CREATED Apr. 23, 2013 - UPDATED: Apr. 24, 2013
SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. – Not counting visitors Sanibel Island's population is listed at about 6,600 residents and only one bridge to it. That part was a problem today as hundreds of people found themselves trying to leave the island. Some told FOX4 that people even missed flights. Why? Mercedes Benz was shooting a commercial.
"It impacts everything on Sanibel,” said Kevin Ruane, the mayor of Sanibel Island. “There's only one road on and one road off." He said a mixup among Lee County officials resulted in no one being notified. "It's the county's causeway. The county actually issued the permit they just forgot to tell Sanibel they issued a permit to give us the heads up. Had we known we could have given out an advisory which we do constantly to indicate you may want to avoid the causeway. It obviously affects our local economy. It affects people trying to get to the airports, missing flights, you know it has impacts you can't even imagine. You heard about that happening. I've gotten phone calls all day long."
Christian Bokich of Mercedes Benz USA released a statement saying: “This week, Mercedes-Benz chose the Sanibel causeway and its beautiful surroundings to create stock film footage of our new 2014 E-Class and its various body styles. We estimate that we invested around $100,000 in the local economy by staying at hotels and eating at restaurants, as well as hiring most of the locally-sourced film crew. We regret any inconvenience that the film shoot caused, keeping in mind that we worked with all local authorities several weeks in advance to obtain all necessary permits. The local police worked with us in creating regular 10 minute delays so that we could film the vehicles for the intended purpose. Today (April 23) is the last day that the shoot is taking place, and we appreciate the hospitality that the local community showed Mercedes-Benz.”
Interim Lee County Manager Douglas Meurer wrote to the other commissioners in an email: “Commissioners, I have received reports of delays on the Sanibel Causeway due to the production of a Mercedes Benz commercial. I was unaware of this event and have been tracking down what happened and how to immediately mitigate the problem. I received a copy of the permit, which had been circulated through several departments for sign off, but was never given to County Administration for review. Therefore we did not communicate with Sanibel Administration to give them a heads up about this event. My staff and I regret this. The message below indicates how the traffic control was to be handled and my understanding is there are four sheriff’s deputies at the site at this time. The message below also would indicate that Mercedes was told they were responsible to making contacts that included the Sanibel Police. I will deal with how this happened later, but for now I want to make sure the permit conditions are complied with and traffic delays are minimized. Also, I want to reiterate that I regret the lack of communication to Sanibel Administration and absolutely understand their frustration at this time.”
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