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A farcical episode

By Staff | Jul 16, 2009

Commissioners Bob Janes, Brian Bigelow, Ray Judah, Tammy Hall and Frank Mann,

I have just returned from a program presented at the Sanibel Community Center by Paul Wingard explaining the proposed changes in the LeeWay Toll program. As he explained the proposed changes, the primary purpose is the restructuring and simplification of the system..

Points of interest which were evident from his presentation:

… in the course of the simplification, toll fares for 17 percent of Lee County will be increased

… in the course of simplification, toll fares for 33 percent of Sanibel will be increased. Mr. Wingard had no idea of how much of the increase would be borne by Sanibel residents. Demographics regarding this were no where to be found.

… Families with one vehicle making from 67 to 167 trips across the causeway per year would see an increase in their yearly costs… i.e., 1 to 3 trips per week.

…. Mr. Wingard seemed to be totally oblivious to the financial impact on families with two vehicles, each making 5 trips per week… i.e., cost increase of $200 per year,

… We were told the cost of the study providing information was in the range of $150,000; the projected saving from the implementation of the new system was projected to be about $150,000, but Mr. Wingard had no readily available figures regarding the present revenues nor the projected revenues for the new toll system.

… The tenor of the comments and responses from the standing room only crowd was obviously negative and totally incredulous regarding the projected program, the projected toll increases, the lack of information offered to the public regarding the financial impact, and the apparent total disregard for the potential impact on the business and residential community of Sanibel.

… When individuals spoke to the economic hardships that such a program would have on the children, residents, and businesses of Sanibel, Mr. Wingard response was little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

… When asked for the why the increase in electronic tolls on Sanibel and not on the Cape Coral bridges, there was no answer by Mr. Wingard.

… When asked for financial figures regarding the Cape Coral bridges and the Sanibel Causeway, as they relate to the toll rates and the projected rates, Mr. Wingard had no information.

… When asked why the tolls were necessary on the Cape Coral bridges and the Sanibel Causeway, and not on the Pine island Bridge and the south Fort Myers bridge, Mr. Wingard was silent.

All of us, residents and business people in attendance, were appalled by the inadequate presentation by a person, supposedly knowledgeable about such an important topic. The question remains was the presentation simply a product of inadequacy on the part of the presenter (Mr. Wingard), or did it represent an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting audience?

From the comments of the audience during the presentation, and from the incredulous remarks heard among the members of the audience leaving the Community Center, the rationale – if any – for the restructuring of the LeeWay Toll System has not been thought out critically by the parties concerned, and has certainly not been communicated adequately to the citizens of Sanibel.

I suspect the county has not heard the last of this apparent farcical episode.

Alvin I. Kaplan, MD