Another year is upon us. That means assessments, projections, improvements, resolutions, issues and projects are in the 12-month plan for the Fort Myers Beach Town Council.
Mayor Alan Mandel is entering his 12th month in the Council lead role, after becoming "acting" mayor in February 2013 then officially mayor in March during a Council reorganization. Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski, who is up for re-election in March, Councilman Dan Andre and Council members Bob Raymond and Jo List (both of whom will complete their two-term limit in March) round out the democratically elected board for the small municipality.
Mandel is most pleased that the simultaneous potable water and storm water infrastructure projects began before the new year. The year 2013 also produced an economic lift for the Beach and its residents.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council is facing 2014 with many long-awaited projects begun or lined up. Pictured are (l to r) Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski and Mayor Alan Mandel.
"It's great to see that the infrastructure projects are underway," he said. "I think it's also great that we've seen an upturn in property values, and that we've been able to hold tax rates nearly constant over the past four years. I think that's all positive."
One major project in the future months of 2014 is the start of the actual re-construction of the long-awaited Estero Boulevard Improvements Project - a job that should increase safety on the Beach's main road with the additions of sidewalks on both sides of the street, bike lanes and better lighting.
While it may not be a traffic-improver, the project for the Lee County-owned road is much anticipated.
"I would think at some point during the second half of the year, it is very likely the work on Estero Boulevard would begin," said Mandel.
The Beach mayor mentioned Town officials have not received a schedule on the road work from County officials as of yet. It also has not been decided where the project will begin -the south end of the island or just south of Lani Kai Beach Resort has been discussed- but five of the six plotted-out segments of the project have been financially approved for $50 million. That will possibly leave a portion from the base of Matanzas Pass Bridge south through what was formerly known as Seafarer's area left for much discussion.
"They will have to plan, design and fund that last segment during the next period of time," said Mandel. "That segment should be one-half to one mile from the base of the bridge."
While that main road project is essentially in the hands of County officials, the Beach infrastructure projects on the seven-mile-long island are being tackled by Town officials, consultants and construction crews. NOTE: All improvements for the Town-owned North Estero Boulevard (from Old San Carlos to Bowditch Park) are complete, leaving roughly six miles of work to be done.
Contractor Mitchell & Stark Construction Company has begun Phase 1 work of the Beach Waterline Replacement Project in the Basin Based Neighborhood then will continue on Bay Beach Lane and Laguna Shores. Construction activities include surveying, trenching to install new and same-sized waterlines and water mains, drainage system work and post-construction restoration.
Work began on the bayside of Mango Street. Other streets in the Basin Based Neighborhood include Tropical Shores Way, Fairweather Lane, Delmar Avenue, Pearl Street, Bayview Drive, Chapel Street, Cottage Avenue, Virgina Avenue, Palm Avenue, Ohio Avenue, Miramar Street, Avenue E, Ostego Drive and Carolina Avenue.
"We have started that work because of the grant from FEMA ($646,000, is based on an April 2014 completion date)," said Mandel. "When we do Estero Boulevard, the Town will be handling the storm water phases for the County."
Council hopes to expand infrastructure work on other side streets as well. The funding mechanism is being analyzed by Government Services Group, a company that has been approved to do such work.
"One of the tasks of Council will be the funding of the remainder of the storm water work that has to be done," Mandel said. "Our consultant is preparing the data for the basis of the funding."
The aforementioned unfunded segment of the Estero Boulevard Improvements Project is being delayed due to ongoing negotiations with interested parties about the vacant land and buildings in that area.
According to Mandel in his guest commentary on page 8 of this issue, the County and the Town have agreed the former Seafarer Building and nearby Helmerich properties "should be developed for the highest and best use" with "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."
Other important issues expected to be tackled in 2014 is the completion of the Mound House project, Mound Key annexation and Times Square rehabilitation, a project that involves an engineering firm nearly finished with its task and Town staff close to being ready for a meeting with affected business owners by mid-February, according to Town records.
"There has been talk of putting some of the infrastructure outside of that area," said Mandel, referring to Time Square. "Of course, the timing of the project will be important. We'll have to figure out how to do that without disruption."
Other issues to be addressed include aircraft noise, Town codes and beach nourishment to name a few. While The Beach mayor may have two to three new Council members to work with come March, he has enjoyed his time with the present Council.
"This Council is a great group of people to work with," he said. "We may not always agree, but I think we have been a very civil group. Along with Town staff and our Town attorney, I think we will become more accomplished in this next year."