Naples leaders, residents question use of money on road project still underway

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson
Published: Updated:
Construction project on 8th Street in Naples (WINK News)

The work won’t stop in Naples. City leaders discussed putting the brakes on the 8th Street Corridor improvements, despite the fact the project is already well underway.

The big question is, is this the best way to spend money now?

Both sides of the street are already dug up and construction has roads and sidewalks closed. Some say when the work is done, it will ease traffic and help businesses on 8th St. look nice, but that’s after millions of dollars the mayor says could have been used to help the community.

“Clearly, they’ve already started this project and they’ve already started working up here,” said Michael Aquino. He worries that road work will slow down business for his pharmacy, even when Naples starts to reopen.

”At least they started at a decent time…the weather’s been nice…there’s not a lot of people out here,” he said.

Now, he hopes the road improvements on 8th Street will get done as soon as possible after Naples Mayor Teresa Heitman nearly pulled the plug on the $7 million project.

“It was a concern of mine because about two and a half million, almost 3 million was coming out of our enterprised funds, our stormwater and within our utilities,” she said.

Tax dollars she says might have been better used to help struggling businesses right now.

”It would have been best, I think, to postpone this project just for a short time until we had more of a sense of where the health crisis is and what our future looked like,” Heitman said.

“If they haven’t already done 8th Street South, then maybe they should evaluate their finances,” Aquino said. “Nothing is going to match, it’s going to look completely off, there’s a lot of bicyclists that cycle through here, that walk through here, and just the sidewalks have been busted up anyway, they’re old.”

Despite some objections, plans to make 8th Street safer and fix drainage issues will move ahead.

‘We have cars in June and July that constantly flood out here, so it’s not just an issue of ‘beautifying’ and making it uniform to the rest of the neighborhood,” Aquino said.

Meanwhile, contractors keep on working at a time when some don’t know where their next dollar will come from.

“In the short term, there could be some funding issues due to less taxes less revenue, less tourists but you still have to be forward-looking, long term, this will pass,” Aquino said.

Heitman says the city is evaluating funds right now to see what can possibly be used to help local businesses get back on their feet and during this time, they promise taxpayers they are carefully evaluating city projects.

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