To The Editor:
Wow! What a night we had at one of two constitutional budget hearings for Lee County Government as required by law before the $1.9 billion budget is finalized and put in place on October 1, 2011.
For those 50 or more of you who were able to come last night (Caribbean, White, Black, and Hispanic) a big thank-you from Lehigh residents.
It is amazing what people can accomplish when they come together over common interest a better Lehigh Acres.
Many of you weren't able to stay to the end where motions were made toward finalizing the budget, so let me tell you what happened.
The Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board, The LACPC, Community Council, Chamber of Commerce and others in the community have been working hard for months to get the Homestead Rd. project moved from the 2020 date to a current project. Edd Weiner testifying before the Metropolitan Planning Organization successfully demonstrated to this body to accelerate this project to the 2014/2015 budget. However, like all plans, it doesn't become a done deal until the funding mechanism is put in place.
On Tuesday night, Sept. 6, after much testimony from our residents about the importance of Lehigh becoming a viable and sustainable community, Commissioner Ray Judah pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Recognizing that Homestead is an integral part of the Comprehensive Plan and extension of Lehigh Acres Downtown, he directed the staff with the other commissioners' approval to move forward on the Homestead Rd. project and offered three different funding sources to get it done. With no objections, it is moving forward.
The county has already spent $3.3 million in project management and professional services (i.e., engineering). In the 2011/2012 budget $3.4 million has been allocated for right-of -way purchases. Construction is estimated around $10 million and this is where Commissioner Judah championed our cause on this project.
There is much more to do and we need your continued support to move forward.
We actually need Homestead Rd. four-laned to SR82 and it can happen. When you have $18 million already being spent on a project, leveraging those resources to take it two additional steps is easier.
First, extending the four lanes all the way to Milwaukee with the assistance of other developers which already have development orders on land stretching to Milwaukee, and secondly, taking it to SR82.
Also, let me inform you that the Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board is moving forward. With the support of State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, State Rep. Matt Caldwell and our county commissioners, we will be rolling out some exciting things for our community. Please get involved and be a part of Lehigh's successes.
Let me conclude by telling you that a former county manager, Bill Williams, and member of the Estero Council of Community Leaders took notice of Lehigh Acres last week.
For those who are familiar with this group, they are one of the most successful unincorporated areas in Lee County that knows how to get their fair share of county appropriations. After listening to our presentations Mr. Williams approached me and offered to help us, not as a consultant, but as a co-laborer who understands where we are at and where we can be with proper organization and strategic execution.
In fact Mr. Williams was so impressed with us on that Tuesday night, he emailed us an invitation to come to the Estero Council of Community Leaders last Friday as his guest.
Swords is CEO, SDS Accounting & Tax Solutions. Ed.