Proposed Fire Assessment moves forward at latest city council meeting

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Cape Coral’s city council took the opportunity at the last meeting before their summer break to tie up loose ends, and set the stage for their return in July.

The proposed creation of a Fire Assessment continued to move forward. The council approved a resolution for the city manager to prepare the necessary ordinances and resolutions to implement the assessment in time for the upcoming fiscal year.

According to a report conducted by Burton & Associates, the fire assessment will cost the average homeowner in Cape Coral an estimated $183 per year. That number is based on a home that has a property value of $150,000 with a homestead exemption of $50,000.

As proposed, the assessment will be used to recover 62% of the cost for the city’s fire protection services. Along with the recently approved 7% Public Service Tax, the two are expected to generate an additional $28 million in new revenue. The city is also proposing a reduction in the millage rate by one mil, bringing the net new revenue to $20 million.

Since being introduced by Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag, the creation of the Public Service Tax and Fire Assessment has created a ground swell of controversy. There has been strong opinions from both those who feel that the additional $20 million is required to provide the city economic sustainability for its future, and those who say the city is unduly adding new taxes to residents and businesses rather than managing expenditures at a better level.

The ordinance proposing the new fire assessment, like the ordinance that called for the creation of the public service tax, is being sponsored by six of the eight members on the city council. Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan and Council Member Chris Chulakes-Leetz have stated that they are not in support of the new assessment.

The public will have its first opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the new fire assessment when the city council returns from their summer hiatus on July 15. The city manager is hoping to have the ordinance approved by August. If the assessment is approved, property owners will see the addition on this year’s tax bill.

In other council meeting news:

Marty McClain, expressed his desire to complete his term as the District One Council Member.

Last month it was discovered that McClain was no longer physically living in his district. McClain stated that due to personal issues, he was forced to move from his residence at the end of 2012.

Since that discovery, McClain’s political future had been up in the air. However, in the end it was McClain’s desire to finish out his term, which expires in November, to seek out a rental property within in his district to quell the issue, “Regardless of my personal issues, the people of Cape Coral voted me in this office and it is a commitment I made to them. I am going to stick to it and finish out my term.”

McClain has stated that he will not see re-election.

McClain told the council Monday night that he will use the time during the council’s summer hiatus to find a rental property in his district. He says he expects to be in his new residence by the time the council reconvenes in July.

The council approved the storage of two Lee County Electric Cooperative boom trucks to be parked behind Fire Station #2. The storage of the trucks will be used to improve emergency response times that involve electrical issues. The fire station is located near city hall on Nicholas Parkway.

The council approved the spending of an estimated $200,000 on improvements to the turn lanes located near the new VA Clinic on Diplomat Parkway. The intersections that will see the improvements are Diplomat Parkway and Corbett Road and Diplomat Parkway and Commerce Park.

The total cost for the improvements is expected to be just over $300,000. The Veteran’s Administration has stated that they will contribute $100,000 to the project. Cape Coral Public Works Director Steve Neff said that even with the project’s approval from the city council, the contract with Community Asphalt will not be executed until the city receives written confirmation from the Veterans Administration regarding the additional funding.

The council will now begin their annual summer hiatus. The break is scheduled for five weeks. The council will resume regular weekly meetings on Monday, July 15, in the council chambers at city hall.