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Cape, county boards meet

March 20, 2014
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The city of Cape Coral and the Board of County Commissioners met this week to communicate their differences and where they agree.

The two elected boards met at the Nicholas Annex in Room A200 on Wednesday, and while few of the items that have caused disagreement in the past were discussed, there was agreement on numerous issues and hope that they can find constructive solutions where they don't agree.

"With this council there is less of an adversarial stance with the commissioners and more of an understanding that this is a regionalism we're dealing with, and what's good for them is good for us," Councilmember Rana Erbrick said.

Commissioner Brian Hamman was eager to note that his ninth-grade science teacher, Councilman Derrick Donnell, sat across from him at the table, while most everyone on both sides revealed their hopes and expectations.

"Everyone has their heart in the right place and that's an improvement," Councilmember Jim Burch said. "We expect respect and due diligence."

Water quality issues were an especially hot topic, in so far as the releases of water from Lake Okeechobee west toward the city.

As far as Lake Okeechobee and the runoff of water into the river, the county asked Cape Coral to use its influence as the state's ninth-largest city to dictate what needs to be done and not to wait until rainy season.

The western part of the state gets most of the water because when the plan was laid out in the 1940s, the western part of the state was much less populated and the east coast was more susceptible to flooding. Thus the water had to be moved somewhere.

"We had more than 125 percent of the average rainfall last year and Lake O and the Caloosahatchee couldn't handle it," Burch said. "It brought attention to our plight. People are listening."

Another water issue discussed was the Caloosahatchee Crossing project, which would take effluent from the Fort Myers South Plant and into Cape Coral.

The county has supported the annual $900,000 from the state to take the 6 million to 14 million gallons of treated effluent out of the river.

Commissioner Frank Mann brought foreward a more controversial issue toward the end of the meeting when he asked about the status of the Ceitus boatlift, an matter that has brought both sides to the brink of a lawsuit.

"It's been such a lovefest. I wanted a regular meeting," Mann said before learning it may take as much as another year to get the data both sides need to make a decision.

"Barrier or no barrier, There's no more conflict. We're now working together to get the data verified," Councilmember Rick Williams said.

Also discussed were animal control, and the successful partnership between the city's Parks & Recreation Dept. and the Lee County Sports Authority.

Jeff Mielke said the city and county have teamed up for more than 100 events in the past two years, which has drawn 136,000 sports visitors and added a $97 million impact to Lee County, not including spring training, with hopes for more with the Senior Games and the canoe/kayak club on deck.

All in all, everyone agreed it was a great first step.

"Things went well in that we have new folks and they have new folks and it's good to get together and know what's coming in the future," Commissioner John Manning said. "It went well and we have a lot of basis to get together."

"It was necessary and saw how we reacted to things. While it seemed fluffy, we have a lot to do," Mayor Marni Sawicki said. "We had to lay the groundwork for how we get together."

Beside the North Spreader, other future, more pressing issues include the widening of Burnt Store Road, ownership of Del Prado, the interlocal toll agreement, impact fees, the local government infrastructure surtax, and economic development.



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