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Cape Council mulls major projects

By Staff | May 13, 2016

For two hours Wednesday afternoon, Cape Coral City Council members reviewed its one-, three- and five-year funded and unfunded capital improvement projects list and asset improvement plan at a special workshop meeting in the Nicholas Annex building.

Discussions centered around the city’s capital improvement funding needed through 2021 at an estimated $607 million. Much smaller million-dollar estimates for capital maintenance, capital equipment and software, and rolling stock brings the overall total to more than $686.5 million.

Many of the projects listed fall under the Parks & Recreation Department, which is grinding out a Parks Master Plan that’s expected to be completed by November. Major components facing the city include the future Festival Park, construction of an amphitheater feature and possible acquisition of the vacant golf course on Palm Tree Boulevard.

“I’m hearing from you that it’s wise to have a Parks Master Plan in place,” said City Manager John Szerlag. “You want us to accelerate the cost data for capital and recurring expenses, and identify the low hanging fruit, such as Festival Park.”

Festival Park with an amphitheater is estimated to be a $20 million project, including the ongoing purchase of individually owned parcels to assemble the park’s total footprint. The city currently has acquired 410 of the 517 parcels it needs to build the park. The amphitheater feature alone is estimated to cost about $4.5 million.

Council discussed median landscaping and road paving projects already budgeted. The city has set aside $300,000 per year through 2022 for median landscape improvements in addition to the $6.5 million for road paving through 2021.

Other items included updating BMX Park with a new starting gate and canopy over the starting area; upgrades to Cultural Park Theatre; the Southeast 47th Terrace streetscaping; and a veterans homeless shelter.

Councilmember Rick Williams, who proposed the veterans homeless shelter, suggested the city could get started by giving out vouchers for veterans to use before the city decided on spending big dollars for a shelter. He said the voucher program could start with as little as $30,000 to $50,000 a year.

In January 2016, a study by the area’s Continuum of Care agency counted 439 homeless persons, including 18 veterans and 74 children.

The idea of seeking out sources for grant money would be one way to help ease the burden on the taxpayer. Szerlag said he would be bringing a proposal to council to reinstate a city grant writer’s position to the 2017 budget.

Another funding option, particularly if there is interest in acquiring the golf course, is to go to a referendum for a city-wide vote to issue bonds to fund a purchase.

Councilmember John Carioscia reaffirmed his position that he was not interested in acquiring the property at three times its value, which he said is what the ownership is asking for. He also is interested in determining the revenue lost to the city if a developer wants to put 600 homes there. He did favor a referendum vote from the community before pursuing it.

Councilmember Rana Erbrick pitched the idea that the city look at the Lutheran Church property on Del Prado Boulevard that has been vacant for some time. The property consists of several buildings.

“That would be a good place for the community to hold meetings and gatherings and educational classes,” Erbrick said. “We keep talking about getting meetings over here from across the river. It would be good for the Horizon Council or the Metropolitan Planning Organization meetings.”

Staff brought to light that a city charter school looked at the property two years ago because it was against a deadline for using portable classrooms. They backed off when the property was deemed not suitable for that purpose. Szerlag told council the city could go back and assess the property (appraised at $3.1 million) again for this different purpose. Several on council were interested in touring the buildings themselves.

“We could even lease the sanctuary back to the Lutheran Church group that lost it and is meeting in another church,” said Williams. “That way we could generate some revenue by leasing that part and us use the rest.”

General consensus by council was sensed by staff to start a bidding process for LED lighting at Cape Coral Sports Complex to be presented at a regular council meeting for approval.

Council is scheduled for a regular meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Monday at City Hall.