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Cape Coral City Council approves new hires

By Staff | Jun 8, 2016

With the economy recovering from a major downturn, Cape Coral administrators are moving to fill vacancies in employee ranks which they say will help improve staff’s efficiency and level of service.

City Council Monday night approved the hiring of 16 full-time employees across five departments. Twelve of the positions are in the Department of Community Development for building inspectors, a plans examiner and customer service.

Increasing numbers of permit applications for residential and commercial development is cited as the reason for the request.

“As things get better again the pace is beginning to quicken,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association. “We need that ability to get those next day inspections. This is a good starting point to get the building department back to where it used to be, which will be imperative to bring the city’s construction industry back to where it was.”

The new hires will cost just over $744,000 for the rest of Fiscal Year 2016 and is covered by the department’s Building Fund revenues generated by permit fees.

Council also approved a Public Works deputy director position to be filled temporarily by Utilities Expansion Manager Paul Clinghan, who is being groomed to possibly replace Public Works Director Steve Neff when he retires on Dec. 1.

“I prefer to promote from within whenever I can,” said City Manager John Szerlag. “There’s no guarantee Paul will get the job, but I think he can do the job. If he is offered the job, then we will have to decide whether or not to keep the deputy director position and down the road hire a new UEP manager.”

New positions also were approved for a senior accountant to write and monitor financial grant applications, an ITS security manager and a public information specialist.

All of the resolutions were unanimously approved with the exception of the public information specialist, with Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmember Marilyn Stout casting dissenting votes.

“I’m not convinced we need another person on board there,” said Stout. “I will always do my best not to spend funds until the costly LCEC?issue is resolved.”

All 16 positions are expected to cost about $1.1 million each year with about one quarter of the funds coming from the General Fund.

—- Hearing Office process approved

Council also unanimously approved a series of ordinance amendments to establish a Hearing Examiner process, replacing the Planning & Zoning Commission for quasi-judicial hearings on land use and development regulation deviations, zoning and special exceptions.

“This gives more continuity and consistency to the process,” said DCD?Director Vince Cautero. “As these issues become more and more technical and legal in nature, having one person, who has a legal background in land use planning and growth management, is vital.”

Fort Myers attorney Anne Dalton, who is experienced in Florida land use laws, was hired earlier this year to be the hearing examiner. The city budgeted $75,000 to pay Dalton’s salary which will come from fees paid by applicants in the cases generated.

Cautero added that the process will be analyzed for the first year and decide the value moving forward.

—- In other business

* Council also approved continuation of its local and major road repaving programs using its Fiscal Year 2016 budgeted funds. The majority of the 38 miles of local roads are in north Cape and less than half that total in South Cape. Another 11 miles of major roads are scheduled for resurfacing also in north and south Cape.

The bid-winning contractor for both projects is Community Asphalt Corp.

* Szerlag requested a workshop meeting at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Nicholas Annex building to discuss capital projects suggested by council. Councilmember Richard Leon indicated he also wanted to lead a discussion on extended bar hours.

Council’s last regular meeting before the summer hiatus is Monday, June 13.