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Council: Ceitus spreader a dead issue

By Staff | Apr 9, 2013

Mayor John Sullivan is getting a little fed up with the Lee County Board of Commissioners and its insistence on keeping the Ceitus Boat lift issue alive.

The mayor expressed this position during a discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting in reaction to the BOCC insisting that the Cape sign a tolling agreement. Sullivan said this would keep the issue on the table although both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers have ruled against putting the a new lift back in the North Spreader as the county desires.

He seriously considered canceling Friday’s joint meeting between the BOCC and city council at 1 p.m. in council chambers.

Councilmember John Carioscia told the mayor, “Now’s not the time to take our ball and go home.”

“I don’t want to take my ball and go home,” Sullivan retorted. “I want to take a baseball bat and bash them over the head.”

Sullivan laid out three options for council: To approve the tolling agreement, to send a message that everything is on the table, or to disagree on the issue, or disagree on the issue and take them to court, which Sullivan said the BOCC seemingly wants to do anyway.

“The county is determined to keep the barrier. We need to get it off the table along with Chapter 164,” Sullivan said.

Chapter 164 is a Florida State Statute that requires government entities that have disagreements to mediate and come up with an agreement before resorting to litigation.

City attorney Steve Griffin pointed out that all three parties must sign off on the tolling agreement, and that the DEP is not part of the Chapter 164 process.

Council decided to tell the BOCC that the Ceitus barrier is a dead issue

According to Councilmember Kevin McGrail and others, the DEP is not interested in signing any agreement and that the county can do whatever they want since the waters favor them.

“To sign an agreement the DEP has no intent to sign would be spinning our wheels,” McGrail said. “We need to look them in the eye and put this to bed. It’s time we address the BOCC on important issues.”

“Everybody is saying our science is better than your science. At the end of the day, it’s what the DEP says,” Councilmember Marty McClain said. “If they want the barrier, let them apply for a permit.”

In other business, the City Council approved the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police.

The prize issue, over pension reform, will save the city nearly $73 million over the next 25 years and will put a cap on pensions at $95,000 a year. It will also give officers (except for the chief and captains) a 5 percent bonus, which will cost the city $560,000.

However, the anticipated saving in fiscal year 2014 will be estimated at $900,000 and increase from there.

“We want them to take ownership of their work and be paid fairly and enjoy coming to work,” City Manager John Szerlag said.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz criticized the plan. He said is was not fair to the other workers in the city who didn’t get a bonus, nor have received a raise in six years.

Sullivan, while happy with the savings, had a problem with capping a pension at $95,000 when the average salary for a person is about $35,000.

He and Sullivan voted against a measure that passed 6-2.