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Bridge toll interlocal agreement may be revisited

By Staff | Jun 2, 2012

One Cape Coral resident believes the city needs to wake up and take the toll money that rightfully belongs here.

Meanwhile, a member of the city council says it might be time to reevaluate the terms of a long-standing agreement between the city and the county in regards to how surplus tolls are distributed.

During Monday’s city council workshop, a point of discussion will be whether to amend or rewrite the interlocal agreement between Lee County and the city concerning how surplus money from the two city bridges is divided.

One city resident, Philip Boller, contends the Cape has been getting shorted by the county for years to the tune of millions of dollars and that the city will be entitled to much more as the bonds to pay for the Midpoint Bridge expire.

“The county has taken possession of our money and say they can tell us how to spend it,” Boller said. “A new interlocal agreement should be put forth by the city.”

Boller contends that 18 projects have been funded by the city’s 40 percent surplus toll dollars, but only a handful have been approved by the city.

“The county has spent money on projects not agreed to by the agreement. It’s an administrative screw-up by the city by not looking over the 40 percent,” Boller said. “It would have amounted to $1.5 to $2 million a year and the county went and spent it along the (Colonial) expressway.”

Through paperwork he has furnished on the council agenda, Boller contends the county owes the city $4.8 million in surplus tolls, with the county’s annual 2011 surplus being close to $3 million.

As time goes on and the bonds expire, Boller said the surpluses will grow. By 2022, he said the city’s net surplus will be $3.93 million annually.

Cape Coral City Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz called Boller’s assertions “ill-shaped interpretations” and said that no laws are being broken by either side.

However, he did agree it might not be a bad idea to look into tweaking the agreement or, if need be, changing it entirely.

“As times change, re-evaluation has been brought up, but there’s been no movement because the city and county haven’t wanted change,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “The issue is whether to consider a new agreement. Hopefully, a motion will be made.”

Leetz also said some of the projects the toll surpluses pay for, such as the expansion of Burnt Store Road, may not be “harmonious” to what the city wants, and that the city residents pay the lion’s share of the tolls as many of them work outside the city limits.

“We need to reevaluate the entire agreement. Maybe they want Cape Coral to take over 100 percent of the bridge and we take all the tolls,” Leetz said. “It takes reasonable discussion made by reasonable people.”