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Guest Opinion: Estero Community Bridge: Here is the rest of the story

December 19, 2018
By Cecil L. Pendergrass , North Fort Myers Neighbor

First, I would like to thank Don Eslick for his past efforts to improve our great community. Don, along with thousands of others, volunteer their time to help our community and the families who live here.

That is why Lee County is such a great place to live and work!

During my years as a Lee County Commissioner, it has been my calling as a public servant and watchdog, to shed light on bad policy decisions from the past, such as Algenol and VR Labs. I was elected to serve and represent ALL residents of Lee County and I believe we should recognize those who make a positive impact on our community, but not at the expense of taxpayers and for political payback.

As a private citizen in 2012, I witnessed the Lee County Board change the name, the Estero Parkway Bridge, to the Don Eslick Bridge. I did not understand how a public bridge, built for and paid for by all taxpayers, could legally and ethically be dedicated to a political donor and activist who was still alive. Over the years, many residents throughout the community questioning this action have approached me. They cannot comprehend why one individual can represent a multi-million dollar structure that services all residents and was paid for by all residents of Lee County. I agree and look forward to providing transparency and sharing with the public just exactly how this action came to fruition.

It was brought to my attention during a past meeting with residents and staff from Miromar Lakes, their community actually paid a $15 million dollar share cost for the bridge construction and was never recognized. This past year and as Chairman of the Board, I was provided a copy of the Florida State Statute that forbids the naming of public facilities, such as Roads, Bridges, Parks, etc. after a living person. I believe this Law was created to protect you and me as taxpayers from career politicians taking advantage and using public funds for political gain and payback. I will not go into the gross details of others' actions, but I will say that the action taken on November 6, 2012 (election day) is very troublesome. Since then, some groups have recognized Don Eslick as an advocate of the community, for which he is worthy. Plaques and letters are great ways to commemorate one's impact, but not at the expense of well over $30 million in public tax dollars. While some view Mr. Eslick as a proponent for Lee County, others can note him as an opponent. Don has cost the Lee County taxpayers millions of dollars by joining a group of individuals in multiple lawsuits against Lee County taxpayers. Though the County successfully prevailed in every lawsuit brought on by Mr. Eslick, we the taxpayers have been on the hook for millions of dollars as a result. These public dollars could have otherwise been utilized in a more prudent manner benefitting the whole community and not just that of a special interest group and their own personal agenda.

Now, Commissioner Frank Mann states that he is embarrassed because he did not understand a clear request for action and for which he voted in favor during a public Board meeting. Commissioner Mann is now rescinding his "yay" vote, which ultimately recognizes ALL the citizens of Estero. It is most unfortunate that he clearly deems the support from his campaign donor, Don Eslick, more worthy of this recognition. Contrary to Commissioner Mann's remarks, the information for the agenda was presented to the whole County Commission the day before the Board meeting. During discussion of the item, Commissioner Mann even asked why the need for the changing of the name and my response was crystal clear: Why name the bridge after one person when we can name it after the whole Estero Community and build bridges with our Estero residents? I would like to thank the Board members who join me in celebrating the whole Estero community and follow State Law when making sound policy decisions. Again, I would like to thank everyone that makes a difference in Lee County for his or her service and I will continue to serve ALL equally.

- Cecil L. Pendergrass

Lee County Commission District 2



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