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Council won’t get 30 percent plans before next stormwater vote

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

In January, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council voted nay against funding a 30 percent survye and design plan for the rest of the island's stormwater.

In March, the council reversed that decision, unanimously voting to approve a street-by-street survey and 30 percent design by Tetra Tech to get a birds-eye view of the town's stormwater needs.

It was an about-face urged by Tetra Tech and town staff, with both staffs hailing this plan as a vital tool for making stormwater decision in the future.

But despite that urgency, the council was told Monday it won't be getting that plan until October - and it will be asked to vote on several steps in stormwater project at its Sept. 4 meeting.

"I expected that 30 percent before they were going to ask us to do anything else," Vice Mayor Tracey Gore said.

Tetra Tech's Brett Messner said the timeline was always to have the plan to the council in October, but the council disagreed.

Fact Box

Plastic straw ban moves forward

Council voted 5-0 to move the ordinance banning plastic straws on the beach to its second public hearing. Debate to make the ordinance even more stringent preceded the vote, and council agreed allowable straws should be limited to those that qualified as compostable - meaning, after a period of decomposition, completely breaks down and eliminates any plastic pieces from surviving.

The town attorney Jack Peterson clarified that this ordinance applies to the straws used both at bars and restaurants as well as those sold in convenience stores. Prepackaged food items that are not prepared on the beach, such as a juice box with the attached straw, are not a part of the ban.

Council Member Bruce Butcher and Vice Mayor Tracey Gore said the town should go further and only allow paper straws, but were assuaged when environmental technician Rae Burns said the compostable option means the plastic totally breaks down and all major suppliers such as Cisco and CBI carry this option.

"Our beach and Gulf are suffering greatly from plastic pollution," Council Member Joanne Shamp said. "This is very important and I hope other communities will do this."

"I don't call people out but I was curt ... asking where is this plan," said Council Member Anita Cereceda said. "I believed we were getting this plan at this meeting. It's monumentally important."

The plan was set to give a basic outline to the council about the town's right of ways, hot streets and potential areas to use swales rather than in-ground pipes, which are more costly.

The council received a stormwater update presentation at Monday's meeting; no action was required, but the action is forthcoming.

Tetra Tech and Public Works Director Scott Baker told the council they would be bringing forward time-sensitive items for the council to vote on at the Sept. 4 meeting.

Phase 2's first four joint outfalls, Eucalyptus, Jefferson, Hercules and Bayview Avenue, received permits from the Army Corps of Engineers on Aug. 7, and construction can begin in early October. These are the outfalls the town will share with the county for stormwater management.

Phase 2, Lovers Lane to Madera Lane, needs four more joint outfalls: Bay Road, Donora Boulevard, Connecticut Street and Bay Mar Drive, with an estimated cost of $3.9 million. That figure includes $1.9 million to put in the town's new waterlines concurrently and $1.9 for stormwater. The county will contribute $290,000 toward these four outfalls per the town-county interlocal agreement.

TetraTech staff and Baker told the council it needed to approve these next four outfalls in September so that the Army Corps permits for these streets could be submitted Oct. 1.

as it can take nine months for approval.

Staff presented the suggestions for Phase 3's outfalls and also said the locations needed to be approved at the September meeting to begin designing the work so construction could start Fall 2018. The recommended locations were Madera, Driftwood, Curlew and Ibis would be the candidates for county-only outfalls and Williams/Glenview Manor, Dakota/Palmetto, Lazy Way, Aberdeen/Lauder/Dundee and Mound were suggested for town-only outfalls.

That pressure was met with disapproval due to the timeline for the 30 percent plan.

Shamp said she had an "ah-ha" moment looking through the stormwater information, and was concerned that of the joint outfalls, only two of the town's "hot streets," or streets that flood severely, will be jointly built with the county. She also said she didn't think the interlocal agreement with the county, in which the county agreed to pay up to $20,000 per joint outfall, was sufficient any longer.

"Why should Fort Myers Beach residents be paying 96 percent for the rest of these joint outfalls?" she said. "This is no longer a cooperative agreement financially."

However, joint outfalls are designed to take in stormwater from both Estero Boulevard and the residential, town-owned street. The pipe system used for these outfalls has to remain at 30 inches. Pipes bigger than a 30-inch diameter have to be more stringently monitored and maintained because they will dump more runoff into the Back Bay. The town has to monitor the island's discharge annually to follow Natural Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) standards, which are regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and a bigger pipe would require more frequent monitoring.

A "hot" street is not a good candidate for a joint outfall because the street is already overloaded, Tetra Tech's Danny Nelson said in a previous Observer article. The outfall has to be able to handle both the influx from Estero Boulevard and the residential street.

Cereceda said the council shouldn't be honing in on one particular street because the stormwater project is an island-wide system that has to work together. She expressed her support for the project and the interlocal agreement.

"More money is being spent here than any other part of the county," she said. "I want the county to know I believe we are in a cooperative relationship. I don't look at this project as any street, it's the entire island. It's systematic construction. Of course it's expensive, it's a stormwater project."

She did tell staff to step it up and finish the 30 percent plan.

"I want to see you working 24/7 on that plan," she said. "It's instrumental that you provide that information to us."



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