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CRA to suspend event sponsorship grants

By Staff | May 3, 2018

news@breezenewspapers.com

In a meeting intended to be informational, the Community Redevelopment Agency made a couple significant decisions that could have an impact on the South Cape.

The board voted 3-1 to suspend the CRA sponsorship grant program for the next fiscal year because of the debt the agency has incurred as a result of the $13 million Southeast 47th Terrace streetscape project.

The Special Event Sponsorship grants were intended for non-profits or other entities to bring new events into the CRA district. The grant would help these events get off the ground until they could become self-sufficient.

Some of these events, though, have relied on grant money for years long after it as necessary, officials said.

Also, the future of the grant program was up in the air as was the existence of CRAs as the state legislature mulled removing CRAs altogether.

When the Cape Coral City Council served as the CRA Commission, it also discussed suspending or doing away with the grant program altogether.

“It was a late start because of what was happening in Tallahassee and we didn’t know if we would offer it anyway,” said Janis Keim, CRA board member. “Requests were cut last year because we had no new events and some of them were receiving money for 15 years.”

CRA board chair Stacy LoMonaco, who did not attend the meeting, said in a memo that the program should be suspended and revisited next year.

“Due to the streetscape project, we have incurred quite a debt so feel it’s best to suspend this for the upcoming year and revisit it next year. I’d like to see the CRA take out as little a loan as possible,” LoMonaco said in her memo.

Ragen St. Peter agreed, saying they should look at getting better events, take a year off, and reevaluate the program, while Keim said perhaps it’s time for organizations to think outside the box and consider raising vendor fees to make up for the grants.

This idea could have an impact on newer events, such as the successful Touch-a-Truck autism-education event.

Board member Linda Biondi disagreed, saying that after financing $4 million for the city-CRA streetscape project, she believed that an extra $20,000 would make that much difference. She cast the lone dissent on the motion to suspend.

“These events help bring people into the area to visit businesses in the area and it has worked for years,” Biondi said. “With the streetscape project, if we bring in events that bring 10,000 people into the district to spend their money, why would we not support those events?”

The CRA board also made a decision on the replacement of trees on Cape Coral Parkway that were destroyed because of Hurricane Irma.

The storm took down 10 trees, two near Del Prado near Perkins, four in median three to the west, two near Leonard Street and two in the next median, Median 7.

The city sought direction on what type of trees the CRA wanted in their place. Under consideration were high-rise and cathedral oaks, both shade trees.

However, more favor went toward palm trees, which are meant to withstand hurricanes better and don’t chew up the sidewalks and streets with their roots over time.

“I’m not a fan of trees with roots after what they did to our sidewalks,” Keim said. “I’m more of a palm girl, especially after Irma.”

Dan Sheppard, a professional landscaper, also recommended palms for different reasons.

“Palms are more economical than hardwood and nature doesn’t approve of hardwood on the coast. It desires palms for tropical storms, which can withstand what homes can’t,” Sheppard said. “Besides, what did we come to Florida for?”