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Cape council to seek renegotiated interlocal toll pact

By Staff | Jun 4, 2012

Councilmember Kevin McGrail may have to put his superior letter-writing skills to good use again.

The Cape Coral City Council seems ready to take the county to task on the interlocal toll agreement for what another council member said is an unfair distribution of net surplus tolls – what’s left after all expenses are paid – and the city’s lack of control over what it can do with its share of the money.

During Monday’s city council workshop meeting at city hall, Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz questioned whether the interlocal agreement, which has been amended numerous times over the years, can be amended again.

“Are we getting our fair share? Residents pay tolls to get home. The majority of the tolls is Cape Coral money,” Chulakes-Leetz said before asking new city manager John Szerlag to use staff to “get us into the 2012 era.”

“A 40 percent cut is not equitable when 70 percent who use the bridge are Cape Coral residents,” Chulakes-Leetz said.

He added that a renegotiation of the interlocal could succeed, since two members of the Board of County Commissioners, John Manning and Tammy Hall, represent Cape Coral.

Manning could not be immediatelyreached for comment.

McGrail took a similar view.

“We’ve been a 40 percent silent partner who hasn’t had ample input on how the money is spent,” McGrail said. “This is a political issue between the BOCC and the city. I’d like to see a 50-50 split.”

Chulakes-Leetz said he thought the 60/40 agreement should be reversed with Cape Coral getting the lion’s share.

McGrail agreed to draft a letter to the BOCC, which Chulakes-Leetz thought was prudent, admitting he can be “heavy-handed.”

Resident Philip Boller contends the city 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.

Boller also claimed the county hadn’t issued any reports on how the money was being spent and conducted numerous projects without city approval.

But not everyone was so sure. Councilmember Marty McClain said he needed more proof.

“I won’t pull the trigger on what we don’t have information for,” McClain said. “We can’t use the money for whatever we want. I need to hear both sides of the story. It’s all hype.”

“I’m not certain this is the method to get there. There’s no plan. We need a clearer picture,” Councilmember Rana Erbrick said. “We can’t go into the BOCC half-cocked. I’m uncomfortable.”

“The staff has done what it could do, now it’s up to us to work with the BOCC,” Chulakes-Leetz responded.

But getting the BOCC to agree to council’s request could be daunting.

“The agreement identifies where the money is spent. How much input does the city have in deciding how it’s spent,” said city attorney Menendez. “The more money you take, the less the county has.”

Whatever happens, Boller was happy he made his point.

“The time has come to revisit the interlocal agreement for the benefit of the drivers and taxpayers,” Boller said. “In five years, the net surplus tax will be $3 million a year for Cape Coral. And they need it for the roadways.”