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Town council tells Tetra Tech to drill down on stormwater

November 15, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

If the town doesn't want to increase the stormwater utility fee, it won't be able to accomplish a street-by-street stormwater system.

The town's fee is scheduled to pay off a loan of $16 million for a $20 million stormwater project by 2040. But based on the costs of construction and the amount of work needed, the town might only be able to fund 15 to 20 "hot" streets in addition to the required shared outfalls with Lee County.

Tetra Tech, the town's engineering consultant, and ReFresh Estero Boulevard staff presented a project update during Thursday's workshop. Part of the presentation was the completed 30 percent plan, a preliminary design plan that surveyed all the town's streets for stormwater needs. It set a list of criteria, such as flooding frequency and citizen complaints and level of service improved with a stormwater system in place. The criteria helped rank the streets in terms of need; twenty were identified as "hot" or critical need for stormwater alleviation.

"When people say their street doesn't flood, that's subjective," Brett Messner of Tetra Tech said. "This plan is objective only and gives you an objective look at these streets."

The 20 "hot" streets are: the bayside of Gulfview Avenue, Mandalay Road, Shell Mound Boulevard, Mid Island Drive, Bayland Road, Madison Court, Andre Mar Drive, Williams Drive; Dundee Road, Lauder Street, Mound Road, Dakota Avenue, Fairview Boulevard, Aberdeen Avenue, Lazy Way, Easy Street, Lagoon Road, Buccaneer Drive and Estrellita Drive. The total for addressing these streets' stormwater needs would be around $10.2 million.

The plan identified 12 streets as "unviable" because of their scores on the criteria as well as the $3.6 million price tag to complete them; 16 streets as functioning fine without work.

Fact Box

Resident reach-out

Fort Myers Beach residents in segment 2 and 3 of the Estero Boulevard project got an update Monday night to see what's coming.

Town staff and consultants Tetra Tech as well as ReFresh Estero Boulevard staff presented to around 20 residents to forewarn them. Segment 2's sanitary force main installation and utility relocations are near completion and it's nearly time to start the center lane storm drain.

"In December, the dreaded wall will be back for Segment 2," said Kaye Molnar, spokeswoman.

Some segment 2 joint outfall streets will start construction - Eucalyptus, Jefferson, and Donora.

Fran Myers, owner of Red Coconut, battled the town for use of the right-of-way on Donora, before agreeing to lease it from the town for her tenants to park. Last year, she paid the town $12,000; next year she's supposed to pay $17,000, but she's not sure if the construction will give her the parking she's paying for.

"I won't be using it," she said.

The probable streets for five joint outfalls in Segment 3 are Glenview Manor Drive, Dakota Avenue, Lazy Way, Aberdeen Avenue, and Mound Road. County-only outfalls are Madera Road, Driftwood Lane, Curlew Street and Ibis Street.

Other residents expressed confusion about Segment 3's joint outfalls and why they were chosen if they don't flood.

The joint outfalls can't be on streets that flood because the pipe-in-ground system has to be able to handle both Estero Boulevard runoff and the street's runoff without increasing the pipe size.

Molnar said they wanted to hold the meeting to get feedback before moving forward with the design.

That's not including the town's contribution to the joint outfalls on side streets that will carry stormwater from Estero Boulevard to the nearest outlet to the bay; those streets will cost an estimated $7.5 million.

The town's only borrowing $16 million, which will be repaid by the utility fee; the remaining $4 million is coming from other sources such as the gas tax.

"That's where your stormwater assessment fee will get you to, and pay off the debt, up to that number, then the train will come to a jarring halt," Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said. "The needs in this report vastly exceed that number."

Prioritization must go to the joint outfalls, which the town has committed to with the county and which are essential to the functionality of the Estero Boulevard system. What's left can go to the hot streets.

"We have to be honest if this is all we can get for the price," Council Member Joanne Shamp said.

Messner told council there are some "value engineering" measures that can be taken to lower the overall costs to include more streets. If a street floods only because one area is a problem, the stormwater system could be flexible to address that one problem area rather than putting a pipe all the way down the street. Streets that have semi-functional systems can also get at the least a backflow preventer.

Swales are also part of the cost-saving plan; Messner said the plans revealed a lot more swale usage than expected, although less than what was in the facilities plan as that plan was created without a full island survey. The high water table makes implementing swales difficult on Fort Myers Beach; the trough of the swale has to be higher than the water table so the water has somewhere to go. But Messner said many streets already have swales that just need to be reclaimed after being filled in over the years.

Council asked Tetra Tech to drill down on the 20 hot streets and find out where value engineering could be implemented to save money that could then be spent on more streets, with no need to raise the utility fee.

Hernstadt is hopeful the lobbyist he suggested in the 2017-2018 budget will help the town get state funding in the way of grants, which could ease financial strain.

"You're going to be faced with prioritization and having more streets that need to be done than you have money to solve the problem," he said.



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