Forever Bright

Forever Bright

Forever Bright 

Pink Heals unveils new vehicle dedicated to young cancer victim from Cape Coral

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze May 19, 2015 issue

The legacy of a young Cape Coral girl who lost her battle to cancer earlier this year will live on as the newest pink fire truck travels throughout Southwest Florida baring her name while bringing comfort to others who are faced with cancer.

“This is huge,” Amy Castro said, adding that her daughter’s name, Amiyah, is now on a truck that travels all over bringing awareness to pediatric cancer.

Pink Heals

The Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District donated its very first fire truck Saturday afternoon to the Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter at Shrimp Shack in Fort Myers. Engine 20, a 1988 fire truck, was donated in memory of Firefighter Dale Jedlick for his 24 years of service of maintaining the truck and keeping it in good shape.

The donation, Chief Joe Marzella said, was a great opportunity because rather than the engine rusting away, they were able to give it another life by repurposing its use.

Engine 20, he said became one of the M/PIFCD reserves after Iona McGregor Fire Protection & Rescue Service District donated a truck to it.

“We treat the trucks as rolling memorials,” Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter President Michael Piggott said.

Amiyah Castro 2

The chapter’s mission is to support women and their families while raising awareness for all types of illnesses.

The conversations began almost two years ago with the Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter, which resulted in an emotional dedication as South Trail Fire District trucks and an ambulance led the procession line followed by “Suzy,” the first Pink Heals truck for the chapter and “Amiyah,” the newest addition.

Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter President Michael Piggott offers comfort to Amy Castro during a dedication Saturday afternoon at Shrimp Shack in Fort Myers.

Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter President Michael Piggott offers comfort to Amy Castro during a dedication Saturday afternoon at Shrimp Shack in Fort Myers.

During the dedication, Piggott said although it was extremely tough naming the new engine, somebody who contributed a great deal to the community instantly came to mind. He said Amiyah Castro, a young 7-year-old, had so much spirit.

“She was very carefree,” her mother Amy said, adding that she was sassy and bright.

The front of the fire truck was revealed during the dedication, reading “Shine Bright Like Amiyah,” which was followed by many tears of those who attended the event. The family, Amy, Pablo, Kayden and Khyleigh Castro were given the first opportunity to sign the newly painted pink truck before others in the audience shared touching words of remembrance of the young girl.

The Castro family also received a $1,000 donation from Pink Heals during the dedication. Amy said although the check donation was great, the truck meant so much more.

Amiyah was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on April 3, 2014 and passed away on Jan. 24, 2015 at the age of 7.

Castro family

Amy said her daughter was always worried about her friends and always knew that it would be okay.

“She prayed for everybody,” Amy said.

Piggott, who is a banker, decided to start the Southwest Florida chapter in November 2013 after learning more about the organization and witnessing the national Pink Heals chapter stroll through the area on its tour more than five years ago. In February 2014, the group acquired their first fire truck from Crescent City, Florida, which bares the name Suzy.

Piggott said any tax paying agency, such as the police department, EMS and the school district, can get involved in the chapter.

“We would paint it pink,” he said of police cars, ambulances and school buses.

In addition to Suzy and Amiyah making an appearance at events in the area, they are also used for home visits and school visits. He said when a home visit is made the local fire, police and EMS get involved in the caravan of vehicles.

The lights are flashing and the sirens are blasting when they roll up to the location, Piggott said to grab the community’s attention. He said most people that have cancer keep it to themselves, which is another reason they do home visits.

When the pink fire trucks roll through, neighbors come out of their homes and learn that someone next door has cancer, which turns into another arm of support.

Piggott said many times the home visit is a surprise for the survivor and organized by the family.

All the money the chapter raises remains local to help families in need in Southwest Florida.

“We want the money to stay here,” he said.

For more information about the chapter, visit http://www.pinkhealsswfl.org.

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Gear Up Florida cyclists

Gear Up Florida cyclists

Special Populations welcomes 

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze May 12, 2015 issue

Almost 100 members of Special Populations, cheering and holding handmade signs, welcomed 21 bicyclists Monday afternoon at the Sun Splash Family Waterpark pavilion.

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Nina Strickland organized the event for the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, which is part of the cycling group Gear Up Florida, which is organized by The Ability Experience. The group of cyclists raises awareness and funds for people with disabilities.

“I have a special needs daughter,” she said of her daughter Alexandra Blythe.

Strickland said her daughter loves going to Special Populations because of her friends who also attend the program. She said her daughter has the opportunity to participate in different activities that provide life skills.

“This is her life,” she said. “She can’t wait to come here.”

Last year the Pi Kappa Phi members stopped at Special Populations for the first time during their Gear Up Florida cycling trek. The bike ride raised funds for Special Population, which allowed the organization to purchase trikes.

Sara Sansone, Special Populations supervisor, said she likes the ride’s mission statement of drawing awareness to disabilities.

“They will be ambassadors,” she said of the cyclists.

Sansone said they will have the opportunity to touch others by sharing the experiences they had Monday, as well as learn more about people with disabilities.

Strickland said her son, who is a Pi Kappa Phi member, is the reason her family became involved in organizing the stop in Cape Coral.

“My son is always involved in special needs,” she said.

Strickland’s son, Stephen Blythe, a graduate of Ida Baker High School, began Baker Buddies while attending school to offer such events as bowling and ice cream socials to engage interaction with special needs students.

“It has exploded since then,” he said of the club.

After graduating high school, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee and joined the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity his freshman year. In August 2011, Blythe decided to become more involved by participating in Journey of Hope, a bike ride that departed from San Francisco June 9, 2011, and ended in Washington D.C. Aug. 10, 2011. He said the trip included 60 cycling days with an average of 80 to 85 miles a day.

Each cyclist had to raise a minimum of $5,500. Blythe raised $9,100 for the ride. He said the great thing about the ride is when they stopped for “Friendship Visits” a grant was given that day with the money they raised.

“You do see it’s being put to good use,” he said.

Blythe said the life changing experience was the perfect college experience. The men he rode with from San Francisco to Washington D.C. became his close friends. The most difficult part of the experience was saying goodbye to friends after spending 70 straight days with them.

Shey Siegert, now a junior in college left Idaho to attend college in Alabama.  He became involved in the Pi Kappa Phi two years ago because he wanted to get involved in a fraternity that touched upon academics, social and philanthropy. Siegert said the fraternity spoke to him because he had a friend in high school that had a brother with Down Syndrome.

“He was always happy to see me,” Siegert said of the experience that encouraged him to continue to hang out with others with disabilities.

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This year, 21 cyclists from 10 to 15 different states and eight crew members are participating in the Gear Up Florida ride. Siegert said some of the cyclists traveled from California, Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, Alabama and Florida.

Those who participated in Gear Up Florida had to raise a minimum of $2,500, which enabled the group to provide a grant of more than $50,000 to Special Populations before leaving Monday afternoon.

Siegert said he raised $2,600 by reaching out to alumni, starting an email campaign, making phone calls and starting a Facebook page. He said everyone who made a donation through Facebook will receive a journal that includes daily photographs and excerpts.

The ride began Sunday, May 10 with 95 miles from Miami to Clewiston.

The cyclists arrived at Special Populations around 11:30 a.m. Monday for a “Friendship Visit.” After being greeted, the cyclists gathered under the pavilion to hear Cape Coral City Councilmember Rick Williams read a proclamation declaring Monday, May 11 as “Gear Up Florida Day.” The cyclists then handed out slices of pizza to the members of Special Populations before sitting down and joining them for conversations.

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“I have never been to a Friendship Visit,” Siegert said. “It’s pretty amazing . . . having a great conversation with everyone.”

Sansone said since the cyclists stopped during the time they offer programs, the fraternity members had the opportunity to dance, take a walk and play games with those who attend Special Populations.

“For our group, they get to meet college students,” she said of the learning and growth experience.

After leaving Special Populations, the cyclist traveled to Lee County Arc in Fort Myers. Strickland was having the team over for dinner Monday night before they headed to Sarasota Tuesday morning. The ride will conclude Saturday, May 23 in Tallahassee after visiting 13 cities, for a total of 866 miles.

Nick Julian, who is the logistics coordinator for the ride, said he makes sure the roads they travel are safe and plans events during the ride.

“To be able to engage this way shows how great Florida is,” he said of the Monday event.

Vans travel with the cyclist to ensure they are safe and have what they need throughout the ride. Siegert said every 10 miles the vans will park and provide the cyclist with water and food while they are still riding. He said about every 10 miles he will eat a Cliff bar and about every 20 miles will hydrate with water.

In addition to the vans, Siegert said the cyclists also look out for each other during the ride with open communication. He said if one of them sees a piece of medal, they yell out debris and left or right.

“Look at it with an open mind . . . “

South Cape bars can now apply to stay open until 4 a.m. on weekends

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze April 3, 2015 issue

With a new ordinance approved, businesses and bars in the South Cape are weighing the pros and cons of what a two-hour weekend extension can have on their business.

Monday night the Cape Coral City Council approved an ordinance that will give businesses and bars the option to apply for a special permit to participate in a pilot program extending hours from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition to applying for the permit, business must pay to have an off-duty Cape police officer on premise for safety; install surveillance systems to monitor all activity; comply with the state Responsibility Vendor Act; have one dedicated security staff person per 150 patrons and 15 minutes before closing will be last call.

City spokesperson Connie Barron said permitting staff is finalizing the process and should have forms and fact sheets ready by the end of next week for the new ordinance.

BackStreets Sports Bar Marketing Director David Delli Paoli said they will be participating because they believe in the concept.

“We believe that this is one thing that can add to an already great entertainment district,” he said. “We are going to be coming out of pocket to be paying for the police because we believe in this so much.”

Although they intend to apply for the permit, Delli Paoli said they probably will not open the extra two hours for another couple of weeks because they want to make sure they have everything in order first.

Throughout any point of the day BackStreets has a diverse age group that ranges from 21 to 75. Currently, with the 2 a.m. closing time, Delli Paoli said they have a very strong showing of people in their 40s and 50s.

He said with the ordinance going into effect on April 3, he believes it will be a good chance to try it during off season when they can handle an extra two hours with local traffic before having to beef things up later in the year.

“People look at it and focus just on those two hours,” Delli Paoli said. “What they don’t focus on is the options that it brings. We have a very, very strong European presence and they all look at you funny when you say you close at 2 a.m.”

He said visitors from larger northern municipalities are also used to later bar hours.

The extended hours, Delli Paoli said will draw people into the area.

“Once they are here maybe they can see everything else. Maybe book a vacation,” he said.

With more tourism, Delli Paoli said more businesses and jobs will come to the area, which means more tax income for the city that then equates to fewer taxes for homeowners. That trickledown effect, he said, will take some time to kick in.

Every municipality that they have talked to with bar hours to 4 a.m. said “if you build it, they will come,” he added.

Although he believes the extended bar hours will be good for the economy, he also understands the communities safety concerns.

“We were voted as the second safest city in Florida,” Delli Paoli said. “We do have one of the greatest police forces around. They can handle it, especially if we are paying to have more police officers out there.”

He said they want to make sure their customers always feel safe.

Another concern the community has expressed are the possible increase of DUIs.

“What this law will do is it will bring more people here,” Delli Paoli said. “Add more variables to a situation; you are going to increase the chances. It’s a numbers game. People are trying to say from 2 to 4 more . . . more people creates more DUIs. If that is the case should we stop tourism all together? It’s not the hours being from 2 to 4 that are going to create more DUIs.”

He went on to say that there are many bars that offer happy hour specials.

“How many of those people get in their cars and drive home during rush hour,” Delli Paoli said, adding there are no DUI checkpoints at that time of the day to collect data.

“I know there is a lot of opinions and emotions involved,” he said. “A lot of people have been affected by drunk drivers. I have lost family members and dear friends to drunk drivers. (You have to) remove emotions and take a look at the facts and the economic boost that the ordinance brings to this place. Look at it with an open mind and give it a chance to work.”

There are also businesses and bars in Cape Coral that have expressed no desire to apply for the permit.

The Dek Bar Manager Billy McKee said applying for the special permit is not financially reasonable for them to do. He said for an extra two hours, they would have to pay bands more money, as well as pay an off duty police officer for those two nights.

“We are not going to make a profit off an extra two hours for all the money going out,” he said.

In addition to the extra money going into the extended time, he said it would be hard on their employees as well. McKee said if they closed the doors at 4 a.m., his employees would not be leaving until 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.

“That is an issue for my boss,” he said.

Cape Coral Councilmember Richard Leon, who spearheaded the effort, said he hopes the pilot program will show the community the level of safety that can be maintained while extending the bar hours.

He said people will come to the city to go out to dinner, watch a movie before going out and enjoying a few drinks.

“I can go out and have a good time at these events and have a good time at night,” Leon said, adding that the trial period is an experiment to see if those types of situations unfold.

Leon said he hopes to also extend relationships into Bonita Springs and the Florida Gulf Coast University communities to provide some type of trolley service to bring people into Cape Coral.

Throughout the ordinance’s trial period, Leon said he wants to make sure that they are looking at the economic value of extending the hours. He said there are many things in the following year that the City of Cape Coral needs to keep an eye on to provide research data for 2016.

He said with Cape Coral being the only location between Tampa and Miami to have the extended bar hours, the sales will increase not only for the local bars, but for restaurants and hotels.

“It’s another tool to sell Cape Coral,” Leon said.

He said since Cape Coral extended the bar hours it makes the city a unique and rare location on the west coast of Florida, which provides an opportunity for property values to increase.

http://www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com/page/content.detail/id/543458/South-Cape-bars-can-now-apply-to-stay-open-until-4-a-m–on-weekends.html?nav=5011

Pine Island Plan

Two island residents to be part of Pine Island Plan discussion group

Published in Pine Island Eagle March 17, 2015


http://www.pineisland-eagle.com/page/content.detail/id/528727/Two-island-residents-to-be-part-of-Pine-Island-Plan-discussion-group.html?nav=5051


Lee County will continue its review of density guidelines for development on Pine Island and will formally include two islanders in the process.

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously agreed during a lengthy meeting Tuesday that county staff, outside legal counsel and expert consultants will review the existing Pine Island Plan. The vote also included the involvement of two residents that live on Pine Island, who have had a hand in drafting the original plan.

Those islanders will be Greg Stewart and Bill Spikowski, according to the recommendation made by Commissioner John Manning, who was voted to become the liaison for the Pine Island community during the process.

County Attorney Richard Wesch said the two residents will provide assistance in striking a balance between lessening liability to the county from property owner challenges while maintaining the character of Pine Island.

“They are expert planners in their field,” he said, adding that they will provide assistance in the rewriting process.

The Pine Island Plan is under review because of litigation Lee County is facing.

Wesch said there are eight cases against Lee County plus 51 notices from other property owners who have issues with plan parameters.

He said the intent is to authorize those elements of the Pine Island Plan that have created a liability and future liability for all of Lee County, all while safeguarding the character and nature of the Pine Island community.

“This is the formal action required to allow us to start that process,” Wesch said. “Any amendments that are proposed will go through a full hearing process.”

Commissioner Frank Mann said he is troubled because he does not feel they have exhausted everything they could be doing in terms of legal defense in a court room.

“I feel like we could have done more,” he said. “No one knows how far we have to go to downsize and soften the plan. I would like to spend more time in a court room defending the existing plan. I want us to explore every option. We are on the cutting edge of some legal history here and I don’t want to throw in the towel by rewriting a plan and softening a plan that has been really good.”

Mitch Hutchcraft spoke on behalf of King Ranch, an agricultural company that has a 162-legacy during the meeting. He said although they were not there to debate the vision, they believe the Pine Island Plan went too far.

“Is there a better way? A more equitable solution,” Hutchcraft asked. “King Ranch has not filed any lawsuits, notices of content. We have clearly indicated our current agricultural plans. We are ready to collaborate with Lee County and put new policies in place . . . restore the rights that were taken out of this plan.”

Manning told the crowd that they will meet in their neighborhood, as well as share what they know and come up with. He said they also will get input from the Pine Island community.

“I was involved in the first Pine Island Plan,” Manning said. “It is a unique place for folks to live, work and play, and we are going to keep it that way.”

The Lee County Board of County Commission chambers filled with approximately 300 Pine Islanders, many of whom spoke during the very lengthy public comment portion of the meeting.

Many of the residents shared how they enjoy the unique, quaint characteristics of the island, which is why they do not want to see increased development.

Sonny Koutsoutis, a resident of St. James City, said due to the many commercial areas around, they don’t need another one.

“Why would you feel that you got to destroy the unique aspect of Pine Island?” she said. “There is a limited amount of land. As a citizen, resident of Pine Island, a voter and a landowner, I am asking why? I think I am entitled to know why it is you want to destroy Pine Island.”

Many community members also spoke passionately about how large developments on Pine Island would impact the traffic, therefore impacting the evacuation during hurricanes.

The Pine Island plan includes the “810 rule” and “910 rules” which restricted future development.

Kathy Malone, vice president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association, said they love their island, but they do not want to be trapped there in a disaster.

Manning said he has made the pledge to a number of folks on an individual basis that they are going to watch this process very closely.

After the public comment came to a close, Commissioner Larry Kiker thanked everyone for coming to the meeting. He said he learned that the topic is very personal to those who spoke.

Kiker said as they move forward he would like there to be conversations about the evacuation standards that are required, what is minimally acceptable and what that means in terms to what is written in the Pine Island Plan. He said he would also like a comparison of that information to the 810 rule and the 910 rule.

He added he would also like the infrastructure plans for Matlacha and Pine Island to be reviewed for the next five, 10 and 20 years. He would like an analysis of how that plays into funding that has been identified so far in connection with Kings Ranch and some of the other possible land owner projects that they have.

“I would like to see a time line,” Kiker said of all the major purchases mapped out in terms of when the Pine Island Plan came into being.

A comparative analysis of the 20/20 funds that are available was also requested by Kiker. A specific legal liability estimate was another request, so everyone is talking about the same numbers.

A prioritized list from the Pine Island community of what they would like to see the County Commissioners talking about was also requested by Kiker.

“If we are going to do this, let’s do it right,” he said. “Let’s do an analysis. I hear you loud and clear and I know we have a lot of work to do. We have to have some patience.”

Wesch said given the list of requests, he anticipates the commissioners would not have any information much before 60 days at the earliest. He said it will take some time to prepare a proposed draft for discussion.

Mann said the meeting was not to dismantle the Pine Island Plan, nor finding ways to increase the density of Pine Island.

“We are here because we have been sued over the Pine Island Plan, just a component of it,” he said. “We were sued and we lost that suit.”

Mann went on to say that they would like to protect the intent of the Pine Island Plan as it exists today.

“If we don’t make some adjustments to the Pine Island Plan, we could, they have said this on the record, we could possibly if the sky did fall, we could be liable for as much as $2 million. We must find a legal strategy,” he said.

“I really love my country”

Army intelligence photog to speak Saturday

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze March 13, 2015 issue

A U.S. Army intelligence photographer, who served in the 1st Infantry Division “The Big Red One,” will speak at the Northwest Regional Library on Saturday about her experience.

Rebeca Brown, who moved to Southwest Florida from Los Angeles 10 months ago, joined the Army in 1980 and served until 1984.

“I wanted to join the Army because I wanted to travel the world and take photos,” she said. “I really love my country.”

Brown recalls that one of the biggest issues in the 1980s was a couple female congresswomen saying women should not be a part of the military.

“I was raised that you could do whatever you want in life,” she said. “I was part of the feminist movement that helped women work in nontraditional positions.”

As an intelligence photographer Brown had many jobs. She flew in planes and helicopters and took aerial photographs of the terrain for the government, as well as photographs of the ground terrain in auxiliary tanks.

Brown flew in the SR71, which had cameras in the belly of the plane. She recalls flying over hostile combatants while in the SR71.

“You put on this jumpsuit and put on a diaper,” she said. “In a blink of an eye you could go anywhere to take photos.”

Some of the aerials were, both in the air and on the ground. of the Russian borders. She also took pictures of large community areas through which people would walk.

Large bodies of water and related terrain were also photographed, in case troops had to go through.

One of the experiences that really stuck out from Brown was while she was stationed in Germany. She spent time with the auxiliary unit riding in tanks to take photos.

“If we had a conflict and NATO had to move in the troops, we would need to know the depth of how to get our troops over,” Brown said.

During that time she also took aerial reconnaissance over the Berlin Wall.

The veteran also enjoyed taking photographs of Hitler’s bunkers. She said not only did she have to take photographs of the artwork and other common items, but she also had to make duplicates of his horrible crimes for the government.

Some of those photographs included the guillotine and shooting of Jewish people against the wall.

Brown, who had top secret clearance, said there were times she was not in uniform when she went to other countries.

The government would drop a portable photo lab by helicopter wherever she was, so she could process the film and give it to one of the generals.

“It was a good experience, an awesome experience for me,” Brown said.

After the military, she became a law enforcement officer for the state of California. From there she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business.

While in California she worked as a specialist with children between the ages of 5 to 18 who had signs of becoming serial killers. Brown said she would teach them empathy, love and how to connect to the community, so they would have some type of connection.

“Then I became a program director with Phoenix Health in Los Angeles for the probation department,” she said.

Brown created and implemented programs that dealt with such issues as substance abuse and cognitive behavior. She said she would be contacted to go to the prisons. Brown also would hire staff for youth camps and teach them how to connect with kids and mentor them, so they would sustain goals to attend college.

She is currently a member of the Cape Coral VFW Post #8463, Cape Coral VFW Post #8463 Honor Guard, American Legion Post #90 and the American Legion Riders Florida Chapter #90. She is also a volunteer at the Pine Island Museum.

“Eventually I will start again, either try to work with veterans and kids,” Brown said.

Brown will speak at the Northwest Regional Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 14.

“I am hoping I get a good turnout,” she said.

In addition to sharing her experience, Brown also wants to share the message that as long as you dream about want you want in the future, you always have a goal to work for. She said it is also very important to teach kids about patriotism.

Brown is speaking on behalf of the SW FL. Military Museum & Library.

“It’s a destination”

“It’s a destination”

Historic Arcade Theatre

Shining a spotlight on the Florida Rep

Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers February/March 2015 issue

All photos courtesy of Bryelle Dafeldecker

A Fort Myers theatre, once a Vaudeville house in the 1920s, has attracted local and national attention over the course of its 17 seasons.

The Historic Arcade Theatre, at 2267 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, now home to the Florida Repertory Theatre, was built in 1908 and attracted such first time viewers as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

front coverOver the years, as movies became more and more popular, the building transformed into a movie house throughout the 1920s, remaining successful until the 1970s.

Unfortunately in 1989, the theatre plummeted into severe disrepair.

Bryelle Dafeldecker, Florida Repertory Theatre marking manager, said artistic director Robert Cacioppo, and his wife, Carrie Lund, founded the Florida Repertory Theatre in 1998.

“The City of Fort Myers offered him a theatre in Fort Myers because nothing was going on downtown,” Dafeldecker explained.

Robert Cacioppo

Robert Cacioppo

Now the theatre attracts about 80,000 people annually into the downtown district.

“It’s a destination,” Dafeldecker said.

For the past six years, the Wall Street Journal has reviewed the shows at the Florida Repertory Theatre, making it one of the top repertory companies in the nation.

“After that happened, it brought a lot more attention nationally – and locally,” she said. “We have a really loyal base, which is great.”

She said they offer nine full professional productions per season, from the end of October through May.

“We pay all of our actors and designers and fly them in from various locations from all over the country,” she explained.

A Packed House for August: Osage CountyThere are six productions held on the main stage of the 393- seat Arcade Theatre and three in the smaller studio theater, which comfortably seats 115 guests.

“Fascinatin’ Gershwin” is currently performing, and will do so through Sunday, March 15. Previews are held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and Thursday, Jan. 29.

Dafeldecker said the review will feature all of Gershwin’s music.

“Around the World in 80 Days” will be held through Wednesday, March 4.

Dafeldecker said that performance is a family-friendly comedy that depicts five actors playing an array of different characters traveling the world.

“Dividing the Estate” will be held from Friday, March 20, through Wednesday, April 8, with previews Tuesday, March 17 through Thursday, March 19.

“Split in Three” will conclude the season with showings from Friday, April 24, through Sunday, May 10. Previews will be held from April 21, through April 23.

In addition to the productions, the theatre also has a thriving education department that sees 17,000 students every year. Programs include Children’s Theatre, Camp Florida Rep, Theatre Conservatory, Classes for Youth & Adults and “ACT UP!” for Children on the Autism Spectrum.

The Children’s Theatre includes Lunch Box Performances for $12 if booked in advance. She said acting interns put on children’s theatre pieces.

"Journey to Oz."

“Journey to Oz.”

“Journey to Oz,” an interactive piece about the “Wizard of Oz” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., and the “True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” a rock musical for younger kids, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

The Camp Florida Rep, open to kindergarten through 12th grade students, includes a two-week summer camp program and one-week winter and spring break program.

Dafeldecker said the camp which sells out every year, and puts on a full produced musical in two weeks.

The Theatre Conservatory is an audition-only program held February through May, designed for young actors with moderate to advanced level experience who are interested in theatre.

The classes held for youth and adults cover a vast array of areas that will help beginning artists, serious young artists, professionals and adults seeking something to do.

ACT UP provides youngsters ages 11 to 16 with an opportunity to learn basic acting skills through verbal and nonverbal communication, collaboration, creative movements and improvisation, while interacting with others and making new friends.

“We have fall, winter and spring classes and then in the summer we do summer camps,” Dafeldecker said.

For more information on the Florida Repertory Theatre, its many performances and upcoming camps, call 239-332-4488 or visit FloridaRep.org.

County to consider raising impact fees

County to consider raising impact fees

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Feb. 27, 2015 issue

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners will begin its discussions about a possible impact fee increase this Tuesday during a public hearing.

“I can only hope that it goes well,” Commissioner Frank Mann said of the public hearing. “I’m nervous to say the least.”

The current fees are set at 20 percent of the estimated cost of constructing such things as roads, parks and schools necessitated by growth.

Building Industry Association Executive Vice President Brenda Thomas said they would love the impact fees to remain at 20 percent because they feel the market is still emerging.

“People who have been struggling for more than five years to find a job are now going to be threatened. That is hard to take,” she said.

The biggest issue the Building Industry Association is having right now is the uncertainty of where the impact fee rate will fall.

“Builders are in contracts with homeowners right now and they don’t know what to put in the contract,” Thomas said of impact fees.

The fees were reduced 80 percent two years ago when the commission agreed to a temporary reduction to spur the economy.

“The reason we changed it (was) while the building industry was on its back, but those days are gone,” Mann said. “Permits for construction are flying off the shelves. The industry is very healthy and alive and the impact fees need to be restored.”

The starting point for Tuesday’s hearing would bring the charges on new construction up to 45 percent of cost or more than double the current amount charged.

While commissioners will start their conversation at the 45 percent rate, county staff is recommending that the commission provide a 15 percent discount, or 85 percent of cost, which would bring the fee from $2,900 to $11,000 on a new home.

If the county commissioners approve 45 percent impact fees, Thomas said it will have a very negative impact on the building industry at this point.

“At 45 percent, you are looking at almost a $3,200 increase for a single family home, depending on which is the basis point for 45 percent,” she said.

Mann said he is in favor of restoring back to 100 percent because Lee County desperately needs revenue for new infrastructure because thousands of people are moving into the area and permits for new homes are up again.

Thomas, on the other hand, said although they are seeing an increase, they are not on “fire yet” regarding the number of permits pulled. She said a lot of the permits have been for multi-family apartments and commercial properties.

Mann said where ever he goes, he has 100 percent support on his position from the residents of Lee County.

“I knew it was the right thing to do from the beginning,” Mann said, adding that overwhelming support from the community it only reaffirms his belief.

Mann voted against the one-year reduction with the option for a second year in March 2013.

At 100 percent, including a cost adjustment, the fee would be $12,985 to build a new home. At 85 percent the fee would be $11,116 for a single family home. Currently, at 20 percent, the fee is $2,942.

“It worked very well for 20 years, so why would we change that?” Mann asked. “It needs to be a part of our revenue stream now. Impact fees have never kept anyone from moving here. The 20 years we have had them was the fastest expansion period in the history of the county.”

Mann said he does not see how it is fair to ask residents of Lee County to subsidize its growth requirements when there is a perfect example of a program that works – impact fees.

“It’s only fair that growth pays for growth, and the new people coming here pay for the roads and school classrooms they are demanding,” he said.

School Board member Steve Teuber said the school board voted unanimously to support 100 percent restoration.

“We had three things happen over the last five years, which was kind of the perfect storm,” he said.

Property values declined over those five years, the school district’s capital millage was cut from 2.0 mills to 1.5 mills and the County Commission reduced impact fees, including those for schools, by 80 percent.

Teuber said $640 million was lost in potential income. He said the district is carrying a $450 million capital debt with an annual debt service of $42 million.

“We need money from any source possible,” Teuber said.

He said if the school district gets $9 million from impact fees, they still need $300 million more.

“Nine million isn’t going to make the road,” Teuber said. “We need about $40 million a year.”

Even with an increase in impact fees, the school board’s needs still are not met.

“I certainly know that whatever the Board of County Commissioners do is not going to be the answer,” he said.

With that said, Teuber expressed that the school board wants the county commission to do what they feel is right based on their collaborative work.

“If they give us 55 percent, we are going to say thank you very much,” he said.

Thomas said the biggest issue is the commissioners have a big infrastructure need in Lee County and Southwest Florida. She said impact fees are just a small portion of solving that problem.

The impact fee covers only the new infrastructure that would have to be built to accommodate additional population.

By law, the money collected from impact fees cannot be used for maintenance or regular government operations. The money can only be used to add capacity. In other words, the funds can be used to add a lane to a road, but not to repave a road. They can be used to construct a new bridge but not repair an old bridge.

Thomas said the amount of money that it would take to fix road congestion could not be solved with impact fees. She said the traffic congestion on 41 or on the way to the beach could not be fixed with impact fees.

“Many issues we are facing cannot be solved with one solution,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to solve a problem by hurting someone else. A true community solves the problem together.”

Thomas said another issue with raising impact fees is the effect it will have on the valuation of all properties in Lee County.

She said the issue at hand is how do they manage growth in a productive way that leads to a better, more user friendly community without taking the No. 1 economic drivers and throwing them under the bus.

“Raising impact fees to the maximum will not fix the problem,” Thomas said.

The board will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Chambers, 2120 Main St,. Fort Myers.