FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

Contact:            Pete Winton, Lee County Administration, (941) 335-2777




FORT MYERS, Fla. (August 6, 2002) – The Board of Lee County Commissioners today approved the following items during its regular weekly meeting.  They are:

Work Release – Authorized the Sheriff to establish a “Work-Release” Program for non-violent prisoners in the Lee County Jail System.  The non-violent offender could start working in the community about 60 days before his or her scheduled release date, providing a period to learn a job and transition back into the work force.  For more information, contact the Sheriff’s Office.

Hurricane Shelters – Approved an agreement for the Town of Fort Myers Beach to participate in the county’s Hurricane Shelter Deficit Reduction Program.  The agreement sets up a way for the town to participate in shelter projects that benefit its residents and to pay $42,218 for its share of county funds that have been spent on addressing the hurricane shelter deficit since the town incorporated in 1995.  For more information, call John Wilson at 335-1601. 

New Helicopter – Authorized spending $185,950 to reserve an airframe for a new air ambulance helicopter.  The existing helicopter ambulance is 13 years old and its availability is decreasing due to general maintenance and repairs (current 82% availability compared to desirable standard of 95%).  It would be kept as a backup.  The cost of a new helicopter fully equipped is about $5.5 million.  For more information, contact John Wilson. 

Park Rangers – Authorized Parks & Recreation to work with county attorneys to develop a policy and procedure for use of “pepper spray” by county park rangers.  The spray would be used for defensive purposes.  Rangers now patrol 3,500 acres of developed park land and nearly 8,000 acres of Conservation 2020 preserves, which can be remote.  The use of the spray would be restricted to circumstances authorized by law and only to the degree necessary to accomplish lawful objectives, such as protection of persons and defense of rangers.  For more information, contact John Yarbrough at 461-7410. 

Conservation 2020 – Directed county staff to negotiate to purchase a 200-acre parcel west of Harnes Marsh Preserve in east Lee County through the Conservation 2020 Program and a 75-acre tract east of Six Mile Cypress Slough.  For more information, contact Karen Forsyth at 479-8506.

Traffic Light – Approved funding not to exceed $15,000 to partially fund a traffic signal at U.S. 41 and Tara Woods in North Fort Myers.  Tara Woods would cover the remainder of the cost.  For more information, contact Scott Gilbertson at 479-8580. 

Newton Home – Capped Lee County’s share of the potential purchase of the Newton Estate on Fort Myers Beach at $969,230 or 38%, whichever is lower. 

Landscaping MSBU – Approved $426,000 to design and permit landscaping and irrigation in the median areas of Ben Hill Griffin Parkway from Alico Road to Corkscrew Road, and Corkscrew Road from Ben Hill Griffin Parkway to I-75.  The project will be paid by the University Overlay Landscape & Irrigation Taxing District of property owners along the roadways (Municipal Services Benefit Unit).  Total project cost can go up to $2 million.  For more information, contact Libby Walker at 335-2269. 

Soccer Fields – Approved an agreement with the Gateway Services District to pay for the new soccer complex at Gateway Community Park with a $1.2 million loan repaid with future community park district impact fees.