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Cape to leave Regional Planning Council

By Staff | May 8, 2018

Cape officials indicate it is hard to quantify what kind of return on investment the city has gotten through its involvement with the Regional Planning Council.

Apparently, with those returns diminishing due to the RPC’s diminishing influence, it was enough for the City Council on Monday to decide it will leave the RPC but pay whatever the council owes it.

The RPC has done some important things over the past few years, including create evacuation routes and storm surge maps, and it has expertise in urban issues, according to Vince Cautero, the city’s planning manager.

One presentation said the city has received a nearly 869 percent return on investment.

Unfortunately, there is now a limit in what its staff can do, and some on council believed much of what they do is a duplication of what other entities do.

“Don’t we have other entities who decide on hurricane management or on storm surge or climate change?” Councilmember John Carioscia asked.

“I don’t see any benefit in it for us. Did it benefit staff? If staff wants to maintain it, it should come out of the staff budget,” Council-member John Gunter said.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden said that by providing input and participating, there is a benefit.

“It would be penny-wise and pound-foolish if we leave. The RPC will still be around. But it will have less funding to help,’ Cosden said.

It costs nearly $50,000 per year to be in the RPC, which the council voted 5-2 not to renew, with Councilmember Rick Williams and Cosden the only ones who voted to stay.

The board did agree to make back payments to the RPC, which was voted on unanimously.

In other business, the council voted 6-1 to authorize an $8.1 million loan from Iberiabank to pay for the new fire station on Burnt Store Road and the Southeast 47th Terrace streetscape project.

Williams said he would not back the loan. While he had no problem with financing the station, he was getting a little weary of the streetscape project.

“We keep adding more things to this project,” Williams said.

There are other items the city needs to consider once the streetscape is done, including the addition of new lighting, cameras, license plate readers, electric car chargers and more which will add about $800,000 to the cost.

Concerning city fire stations, a consent item that was pulled by Williams regarded the land acquisition for Fire Station No. 13 on Northeast 6th Street.

Williams, as well as several other council members, praised the acquisition, not only for the $90,000 price but for its proximity to commercial facilities. It passed, along with all the other consent items.

Council also voted unanimously to establish regulations for trailers parked in city-owned parking lots, as well as to sunset the Burnt Store Road Right-of-Way committee.

The council also noted two recognitions. One was for the city being named for having one of the top100 fleets in the country, which has been a stated goal of City manager John Szerlag since he took over the job in 2012 when the city’s fleet was crumbling after the recession.

It also recognized the Westin Tarpon Point Ballroom along with County Commissioners Brian Hamman and Cecil Pendergrass.