5 Things To Know from the Cape Coral City Council Meeting (Apr. 17)

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Cape Coral's City Council held its final regular meeting of April at City Hall Monday evening.

The meeting included discussions on the recent water shortage crisis, the city's participation in the Lake Okeechobee Compact, moving ahead with a P3 initiative for the construction of two city entry structures, and more. 

 

Below are five takeaways from last night’s meeting.

 

Council discusses possible irrigation water shortage solutions

Cape Coral Utilities Director Jeff Pearson says Cape Coral could be in the midst of a drought of historic proportions.

And to combat the issue, the city is looking at some different options to bring more irrigation water into the city and save the water it currently has to use for irrigation.

Recently, City Manager John Szerlag announced the city would implement a one-day per week irrigation schedule beginning April 21.

The city has also started the process of determining if a large scale water reservoir at a former Charlotte County mining property would be feasible to bring water north to Gator Slough.

The city is also ratcheting up efforts to build a pipeline under the Caloosahatchee River to bring wastewater from Fort Myers to Cape Coral.

However, efforts to bring that water to Cape Coral has hit a roadblock as Cape Coral and Fort Myers attempt to negotiate a rate that Cape Coral would purchase the wastewater from Fort Myers.

Szerlag has said he was willing to pay 95 cents per 1,000 gallons of water obtained from Fort Myers. However, Fort Myers City Manager Saeed Kazemi has countered saying he wants to receive $1.50 per 1,000 gallons.

In an attempt to negotiate a solution between the two municipalities, Szerlag told the city council at Monday night's meeting that he is trying to set up a joint meeting between Cape Coral's and Fort Myers' city councils, "It would be good to have that conversation in a public venue," said Szerlag.

Szerlag also recommended that Andy Barnham of Burton & Associates serve as a mediator for the meeting, as he is the rate consultant for both Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

In response to Szerlag's efforts, Mayor Marni Sawicki said she thought it was highly unlikely a meeting between the two would happen, "I talked to Mayor Henderson at the League of Cities meeting and he had no interest (in a joint meeting). We might need to have a Plan B."

The proposed project previously received a nearly $800,000 grant from the state to help bring the project to fruition. According to Sawicki, if the project does not move forward, the state will revoke the grant at the end of this year.

Council Member Jim Burch conceded that he also did not feel the meeting between the two bodies was not going to happen, and the negotiations would most likely have to be between Szerlag and Kazemi.

Another option presented during the conversations was the idea of metering city irrigation water. Currently, those on the city irrigation system pay $5 per month for unlimited irrigation water. While that was the promise made to residents when the dual water system was introduced years ago, today's city leaders feel that the city may have outgrown that model, and having property owners pay for what they use may be the best plan moving forward, I think the only way we can stop overuse of water is meters. I do know the program was sold with never having meters. But, I think the time has come because of the population not abiding by the four hours, two days a week the only way it can be corrected is with meters," said council member Marilyn Stout.

Szerlag said he would bring back more information regarding the possibility of metering irrigation water at a future meeting for the city council to discuss.

 

City joins Lake Okeechobee Compact

In other water-related news, the city council unanimously approved Cape Coral's participation in the Lake Okeechobee Regional Compact.

Cape Coral joins numerous other cities and towns in a 19 county area of the Northern Everglades and Lake Okeechobee Watershed.

The compact brings together the multiple municipalities to work together to establish a comprehensive plan that addresses the Lake Okeechobee water discharges and the environmental and economic impact of those discharges.

The plan will also include strategic steps to meet those challenges moving into the future.

Sawicki lauded the compact as a major step to creating future solutions for all the areas surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades area, "Everybody just took it and ran with it. I think it will help going forward when we are trying to get projects allocated."

 

Council approves deviations for large scale Pine Island Rd. self-storage project

Owners of a large scale self-storage development received approval on a number of deviations they requested related to the project.

Kirby Family Limited Partnership had already received approval from the city for self-storage units and a 121,700 sq. ft. storage, office, caretaker residence building.

Now, the company wants to expand their A-1 Shelters Self Storage development to include seven buildings that will have the capacity to store 145 RVs, an area for enclosed storage, and a nearly 80,000 square foot building.

Once complete, the over eight-acre development located on Pine Island Road just east of SE 24th Avenue will stretch all the way to Pine Island Road.

To expand the project, the company asked the city to approve a number of deviations that included; allowing the construction of a wall composed completely of metal to be built along Diplomat Parkway, allowing the gate area along Diplomat Parkway to be constructed at twenty feet, four inches in height, and allowing metal walls to be built in other parts of the development.

The company also asked buildings in the enclosed storage facility area to be exempt from the city's Non-Residential Design Standards.

Following the recommendations of the city's planning division and hearing examiner, the city council unanimously approved the requests from the owners of the development of all the requested changes.

 

Entrance structures project continues moving forward

The initiative to build entrance structures on two major roadways in Cape Coral is slowly moving along.

In June 2016, the city council gave final approval on a Public Private Partnership between the city and Lennar Advertising to construct two entrance structures, one at the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge, and the other near the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard.

Once constructed, the 50-foot structures, will include two electronic billboards per structure with advertising sold by Lennar.

Working their way through the process of bringing the structures to reality, the city recently discovered that because the land where the Cape Coral Bridge structure is being built would require payment to the State of Florida since it is located on state-owned land, and the state prohibits for-profit businesses from using the land.

Cape Coral Assistant City Manager Mike Ilzcyzn told the city council at Monday's meeting that the city had three options when it came to paying the state for the use of the land. The first choice was paying the state 15% to 50% of the gross revenue generated by the billboards. Or, they could pay the state a flat fee for the use of the land. With the flat fee, the city could either pay the state $495,000 and have use of the entire piece of property, or pay $48,562 and have permission to use only the portion of the land needed for the structure.

Ilzczyn said the city opted for the $48,000 based on only needing the use of that portion of the property.

The $48,562 will be paid back to the city by Lennar over the first ten years of the contract between the city and the company.

With the latest obstacle removed, Lennar says it hopes to have the entryway structures constructed and ready for use by the end of this summer.

 

Sewer line break repair approved

Work will soon begin to repair a main sewer line along Cape Coral Parkway.

The city council approved a waiver of the procurement process to allow the immediate hiring of Denco Construction, Inc. to complete the work.

The sewer line is located at 808 Cape Coral Parkway, just west of Skyline Boulevard, and was recently discovered by city work crews to have become deformed in an "egg shape".

The damaged main line is allowing hundreds of gallons of ground water to into the city sewage system.

Because of the seriousness of the situation, the city's utilities department asked the city council's approval to circumvent the typical procurement process of garnering bids for the project. That process typically takes months to complete. However, with the city council's approval of waiving the procurement process, crews from the outside company are expected to begin work over the next few weeks.

Because the depth of the pipe that needs to be repaired is around 14 feet underground, the city says the repair project will require temporary lane closures of the two eastbound lanes on Cape Coral Parkway during the excavation of the pipe, and one lane will remain closed during the extent of the project, which is expected to last three to four weeks.

The city says the cost to repair the pipe will be $342,562, which includes a city-controlled 15% contingency.