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Estero Island Taxpayers Association funds phone survey

March 8, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Did you get a call about island hot topics last week?

The Estero Island Taxpayers Association, led by Executive Director Bev Milligan, funded a survey last week to get information on island residents' views on town issues.

The survey was conducted by Civility Management LLC, a public relations firm owned by Wayne Bertsch out of Tallahassee. Bertsch commissioned Superior Global Market Research Services out of Melbourne, Fla., to conduct the actual phone calls over three days.

Milligan said she contracted with the polling company to conduct a neutral and professional survey to gain an inside look at residents' opinions.

"We want what's best for the island, to make sure our seven principals are on target," she said. "We will most likely do it again."

According to an email from a resident to the town council, the survey asked approximately 18 questions that revolved around development, redevelopment, the effectiveness of the council, stormwater and a seawall at Times Square. After several enquiries from residents who were uncertain who conducted the survey, Interim Town Manager Jim Steele confirmed that the Town of Fort Myers Beach did not authorize any survey in its name.

Milligan said the survey was a tool for her to find out what taxpayers think about the island's biggest issues, so her group can strive to recognize all taxpayers.

The survey's occurrence, conducted within two weeks of the town council election, was a coincidence, Milligan said, adding that EITA will probably conduct additional surveys in the future.

"The candidates have their positions, the voters know who they're voting for," she said.

Milligan shared a document from the company that detailed the methodology. Approximately 276 responded to the survey, out of a pool of approximately 4,400 calls to island registered voters. The margin of error was 5.9 percent. Bertsch said he believed the margin was a reasonable one and that the number respondents was sufficient.

"Two hundred seventy-six interviews is a substantial amount for a small population," Bertsch said. "I do believe it was a representative sample."

Bertsch said his client, EITA, provided the script for the phone interviews.

"I think poll companies do their job appropriately and professionally - that's why you hire a poll company," Milligan said. "They know how to do their job and make these neutral so you can get a response and real factual information. Otherwise I could have done it myself."

EITA is a 501(c)4 and is not required to release donor information. Milligan declined to release a donor list.

"We have lots of donors. Diversified donors, lots of taxpayers," she said. "I'm not going to reveal the privacy of any donor."

She declined to answer if any current council members or candidates for council donated or funded her organization, but said her organization is not accountable to any member of council.

Bruce Butcher, who sought election for the town council Tuesday, was a founding member of EITA. He said he has not been an active member of the organization while running for council.

Milligan said she and EITA were still "digesting the results of this poll" and plan to share the full results with the public next week. However, she said in a press release she believed that the results of the poll bolster her organization's stances on government lite, economic growth, downtown revitalization and infrastructure.

"There has been a small, but vocal population on the island that says voters want something different from what EITA wants," Milligan said in the press release. "We will not be dissuaded by a handful of people who clearly do not represent the majority of voters on the island. EITA will continue to speak up for all voters."



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