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Council OKs community parks designs

By Staff | Mar 3, 2020

The Cape Coral City Council on Monday approved unanimously design plans for three of four city “community” parks, as well as the salary range for the new city manager.

The parks plans considered by council were for Festival Park at Wilmington Parkway off Chiquita Boulevard; Lake Kennedy Park on Santa Barbara Boulevard and Yellow Fever Creek Preserve along the Del Prado Boulevard Extension.

While the council members overall liked the concepts, they discussed some weaknesses with each.

The biggest issue among the designs was the placement of 40-foot-tall water storage tanks in the northeast corner of Yellow Fever Creek Preserve. Although the city said the site was identified a dozen years ago, the tanks were not included in the first renderings of preserve improvements as part of the city’s $60 million master plan funded by voter-approved General Obligation bonds.

The tanks are part of the planned utility expansion project in Cape Coral. To serve new customers in neighborhoods north of Pine Island Road where the North 2 expansion phase is wrapping up and the North 1 phase is set to begin, the city is finalizing plans for the $10 million water storage project.

That money will come from water and sewer funds and not the Go Bond.

The project is to include at least two water storage tanks for irrigation water (with possible potable water tanks in the years ahead), a man-made lake of approximately 15 acres, with a proposed 5-foot berm, to provide the fill needed for the project; as well as a water retention area and related components for the facility.

Councilmember John Gunter, as well as others, asked if there would be buffering on the site. Jeff Pearson, utilities director, said there is a natural buffer of trees and that the site was identified in 2008 as a site for storage tanks to serve future growth.

Gunter’s concern was that since 2008, Entrada was built there and that there will be substantial buffering between the tanks, to be built by 2022, and the community.

There were some other issues raised.

Councilmember Rick Williams was concerned that there was no swim complexes at any of the parks, as something like that was low on the list of what residents wanted.

Kerry Runyon, Parks & Recreation director, said pools could be added in the next phase of design for the parks.

Gunter also was concerned that with 10 soccer fields and an amphitheater eventually planned for Festival Park, there would be a lack of parking.

Mayor Joe Coviello asked if the city couldn’t just complete Lake Kennedy Park, which is set to get pickleball and tennis courts, in its entirety instead of half now, half later, using the FEMA money from Hurricane Irma.

“I think we have the money to be finished with it. We have $17 million in FEMA money. If there’s a reasonable amount of money we can build the rest of the courts because construction costs are only going to go up.,” Coviello said.

In other business, City Council set a range for what it will pay a new city manager.

The range was set at between $180,000 and $270,000, which is 20 percent above and 20 percent below an anticipated $225,000.

Those numbers were given by Colin Baezinger & Associates, which sampled the salaries of city managers from 17 cities.

It was met with some resistance, however.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout told Human Resources Director Lisa Sonego she thought the range was too broad and didn’t reflect enough of western Florida.

“I was very disappointed in the choice of the 16 cities quoted, 11 of them are on the East Coast, and only one on the West Coast,” Stout said. “When someone interviews for the job, they’re going to look at that top number. We’re doing ourselves a disservice by making that high number that high.”

Other council members disagreed, saying the city shouldn’t sell itself so short, especially with a city that’s growing like Cape Coral.

“If we’re looking for a dynamo who can take us from 200,000 to 400,000 people, who’s experienced those growing pains, we need the flexibility to pay in the higher range for that talent,” Councilmember Jennifer Nelson said.