City of Palms Park continues to cost taxpayers

Reporter: Justin Kase
Published: Updated:

Fort Myers taxpayers, get ready to shell out another half million dollars for yet another year.

The City of Palms Park has sat vacant for years now, and the people of Fort Myers are paying the price as City Council struggles to figure out what to do with it.

Earlier this year, the Council selected Pitch Prime to develop the park.

The company planned to bring a professional soccer team and various amenities to the park, but now it seems the Council might pull the rug out from underneath Pitch Prime.

This would make this process start all over again.

Council members instructed city staff to negotiate with Pitch Prime to bring an MLS Next-Pro team here.

It seemed like a done deal; however, the runner-up in the selection process is holding up a red card and crying foul.

Attorneys representing the United Soccer League accused council members of violating their selection rules when they picked Pitch Prime.

City council bickered last January after they ranked developer Pitch Prime, as their top choice.

Council members Liston Bochette and Fred Burson used zeroes to rank competing developers.

They had to rank the developers in different categories on a scale of one to five, and zero was never supposed to be an option.

Using zeroes could have altered who won the selection process.

Attorneys for the USL protested the decision and threatened to sue the city over how the two council members acted.

On Feb. 1, city manager Marty Lawing said he would review the protest.

“Once that recommendation will come to my office, and we’ll evaluate that with our legal team and evaluate the merits of the protest, and then I’ll make a decision and recommendation to the city council,” Lawing said.

And now it appears that the city manager is set to recommend that the city start this whole process again.

A brand-new procurement process and new requests for proposals, presentations and votes.

However, the City Council would still have to approve the recommendation.

In the meantime, City of Palms Park will remain vacant, costing taxpayers in Fort Myers half a million dollars a year to maintain while the Council sorts this all out.

WINK reached out to representatives from Pitch Prime and the USL.

A spokesperson from Pitch Prime did get back to us and said the recommendation means a delay of potentially a year before soccer will be played here, along with another year of wasted maintenance costs.

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