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Voters to decide $60 million GO bond for parks

By Staff | Jun 19, 2018

Cape Coral voters will decide whether they are willing to pay more in property taxes for parks.

Cape Coral City Council agreed 5-2 Monday to put a $60 million general obligation bond referendum on the General Election ballot in November.

The bonds issuance, which would mature in 15 years, is projected to cost taxpayers .36 mills – 36 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value – in the beginning, trickling downward to about .17 mills by the end of the term as more people move to the city and property values increase.

The Cape Coral Youth Council gave a presentation on the referendum that seemed to show its support for the measue and to encourage residents to vote.

Most on council said they supported advancing the GO bond proposal because it puts the future of the city’s parks in the hands of the voters. Mayor Joe Coviello said the city has both a serious lack of city parks and infrastructure that needs to be fixed.

He was however concerned about how residents were being informed about the parks master plan and the referendum.

Others on council were concerned about what they say has been a lack of transparency. Of particular concern for the two dissenting council members was that the 2016 parks plan the bond is intended to fund is currently being re-reviewed for the possible inclusion of two new projects – development of a 175-acre parcel the city plans to develop as a park and a proposed open-to-the public sports complex for the city’s charter school system

“We should let this go until 2019. I promised to be fiscally responsible when I was elected. I want more transparency and this is not transparent,” said Councilmember Dave Stokes, who voted no. “With the golf course and Oasis, that’s another $32 million. Let’s do this right and know where the money is going to go.”

Councilmember Marilyn Stout, who also dissented, had questions about the plan as approved, saying it lacked details.

“I see that $5 million is marked for land acquisition. We already have 2,000 acres. I’m concerned where the money is going,” Stout said.

Jay Murphy, the city’s former police chief who is now a contract employee acting as the city’s business manager, said the parks plan has been in the works for more than two years, beginning with stakeholder meetings, proceeding through public hearings and then a vote by the previous council.

“This plan was approved 18 months ago by council. The reason there was a delay was because of the budget. We’re not going too fast. We’re two years behind,” Murphy said. “Now that there’s a bond being considered, that’s the problem.”

In other business, Councilmember Jennifer Nelson gave a presentation on her day with Waste Pro, the city’s refuse collector.

Nelson gave a presentation on what she learned and turned it over to Bill Jones, Waste Pro division manager, who was then grilled by council about concerns they have received regarding trash trucks leave behind, bulk pick-ups and other issues.

Several residents issued their complaints during public input. Council members John Gunter and Jessica Cosden told Jones that the most complaints they get is in regard to trash in the yards. Cosden said she even had to pick up the area with her children one day, only to have a mess again the next day.

“My kids had to pick up the litter and the next day it was back again. Most people don’t bag recyclables. This is important because we’re a green city. We’re getting to the point where Waste Pro is becoming more of an issue,” Cosden said.

Gunter was more pointed, saying that if things don’t improve, they may have to reconsider contracting with the firm in the future.

“There is no doubt that the level of expectation is not being met. We need to look at what we can do to raise that level or there will be a point where we will have to look elsewhere. The next 12 months will be the deciding point,” Gunter said.

Jones said he is working to improve service and to be more proactive to keep up with the growing population. He said he is training workers to be able to handle driving trucks in the event the main driver is sick. They also are buying more trucks and hiring more people and increasing wages to keep good workers and attract new ones.