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Council OKs hiring firm for analysis for dual public safety training facility

By Staff | Mar 22, 2016

Cape Coral Fire Chief Donald Cochran convinced everyone on City Council, except Mayor Marni Sawicki, of the value of spending nearly $50,000 for engineering consultant Hole Montes Inc. to do an analysis and create a master plan to build a public safety training facility for shared fire and police training.

Sawicki questioned why an internal analysis is not sufficient.

“You know what you need,” Sawicki told Cochran. “I trust your knowledge. I don’t understand why the analysis can’t be done internally.”

Cochran explained that yes, he and Police Chief Bart Connelly know what is needed.

“We know what we need, but we don’t understand the size and scope of the project, which is why there is a need for an outside firm,” Cochran said. “This is a needs analysis, like how much land is needed. This master plan not only addresses what we need now, but 25 years from now. We don’t want to build a facility and outgrow it in 10 years.”

Cochran went on to say staff has visited a number of training facilities throughout the state with a wide range of sizes and needs.

“We need a gun range, we need a training tower and a burn building,” said Cochran.

Police tactical units have to go to Hendry County to shoot because the Charlotte County range is now closed and the Lee County range is indoor shooting only, according to police sources.

The master plan will not include projected costs for the facility, but a needs assessment.

“Something has to be done conceptually before we decide how to move forward with this,” said Councilmember Jim Burch.

Council voted 7-1 to award the study to Hole Montes with Sawicki casting the lone dissenting vote. The plan is expected to take 90 days to complete and the results will be presented to council with recommendations.

City questions Fort Myers’

discharge draft permit renewal

Council grilled Florida Department of Environmental Protection district director Jon Inglehart Monday night about the five-year operating and discharge draft permit renewal requested by the city of Fort Myers wastewater treatment facilities, including a shallow injection disposal well at the North Fort Myers Wastewater Treatment Plant. The city’s letter to the DEP claims the shallow well has the propensity to contaminate Cape Coral’s existing and planned drinking water wells with metals and other toxins.

City Manager John Szerlag objected to the permit on the basis of Fort Myers’ high volume of daily discharge (20 million gallons of effluent water per day) into the Caloosahatchee River “without restrictions and no steps to reduce that amount.”

City staff analysis raises concerns of higher than allowed levels of mercury, copper and chemicals, but DEP data disputes that, saying the numbers available to them are within state guidelines.

Burch said he is concerned about the difference between the city’s and DEP’s data.

“We need to find out why we have such conflicting data,” Burch said. “Those things are as simple as where the data comes from and what time of the year it is taken. If that is the case, we need to find out.”

Fort Myers discharges about 12 million gallons of effluent into the river daily, according to the DEP.

By comparison, Cape Coral has not discharged effluent water into the river since 2008 and currently is drilling a second deep injection discharge well at the Southwest RO Plant.

The North Fort Myers plant injection well is at a depth of 1,400 feet into the Avon Park Formation. Standard practice in Southwest Florida and Cape Coral is to drill injection wells to the Boulder Zone at 2,500 feet. The Boulder Zone has been proven reliable and safer than what is being proposed at North Fort Myers, according to the city’s letter to the DEP.

The DEP has scheduled a public meeting on April 21 to discuss Cape Coral’s objection to the draft permit renewal. Input given at the meeting will be reviewed by DEP and added to the final permit renewal if warranted.

Inglehart said whether or not a permit is issued, Fort Myers will be allowed to continue to operate the facilities and required to find a solution.

Paving update

Public Works Director Steve Neff updated council on its five-year road repaving plan by adding 2019 and 2020 projects to the plan.

Repaving of 24 miles of local roads is set for 2020 with plans to add Nelson Road, Chiquita Boulevard, Durden Parkway and Skyline Boulevard to the major road plan.

Ongoing utility projects forced the city to postpone Gleason Parkway repaving until 2017 while at the same time advancing a deteriorating stretch of Hancock Bridge Parkway to take its place in 2016’s plan.

Council’s next regular meeting is next Monday in Council Chambers.