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Council to revisit bar hour extension, prioritizes capital improvements

By Staff | Jun 11, 2016

City Council agreed to take another look at extending bar hours in South Cape until 4 a.m. on the weekends and set priorities on some capital improvement projects at Friday’s special workshop meeting.

Enough council members expressed a willingness to keep their minds open to more information and research provided by Councilman Richard Leon who is leading the charge toward a new permanent ordinance. An extension to the one-year pilot ordinance was voted down earlier this year when it expired.

“The vote was 4-4, but I think some on the other side of the issue were willing to allow this with changes,” said Leon. “I just would like a consensus from those on council to work with you and move this forward. Otherwise, I don’t want to waste any more of my time or staff’s time. If you agree, I will work with the public sector and get their input and come back to a (workshop) meeting with an attached ordinance. And, of course, we could end it there.”

Councilman Rick Williams, who has been against extending bar hours from the very beginning, told the panel that he needed convincing with more information and data, but would keep an open mind.

“I’m hearing from the people I represent that they don’t want this,” Williams said. “I need more information to be sole on the idea. Someone needs to show that it really is working to help the economy. We need to do a better job of marking the program to the people. If I vote for this I don’t want my constituents on the phone threatening not to vote for me next time.”

Joe Mazurkiewicz of BJM Consulting offered to bring a presentation to council showing the benefits enjoyed by the businesses in South Cape during the last year in addition to the growth of new businesses tied to the extended bar hours.

“He’s offered to help us out with a plan and I think it’s a good idea to work with the Council For Progress on this,” said Williams.

Council woman Jessica Cosden said was open to more discussion on the matter, but reiterated her stance that it should not cost taxpayers anything.

“I don’t care if bars are open 24/7,” said Councilwoman Rana Erbrick. “If it’s strictly two hours two days a week I’m out. I think it should be allowed citywide, but it needs to be policed properly.”

Leon and city staff will work over the summer hiatus to provide the additional data requested by council members and draft an ordinance to be considered at a future workshop session before it goes directly to council for a final vote.

Council also took a look at several capital projects in the Parks & Recreation, Public Works and General Fund areas. Everything discussed will come back to council for a vote at a regular meeting either as individual resolutions or as budget items since the workshop meetings are non-voting sessions.

BMX Park improvements, neighborhood parks, Festival Park with an amphitheater, small sporting arena, median landscaping, traffic calming measures and traffic signal control devices for emergency vehicles all were mentioned.

Council targeted several projects to be funded out of the council’s special reserves that was generated primarily by settlements of lawsuits with local utilities over relocation costs during major roadway projects on Del Prado Boulevard and Pine Island Road. Among those are upgrades to the starting gate and sun shade canopy at BMX Park, a voucher program to help homeless military veterans, LED lighting at Cape Coral Sports Complex and median landscaping.

Several projects will be addressed in the Parks Master Plan, which is expected to be completed by November. Parks director Steve Pohlman told the members that it will cost $6 million for the amphitheater at Festival Park and another $6 million to run utilities to the park.

Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilwoman Rana Erbrick has more conservative opinions on the project, proposing grass and a berm instead of a costly state-of-the-art facility.

“Let’s get it going with a berm and see how it grows from there,” said Erbrick. “Other venues in the area bring in portable toilets.”

Pohlman agreed that it’s too early in the process without a master site plan to best locate an amphitheater at the park, but a mound of dirt can always be moved. He added that acquisition costs, capital costs and operation cost figures for the Parks Master Plan will be available in about 45 days.

“At other venues the parking proceeds alone pay for the facility,” said Sawicki.

Council members agreed to continue the $6.5 million roadway repaving schedule for the foreseeable future as well as drawing up a traffic calming program document to address citizen complaints about excessive speeding or otherwise unsafe roadways. The cost of a traffic calming program being implemented is estimated at $700,000 per year, which would be fully funded by the city or through an assessment on residents.

The city’s roadway repaving project is over and above the repaving that takes place during the Utilities Expansion Project (UEP), which is funded by special assessment to residents.

Fire Chief Donald Cochran presented a program to install electronic devices at more than 50 intersections throughout the city that would enhance response times for fire and police emergency vehicles. He proposed spending $95,000 a year over the next 10 years to acquire and install the system as early as the 2019 Fiscal Year budget. However, if the project qualifies to be funded from the Fire Services Assessment it could be installed sooner with a significant savings by a one-time payment.

Cochran also said his department is looking into getting state or federal matching grants to fund the project and said he would bring options back to council at a later date.