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Tropicana Park, investigations update on Council agenda Monday

By Staff | Feb 6, 2020

The Cape Coral City Council is expected to get updates Monday on two subjects of controversy — Tropicana Park and a proposal to allow water sports there, and a pair of administrative investigations.

With one of the city’s two rowing clubs has announced its closing, Council will get an update on what is proposed to happen next at the planned north Cape park.

The South Florida Canoe & Kayak Club dissolved a week ago, leaving the Caloosa Coast Rowing Club as a possible lessee. That non-profit club needs to relocate from its current location at Cape Harbour because the property has been sold.

Saundra Weston, a member of the board on the rowing club, said a facility at Tropicana Park is needed for the club’s survival, especially if the city wants to keep canoeing and kayaking in the city and wants also to make it a Parks & Recreation program.

The Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association is against the plan, saying Tropicana is meant to be a neighborhood park and, while they like what the rowing club does, a facility to accommodate the club or clubs does not belong at that particular park.

City Council is also expected to hear an update on the administrative investigations concerning City Manager John Szerlag and related issues within or pertaining to the city Finance Department.

At issue is the city’s failure to pay the IRS more than $400,000 in payroll taxes on a timely basis, resulting in withheld money from gas tax revenues expected by the city.

Mayor Joe Coviello has said Szerlag knew about the situation but failed to inform him about it at a time when his contract was set to be renewed.

Coviello negotiated a contract extention and raise.

Three employees, including Finance Director Victoria Bateman, were placed on administrative leave by Szerlag in the wake of the payment snafu.

Bateman then sent a letter to the mayor’s office regarding the incident and alleging other improprieties.

Coviello, who tried to get Szerlag fired, agreed with other members of Council to hire an investigator to look into the situation with the understanding that if anything was found to be questionable, the investigators would meet with Council about their findings.

Council also will look for members for the Planning & Zoning Commission, as there are now two vacancies and two alternate positions to be filled.

Council also will recognize Fire Marshal Charles Raborn with the 2019 Fire Marshal of the Year, awarded by the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association, and Mathew Marshall, Fire Battalion Chief, the 2019 Hazmat Responder of the Year.

Cape Coral City Council meetings begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.