Community voices have been heard concerning an ongoing 'stinky' problem with the current location of the Town of Fort Myers Beach trash transfer station near Bay Oaks Recreational Campus ballfields.
After receiving much public feedback, Town officials have decided to pursue one of six potential alternative sites while continuing to explore the other possible locations. More input was received at a Town Council meeting Monday evening.
A formal request through a prepared letter is being sent to officials at Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control District about the possibility of making arrangements to use part of the facility property at 300 Lazy Way. Town officials stated they hoped the District's three board commissioners (chairman Joanne Semmer, Henry Rothenberg and Alta Whipple) would consider a proposal that Town Manager Terry Stewart and Beach Mayor Alan Mandel were assembling. Stewart had spoken to Director Sharon Watson, but stated she was non-committal about the idea.
"There is sufficient room on the property," said Stewart. "Geographically, I consider it probably one of the prime locations for us. It's also not butting up against other properties."
But, when reached by phone Tuesday morning, Semmer said the Beach Mosquito Control District board met last Tuesday at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting and voted 'no' to the verbal request. She said the main reason is that the property is a "designated secure facility under Homeland Security" and could not be shared.
"As a mosquito control district, we are under Homeland Security, which means everything has to be locked at all times," said Semmer.
While that site seems to be a no-go, Council members would still like this matter to be taken care of as soon as possible. They are eyeing a January move or at least a solution.
"If this No. 1 site in your mind can be worked out tomorrow or the day after, let's go for it and get it off (Bay Oaks) property," said Mandel at the Monday Council meeting.
In the meantime, two other measures to improve the present situation at the current site are being done immediately. Town officials have changed the pick-up times with Advanced Disposal so that their trucks are no longer coming while Beach Elementary students are walking to school or around the perimeter of the recreational campus. An odor-controlled Dumpster (which is located at another site on the island) is also being brought in to reduce the stench that lingers while youth sports are being played on the nearby ballfields.
"This is an interim step while we try to find a location," said Mandel.
Before the status report was provided, four community members voiced their concerns about the present location. A petition was also cited to be active.
"The Dumpsters are a hazard," said Bay Oaks Recreational Advisory Board Vice Chair Ray Sprole. "The kids don't want to play in the outfield."
"I hope Council considers our request to move these containers to another location," said Beach Little League President and Soccer Club President Rick Loughrey. "Our groups are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our children."
Bay Oaks concession stand volunteer and mother Annette Dwyer relayed a story about visiting parents asking what the smell was all about.
"It's a very embarrassing situation," she said.
These comments echoed other public input heard at the Council's prior meeting on Dec. 2, when Town officials were looking at fencing in the Dumpsters at the current location.
"We saw the fence project as making the Dumpster site more permanent -a step in the wrong direction," said Charlie Whitehead.
The other explored sites was left unnamed, since there are many factors as well as ecological concerns to be addressed. Councilman Bob Raymond brought up Black Island (located south of Fort Myers Beach) as one location he has thought about. That site may require authorization from officials in Bonita Springs and has ecological impacts as well.
The property which houses Town Hall is not an alternative, says Stewart. He spoke to the property manager and the request was denied. According to Stewart, San Carlos Island has not been explored, even if rumors say it has.
Traffic impact comes into play during tourist season. That issue needs to be considered when choosing a location.
"I just think we should give (Town staff) the ability to get out there and check out all the sites that seem appropriate and find one that is most centered to our public works guys," said Councilwoman Jo List.
"In order to honor your commitment to the residents that have raised this issue, we will do everything possible to cover the bases," added Stewart.