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Fireworks approved with uncertain date

Council will choose between July 4 or Dec. 31 for show

May 20, 2020
Nathan Mayberg ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council's divide over the level of precautions that should be taken amid the COVID-19 pandemic continued to show during debate over whether to approve a $27,000 contract with Garden State Fireworks for the Fourth of July.

The council ultimately approved purchasing fireworks by a 3-2 vote with the option of using them between July 4 and Dec. 31. Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros and councilmembers Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt voted in support of the purchase. Mayor Ray Murphy and Councilmember Billy Veach opposed the resolution.

The original resolution called for a purchase of the fireworks for July 4 though Hosafros moved to allow that the fireworks could also be used for New Year's Eve. Hosafros wanted to give the town council room to decide not to hold an event on July 4 depending on whether the council thought the town could handle an Independence Day celebration during the current coronavirus situation.

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"I have seen no plan for how we would do a show on July 4th," Hosafros said. "I don't feel that we have a plan in place for how we would handle the crowds."

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said he doesn't think that anybody could guarantee that people would follow social-distancing guidelines during a Fourth of July celebration. If necessary, Hernstadt said the town could decide to close down certain sections of the downtown area around Times Square if there was a concern over too many people though he said it would be difficult.

Murphy said "voting on the contract was premature" without a plan to handle crowds on the anniversary of the country's Declaration of Independence, which he said would be "a party."

Hernstadt said the town council would be paying extra to the Lee County Sheriff's Office for more patrolling on that day though he said the issue was what efforts would be needed to ensure social distancing and whether that would be successful.

Veach worried about the health risks involved during a weekend that figures to be a busy one. "There is relatively little benefit and a lot of risk. Having a party like this, you're saying have a party at all costs, the costs could be really high."

Allers said "people know what they are supposed to do. If they don't feel comfortable, they will stay away." He said it would be a "disservice to our residents, to our visitors to not allow this to go forward."

Atterholt said Memorial Day weekend will give the town time to see how crowds behave during a busy weekend.

Advisory committees

The board voted on Monday to name Sarah Torgerson to the Marine Resources Task Force.

The town council is still searching for candidates to fill two seats on the Local Planning Agency, which were left vacant when councilmembers Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt were elected. The LPA handles zoning and planning matters. According to Town Clerk Michelle Mayher there have been three inquiries.

Exercising at Bay Oaks

Hernstadt said the town will be opening up the exercise room at the Bay Oaks Recreation Center, limiting access to four people per hour for 45 minuts by appointment. He said staff will clean equipment in between uses. Restrooms will only be open by request, Hernstadt said. There will also be exercising allowed outside, he said.



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