Members of the Lehigh Acres Community Council will be told who may be stepping forward to begin the effort to incorporate Lehigh Acres. Rick Anglickis, a member of the council, told members on Oct. 21 that he has talked to someone who was born and raised in Lehigh and may agree to take over and be the "face" of the movement to move Lehigh into city status.
The next meeting of the Lehigh Community Council is Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. as meetings are always on the third Monday night of the month and open to the public. They are held in the Sheriff's Office conference room on Homestead Road.
Some in the group voiced their opinions that Lehigh "should keep its eyes open" about the industrial park on the western end of Lehigh because it would be a meaningful tax base for Lehigh.
It was also mentioned at the meeting that Crossroads shopping center which is a maze of stores at the intersection of Lee Boulevard and SR82 had once been part of Lehigh Acres at one time, but became a part of Fort Myers and there is a thought that Fort Myers city fathers may again have their eyes on the industrial park in Lehigh.
Rick Anglickis noted that Estero is in the process of seeking incorporation with its population of around 2,000 people.
"There will be challenges ahead," said Jere Carrick, who headed the meeting last week in place of Jim Kreger who was unable to attend. Carrick is the group's first vice president.
Carrick also noted that code enforcement "is bad as ever in Lehigh - just take a ride around the community and you will see what I mean," Carrick said.
Incorporation, code enforcement and plenty of complaints about the yards of foreclosed homes and the voting of bringing members into the group, were the main topics of interest at the Lehigh Community Council meeting of 40 plus members.
It was noted that incorporation had been attempted here just before the economy worsened in 2008. At that time, a straw vote was put on the ballot asking Lehigh voters if they wanted to put the incorporation issue on the ballot. It was not a vote to incorporate or not incorporate Lehigh.
Many members of the Community Council said a lot of misinformation was passed around Lehigh and voters were scared that their taxes would face big increases.
"And then there was a newspaper that had something on its front page that said in big bold letters that taxes would rise in Lehigh, and that scared everyone and that is what defeated the movement before," Carrick said. It could have been a photo of a sign because there were several all over Lehigh from those who didn't want to see Lehigh incorporate.
The plan for an incorporation effort will begin after a chairman has been named. After that a committee will be formed and a town hall meeting will be planned with incorporation experts invited to answer questions from the group.
Already several people have shown interest in having a vote asking people to incorporate Lehigh Acres on the 2014 ballot. This would have to be brought before the legislative delegation representing the area.
Those interested in becoming a part of the incorporation movement can attend November's meeting and add their names to the roster of people who are already to work to have the community incorporated so local people in Lehigh working with local Lehigh residents can make vast improvements in Lehigh, and not have to depend on the Lee County Commission to be Lehigh's "city council."
Lehigh, it was noted, is as large in area as Orlando and that when it has a final build-out there will be as many as or more than 300,000 residents.
Under incorporation, such agencies as the fire department and the East County Water Control District could come under city control. The town could form its own police department or work with Sheriff Mike Scott asking him to provide officers at a cost.
Anglickis, Carrick and others noted that it will take money, a lot of it, to get the city working. Estimates ran as high as between $50,000 to $60,000 and some though even higher.
Jere Carrick said there would be some type of tax increase if the city incorporated, but he noted that if the people of Lehigh want home rule and to see improvements in the community, there has to be revenue to bring that about.
"We would have to pay for services that we wanted," he said.
He noted that in the past, politics became the enemy of incorporation with many lies and misinformation passed throughout the community.
"We can't allow politics to be a part of it this time. We need good people with good knowledge and we need to be able to have meetings weekly so everyone understands the benefits of incorporation," Carrick said.
"At the stage we are in now, and looking down the road, we should be making plans for sewer lines for Lehigh for instance. Once the EPA finds a reason to require sewer lines in the community, we must be ready," Carrick said.
Meanwhile, Bill Nottling of Lehigh, who had attended the meeting, told the group he had information from the county's Department of Transportation that showed one-third of the county's transportation budget for road improvement is coming to Lehigh. He had a list that he posted on the wall showing repaving plans for different areas of Lehigh.
"With all the problems with our roads, it could take $70 million to make all the improvements just in Lehigh," he said.
Some voiced concern as to why repaving was being done to some roads and are not completed. One person in the group said his street had been repaved, but then just came to a standstill and the rest of the road was not paved.
It was finalized to admit members of the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. into the Community Council with an unanimous vote by the group.