City Council continues public hearing on extended bar hours in South Cape
City Council opened the public hearing Monday night on an ordinance allowing bars in the South Cape district to stay open two additional hours on the weekend, then after a brief discussion elected to continue the hearing at next Monday’s council meeting.
Mayor Marni Sawicki was in Tallahassee with state legislators on Monday and requested the hearing be continued until her return. Council obliged, but allowed anyone in the audience that could not return next Monday to go ahead and speak on the issue. Two spoke in favor of the extension of hours from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and two opposed the ordinance on grounds of public safety issues and the city singling out a few businesses for the favor.
One business owner in the area who would benefit said the ordinance would make his establishment non-competitive because he could not afford the $25,000 annual cost of extra security and surveillance equipment.
Those who spoke will not be allowed to speak again at the March 30 meeting when a vote is anticipated.
A new ordinance unanimously approved Monday boosts the penalties for unlicensed contractors from $150 to $1,000 minimum and a maximum of $2,000 to bring the local ordinance in line with current state penalties.
The Cape Coral Construction Industry Association came out in favor of the changes expected to deter workers from doing jobs without a license.
Fire Chief Donald Cochran informed council that the city had retained its Class 3 Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating from its review in January. Cochran worked with a consultant to improve the city’s rating over its last review in 2008 by upgrading Station 10 at Gator Circle, increasing training hours and other initiatives.
“This could not happen without council’s approval of the bay to house the equipment at Station 10,” said Cochran. “You did your job and we did ours in that regard. We had a rating of 70, but due to changes in the testing we lost 19 points and started at about 50. Despite that, we achieved 76.62 points this time. That’s just 3.5 points from being a Class 2 city and in the top 5 percent in the nation. When we get the hydrants installed in the north Class 1 will be well within reach, which is the top 1 percent in the nation.”
Cochran said the ISO rating is crucial to keep homeowners’ insurance rates low and becomes a selling point to draw new businesses to the city.
He added that now is the time for the city to achieve its goal to build a training facility in the Cape that would be shared with the police department.
“This is a pet peeve of mine, council,” said Councilmember Lenny Nesta. “We are the 10th largest city in the state and we can not train our guys without sending them to Fort Myers or Bonita Springs. That just kills me. We need to get this done.”
Cochran said he has worked with Police Chief Bart Connelly to come up with a facility that would be a “training destination” attractive to outside departments to help offset the costs and the city’s personnel would get the fundamental training they need.
Beside the training facility, the next step to be taken before the next ISO review is to add two new fire stations and upgrading equipment. Cochran said Station 11 would come before council for 2017 and Station 12 by 2019.
Council also approved a resolution for construction and installation services at the Southwest Water Reclamation facility. The work to upgrade equipment and install bio-solids centrifuges is estimated to save the operation 30 percent on its sludge disposal costs. The city would recoup the $1.3 million expenditure within 10 years.
The next City Council meeting is March 30 in council chambers at City Hall.