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Board decides against pay raise for City Council

By Staff | Jun 16, 2020

Cape Coral City Council has decided now is not the time ask voters whether council members should be paid more — a lot more.

Council voted 7-0 against setting a special hearing on June 29 to consider placing a referendum on the ballot asking voters to change how the mayor and other council members should be paid.

As discussed last week, the proposed charter amendment would have changed the how council compensation is determined. As proposed by Mayor Joe Coviello, voters would have decided whether compensation should instead be based on the number of residents in the city with the mayor’s seat compensated at a rate of 38 cents per resident, each council member at a rate of 31 cents per. As per a charter amendment approved by voters about five years ago, council members are now paid a flat rate with increases based on cost of living. The change would bump an annual salary of $38,492 for the mayor’s seat and $34,834 for council seats to $68,400 and $55,800, respectively.

Coviello brought the issue up last week, saying more money could entice more people — especially younger ones in the 25- to 45-year-old demographic — to run for office.

After a week of consideration, council decided the timing was wrong, especially with the city facing a revenue deficit due to the economic ramifications of COVID-19.

“I agree the pay needs to be better but it’s not the best time for it because of COVID and the economic times we’re facing,” Councilmember John Gunter said.

Councilmember Marilyn Stout said the last City Council had members of all age groups, from the 20s to the 80s, along with four females, knowing they would receive only $17,000 per year based on the previous method of paying members per registered voter. She agreed now was not the time.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden, said she understands how the compensation may be considered low for the hours required but agreed this simply is not the time to be asking for more money.

“The pay should be comparable to the job they do. But I’m having trouble asking for a raise now. I think we can bring this back in 2022 or 2024,” Cosden said.

The 7-0 decision also resulted in the cancellation of a special meeting on June 29, which would have been necessary to formalize the ballot language and send it to the Lee County Supervisor of Elections by the July 3 deadline.

In other business:

n Council held a discussion on the status of economic development projects in the city with numerous members of city staff, as to the next steps to be taken.

Vince Cautero, Community Development director, said the city has done a lot to foster economic development, especially along the Pine Island Road corridor where they addressed single-family development, height requirements and storage facility frontage that could be used for retail or restaurants.

The city has also increased density and height limits in the South Cape and Bimini Basin and eliminated the requirement for special exceptions for commercial use.

The land use development codes have resulted in The Fairfield Inn and Springs at Cape Coral being currently under development and Cape Coral Commons in permitting.

n Paul Klinghan, Public Works director, discussed the need for utility expansion in the South Cape so it can handle the expected growth.

The city is updating its master plan to recommend phasing the remaining UEP areas based on population growth, the environment, commercial potential and constructibility.

This could put the CRA district at the front of the line. The problem is that it could cost $25 million to support the verticality — higher buildings — there, and $2 million for just the design, would could take a year. The CRA agreed to replace the funding for a parking structure and replace it with infrastructure, which will be done through an interlocal agreement.

“We’re trying to market Cape Coral as a destination point and say to come here and you can have verticality and higher density,” City Manager John Szerlag said. “If we don’t have the infrastructure and it will take three years, it could be a deterrent.”

The plan could knock a year off that timeframe and be paid for through impact fees. EDO Director Ricardo Noguera said it’s all speculation until someone signs on the dotted line.

There was some hesitation by Coviello and Councilmember Lois Welsh, but others said the investment is worth it.

“I support this. I would love for there to be something at Seven Islands and Bimini Basin. The old story build-it-and-they-will-come I believe will happen if we put the infrastructure in place,” Gunter said.

The next regular meeting of the City Council is set for Monday, July 20, at 4:30 p.m., in Council Chambers. City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.