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Taxes, elevated pools, development, oil funds

August 26, 2015
By Tracey Gore , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Chuck Bodenhafer's guest commentary last week was on point, and I want to add some historical perspective to his comments.


In 2011, Mayor Kiker and FMB Council (including Alan Mandel) rolled back the millage rate BUT ADDED a 10 percent Public Service Tax to our monthly electric bill to replace the rollback loss. If current council raises the mileage rate, they should drop the 10 percent Public Service Tax. This Public Service Tax is in addition to the Communication Tax Chuck wrote about in his letter.


Chuck mentioned the elevated pool setback fiasco (under Mayor Alan Mandel) which the three current elected councilwoman inherited. The current council voted 3 to 2 (Summer & Anita dissenting) to a huge $250,000 settlement of taxpayer money (plus legal fees) that was paid to a group of investors. It generated significant negativity. This happened because town staff permitted something against our codes. It is documented that Mayor Alan Mandel's council was made aware of the code violation by residents shortly after the permit was issued, but unfortunately they let it go until the deck was built.

After the expensive settlement, there remains an elevated pool on Palermo that was mentioned in the special meetings to have been built against code, yet the town has never dealt with despite Councilwoman Summer Stockton's efforts. Chuck is correct that Lee County staff would NOT have approved it. They questioned the town staff several times, yet the town staff administratively permitted the elevated pool setback too close to the canal against their advice and our code.


Many agree with Chuck about working with Lee County to provide Land Development services. After incorporation, the town DID contracted with Lee County to do these services as we share much of the same code. Our in-house staff was intended to be government light. Sometime in late 2010/early 2011, under Mayor Kiker, town manager Terry Stewart (and councilman Alan Mandel), the town brought more Community Development staff in-house. Chuck is correct that FMB town staff grew under that council, and will continue to grow and cost us more money if we don't contract it back out.

Worse yet, the increased staff has brought increased problems by not following our codes. The problems include the elevated pool setback violation, a 100-foot dock permitted in the navigational channel (now on its third revision), temporary parking lots permitted against code, the need to interpret the word "may" after a permit was issued, lack of accurate information from staff to LPA and Council at public hearings to mention a few. The town tried in-house - it is NOT working! Councilwoman Stockton has brought up contracting back to Lee County. It is ironic that this administration seeks more code enforcement money for the violations its staff is allowing.


Chuck is correct that our Town of Fort Myers Beach representatives made the decision to not apply for any of the allocated BP Oil Spill funds. It wasn't just this council - THREE separate councils and two different town managers made the decision not to apply for funds. This includes Mayor Larry Kiker/Manager Stewart and council (including Alan Mandel); Mayor Mandel/Manager Stewart/Manager Stilwell and council; and recently Mayor Cereceda/Manager Stilwell and present council. The deadline to file was June 2015.

Councilwoman Stockton recently requested that the Town Manager find out how much money Lee County claimed they lost in revenue generated by the Town of Fort Myers Beach. The town should be eligible to receive some of that!

While I agree with most of Chuck's comments, history shows that the problems that began with other councils and administrations continue. Our elected Councils must stop protecting and defending their town managers' staff and get back to protecting the constituents by following our Comp Plan and Land Development Codes. So many problems with code violations could have been avoided if the councils would listen to the input of the constituents who put them in office.

Next March, we need to elect two residents who know our codes and comp plan and who will protect our island from turning into a cookie-cutter resort island whose sole value is a revenue source for Lee County and other organizations who profit without regard for those who have chosen to live here.

We are a strong island community with a unique fishing village atmosphere. We incorporated to protect that character - the ambiance that makes us not only a top destination for tourists while remaining an amazing place to safely live and raise a family.

Tracey Gore is a resident of Fort Myers Beach.



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