By Alan Mandel
As Mayor, I wish you all a Happy New Year.
I am pleased to provide a status report on projects initiated by prior Councils and those undertaken by your current Council and Staff.
- Potable Water: The potable water project, underway on Mango Street, will replace all pipes to deliver safe water to our residents and guests. In addition, water pressure should be improved for both residents and our Fire Department. See the Town website for information and updates.
- Storm Water: Developing and funding a storm water system has started for both Town side streets and the County controlled Estero Blvd. The goals: eliminate the flood conditions on our streets following heavy rains, and treat the runoff water before it re-enters our canals and bay.
- Estero Boulevard: The County Commission, led by former Mayor and now Chair, Larry Kiker, approved work on Estero Boulevard. Five segments, from the draw bridge on the south to about Crescent on the north will be improved. The goal is to model the sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping already completed by the Town on North Estero.
- Mound House: The grants awarded by the State will enable completion of Mound House. The excavated room, kayak building and grounds are complete. Work is ongoing to complete the Observation Deck and house restoration. An international conference is envisioned this year celebrating both the opening of Mound House and VIVA 500 Florida.
- Seafarer Site: The Seafarer site includes not only the former Seafarer Building, but also the Helmerich properties. Both the County and the Town have agreed this property should be developed for the highest and best use; possibly a public private partnership which could improve traffic flow, eliminate pedestrian/auto conflicts, maintain the view corridor from the bridge and contribute to the Town's tax base.
- Mound Key: The Town is considering the annexation of Mound Key and neighboring islands. Mound Key is culturally related to Mound House as residences of the Calusa Indians. Mound Key will enhance educational tourism on our Island as well as contribute to a potential reduction of FEMA flood insurance rates for our residents. Negotiations are ongoing with the property owners and the State of Florida. The Town envisions the property as a passive park for people along The Great Calusa Blueway and kayakers from Mound House.
- Tax Rates: Taxes and number of Town employees have been held fairly constant over the last four years. Property values this year turned up for the first time during this period. Taking a long term view, the Town has started to fund a Capital Improvements Plan.
Council and Staff have moved many projects from plan to implementation. The year ahead has opportunities and challenges in which we are prepared to engage. Future articles will focus on Federal issues, beach nourishment, and updating Town codes.
Alan Mandel is the Mayor of the Town of Fort Myers Beach and a Beach resident.