lEE COUNTY, Fla - Lee county leaders got a briefing Tuesday on the gas main rupture, explosion and fire from 12 days ago. They learned: they could ask for disaster declaration and small business loans for restaurants that sustained losses. But the likelihood of getting federal disaster designation is not high.
"I think it would be a stretch," said Public Safety Dir. John Wilson. "They usually reserve those disaster declarations for long-term events like major floods and hurricanes." Disaster status would enable businesses to apply for low-interest federal loans.
Commissioner John Manning agress. "We can sure ask the Small Business Administration about it, but I have a strong feeling, it's not going to happen. I think this is going to be a private matter between Teco Gas, Posen Construction, and the various businesses. No doubt a lot will play out in court," Manning told WINK. The Regional Manager of Stevie Tomato's Sports Page restaurants told WINK: he would rather not endure the headaches and paperwork of the federal loan process.
Wilson says the Fort Myers Fire department responded very well to the explosion and fire. He says fire-fighters did the right thing in getting the injured worker to safety, then backing off and waiting for Teco to turn off the gas and let the fire die out. Wilson does say: "If this had happened in a neighborhood or business area, we could have had a lot of injuries from that explosion and fire. In that sense, we were fortunate it happened along an isolated part of Colonial Blvd."