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Some clarification

July 28, 2012
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Opponents of the swim center project proposed in 2010 are saying I told you so.

As well they might.

Two developers tied to the proposed Concourse at Cape Coral, Anirudh "Andy" Sarwal and Fred Alden Yeo, were expected to plead guilty in an unrelated federal fraud case in Texas last week.

These critics, though, are taking and giving a tad more credit than, perhaps, they have a right to when they say the then-council majority, which called itself "The Fab 5," voted the swim center proposal down.

They did not.

Approval of the swim center was never up for a vote.

The discussions simply never got that far.

What council did back on April 26, 2010 in a marathon meeting with strong arguments on both sides was nix a "memorandum of understanding" that would have moved the city into a due diligence phase including negotiations to make sure the numbers worked and the details and promises proffered were confirmed.

After the council discounted the project pretty much out of hand, the Lee County board of commissioners approved a similar vetting process, not once, but twice, before deciding that no, the financial aspects of the public-private partnership for a much scaled-down version of the proposal would not work for City of Palms Park.

The county, by the way, is not taking crystal-ball kudos for somehow foreseeing indictments not yet made. Nor are officials there making abject apologies for following a very standard process for a big ticket sports venue deal, most of which, do, in fact, fall through.

Why is this important?

Well, there's the obvious: It's fine to claim credit but don't exaggerate with boasts of "saving" money that not only was never committed but never even specifically up for a vote.

People just aren't that stupid.

And two, despite the ultimate swim center scenario, council should not - must not - be afraid to explore big-number, grand-scale projects out of the gate.

Yes, some of these aren't, ultimately, going to pass the sniff test. Others are going to trot on track for months and fall apart because the city gets outbid or the benefits-cost analysis simply doesn't provide enough bang for the buck.

But once in a lifetime - we hope, we most sincerely hope - a project is going to ring the bell.

This is why Cape taxpayers fund economic development offices both here and at the county level where staffers and elected officials did exactly what they were expected to do to protect the public and its scant supply of tax dollars.

If anyone, those county staffers and officials are the ones who should be taking the bows and getting the plaudits.

- Breeze editorial



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