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Local groups coming together to represent Lehigh, lobby for change

October 8, 2014
By LAURIE STERNOWSKI , Lehigh Acres Citizen

In a community council meeting held last month (the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Sheriff's station on Homestead Road) a discussion ensued following a short trailer on a documentary of Lehigh Acres. The documentary which (if watched in totality) is about 30 minutes long and explains how Lehigh started, its growth, the boom years, and the decimation after the housing bubble broke.

What it "does not show" is the progress Lehigh Acres has made and the obstacles the community has overcome. (More recently we have added a dog park, Goodwill has built a new facility, and we have had two Dollars stores added, a convenience store/gas station, a childcare location, and a charter school.)

The Sweet Bay has been reinstated as Winn-Dixie, the Publix is undergoing a facelift and expansion, and should be reopening later this month.

There have been roads and transportation improvements (such as the roundabout at Beth Stacy which is one if the latest examples). Lee County has plans to widen sections of Homestead and SR 82. These things don't happen by themselves, it takes a community!

As an unincorporated area of Lee County, (having no official title or control of village, town, or city) Lehigh Acres is often an afterthought from Lee County from a budgeting and allocation perspective.

The municipalities (cities and towns) seem to get priority attention, and they have direct control over how their tax dollars are spent. Conversely, Lehigh Acres needs to identify, request and lobby Lee County for any and all improvements made to Lehigh Acres. We need our representatives to champion Lehigh's causes and get allocated dollars awarded for any proposed project.

It is a daunting task that Commissioner Frank Mann (Lehigh's representative) has aided us with for years. Commissioner Mann was recently successful in lobbying for tax dollars to fix the "Welcome to Lehigh" sign that had fallen into decay and was in need of repair.

The Community Council of Lehigh which was formed some 50 years ago thinks it is time to get more attention! CCLA President, Tami Baker noted, "We have done remarkable work on our own, but with our population growing (approximately 90,000 strong) we believe we can get better representation if we intimately understand what each of the 12 areas of Lehigh needs, and the happenings within each of those areas."

In addition to council members, CCLA will be looking for volunteers from each zone and will have sign-up sheets at our next meeting to be held on October 20, 2014.

The discussion will be how we collectively want to move forward with the zones/areas as we identify issues, create solutions and interact with Lee County to ensure funding, success, and monitoring results. We look forward to the public coming out and joining up with their zone/area to make a difference!

The Community Council of Lehigh Acres has been in existence for over 50 years, and as a whole, is comprised of 41 individuals. Half of those individuals are "appointed" members from various civic and social functions (such as the East County Water Control District (ECWCD), the Veteran's Association, and the transportation Dept. of Lee County to name only a few. The other half is concerned citizens who have agreed to volunteer their time for the betterment of Lehigh Acres and have been "elected" by the people are appointed for a defined term. The Community Council works in conjunction with the Chamber of Lehigh, and a number of other non-profit charitable organizations. The Community Council of Lehigh Acres is "your" voice direct to the staff and offices of Lee County.

Laurie Sternowski is a member of the executive board for the Community Council of Lehigh Acres.



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