Steve Hunt will join the panel of speakers at the first meeting to talk about the incorporation of Lehigh Acres on March 1 at Lehigh Senior High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
Tami Baker, president of the Community Council of Lehigh Acres, said Hunt is one of the most respected political consultants in the area and that he is agreed to speak at the first meeting on incorporation.
She said Hunt has been the architect of numerous local and state-wide political campaigns for both individual candidates and for issues.
He is the owner of Artype in Fort Myers and is a longtime resident of Lehigh.
Baker said Hunt is the past chairman of Business People United for Political Action (BUPAC) in Fort Myers and currently is their speakers chairman.
Joining Hunt as an informational speaker are Bill Spikowski, a respected planner and consultant, and Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann.
Baker said the event is being held at the high school where there is plenty of room if there is a large turnout. It will be held in conjunction with a pancake breakfast, which is being sponsored by the school's Key Club, which will start cooking at 7 a.m.
"The breakfast will feature all-you-can eat pancakes, sausage or bacon and coffee for $5," she said.
Lehigh has made some type of attempt twice before to incorporate. The first was a simple straw vote and the second came just before the Great Recession when voters voted no at the polls to consider incorporation. If they had voted yes, another ballot would have been planned asking them if they wanted to incorporate.
While the Community Council, along with the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres, is sponsoring the event, Baker noted that the council has taken no stand on the incorporation issue and neither has the Kiwanis Club.
She said the Council and Kiwanis were opening up the possibility of another group coming forth with plans to incorporate.
She said there will be large signs on the walls in the auditorium with the names of various committees. Visitors to the town hall type meeting will be encouraged to sign up to one of the committees to help incorporation.
However, she said the town hall meeting was not being held to promote or not promote incorporation.
"It is an informational meeting and there are a lot of questions people may have, and the speakers, who will also not declare their preference on the incorporation issue," Baker said.
She believes a group will be formed with its own chairman and other officers who will head up the effort. While some members of the Community Council may support incorporation, she said that the Council itself is neutral and is not in any way in control of the committee.
She said she believes the speakers will address what the state and county governments will require before voters can decide on incorporation to take place.
"speakers will talk about the feasibility and financial studies that are required, along with what steps would have to be taken to successfully run an informational campaign so residents could be apprised of all the issues," Baker said.
At the Community Council meeting last Monday on Feb. 17, she said a new breed of leadership is expected to run the group.
Council member Linda Carter spoke up and said if the community didn't incorporate, she could see Fort Myers moving closer and closer to Lehigh " and even to Gunnery Road part of Lehigh."
While some think the community of Lehigh begins at the intersection of SR82 and Lee Blvd., the line is closer to the industrial park and Carter and others believe Fort Myers may try to take the park for its taxing revenue.
Frank LaRosa, another member, said the group must decide on its boundaries and decide how much of the area commonly called Lehigh should be incorporated.
Then Steve Conti, another Community Council member, shouted out, "What will be the cost to incorporate?"
"The concern is where will the money come from," he said.
Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, who attends most of the Community Council meetings, and who is scheduled to speak on March 1, said the cost would be significant.
Baker brought discussion to a close noting that they were not the people to discuss incorporation, that those questions should be taken to the March 1 meeting.
"And you all are encouraged to attend and tell everyone you know about the meeting, but if you join the committees, it does not reflect that we as the Community Council are for or against incorporation. We are neutral. We will expect reports to be made back to us as a board as to the working of this new group," she said.
A quick unofficial survey throughout Lehigh last week by The Citizen found that many people have no knowledge of another effort to incorporate even though it has been covered in the printed media several times.