The Cape Coral City Council met Monday afternoon. Here’s a capsule look:
Who attended: Mayor Marni Sawicki, Council members Rana Erbrick, John Carisocia, Rick Williams, Lenny Nesta, Jim Burch, Richard Leon and Derrick Donnell.
Major takeaway: Additional region in the mid-Cape could become part of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
•What:Council has a meeting Dec. 8 to discuss blighted areas in the mid-Cape. A presentation shows some of the challenges of this community including multiple dead-ends into vacant land and deteriorating pavement, outdated and lacking storm water infrastructure and a lack of gutters. Statistic show that taxable values of the City of Cape Coral as a whole dropped 12.64 percent over the past five years. The proposed CRA expansion area taxable value of property depreciated at over 3 times the rate than that of the City as a whole, a presentation showed.
•Why it matters: The resolution of necessity shows the existence of blighted areas, based upon the study completed by Real Estate Research Consultants. If adopted, this resolution allows the City to move forward with a CRA Plan for the proposed mid-Cape CRA.
•The background: This could generate dollars to address the industrial area near Cape Coral City Hall off Cultural Park Boulevard and other blighted areas in the region.
Major takeaway: Fire Assessment Methodology to be considered by Florida Supreme Court
•What: A handful of council members, City Attorney Dolores Menendez and City Manager John Szerlag among other city leaders, are going to Tallahassee for Thursday’s hearing with the Florida Supreme Court on the fire services assessment methodology
•Why it matters: It will decide whether council can use the estimated $22 million it’s collected in escrow towards capital improvements in the city and potential raises along with other projects. If the Florida Supreme Court votes against the methodology, the city may have to eventually refund the dollars that were collected.
•The background: It’s been an ongoing battle. The Fire Services Assessment was upheld as a legal methodology by a local circuit court, but appealed by a group of residents to the Florida Supreme Court.
Litigation has been ongoing for the majority of the year. The Florida Supreme Court may not give its final judgment until next year.
Major takeaway: City Manager John Szerlag’s raises tabled.
• What: Council members debated a salary increase for Szerlag under unfinished business. It was tabled until further notice.
•Why it matters: Over the past several weeks, the issue of raises have frustrated both council and city employees. During Monday meetings, council members who previously supported giving Szerlag an immediate raise said, while they still agree he deserves it, the timing is bad and it would send the wrong message.
• The background: Members of the general union showed up a week ago to voice their support for the fire union’s contract and requested a similar understanding. Firefighters received a five percent increase retrograded to July 1 and 5 percent as of Oct. 1. Council member Derrick Donnell noted it’s important to address the general employees first and then address Szerlag. Council member John Carioscia voiced his support and made a motion for the raise at first 5 percent and then 3 percent. He realized he didn’t have the votes and tabled the issue.
Major takeaway: Two entryway structures to be considered on Cape Coral Parkway and Veterans Parkway
•What: Some call them billboards, but others see this as a way to communicate with the community through digital electronic message centers.
•Why it matters: Council members approved initial consideration of a public-private partnership with Lamar Advertising in a vote of 6 to 2.
Now there’s more work to be done.
Quote of the Day: “I see it as a safety hazard,” said Councilman Rick Williams. “I don’t think it’s the right place for that personally. I don’t like those signs to begin with, I think they’re very obnoxious. We don’t want billboards in town. That’s my issue.”