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Tick-tock, tick-tock

August 31, 2018
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The city of Cape Coral continues to sputter towards the final details phase for the $60 million general obligation bond referendum it has placed on the General Election ballot in November.

On Monday, city staff asked Council to approve an additional $26,744 for preliminary concept plans and other documents for three neighborhood parks - Sands, Oasis and Tropicana - bringing the total to $76,150 for illustrative graphics for possible improvements to all nine such facilities to be among those funded with bond financing.

The request comes not only late in the game for a massive project that has been in the works for more than two years but late in the city's own meeting scheduling process.

The reasons?

-When staff presented Council with the illustrative graphics for six of these parks on Aug. 13, the elective board indicated it wanted additional information on the amenities "conceptually considered" for those remaining.

- Staff went back to AECOM Technical Services, the vendor that provided most of the original concepts, for a cost estimate it could bring back to Council.

- Kerry Runyon, the city's superintendent of Parks & Recreation, got the numbers back on Friday, Aug. 24, - two days after the Council-set deadline for meeting agenda items.

- City Manager John Szerlag then asked Mayor Joe Coviello to add the item to Monday's meeting agenda.

- The add-on was then posted online Monday afternoon, a few hours before the special Council meeting. It was placed on the agenda under "Business," one item down from "Citizen Input Time."

Some residents are crying foul, saying the public had little notice of an expenditure tied to a multi-million dollar project property owners are being asked to tax themselves to fund. They also took issue with its placement on the agenda - squeezed as it was between general public input and "ordinances/resolutions-public hearings" where 10 other resolutions each had its own public input time - giving short shrift to their voice on this issue.

We're going to side with staff here on the need to get this on the agenda ASAP. They needed an answer.

But we agree the add-on requesting a relatively small amount of money could have been handled better.

Much better.

First, not prioritizing posting and notification of the add-on is not the way to build public trust for an initiative that's not going to pass without it.

It is, instead, a good - i.e. bad - example of two things: City staff's gov'ment time approach to letting the public know and the tone deaf road it has taken to "sell" not only the bond issue to those who will fund it, but the need for the parks plan itself.

Which brings us to point two: Money matters.

Down to the penny, Council's reason for asking about the "missing" concept plans in the first place.

Some on Council understand this well, which is why the vote split 5-3 with council members Jessica Cosden, Rick Williams and Dave Stokes voting "no" on outsourcing plans designated as "preliminary bubbles" this late in the game.

With the General Election little more than two months away, now is not the time to break the trust with the public by appearing to eschew its input nor is it the time to spend money - any money - on expenditures that can't even be sold as prudent to the entire Council.

The clock is ticking and staff has again fumbled what should have been an easy handoff.

Are they even aware the city's in the fourth quarter and still many yards away from the goal?

- Breeze editorial



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