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Cape Coral

A Watchdog Report

By Sean D. Hartman, the Cape Coral Watchdog

As you may notice, Council Watch has returned home to CapeStyle Magazine.  The hurricane hit my family hard, but we recovered well.  I had taken the month of October off to focus on them and to get back to normal, but now things are normal-ish enough.  Thank you all so much for your patience with this hiatus. 

Citizens’ Input Time

Tom Shadrach, a candidate for Mayor of Cape Coral, explained that residents contacted him about a construction debris site at Chiquita & Gleason to which he referred as a “mess.”  The site sits in a residential neighborhood which could cause future health problems for those living there.

“It’s not right, these people could end up with some real serious health problems,” said Tom. “I’m speaking on behalf of those citizens.  Why aren’t we taking all that [construction debris] to the Festival Park location? That would be a good place to put something like that.  You’re just creating another liability for our city.”

District 2 Councilman Dan Sheppard spoke about this issue (briefly interrupted by a Hello Moto sound, if you listen closely), seeing as the site was located in his district.  In an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist, Councilman Sheppard defended the construction dump in a residential community.

“Nobody planned to have five-feet of water in their house.  Nobody planned for a tree to fall on their automobile.  Nobody planned…nobody planned to lose electricity.  And nobody planned to put a dump in District 2 in that neighborhood,” said Councilman Sheppard. 

“These are all things we have to deal with, to overcome what happened to our city.  And we’re all going to suffer.  Everyone in this city is going to suffer somewhat.  We’re all going to suffer to some level ‘til we get things in order.”

(Councilman Sheppard then put on black makeup, put on headphones, and began blaring emo music.  Jennifer Nelson then asked him what was wrong before he screamed “Nothing matters, Mom!”) ***

City Manager Rob Hernandez explained that the Debris Management Plan set up the sites well in advance of the hurricane and were “ permitted and approved” by the State.

“We don’t have the ability to arbitrarily set up Debris Management Sites anywhere throughout the city unless they are part of the Debris Management Plan approved by the State,” explained Hernandez. 

Hernandez explained that the Gleason-Chiquita Dump was chosen because of the build-out in the North and the locations of city-owned land.  He explained these are strategic decisions and are not meant to punish any particular neighborhood…which no one was thinking about until he brought it up.

Tom also asked for a status report on the Yacht Club and was critical of the slow response.

“It’s interesting that Fort Myers Beach is already out there cleaning out their sand.  Sanibel, which is completely decimated, they already have an engineering team getting back their lighthouse, their iconic structure, working on that,” said Tom.  “Our iconic area, the Yacht Club, I haven’t heard anything on the news or in the Council about the status.  I’m sure the Boathouse wants to get open as soon as they can.”

Lou Navarro, after a failed comedy routine, once again advocated for a reprieve on the Public Service Tax exemption.

Hurricane Recovery Update

Cape Coral’s Trash Czar Terry Schweitzer gave a brief report to the City Council on debris removal, explaining that all right-of-ways have been cleared and, as of November 2nd, 1 million cubic yards of debris has been collected, with approximately 41,000 removed daily.  If residents do see debris in a right-of-way, they are advised to call 3-1-1 so it can be safely disposed of.  More than 185 trucks and more than 500 personnel are working on debris removal. 

A major barrier to this task are wires which require specialized handling.  Trash Czar Terry explained that this is why residents have seen linemen and city workers stopping their vehicles in the middle of the street…it’s because of the wires and not because the city workers were planning a flash mob. *

Trash Czar Terry explained that 21 subzones (locations) have had a “first pass of vegetation” cleared, with construction debris ongoing; 14 subzones with both vegetation and construction debris removal ongoing; 11 subzones are completely cleared of vegetation.

Trash Czar Terry also mentioned the five debris sites are operating with security and privacy fencing.  By the time you are reading this, the debris will have begun being hauled out to that special Trash Heap in the Sky, with a possible layover at the Charlotte County Landfill.

Trash Czar Terry told the Council that Waste Pro will begin collecting horticulture trash as normal on November 14th.  Waste Pro asks residents to have their horticulture to be put in personal cans and yard waste bags and separate from storm debris.  In response, residents are asking Waste Pro to pay the $2 million in fines they owe but which were swept under the rug.

Permitting to Start Getting Easier … Probably … Maybe

There may finally be an end to the EnerGov debacle, according to the City Manager’s Office.  

As of November 1st, almost 3600 emergency permits have been successfully filed, mostly at City Hall, though the Cape Coral Art Center, which has doubled as a FEMA base of operations, is taking in about 6% of those applications.

EnerGov has taken 1924 permits and will open for new permit applications on November 14th.  The big new innovation will be “push-button” permits for twelve permit types.  The goal would be to streamline the permitting process for those twelve types, with the first types to include common emergency permits, such as A/C changeout, emergency electrical, and residential fencing, with all set to be out by December 5th.

Councilman Tate’s Last Day

District 1 Councilwoman Gloria Raso Tate, the second longest-serving Councilmember after Tony Rotino, will have one less responsibility to juggle.  The winner of Tuesday’s Election will be inaugurated on November 16th.  Philanthropist Dr. Carol Rae Culliton and realtor Bill Steinke are both vying to succeed her.  The winner should be revealed by Tuesday evening, barring any glitches from the voting machines (which, of course, would never happen.)

Councilwoman Tate received high praise from District 3 Councilman Tom Hayden, echoed by all of his colleagues.  

“The only thing she ever put first was other people,” said Councilman Hayden.  “She dedicated her life to helping other people, making this community, which has been her home since the 60s, her life.  Her dedication to community is unprecedented and I was happy she was happy to join us for this last year or so.”

Councilwoman Raso Tate’s official last day is November 16th.

Watch the full City Council meeting here

*** Identified as Satire in accordance with Poe’s Law

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