Superintendent Greg Adkins said he was "looking forward to building just an extraordinary structure for Bonita - a community flagship
Though the Board vote was unanimous at 5-0, public comment by 24 passionate people clearly showed the project remains controversial. Concerns were expressed over safety for the children, perceived environmental hazards and unwanted changes to the surrounding areas that are sure to come with the school.
One resident - Gus Marin - said he was concerned about noise, traffic and lights. The 64-year-old retiree says he bought his house in the area because he enjoys solitude and nature., He said the high school will crowd the streets and create too much noise.
"I hate it," he said after the meeting concluded.
Another resident wanted to know if board members were "aware that 19 sex offenders live within a 2 mile radius of the proposed building site."
Several used public comment to call attention to possible latent environmental hazards, including the one-time presence of asbestos.
In 2009, Posen Construction used approximately 2 acres of the site as a dumping site for old pipes. To address these two issues Roxanne Goss, a professional environmental engineer and certified asbestos consultant, spoke after public comment was concluded. She said the property was cleared "properly" and all "potentially hazardous material" was transported to a "qualified" dump site near Okeechobee and later certified as being clean. after subsequent testing.
According to Goss, American Management Resources Corporation (AMRC), located in Fort Myers, released a report in 2010 stating that the Imperial site was cleaned up in 2009 according to laws and statutes.
When School board member Jeanne Dozier asked her directly if the site was safe, Goss answered, "It is a safe site."
Several others who commented seemed to prefer that the Board build the school at an alternative site located near Bonita Grande but one area resident said “Wrong site, wrong price, just wrong”
Many other residents agreed and expressed the opinion that the Imperial Parkway location was "ideal" and praised the work that went into the process of selection.
Joe Ballario, called the site an "excellent choice" that would "work well for Bonita Springs."
Board member Cathleen Morgan said she "truly believed everyone involved in the process had done everything they could to ensure it was a healthy, safe site."
Morgan added that "it's about the kids and it's an exciting moment for the community."
Total costs to build the school will be $70.935 million and includes the land deal, architectural plans, permitting, construction and the entire interior of the school, like furniture and technology.
The cost will be met utilizing construction financing.
One public speaker George Fox, called the debt “a clear and present danger." but school board staff addressed his concern pointing out that they had compared the debt load with Broward County, a similarly sized school systems and found Lee County was actually less.
"Broward dedicates a greater percentage of their tax dollars to paying off equivalent debt than Lee County," one staff member told the Sun Bay.
Although Lee’s debt will increase, Adkins said it wouldn't diminish capital dollars raised from taxes.
"Right now our priority is to get soil testing completed to make sure the land is ready for buildings, said the Superintendent.
Adkins said a principal will probably be hired by September and that he hoped it would be someone with a "real vested interest in the Bonita community." —
He said he "hoped for a December groundbreaking and felt the site was close to ideal and unique for the community."
Christine Williams reporting from Bonita Springs