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CRA board gives nod to veterans banner program; spots available

By Staff | Apr 24, 2015

Families, businesses can honor veterans with banners to be displayed in the South Cape.

Cape Coral City Council, acting as commissioners for the downtown Community Redevelopment Agency, ironed out the final details of a proposed street light banner program in a regular session Tuesday night.

The CRA booard set the ground rules such as to what organizations would be allowed to use the program, the size of the banners, the cost associated with putting them up and taking them down. The city should expect little or no cost associated with the program.

The banner program first came to the board at the request of the Southwest Florida Military Museum serving area veterans. They asked to put up banners honoring local veterans for their service. Those on City Council and CRA boards immediately supported the idea.

“This is what this program is for,” said Commissioner Jim Burch. “It’s a great idea to honor our veterans.”

Southwest Florida Military Museum founder and president Ralph Santillo was pleased with the unanimous vote.

“We have 35 banners ready to go now,” Santillo said. “We backed off it for awhile due to the delays. This is the seventh meeting I’ve had with the board. I hope now we can get the banners up before Memorial Day.”

To help support its programs, the veterans group is charging a family that wants to sponsor a banner $275 for a 90-day exposure on the light poles in the South Cape area. A corporate or business sponsorship is $350 for the same period. Veterans can be sponsored multiple times.

“We will make about $50 per banner,” said Santillo. “The city threw us a curve by charging us $40 to put them up and$40 to take them down. That’s $80 up front, which I hope can be changed. We’re buying all the brackets for the poles as well. Once the brackets are up the banners take only a few minutes to put up.”

Santillo said the veterans have hired a licensed and insured contractor to put up the banners.

“We plan to rotate the banners every 90 days all at the same time that we put up new ones,” said Santillo. “After the banners come down the family can ask to take them home or a business sponsor can hang it in their store if they want.

“This program will bring people to our city from all over the country to see the banners. These banners are not junk, they are well made to withstand exposure to the sun and weather,” said Santillo.

Cape Coral recently was designated a Purple Heart City, one of only six cities in Florida. Santillo said the banner program is not an easy process.

“We have to make sure the veteran has the awards they say they do, like Purple Hearts and such,” he said. “And we have to get the photos. We have a lot of veterans waiting in the wings.”

The veterans museum was started by Santillo six years ago in a 1,300 square-foot storefront. It moved two years ago to its current location on Leonard Street ,formerly occupied by a grocery store. Santillo said they have outgrown that building, too, and are looking for property in Cape Coral to build on.

“We only want to move one more time in our lifetime,” said Santillo. “All of the items in the museum came from local veterans. When they come visit, that’s their stuff. And there’s a lot of amazing stuff.”

The CRA board expanded the banner program to include non-profit and not for profit organizations, as well as the city, to promote upcoming events in South Cape. A minimum of 10 to a maximum of 50 banners can be flown on light poles along Cape Coral Parkway between Palm Tree Boulevard and Del Prado Boulevard. The cost to the organization would be $80 per pole.

Commissioners Richard Leon and Rick Williams voiced objections to the expanded program. Leon contended it flies in the face of the city’s sign ordinance and could not support it beyond the veterans banners.

Williams said the expansion goes behind what was intended with the veterans.

“I’m having trouble with this because it has gotten completely blown out of proportion,” said Williams.

CRA Chair Rana Erbrick responded, “I’d rather put a program in place now than have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis in the future.”

Ultimately, the program had enough board support to forward the recommendation to City Council for final approval.