Cape Council to weigh in on fire district consolidation
There are a number of fire districts and officials who want no part of consolidating all 17 of Lee County’s fire and rescue districts.
On Monday, the Cape Coral City Council is expected to decide whether the city wants to be part of the proposal and is expected to request the Lee County Board of County Commissioners leave the Cape out of any straw ballot measure related to the consolidation.
In October, the Lee County Delegation of state legislators who represent the county, led by outgoing state Rep. Matt Caldwell, voted unanimously to support the straw ballot, which would give Lee County residents a chance to voice support or opposition to a single fire entity in a non-binding ballot referendum.
Cape Coral City Councilmember Rick Williams said consolidation of the smaller districts is OK, but not for a city with a department with an annual budget of more than $20 million. He said he wants no part of a straw poll but doesn’t think the city will have a choice.
“For us to be part of a consolidation would not be fair to us because we’re bringing the new equipment and staff to the table and we’d lose control,” Williams said. “This makes no sense. We don’t want the straw poll. This is not a county issue. It was Matt Caldwell who started this. I don’t think they will take us off the list.”
Also on Monday’s agenda, city council will hear the first report from the Youth Council, a group of area high school students who meet to discuss items of interest in the city. Williams formed the group last year after it had been inactive.
“They were supposed to present reports periodically, but that wasn’t their fault, we didn’t know it was part of the original ordinance. They will talk about their accomplishments over the last year,” Williams said. “The youth council runs itself. It’s pretty autonomous.”
At the meeting, council will also fill three of seven vacancies on the Youth Council. These vacancies will be created upon the graduation of the senior members of the council.
Also, council is expected to vote on whether to add a second deputy police chief to the Cape Coral Police Department to be hired in June.
Among the ordinances being introduced will be amendments to the city’s parking ordinance regarding trailers in city-owned or controlled parking areas in the South Cape, for which a public hearing will be set for May 7.
Also, being introduced will be an amendment to an ordinance regarding bald eagle protection. It will seek to reduce the size of the eagle management zone, to provide that any development, other than a single-family home or duplex within the zone will require the submission of an Eagle Nest Management Plan and to reduce the distance from an active eagle nest prohibiting any development to occur during nesting period. The hearing on that will be May 14.
Williams said this will assure the council a busy month of May after a relatively quiet April.
“We’ll have two meetings that are an hour long and one meeting that will last 10 hours,” Williams laughed. “It’s been quiet. About the only controversial thing was the bar (hour) closing (times).”