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City of Cape Coral to seek Irma damage funds

By Staff | Jan 18, 2018

The damage caused by Hurricane Irma is going to take the city of Cape Coral years to complete and pay off.

On Monday, the city will address that issue through an ordinance and resolution during Monday’s regular City Council meeting at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The ordinance would authorize the appropriation of committed/ reserve funds for obligations resulting from the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

The city has paid more than $6.2 million in emergency expenses and debris removal to date. Total expenses are expected to reach $17.6 million including permanent damage repairs.

The city is working with FEMA and anticipates being reimbursed between 75 percent to 100 percent depending upon damage and the time frame.

“It’s something that has to be done,” Mayor Joe Coviello said Thursday. “We have to seek reimbursement for what we had in the relief fund and get paid for that.”

The resolution would ratify and approve the expenditure of funds by the city manager a maximum $10 million, including funds already approved and spent, and authorize the city manager to expend an additional $7.6 million contingent upon the adoption of Ordinance 18-18 to pay costs associated with Hurricane Irma.

According to the staff presentation for the resolution, all money is expected to come from disaster funds for 2017 of $4 million, approved Sept. 25 in an emergency ordinance, and $2 million in unassigned fund balances, approved on Nov. 20.

If the $4 million in disaster funds of 2018 are approved Monday, $7.6 million in unassigned fund balance can be approved on Feb. 5.

Ordinance 18-18 will be introduced Monday for a public hearing set for Feb. 5.

Much of the cost to date has been in grinding, of which $5.23 million has been spent out of the more than $6 million. Monitoring, consultants, Waste Pro and other miscellaneous expense make up the rest.

Eventually grinding costs will be $7 million, monitoring from Tetra Tech about $1.8 million and other expenditures will be estimated at another $3 million and another $5 million in payroll.

In other business, the City Council will determine whether to make the South Cape Community Redevelopment Advisory Board into a new board of commissioners.

With the creation of a board of commissioners as the governing body of the Cape Coral CRA, the former advisory board may be seen as redundant. An accompanying ordinance will look to dissolve that structure.

City Council has also served as the CRA Board of Commissioners since 2012 when it became apparent the former structure of that group was not sustainable due to decreased revenue caused by the real estate crash.

Now, with better economic times, City Manager John Szerlag has recommended the current advisory board replace the city council as commissioners.

The proposal has some support.

“I like the idea of it being run by advisory board members,” Councilmember Jennifer Nelson said. “They are relevant and down here, and their decisions affect their businesses. They know what the money will benefit and where its going.”

It may also be viewed as an idea whose time has come back.

“One of the toughest things I’ve ever seen someone do was when John eliminated the CRA Board of Directors,” Coviello said at Thursday’s groundbreaking for the Southeast 47th Terrace Streetscaping project. “One of the results of that decision, which wasn’t very popular at the time, was this project. A lot of money was saved that enabled us to put money into the CRA to put this together.”

Council also will consider rezoning several parcels on and around the south part of Chiquita Boulevard into marketplace residential in three different, quasi-judicial hearings.