2020 Fort Myers Candidate Responses

Calusa Waterkeeper (CWK) has serious concerns as to the condition and capacity of the Fort Myers sewage system. There have been repeated documented breaches of the City’s sewage system. These sewage spills endanger public health and exposes the City’s liability. In July/August 2020, Calusa Waterkeeper polled candidates for office in the City of Fort Myers regarding these issues. You can view the full questionnaire here and find their subsequent responses below.

City of Fort Myers Mayor

Kevin B Anderson

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
We need to be aggressively proactive in identifying the source of fecal indicator bacteria in order to develop a plan to reduce the level of FIB in our local tributaries. Both Billy’s Creek and Manuals Branch are not only recreational but empty into the Caloosahatchee River. I will place this issue on the council agenda for discussion and action.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
I have worked with staff to post warning signs and will continue to advocate for additional signage.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
Absolutely. I am disappointed that the pan has not been updated and will direct the city manager to have staff complete an update. If need be I will place this issue on the council agenda for discussion and action.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
Once the plan is updated I will direct the city manager to have staff present the council with the plan for implementation.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
I have met with representative from Calusa Water Keepers in the past and will always be available to meet with them in the future.

Gaile Anthony

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
The City Continues to follow all Protocols established by the State of Florida. If this process needs to be improved we need to continuously look at the process for outcomes


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
This needs to be monitored by City-County and State Agencies on a daily basis. A schedule should be provided Publicly as to who is monitoring each day


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
I am pushing to move up all City Utility replacement plans with a new schedule. I have asked the City Manager to provide a priority MAP to the Council and Citizens this week. Our major goal will be to replace all aged infrastructure to prevent Spills and to give the Council a Monitoring schedule of current spots that could fail and flow into our Creeks and River. I am pushing to have a plan and grants to remove all septic tanks as soon as possible (99) currently in the City limits.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
I have already stated I am calling for this Plan to be made a Capital Priority with areas identified and a Time line for each project and for a Map that the Council and Citizens can follow.The Council is getting a weekly update of Current project progress.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
Getting CWKs input is vital – “Together We Are Better”

Jacquelyn D McMiller

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
The city has failed to acknowledge the impact of human waste as the primary contributor to water sources. As an example, the city continues to blame the river for the contamination in Billy’s Creek when it is clear that it has nothing to do with tidal flow. Source testing is critical, however an aggressive approach to fixing the outdated sewage system is the only long term solution. As the Mayor of Fort Myers, I will lead the effort of pursuing federal, state and institutional sources for grants, funding and loans so that we can address the neglect and disrepair that is a result of not choosing to make clean water a priority.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
By not informing of the dangerous toxicity of our lakes, ponds and streams, the city is exposing citizens directly, and that can open Fort Myers to liability, such as being in violation of the Clean Water Act. By giving away revenue sources to developers and encouraging sprawl, the next generation is left to pick up the tab. As Mayor, we will expect developers to contribute to the impact they have on city services and those dollars will be used as intended, to update our outdated sewage and water systems. I will make environmental safety a top priority for the city.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
The last Sewer Master Plan from 2005 has several outstanding recommendations that have not been followed to date. Currently, Fort Myers has an RFQ posted for the development of the next Master Plan (RFQ #0025-20). As Mayor, I would be paying particular attention to the process of selecting a credible and qualified source. The ball is already rolling on this, however this must be a comprehensive plan that accounts for growth and not a political document. Thus, I will require this process to include the input of environmental experts familiar with the problems of the area.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
Repairing our outdated sewer infrastructure is among the highest priorities for the City of Fort Myers. Inaction and procrastination led to this, therefore, action and leadership is needed to lead us out. As Mayor, we will add resources by pursuing resources that we are not tapping into. There is funding from The Clean Waterways Act, FEMA’s Flood mitigation assistance program, Florida Resilient Coastlines Program (FRCP) and by designating the north east of the city as rural we can apply for the USDA Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program and the Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program. This will mean prioritizing migration from septic to sewer systems, major leak sites and shoring up the infrastructure to maintain flow.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
Our city is fortunate to have several environmental experts that are intimately familiar with the problems that we face, how we got here and how to fix it. As Mayor, I will depend upon the advice of experts in planning and implementation. I look forward to meeting with CWK and learning more about the solutions we develop together.

City of Fort Myers Ward 2

Johnny Streets

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
More testing more often. Better protection of our environment.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
Transparency is key to the public


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
Bringing it before Mayor and Councilperson at our second Council Meeting in August 2020.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
I would make a commitment for it to be one of Initiatives priority.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
As soon as possible to learn more and continue to be a voice for the cause. Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of the CALUSA WATERKEEPER Organization. If I can be of any further assistance please call on me. Again, thanks for your dedication.

Anthony Thomas, Jr

Has not responded

City of Fort Myers Ward 4

Connie Bennett-Martin

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
The city has already spent large amounts of money to mitigate the damage but not create a solution. About 10 years ago, the city spent over $2,000,000 to add a filter marsh for Billy’s Creek and around $100,000 to maintain this. This does not fix the issue. We need source tracing for the city and into the county waterway to determine where the contaminants are coming from and how we can best stop or control the issue.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
One of the reasons that I am running is because during a city council meeting, they spent quite a bit of time debating whether a sign needed to be posted at Billy’s Creek to warn kayakers of the contamination. This is a public safety issue and should have been presented with a plan of action and not left up to council members to determine “appropriate notice”, this should have followed the advice of the experts and simply needed approval. At no time during that meeting, was there discussion on repairing the issues. Signage needs to not be minimal nor tucked away on the sides of bridges where residents may not see. Signage should be posted appropriately along the waterway and at access points. Notifications (with current details) would need to go out to all neighboring residents/businesses, not a one time notice but at least monthly or bimonthly until the issue is resolved. In addition to clear and complete site specific signage, the city should utilize press, social media and their call/text database to alert nearby residents of any new issues or dangers.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
The lift station has Manuel’s Branch failed dumping over 200,000 gallons of raw sewage into the creek that runs through a residential neighborhood and connects with the Caloosahatchee. If a master plan had been in place and acted upon, these type of issues could be prevented. I have confidence that with me as part of a new and more resident-focused council, we will move in the right direction to address these issues. The city’s growth has been without any critical look at the overall planning or infrastructure capacity. As a result, our water supply, storm and sewer systems have all suffered. There needs to be an update of the plan that addresses honestly the errors in the past and council needs to commit to follow the new plan.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
We need to prioritize the critical health and safety needs of our existing residents and not building out infrastructure for future development. If that slows growth, then that is what needs to happen. I would leave it to the experts to tell us where the most critical need is to be addressed, taking into account pollutants, residents, business, and environmental impact.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
As a trustee with the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, I well understand that our environment is key to maintaining SWFL’s quality of life and economy. Nothing is more precious to us than clean and sustainable water for our natural

Liston "Lin" Bochette

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
Clean water is one of the fundamental resources a community and its people depend on for sustenance. There is no margin of error in this field. Testing procedures must be in line with the agencies empowered to oversee such matters. In addition the City if Fort Myers, along with the County and State authorities should work in concert for the benefit of our citizenry.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
All standardized health alerts must follow established protocols for public awareness. The City in harmony with the testing services and health professionals are obligated to provide protection. Regular reports to the City Council will aid in holding the system accountable.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
Yes. City Council can direct the City Manger to prioritize this and dedicate the appropriate staff to the endeavor.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
The updated plan must entail delivery dates for each step. It is incumbent on the water quality specialist to provide input and advise for the calendar design. Council can act on the recommendations of the professionals tasked with this duty. Should the process slow down or be delayed the Council can take action to amend or expedite the process. The plan would call for addressing the most serious issues which affect public health first without sacrificing any other ongoing water quality directives.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
Being a great support of environmental matters I would look forward to meeting.

Jerry Miller
Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
Yes this is critical. I have done my own testing in Billy’s Creek (sanders Labs) but there are so many possible sources of contamination in the Calusa and Billy’s Creek testing protocols are critical . Also as Billys Creek is a tidal area nearby the Mouth to the Caloosahatchee tests can be inconsistent.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
Need to coordinate this signage with DOH


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
I was informed that the city is currently working to update the Master Plan in the 2020/2021 time frame. This is certainly a priority for me.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
As past President of the Friends of Billy’s Creek and also previous Board of Trustees member of the Calusa Nature Center
I have met and discussed for the past 12 years with the DEP, SWFMD, Calusa Waterkeepers, RiverWatch and other professionals organizations regarding water quality as it is a deep concern of mine. I recently sent to the Governor Ron Desantis a letter/ presentation on the importance of receiving the $1,000,000 grant for Billy’s Creek restoration/dredging legacy sediments (there was also funding for City of Fort Myers Septic Tank Abandonment and Midtown water qualty ) . I was advised by the city that my letter and back up was among the best of the grass roots campaign for this funding. This letter is available upon your request.

Chauncey Solinger

Has not responded

City of Fort Myers Ward 6

Darla Betzer Bonk

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
Water is a critical priority and Sawyer Smith yells (jokingly) at me all the time about the importance of this. I grew up here and my parents live on McGregor across from Whiskey Creek in the home I grew up in. We have to get to the day when we can feel safe to drink the water, swim in the water and bathe our babies in the water.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
This hasn’t been done in so long – it has to be done! A corporation wouldn’t get away with this so why would we let a city do this.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes

Diana Giraldo

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
Developing and documenting these type of protocols will allow the city to set goals and priorities to address the issues proactively. The City of Fort Myers has a stormwater ordinance and the entire community pays for the stormwater fees, the funds for this initiative should already be funded by these fees.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
A system needs to be in place, engaging the community by communicating and being transparent even when things are not right is important.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
Yes, just like they are updating many other plans for the proper operation of the City.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
The City has to measure where it is and setting goals to where is going. The testing protocols should be in place and set priority areas based on the issues, examining short and long term goals aligned with the financial impact.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
Indeed.

Margy Metzler

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
As the founder of Fort Myers Citizens for Fair and Equitable water rates, water quality has always been a priority with me because it is a safety issue. I would need to see a solid plan of how the testing would be done and who would be doing the testing.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Worth Looking Into
I think that a new plan is in order.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
I put priority, but I would really need to see the plan and what needs to be done to implement it. Rushing is not always the most effective plan.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
I am always interested in being educated on matters that affect the citizens of Florida. As a Fort Myers city councilperson, I will always have my door open. Please e-mail me with any questions or go to my website for more information www.metzlerward6.com

Jacques A Thomas, Jr

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Critical Priority
By involving smart technology. I want to work with many individuals who work in the water conservation department and other water conservationists to see the solutions we need to implement to assure to utilize the proper disposal techniques. Furthermore, Collaboration is the biggest key to achieve better water quality.


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority
Technology. Introducing new technical solution and strategy whether through social media to send notifications to the public and or water officials. Such as the Hydration App. They send alerts and text messages to those who live in the affected areas. The quicker they know of these situations the better so that our citizens don’t get sick.


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
Yes water is our life line. However primarily with the hit that we sustained from Covid-19 we have to review the budget and get our individuals and businesses back on their feet. I want to focus on updating the plan because if our water is not safe there goes our tourism, businesses, and our economy. Development is inevitable. We simply cant stop however if we are going to grow with the city all our sewer systems and city systems must develop with it. With the overgrowth and development the environment is paying the price as well as the citizens. We are disrupting Florida’s natural ecosystem and the consequences of that is poor water quality, degradation of our economic lifeline. Water is the backbone of our economy.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority
With this Covid-19 situation it is a perfect time to do research and work along with water conservationist officials and to discuss plans to assure we don’t sacrifice our environment. Covid-19 made us stop and reflect and look at what we did in the past and going foward we need to change our ways on how we lead. We need to look at having frequent meetings with water officials. Meeting with city engineers. Re-prioritize our budget and develop a strategy that we all will agree with and execute it.


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes
Yes!!! Education is key I want to work alongside with the CWK to develop strong plans and recommendations for safe clean water. Education and collaboration. Overall, my vision is to have a city that grows but has respect for nature and the environment. If we treat mother nature with respect we will always get it back. NO MORE!!! to these cheap-inefficient improper dumping practices. They may save the city money but in the long run it will cost us BIG!!! We must dump responsibly.

Jared Wray

Q1. Conduct Source Testing: In order to devise appropriate solutions, the City and stakeholders need to know the FIB source (e.g. human vs. animal). The City will need to develop protocols for where and when to do source testing. How would you prioritize the need for City to develop and implement source testing protocols?

A: Worth Looking Into


Q2. Warnings of Fecal Bacteria Dangers: Public notifications during FIB events should warn explicitly of the dangers to human and animal health from fecal bacteria contamination. How would you prioritize ensuring the City’s notification program is effective, and that signs and notifications are explicit in their messaging?

A: Critical Priority


Q3. Update the City’s Master Sewer Plan: This Plan is supposed to be updated every ten (10) years. The last update was done in 2005. Will you support starting the plan update in 2020/2021?

A: Critical Priority
Our city’s infrastructure across the board is in need of repairs or expansions, this is a no brainer for leaders who want to get stuff done.


Q4. Implement the Updated Master Sewer Plan: Once the Updated Master Sewer Plan is complete, how would you prioritize implementing this updated plan?

A: Critical Priority


5. Policy and Implementation Ideas: Would you be interested in meeting with CWK to hear our more detailed ideas for implementing the above recommendations?

A: Yes

Because CWK is a 501(c)(3) organization, we do not make candidate endorsements, but simply publish the candidate responses. If you have any questions regarding a position, please contact the candidate directly.