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Fort Myers Beach residents gather at recovery town hall

Damaged building on Fort Myers Beach
Cary Barbor
Damaged building on Fort Myers Beach

Nearly 150 people streamed into a conference room at the Diamondhead Beach Resorton Fort Myers Beach on May 4. Most of them were full-time residents of the town, according to an on-site poll. They were there to hear from the Hurricane Ian Recovery Task Force and to express their needs for the next phase of recovery. The Category 4 hurricane slammed squarely into this small beach town more than 7 months ago.

Bill Veach is on the Fort Myers Beach town council.

“The reason we’re here tonight is to listen to the constituents and educate them on what this particular funding piece of the puzzle means,” he said. “It’s a big piece.”

He’s referring to a $1.1 billion block grant from the federal government. Veach says it is for needs that have gone unmet by other funding that flowed into the area after the devastating storm.

The meeting is one of a series of 17 in various locations around Lee County.

There was no public comment period in Fort Myers Beach, but people communicated their wishes through an ongoing online poll, whose results were projected to a screen at the front of the room.

Needs were numerous, but many residents agreed that maintaining the affordability of their beloved beach town was paramount after the recovery. Judy Renaldo was displaced from her Fort Myers Beach home.

“I think the community definitely needs housing, because the affordability of Fort Myers Beach has become unsustainable for your average person, the person that’s trying to come out here and work and make Fort Myers Beach what it is,” she said. “Because without the service people, there’s nothing. We’re a tourist industry.”

Town halls continue throughout the month of May. Go to ResilientLee.comto find one near you, including two virtual meetings, one in English and one in Spanish. You don’t have to live in the area to attend a particular meeting.

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