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County officials address Irma preparations, aftermath

October 24, 2017
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Last week, the Lehigh Acres Community Council heard about the efforts of multiple Lee County agencies and others in preparing for Hurricane Irma and the handling of the storm's aftermath.

On Oct. 16, the council was joined by Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, who led the meeting. According to Mann, council President Rick Anglickis and many of the residents in Lehigh voiced concerns that the community was ignored in post-recovery efforts, including areas like debris clean up.

"I got a call from Rick Anglickis, who was getting complaints from many residents who asked why Cape Coral and other areas of Lee County were already cleaned up, but Lehigh Acres was still a mess," he said.

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Frank Mann

According to Mann, the rumors were untrue.

"I spoke with my assistant Chris Berry, who lives in Cape Coral, and he reported that there are still quite a bit of debris sitting on the sides of the roads (in the Cape)," he said.

Mann praised how well the Lehigh community pulled together after the disaster.

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"Thanks to careful citizens and the media, who reported on areas where the traffic lights were out, we had hardly any accidents or injuries," he said.

Mann added that the media did a great job, but overstated some of the facts on the damage.

"The media said that Suncoast Estates and Oak Park (Mobile Home Village) in Alva were completely wiped out, so I decided to do my own personal assessment," he said.

According to Mann, the two areas were far from destroyed, although they did sustain similar levels of damage as parts of Lehigh.

He also addressed one of the biggest issues concerning many residents - debris removal.

"We are expanding existing contracts with those providing debris pickup services. This extra manpower will definitely speed up the process," Mann said.

The commissioner mentioned that the Lee County Mosquito Control District is allowing residents to bring truckloads of debris to its vacant property at Gunnery Road North and Sunset Road.

Lee County Manager Roger DeJarlais was also in attendance at the meeting. He presented a variety of boards outlining details about Irma, along with the storm's timeline and its impact on the county.

"This storm was unprecedented and difficult to predict because it basically encompassed the entire state," he said.

According to DeJarlais, Lee County dodged a bullet.

"We could have seen more than a 10-foot water surge if Irma had made landfall near the coastline. As it was, we saw a great deal of flooding coming into Lehigh Acres and other areas more east due to overflow from the Caloosahatchee River and sheet flow from earlier heavy rainfalls," he said.

Officials from the Lee County Sheriff's Office, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were also on hand at the meeting to explain their roles before and after the storm.

Council member Orville Hall asked if FEMA reimbursed residents for storm-related food loss.

FEMA's Division Supervisor John Wilson said the agency does not provide food reimbursement.

After the presentations, the council moved on to other business, including a discussion about the formation of a zoning board. According to Anglickis, the entity would fall under the umbrella of the council. Anglickis is working on an agreement for the board, which will be filed with Mann.

Incorporate Lehigh Inc. President Joan Cunningham announced that a town hall meeting will be held on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Lehigh Senior High School auditorium, at 901 Gunnery Road N. Each of the committee chairs will give presentations on the functions of each group.

The council's next meeting is Nov. 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lee County Sheriff's Office East District substation, at 1301 Homestead Road N.

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