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Cape looks to hire DCD director

By Staff | May 16, 2013

A request to begin the process of hiring a new director will top a heavy agenda for the Cape Coral City Council meeting this Monday at City Hall.

The agenda also will include eight quasi-judicial hearings on zoning changes in the north Cape.

City manager John Szerlag is asking to begin the process of hiring an executive recruitment firm to find candidates for what Szerlag hopes will be the soon-to-be created post of director of the Department of Community Development.

The position is being proposed after an evaluation of the city’s DCD by Zucker & Associates showed the need for a full-time director as opposed to an acting one.

“It was one of the top recommendations of the report and there’s no doubt the DCD has not had a full-time director for a number of years,” city spokesperson Connie Barron said.

Paul Dickson has served as the interim director of the DCD for about three years in addition to serving as the city’s top building official.

“I don’t think it was his intent to be the director of the department. He was content to be the city’s building official,” Barron said. “I think he will be as relieved as anyone else when they hire a new DCD director.”

Szerlag has said he would like to have the position filled before the end of summer, which would require a budget amendment since the position was not earmarked for the current fiscal year.

The position would be compensated for between the minimum and maximum of the salary range.

Barron said the DCD director would oversee the operations of the department, which would include permitting, inspections, planning and review of code enforcement.

“It’s a key position, whether it’s warranted it’s been a red-headed stepchild of the city,” Barron said. “It tends to get criticized the most. He needs to have a thick skin and a plan to steer the ship in the right direction.”

Another item on the agenda is a discussion item brought forward by Councilmember Kevin McGrail to change a city ordinance regarding the prohibition of artificial lawns.

McGrail said he would like city staff to take some time to look into allowing artificial turf to be installed on private lawns, and perhaps be used by the city on its playgrounds.

McGrail said the current ordinance was passed in the late 1960s, when Astroturf was in its infancy. It was passed because the indoor/outdoor carpeting people used was said to trap mold, created an odor, and retained moisture and heat in the summer.

“The benefit for the city is that you don’t have to worry about it getting overgrown and it requires no irrigation,” McGrail said. “The new stuff retains its color and the feel of grass. It looks like grass from a distance.”

Cape Christian Fellowship has plans to build a playground with the artificial surface, a plan that was approved several weeks ago by the city council.

The new turf has gotten rave reviews, McGrail said. Collier County installed artificial turf on all its football fields several years ago.

“This is something the city may consider for its playgrounds instead of mulch or grounded-up rubber,” McGrail said. “The gets blown around and the chemicals can leach into the ground.”