Less than one month after a lightning storm fatality occurred along the beachfront on Estero Island, a Town of Fort Myers Beach advisory board continued ongoing discussions about the viability of a lightning warning system to protect residents and visitors from future incidents.
The Town Public Safety Committee is assembling information to be used as a presentation during a proposed Sept. 15 joint workshop with the FMB Town Council. The committee, which has listened to three different proposals for lightning protection, hopes the presentation will happen at the second Council workshop in September.
"I like the idea of having a longer session with Council to discuss this matter," said Safety Committee member Al Durrett.
Public input speaker Erleene Sanders speaks on behalf of lightning detection systems. She, like Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros and the consensus of the Town Public Safety Committee, likes WeatherBug by Earth Networks system.
The Fish Tale Marina co-owner brought up lightning detection roughly 10 to 12 months ago. He had been investigating lightning measures at his business prior to having it added it to the safety committee agenda. Previous discussion has involved viability and cost. Liability, jurisdiction and enforcement may also be examined.
Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros, current liaison of the advisory board to Council, has stated the committee's overall preference on lightning warning leans toward WeatherBug by Earth Networks. Erleene Sanders, who is a proponent of lightning detection systems, also pitched WeatherBug during public comment.
"I encourage you to continue on your mission to make your parks and recreational facilities and our beaches secure for our visitors, our citizens and, most importantly, our children," she said. "We have a lot of people who come to Lee County from other parts of the world who don't understand the significance of a lightning storm. I think it is our responsibility as people who do know there are consequences to be proactive in their defense. I think it is a irresponsible decision not to take this action."
While the beachfronts are under Lee County jurisdiction, Durrett still sees lightning warning to be a Town project.
"Our beach(front), to me, is a park where people go to," he said. "If Lee County (doesn't) do this, I believe that Fort Myers Beach can take on the responsibility and figure out how to afford this project in the budget."
Safety Committee Vice Chair Jim Wray agreed.
"We passed this recommendation in May. We should proceed," he said.
Hosafros previously stated if beachfront locations are found impractical, she would like to see a lightning alert system go up at Bay Oaks, the noted Beach playground for ballgames, tennis matches, activities and a rental space for out-of-town athletes who play tournaments there.
"I am the one that is really advocating that we really need it at Bay Oaks if nothing else," she said earlier. "You have kids out there playing ball, and they are out in the middle of a big field. My position is if we have to pull back from a total beach coverage, I think we still need to do it with Bay Oaks."
Committee members expect to fine tune the details on the future presentation when they hold a separate work session on Friday, Sept. 5, at 9 a.m.
Emergency plan needs shorter version
The Safety Committee has been tasked with creating a shorter version -a brief executive summary- of the Town's 174-page Emergency Operations Plan. The undertaking has become quite burdensome, says Hosafros.
"In starting this project, this turned into a nightmare. I have found that our long version of this plan contains lots of inaccuracy, things that need to be changed and found problems in our code book that are related to emergency operations," she said.
Hosafros told committee members she recently completed her compilation of a condensed version of an emergency plan. The shorter EOP draft, which has been shorten to 19 pages (less than 6,000 words) with index references to the longer version, has been sent to each committee member via email to be reviewed. She is seeking suggestions to further tighten or change content.
"If you are reading this plan and notice that parts of it don't look like the other plan, that's because I made changes in it," she said. "It made references to ordinances that have been on appeal, so I changed the ordinance number. It made references to hotels that are no longer existing, so I changed it."
Hosafros is calling the document a "first draft summary version" of the plan. She believes the long version also needs attention.
"It has problems," she said. "We are going to have to do an ordinance proposal to the Council that coincides with the new plan."
There are two different emergency successions of Council in the plan, says Hosafros. One deals with sequential hierarchy for declaring the emergency, while the other with the aftermath of the emergency.
Individual committee review of the executive summary draft is being urged as soon as possible. Hosafros would like to work on it prior to next Safety Committee meeting, which is slated for Wednesday, Sept. 10.
If anyone would like to review the full Town emergency operations plan, go to www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov and click on icon "For Islanders." Click on "The Basic Plan and Annexes A-1" to get plan.
Crosswalks: costs and requests
Two requests that deal with crosswalks have been brought to the attention of the Public Safety Committee.
Officials at Lahaina Inn Resort at 5580 Estero Blvd. have requested that a crosswalk be placed in front of its main building area. The business has buildings on both side of the street.
Lahaina Inn Resort officials have offered to allow a trolley pull-off on its property if the action is completed.
"We are always willing to talk to property owners that may be willing to donate the space necessary to accommodate a trolley pull-off," said Lee County DOT's Rob Phelan. "What we have to do is to take a look at where that location is in relation to existing stops or proposed stops to see if it consistent with the 30 percent plans that we've developed and where locations that LeeTran wants stops to be located in."
Management/ownership at Outrigger Beach Resort at 6200 Estero Blvd. has requested something to be added to an existing crosswalk at the Bahia Via intersection that connects their Gulf-side property to businesses (like Charley's Boat House Grill, SunStream Realty and 7-11 store) on the east end of the boulevard.
The issue was raised because two deaths have occurred there in the past 26 years, says Outrigger's Jeanne Bigos. The issue appears to be a nighttime problem, due to poor street lighting associated with sea turtle regulations and involves a sweeping corner adjacent to the Catholic Church of the Ascension.
Three rectangular rapid flashing beacon devices have been installed at south end island locations already. Action at the requested crosswalk may not involve an RRFB.
"We want to install them at appropriate locations. We don't want to see a proliferation of these devices up and down Estero Boulevard or anywhere the County for that matter," said Phelan. "The more you use them, the more you degrade the effectiveness of them."