BONITA SPRINGS — Public transportation in Bonita Springs, south Lee County and North Naples will get a major boost this year after the Bonita City Council voted Wednesday night to continue funding the city’s portion of Lee Tran.
Two new bus routes will also be established in the Bonita area.
City Council voted 6 -1 in favor of maintaining an agreement for Lee Tran to operate Route 150 in Bonita Springs as well as the Fort Myers Beach Trolley, which runs from Fort Myers Beach to the Center of Bonita plaza at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road. The cost to the city is $177,306.
Councilman Bill Lonkart voted against the agreement.
“I have suggested having smaller buses like they have in Atlantic City, New Jersey that hold about 15 people,” Lonkart said. “The need is to have public transit. I agree with that, but these buses are enormous and they cost a lot of money to operate.”
Lonkart has long said that only a handful of people ride the bus at any one time.
Bonita Beach resident and city volunteer Rick Steinmeyer agreed with Lonkart.
“Does one bus size fit all? We have a humongous bus with two passengers,” Steinmeyer said. “They’re extremely noisy and they stink. I was wondering if anyone could do something about it.”
Lee Tran’s deficit last year was about $12 million, Lonkart said.
“And that has to be made up by everyone in the county,” he said.
Starting Oct. 1, Lee Tran will start a new route that will run between the Coconut Point Mall in Estero and Immokalee Road in North Naples.
A second route will be established in season that runs from Lovers Key State Park to the east end of Bonita Beach Road. That segment will run between January 12 and April 11 each year.
The total cost for the expansions is $977,890. The Florida Department of Transportation is putting up $411,208 while Lee County will contribute $395,376.
In other Bonita news:
■ Council did not adopt a proposed ordinance that would have required all pharmacy alarms to be wired directly to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and not a third-party security company.
According to the city attorney’s office, a federal law already exists that spells out how such systems should work and that any city ordinance would be a duplicative effort. However, council ordered the attorney’s office to look at how other municipalities are handling such alarm systems.
Council members have expressed concerns about pill mills springing up in the area.
“I think it wouldn’t hurt for us to say we’re serious in Bonita Springs. Bye. Take your customers with you. We don’t want that type of business in Bonita,” Councilwoman Martha Simons said. “Everyone else is welcome.”
■ Council also voted to amend a city ordinance that forbids firearms at public parks so city laws won’t contrast state laws, which allow guns in public parks.
“We’re not going to let you sleep there but we will let you carry a gun,” Mayor Ben Nelson said.
■ Coastal Clean-Up Day was scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17.
■ Council ranked its top priorities for the 2012 Legislative Session: gambling issues/dog track, pill mill regulation, redistricting, Oak Creek funding, a communications service tax and local government rights.