum by a 91.6-percent passing rating in 2007. Long-term borrowing to replace the decrepit water utility system was then re-approved in 2011, the same year the Town completed a water main replacement project during its North Estero Boulevard Improvements Project.

At a recent meeting, Council authorized $743,088.46 for the master contract design build agreement and initial phase work. Total Phase I improvements are estimated to total just over $4.7 million.

"This project is being funded solely through your monthly fees that you gave to the water utility (since 2010)," said Lewis. "We implemented a capital reserve fee every month on your bill and, through the collection of that, it has enabled us to move forward with the stage 1 project."

Johnson Engineering Designer Mike Dickey discussed the design-build approach as a collaborative team effort to the job. He reemphasized the reason for the start in the Basin Based Neighborhood.

"(These streets) are what we call shovel-ready," he said. "They were designed and permitted a while back. We took the plans, adopted them and made improvements to them, and now they are ready to go. We don't want any pauses."

Daytime work is the main focus.

"Typically, we will be working on our installation process from hours 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.," said Mitchell & Stark's Brian Penner. "This project may require a couple nighttime construction days."

Temporary road detours and water disruption can be expected. Notice will be provided to the expected work but, if a water main is struck accidentally, expect no advance warning.

"When we have to tie the waterline into the new water main we are installing, you'll probably have a two to four hour period of time that your water service will be down," Penner said. "We will try to minimize any access or road closures. We will be forced to close a road a few times when we have to cross a water main or storm drainage across the road."

If driveways need attention, officials said affected residents may have to park elsewhere. Also, Penner wants everyone to be aware of the work being done when traversing the roads. Construction brings about dangerous situations.

"Sometimes it's difficult when you walk up to a blindside of a machine. We want to make sure that you are aware and safe out there," he said.

Emergency vehicles will always have access to roads, even under construction. Garbage trucks and mail trucks will also be able to continue service. Residents are asked to inform lawn service professionals when work is happening down their street.

Notices will be given to right-of-way issues.

"My role is to be in front of the contractor. He will keep me informed about what is coming up so that I can give you all as much notice as possible to help either remove or relocate those items as we come through with construction," said Public Information Officer Kaye Molnar at Cella Molnar & Associates.

The project website at will proved updates beginning in December. Questions and concerns may be addressed by contacting Molnar via email at or by calling 337-1071.



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