Forbes vs. Edsall for Fire Commission Seat
Just when you thought Bonita elections were over, they’re coming around again. And its “game on” for the Bonita Fire District seat two.
“I’ll be running for Fire Commissioner,” Fred Forbes told the Spotlight. When we contacted incumbent Wayne Edsall, he said, yes, he will be running for reelection.
“My hope is to bring about more dialogue at the meetings between different factions,” said Forbes. “I have always been able to work across the aisle and bring people together.”
Forbes emphasized the importance of keeping real estate taxes low.
“I really want to work with the other Commissioners, the Chief and the rank and file to explore other ways to generate revenue,” he said. “I like to think outside the box.
“I would like to enhance even more the community relations efforts that the department has, and they have a pretty good effort right now.”
As an example, he mentioned improving the customer service aspects of Fire Marshall inspections of area businesses.
Forbes is a charter member and leader of the Bonita East Stakeholders group, which includes gated communities east of I-75. He served on the volunteer Bonita Springs Library task force and is a member of the new advisory Board of the Bonita Springs YMCA.
“I have made some fairly decent headway in the last four years,” said Edsall. “I would like to continue that.
“My priorities have been to reduce staffing and firefighters. We have dropped from 110 employees when I came on the Board to 87 employees currently. That takes a big bite out of our payroll, which is about seventy 75% of our budget.”
A two-tier pension system, one for current employees and one for new employees, will reduce pension liabilities, he said, and the department has about 10 fewer vehicles.
“I am sorry to say that our (tax) rate had to go up a little this year,” Edsall said.
In the prior three years the tax rate was reduced, and declining property values resulted in the recent small increase, he said.
Edsall was elected as a Fire Commissioner in 2008, defeating Pasquale Buttino with 52% of the vote. Previously, he served on the Bonita Springs City Council.
Fire Commissioners are elected by a vote of all Fire District voters. Election day is Nov. 6.
The quotable Mr. Havenick
Three weeks after being quoted in The New York Times about the future of greyhound racing, Izzy Havenick was holding court at the Bonita Beach Road dog track with local media. The topic was his family’s plan to put in slot machines at the track it has owned for about 50 years.
“The only time there’s a large crowd of people watching dogs is when people get up from the poker tables to smoke,” Havenick had told the Times in early March.
Other diversions have eclipsed dog tracks for the entertainment dollar, and attendance has suffered.
“We are not getting out of the dog track business, contrary to popular belief,” Havenick told the group of Bonitians. “We know our history, we are not going to abandon the past for the future. We just want to do it less.”
In 1996, when the state allowed poker games at the track, it required more than 400 events per year, with eight races each.
The track will soon have a new name, the Bonita Dog Track, to be branded “Beautiful Bonita.” When widening work on Beach road is done, the new sign will go up, renaming the current Naples-Ft. Myers Dog Track.
As previously reported by the Spotlight, the Havenick family’s request to add slots requires Lee County voter approval. In January, Bonita Springs City Council unanimously requested Lee County Board of County Commissioners to call a referendum. In February, the Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, took a first step toward the referendum. But, prior to July 9 another Commissioners’ vote and a public hearing is required to place it on the November ballot.
Havenick said an outreach effort in the community and Lee County would commence shortly.
“We want people to get the straight facts from us,” he said.
Havenick expressed concern about parallels being drawn between his family’s project and the proposed Forum casino project in Fort Myers.
“We are not going to be a $2 billion project and we are not going to be a casino,” he said. “Only slot machines.”
More good news for the Historical Society
At a late March City Council meeting, an ecstatic Deb Harrop of the Bonita Springs Historical Society announced that more help is on the way for Society’s McSwain House. “Team Depot,” the Home Depot’s community services program, and the Home Depot Foundation will help the Society complete restoration of the historic building.
The Society received the house as a generous bequest. But there was some trepidation among Society volunteers because of needed repairs, said Harrop.
“We value greatly every contribution,” Harrop said.
Bonita Bay Volunteers set a Fine Mark
On a late fall afternoon a few years back a small group of friends sat in tennis sweats around a table at the Bonita Bay tennis center. The conversation that day was a Bonita Springs perennial —how can we give back? Barbara’s Friends, the children’s cancer fund at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, was mentioned. The tennis group quickly rallied around an idea, hosting a charity celebrity tennis event to benefit kids.
Five years later the event, now the FineMark Tour Players Tennis Tournament, has grown into a major tennis event, with charity auctions, a gala dinner dance, pro-am matches and clinics. The planning took months, with hundreds of volunteer hours logged. A first class website was developed. Twice, members of the stalwart group arose early to provide an enthusiastic backdrop, as local TV Hoda’s promoted the event in Today Show style.
To date, donations to the charity have exceeded $500,000. The money will build a pediatric pharmacy at Lee Memorial’s planned Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
A tongue-tying task
“You say Simmons, I say Simons.” City Council members Peter Simmons (pronounced with a short “i”) and Martha Simons (pronounced with a long “i”) now sit next to each other on the Council dais. So Deputy City Clerk Debbie Filipek is required to rattle off their names sequentially in role call votes, which occur frequently during meetings. It’s a tongue-tying task and it has City Hall watchers listening. How long can she do it without a slip up? So far, so good.
EDC marks one year
Shaw Development hosted the Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council as the Council marked the completion of its first year of operation in late March. Guests were treated to a tour of Shaw’s impressive Bernwood facility, where fueling systems components for the U.S. military and industrial consumers are manufactured. Customer banners hang from the rafters, including John Deere, Caterpillar and Peterbilt.
Southwest Florida can’t limit itself to tourism, home construction and agriculture, said EDC Chair Richard Mancini. Targets include life science and technology companies, corporate headquarters and clean manufacturing. The phone is already ringing with prospects, he said. EDC Executive Director Christine Ross explained that a strong outreach effort is under way.
Bill Daubmann of My Shower Door, formerly Mr. Shower Door, briefed guests on the operation of his company’s recently purchased hi-tech machinery to manufacture glass panels. Brian Hamman of CenturyLink explained Southwest Florida’s connectivity to the World Wide Web.
City park notes…Migrating bats are back in their winter home at Bonita Nature Place, and eagles are nesting in the Southwest corner of River Park. The Friends of the Nature Place are building a gopher tortoise-viewing platform…. Parents and kids are “going crazy” over the new natural playground at Depot Park, says City Parks director Nicole Perrino. They love the hill, a Florida rarity…Those big dirt piles at the Mayhood property are left over from Oak Creek dredging. They’re scheduled for removal soon.
Category: News & Features