Despite hesitation on the part of several council members on the subject of residential fire sprinklers, Councilmember Rana Erbrick's request to revisit drafting such an ordinance gained the support of City Council at the end of Monday night's regular weekly meeting.
A mandatory fire sprinkler system ordinance was proposed in 2013 by former Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz. It sought to make the installation of fire sprinkler systems a requirement on all new homes built in the Cape. The controversial regulation eventually was shot down for several reasons, including cost.
Erbrick asked to bring the subject back for discussion and research by herself and staff for consideration on a strictly voluntary basis. The main point of contention with going forward with a voluntary ordinance is that anyone building a new home in the city currently is not restricted from installing a sprinkler system.
"I don't see the benefit of creating an ordinance if homeowners can install systems now," offered Councilmember Derrick Donnell.
Council member Rick Williams also voiced a concern on the value of passing such an ordinance when systems currently are allowed voluntarily.
"I don't want people to think we are just dredging this up again after it was turned down as a mandatory ordinance," said Williams.
Both, however, were in favor of seeing the results of staff's research and proposals before actually deciding whether they support such an ordinance.
"This is gaining traction throughout the nation," said Cape Fire Chief Donald Cochran. "Where it's coming from is the Fire Marshals associations. The whole issue with it the last time was it was mandatory. There is still a lot of confusion out there because homeowners can install systems now. I don't want us to rush into it. We need time to work through the details, meet with stakeholder groups like builders, engineers, utilities and fire personnel."
Several issues that need discussion and research are incentives, permitting, impact fees, cost and what to do if someone doesn't pay their water bill.
"One solution could be to have a dedicated line so if a water bill doesn't get paid we can still turn the water off to the home while leaving the sprinkler system charged," said Utilities Director Jeff Pearson, who estimated it would take several months for staff to make recommendations to council.
Other council news
The lone public hearing scheduled on a resolution up for a vote earlier in the meeting sailed through by a unanimous vote. That ordinance creates a Local Agency Program agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to construct sidewalks on Cape Coral Parkway from Agualinda Boulevard west to Southwest 29th Avenue. The DOT is granting the city more than $400,000 for the project.
"This would complete sidewalks on Cape Coral Parkway all the way to its western end," said Public Works Director Steve Neff. "It is part of more than $7 million in state grants over the past five years for sidewalk construction."
Councilmember Jim Burch was presented with a Home Rule Hero Award by the Florida League of Cities at the start of the meeting. The award is given each year to a local elected official who goes above and beyond by advocating not only for their own community but all across the state.
Burch modestly said the award is a special honor and highly coveted, but represents hundreds of other people with whom he worked in reaching out to the Florida Legislature and other governmental agencies.
Council also approved an expenditure of $58,000 to conduct a CRA Needs Analysis study and preparation of a redevelopment plan to create a CRA district for the Mid-Cape Industrial Park.
"This is something that has been talked about for over two years," said Erbrick. who is also the CRA chair. "It is time to move forward and see if this area could benefit from the CRA designation."
Council also approved a $9,500 award through the Employee Innovation Program for Michael Murphy, an electrician at the Everest Water Reclamation Plant. Murphy's idea saved the city more than $1 million in cost connected with an expansion project at the plant as well as recurring operating cost savings.