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Town hall delves into area’s issues

April 10, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Water quality and getting top-notch businesses to come to North Fort Myers were among the topics Wednesday as the North Fort Myers Civic Association and the Design & Review and Planning Panel presented its annual town hall meeting at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center.

More than 50 people gathered in the meeting room for two hours of guest speakers and discussion on a variety of topics, the latter of which was missing from last year's meeting as the guest speakers took up all the time.

Among the featured speakers were County Commissioner Brian Hamman, John Talmadge of the Economic Development Office, and North Fort Myers Fire Control & Rescue District Chief David Rice, followed by the question-and-answer period.

With the speakers on a time limit, they couldn't delve into many topics. Hamman spent the bulk of his time talking about water quality and his visit to Lake Okeechobee last week with President Donald Trump.

With last year's algae bloom still fresh on the minds of legislatures, Hamman said the effort to keep that from happening again has been taken up at the state and federal levels.

There are 67 projects planned in the Everglades Restoration Program, which are expected to cost up to $20 billion to complete and, while Hamman said the state has been trying to do its part in sharing the costs, the federal government has lagged behind.

That tide could be turning, as a contract has been signed to build the long-awaited C43 reservoir, which will help provide water flow during the dry season, with the cost estimated at $300 million.

Also, the Herbert Hoover Dike, which has been steadily deteriorating, is going to be renovated on a faster time frame, with completion set for 2022.

Hamman also shared the new things coming locally

"We're also putting up a new library. We have a new community pool and they're doing so much over sat Merchant's Crossing," Hamman said. "I've spoken to the owner at Hancock Bridge Square and I'm setting up a meeting with him to make him aware of the pilot program."

Talmadge, who has been serving the North Fort Myers community for about two months, said he believes things are slowly improving, with 337 new businesses, mostly locally owned and home-based, and 865 new homes, most in the Entrada community.

However, with the unique flavor of the area, with its many different communities, economic development can be a challenge.

"We need to have a flair for our hometown and its communities. All parts of North Fort Myers have different personalities and they need to be curated in special ways," Talmadge said.

Talmadge also said that they are working on finding a replacement for the now-closed Winn-Dixie at Weaver's Corner and the redevelopment of that plaza, as well as the other major ones.

Rice talked about the state of the fire department, what it has done and what it hopes to do in the future. A representative from the Lee County Sheriff's Office was unable to attend.

That left more time for a Q&A. Among the topics brought up was the need for softball fields and how they could bring more money to the area.

Holly Marth, one of the few Bayshore residents at the meeting, brought up the need for more streetlights, following the recent death in Cape Coral of an eight-year-old girl who was struck by a vehicle at her bus stop.

"I go down Pine Island Road, and there, as well as the street off it, they are so dark you can't see anyone," another resident said.

Marth, as well as Bruce Vanderveen, said another issue is how semitrucks fly off of Bayshore Road, already congested with traffic, and onto I-75.

"We can't they redo that and make them cloverleafs?" Vanderveen asked. "I go down that way to and the traffic is insane."

Hamman said while there wasn't much he could do about the ramps at Bayshore, he said he would meet with the Municipal Planning Organization and the Lee County School District about bus stop safety.



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