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Cape council, BOCC to meet Wednesday

March 18, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Both boards believe it's an opportunity to begin a new chapter in their relationship, one that isn't as divisive as has been the case some times in the past.

The Cape Coral City Council and the Lee County Board of County Commissioners will get together this afternoon at 1 p.m. at the Nicholas Annex on Nicholas Parkway in Room A200.

They will discuss the happenings in Tallahassee that will have an impact on the area, as well as issues on which the county and city can team up and improve.

The objective for the city is to gain a more collegial relationship with the BOCC after some noted past wrangling over issues such as the Ceitus Boatlift and the division of toll revenues.

It is an opportunity to which both sides look forward.

"As a native of Cape Coral myself, I'm excited about the opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss the issues and a new era of communication and cooperation," County Commissioner Brian Hamman said.

"The expectation is to reestablish our relationship. I'm looking for them to be more partners than anything," Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki said. "We need to know what to expect from each other going forward. Everything needs to be a win-win for both sides."

One issue, which has created the most heat over the years, will be water quality. Perhaps most important will be the protocol in regards to Lake Okeechobee and its release of rain water down the Caloosahatchee River.

"It affects everyone. You look at the water and it's Dr. Pepper color," Sawicki said.

"Lake O hasn't been a big issue in Cape Coral, but the water running into the canals really reflects on the city because if we have water coming in that's dirty, it affects property values and quality of living," Councilmember Richard Leon said. "We want to team up with the commissioners and all the cities to ensure the state works on this issue."

Also on the agenda will be the budget request for the Caloosahatchee River Crossing, in the amount of $900,000, which proponents say would eliminate the discharge of wastewater into the Caloosahatchee River and provide job creation and public safety benefits.

They also will discuss support for a bill related to the Burnt Store Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) which would provide that funds collected from parcels in an unincorporated area can be remitted to a municipal firefighters plan if the parcels are designated within an MSTU and an interlocal agreement exists between the city and county for the city to provide fire protection services to those parcels.

This would correct the inequity of a municipal firefighter's pension plan being unable to receive the excise tax collected on the insurance premiums for parcels they provide service to just because the parcels are in an unincorporated area.

Also, there will be a presentation by the Lee County Sports Authority and the city, describing the partnership of Cape Coral hosting Lee County Sport Authority activities, promoting tourism and bed tax resources, and an update on animal control.

The new blood will hopefully usher in a new attitude toward each other.

"It's a new council. We haven't had a meeting like this yet. We can really work on building a relationship because we're not only a new council, we're a new city," Leon said. "We want to build on top of the relationships and opportunities."

"This is the benefit of getting fresh blood on the boards. It provides an opportunity for discussions to be had and better cooperation," Hamman said.



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