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Council talks water quality, assessments

July 24, 2018
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Water quality has been the hot topic in council chambers throughout the region, and Monday was no exception during the Cape Coral City Council's regular meeting at City Hall.

Now, it seems as if a new problem has arisen - of landscapers dumping their grass trimmings in the canals. Several residents brought up the problem during the public comment portion of the meeting.

"Can't we find a way for code enforcement to deal with landscapers?" asked Robert Weller. "People's lives revolve around the canals. Our homes are an investment. What is City Council prepared to do about it?"

Others said the problem isn't grass clippings.

"When people have tall grass, it's impossible for grass to not be in the canal. Some landscapers are doing it," said Dan Sheppard. "The real problem is Big Sugar."

Councilmember John Gunter said that he has noticed grass in canals and said there should be something done about it, even if it means hiring more code enforcement officers.

"I smelled something in the air the other day. There are things we can do locally. If we're going to have rules and regulations we need to make sure our residents are complying," Gunter said.

Rich Carr, code enforcement division manager, said it is very rare for them to find someone in the act of dumping clippings, though he saw someone raking piles of grass into a canal on social media.

"We found the location and it turned out to be a young kid. His mom told him to cut the grass. He didn't know the law and the parents didn't know he was doing it," Carr said.

Carr said the city puts out a lot of educational material about yard waste to commercial contractors in the city and that education is the key.

Gunter said the big problem is that not enough federal and state money has been applied to deal with water quality issues, and that municipalities have to come together as one voice.

"We need to push to get some resolution to this. Local governments will have to partner with state and federal agencies. There are things we can do on the local level," Gunter said. "Politics need to be taken out of the equation."

Mayor Joe Coviello said the city has been doing things people are not aware of due, in part, to state and federal inaction.

"I've gone to as many clean water events as I could, met with the mayor of Sanibel (Kevin Ruane) and formed a coalition of mayors to form a letter he will bring to the White House and the Army Corps of Engineers," Coviello said. "We're trying to explore avenues that are usable by the city based in the problem of the water not going south."

In other business, the first meeting back from hiatus means it's time for the budget process to get moving, and the City Council approved not-to-increase assessments on a number of items.

The lot-mowing assessment will include a one-time $15 debris removal charge resulting from Hurricane Irma. Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 will have assessments of $80.40, $64.98, $65.62 and $63.48, respectively for 10,000-square-foot lot.

For the solid waste assessment, Waste Pro has not requested a rate increase for residential units but will seek a 1.93 percent increase for waste removal for commercial services.

The preliminary fire assessment has been proposed to be set at 62 percent of operational costs for FY 2019, up from 59 percent in 2018. The Tier 1 rate will increase from $124.20 to $132.79, while the Tier 2 rate goes from $1.93 per Equivalent Benefit Unit (EBU) to $2.50 per unit.

The financial impact on a property with a "building cost/building extra" value of $150,000 will see an increase of about $26, according to a memo from City Manager John Szerlag.

The stormwater fee is proposed at $119, up $4 from last year and expected to increase over the next two years.

All resolutions to set the assessments passed unanimously 6-0. The rates cannot be increased but can be decreased as the budget process continues.



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