‘Billboard’ proposal nudges forward
Lamar Advertising’s unsolicited proposal resubmitted to City Council in recent months has been deemed qualified to move forward through a Public-Private Partnership process under the state’s new “P3” Statute.
Council on Monday night, after a lengthy and sometimes confusing discussion, voted 4-3 to continue to pursue Lamar’s offer to construct entry structures on city owned or controlled property at the foot of the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges. The structure design would be similar to the entry structure on the Del Prado Boulevard extension near U.S. 41 and attach digital message boards to the bridge locations.
The boards would be used for a combination of commercial advertising and public service announcement messaging. Lamar’s original proposal also offers to supply two smaller digital message boards to be placed on either side of the Veterans Parkway overpass on Del Prado to display city PSA messages to replace the fabric banners now being used.
The P3 process is the first to be established in Cape Coral.
Council, which voted 6-2 last month to examine if the proposal could become a P3 process. With council member Lenny Nesta absent and earlier voted “no” on the project, members Rick Williams, Derrick Donnell and Jim Burch voted against moving ahead with the process this time. Most members expressed concern over the impact to the city’s sign ordinance as well as the possibility of other advertising agencies coming forward seeking to erect billboards elsewhere in the city.
“I am struggling with this because the one thing I want to avoid is to open the door for other billboards in the city,” said Mayor Marni Sawicki. “I like the public service announcement aspect of it because I get asked about that a lot. I will not be the mayor known as the first to allow billboards in Cape Coral.”
She then turned to City Attorney Delores Menendez asking for a yes-or-no answer over this project making additional billboard requests possible. Menendez responded with a 10-minute explanation indicating it is impossible to know if something such as this would be challenged in the court system. Lamar’s legal representative said the sign ordinance is clear on billboards and the city’s outside counsel on the P3 part of the process seemed to agree.
“I see way too much lawyering up with this. Bottom line here is I’m out,” Burch said.
Council’s vote to proceed asks Lamar to deposit $50,000 to cover costs to the city to pursue the P3. When the deposit is made, the project will be advertised for 120 days to allow other ad agencies to make a proposal. The city then will decide whether to continue and choose which company’s proposal they accept.
Other final public hearing business before the members Monday sailed through on unanimous votes, including two ordinances refinancing city bonds at lower interest rates. The decisions will save the city more than $15 million in interest payments over the next 20 years, according to City Finance Director Victoria Bateman.
The city approved the purchase of four new school buses for the Cape Coral Charter Schools at a cost of $400,000. The buses will replace those leased from the Lee County School District that officials said kept breaking down and two were taken out of service by the district and not replaced. The charter schools will reimburse the city over an extended term.
Council also OK’d the expenditure of $4.5 million to acquire a number of police cars, fire trucks, city vehicles and IT equipment. The city is starting to replace its fleet of aging and mechanically challenged vehicles that are too costly to repair.
Most of the vehicles are more than 15 years old and have 100,000 to 150,000 miles on them, officials said.