Lee official discusses Lehigh incorporation
Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann told members of the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce that the community should revisit incorporation.
His remarks were made at a general membership luncheon last week at the Majestic Golf Club before some 70 members.
“I thought that the people of Lehigh should make up their own minds without me getting in it,” Mann said. “But today, I think you should revisit the idea of incorporation.”
Mann spoke of problems in Lehigh such as the high unemployment rate and the number of foreclosures, and noted that Lehigh has several crises.
“You’ve approaching 10,000 people without jobs in Lehigh, and we’re at around 25,000 countywide,” he said.
Mann pointed to the near collapse of the Lehigh Acres Fire Department due to a plummeting tax base of 49 percent on real estate in Lehigh.
“I have never seen it as bad in Lehigh in its history,” he said.
As for reasons to again consider incorporation, Mann said agencies such as the fire department, East County Water Control District and Street Lighting District would come under one local control.
“You may be able to stop or cut back on duplication. Everything would be under the authority of a city government,” he said.
At the beginning of his talk, Mann said Lehigh reminds him of “A Tale of Two Cities.”
“You remember how it started. ‘It was the worst of times, it was the best of times … ‘” he said.
“Here in Lehigh good things have happened,” Mann continued. “Sheriff Scott has increased the number deputies here and he has a wolf pack that sneaks in here at night to get criminals off the streets. He has had his own budgetary problems, but he is doing this for Lehigh and my hat is off to him.
“The county has increased the number of code enforcement officers out here from four to 11, and we’re bringing in some part-time helpers, too,” he said.
According to Mann, people call him thinking there is a $100 million pot of money sitting in Fort Myers.
“I have to tell them that it just simply isn’t so,” he said.
Mann said most of Lee County’s share of the Obama stimulus package has been used on roadwork in the Metro Parkway Avenue area.
“But we have been able to go forward with more road resurfacing here in Lehigh than had been originally planned because the cost from the firms has gone down. That has given us the opportunity to improve many of your roads here,” he said.
“But you people need incorporation out here. Don’t give up on it,” Mann continued. “You just can’t continue to deal with the long distance to Fort Myers. It gets defragmented sometimes at the county level.
“You can do so much more yourselves under the umbrella of a city,” he said.