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Cape Coral City Council back in session Monday

By Staff | Apr 2, 2020

For the first time in a month, the Cape Coral City Council is expected to hold its regular meeting Monday. Assuming there’s a quorum, the elected board has a lot of backlogged items to consider.

So many, in fact, that Council may hold an additional meeting later in the month to get it all in.

The agenda is 15 pages long and includes two dozen consent items and 20 introductions of resolutions and ordinances to be considered for the April 20 meeting.

Councilmember Lois Welsh is expected to recommend adding an extra meeting to accommodate the backlog.

Mayor Joe Coviello said the city is trying to pass essential legislation while keeping controversial ones (and those that can wait), such as the noise ordinance and Tropicana Park, off the agenda.

“We’re trying to eliminate high-traffic topics off the agenda for now and come back with them later. Those two were pulled from the last meeting so we don’t draw a large crowd,” Coviello said. “We have a lot on the consent agenda, which is the normal course of business.”

Also on the agenda are two important consent items. The first is a resolution to allocate the additional $850,000 the city is getting from the increase in the Local Option Fuel Tax revenue.

It is expected that $100,000 of it will go toward the streetlight program, with the rest going toward city sidewalks. Half the sidewalk money will go toward startup costs, while the rest will go toward hiring eight fulltime employees.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden has brought forth a resolution to provide relief to restaurants and food establishments by easing temporary sign regulations.

These establishments would be allowed to display two A-frame style signs instead of one for all businesses affected by the State Statute prohibiting on-site food consumption. Permit and permit fee requirements for most banners (excluding feather banners) would be waived.

Cosden has also put forth a request to have Council updated on the ongoing 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.

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.

“I understand much of the interviews were done in private. We just want to be updated in public on when they will be completed,” Coviello said. “

In other new business, the city council will decide whether to allow painting on utility boxes and authority to place artwork or sculptures in City public rights-of-way throughout the CRA District, with the CRA board being given the decision-making power of artwork in the roundabout at the intersection of Southeast 47th Terrace and Vincennes Boulevard.

In a memo to Council, the CRA wants to enhance the South Cape’s aesthetics by installing artwork downtown.

Also, the city council will hear a presentation from ACRA Electric on a proposal to renovate the Cape Coral Veterans Memorial Monument on Cape Coral Parkway at the entrance of the city past the bridge.

The monument, which was dedicated in 1969, was refurbished 20 years ago and is in need of further renewal. ACRA plans to pressure wash the structure, restore the landscaping, base and fountain, replace 16 medallions, install LED lighting and rededicate the monument.

“There are a lot of things that are going to be donated for this project. One item that required funding was so small it was able to get run through staff and the city manager’s office for approval,” Coviello said.

The CRA has already approved the measure. Coviello said he would like to have the monument rededicated in time for Red, White & BOOM! on July 4.

City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd. Council meets at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.