Most of the gathered public who spoke was with the business community, seeking both answers and relief regarding the traffic congestion caused by the installment of the new water system beneath the beachside of the boulevard.
”I have employees that have now quit me. “ Ken Dixon of Gulfview Manor Resort stated that traffic has been so bad that he was having trouble hiring and retaining people. He said he has had 16 people decline a job offer when they learned they have to fight traffic getting to Fort Myers Beach.
Other ways traffic disruptions are affecting business is by way of hindering trash pickup. Representatives from many locations, such as Dixon’s Gulfview Manor Resort as well as well as the Salty Crab, noted that trash disposal crews have difficulty entering and exiting properties around the crews working on the road. Another complexity is a Town ordinance that prevents trash pickup cannot start until after 6:30 in the morning, just a half hour before road construction begins every day.
Larry Wynberg of Advanced Disposal informed the Sun Bay Paper after the meeting that the Town would relax that ordinance for the duration of the project.
“They’re going to allow us to start picking up trash earlier,” Wynberg said.
Many questioned why construction couldn’t take place at night, and Kiker answered that it was a matter of keeping on schedule. “If they worked at night, this project takes three times as long.”
Scott Baker, Public Works Director of Fort Myers Beach, said that the old, fragile asbestos pipes they were digging around compounded the difficulty. “The pipe looks like sand we’re digging up.” Baker noted that the old pipes were hard enough to see in the day, and that each one of them that gets punctured during the replacement process means a boiled water notice for the town.
Another problem that members of Fort Myers Beach Public Works and the construction companies pointed out was the hodge-podge nature of the old pipe system, and the lack of historical documentation as to where it’s located.
“We have no mapping whatsoever,” Baker said about some of the old system.
More difficulties of working at night arise just by the loud nature of digging up parts of the street.
“Working at night, there is a lot of noise,” David Scafidi of Mitchell & Stark, a construction company working on the project, said.”Hotels, condos, and rentals are affected.”
Commissioner Kiker said after the meeting that the county would look to address the concerns of Fort Myers Beach’s business community, particularly in the way of financial assistance as well as the possibility of offering free parking to visitors, to offset the difficulty they have getting on the island.
The waterline replacement project, when completed, will roll right into the Estero Boulevard renovations planned to begin this fall.