Mayor Joe Coviello
We are moving into the final stretch of the hurricane season. Let’s not get too complacent because storm threats remain through November 30. This time of year, Southwest Florida is still vulnerable to tropical weather. Our summer has been hot and the first part of the hurricane season has been quiet, but we must continue to be prepared. For preparedness information, please visit LeeEOC.com. You will find valuable information to protect your family from disasters.
Our City is well-prepared for a storm thanks in part to our Emergency Management Division and the disaster funds we have set aside. We also negotiated new debris removal contracts that allow the City to penalize companies who do not fulfill the terms of their contract, as we experienced following Irma. Speaking of Irma, we received reimbursements from FEMA totaling about $9.6 million for Irma cleanup efforts and will be deciding how these funds will be allocated.
While we haven’t seen blue-green algae in Cape Coral’s canals this summer, water quality improvement efforts continue. As your Mayor, I am working diligently at the state and federal levels on this important issue. There are 67 water quality and quantity projects slated for the state and the Governor is committed to funding these critical projects. We need support from the Federal Government, particularly the Senate, to fund these projects. Additionally, we must continue to lead by example and continue to improve water quality on a local level. The utilities extension program removes septic tanks that leak into the ground and pollute our waterways.
This newsletter has more information about some of the city’s brackish canals and the duckweed that is appearing in these canals. The newsletter also contains information about the FY 2020 budget, which was recently adopted. I am happy to share that Council was able to reduce your property taxe rate. We set the millage rate to the rollback rate of 6.4903 mills or $6.4903 per $1,000 of assessed value.
We worked with the City staff to develop a budget that will provide the level of service our community expects for their tax dollars. Our challenge is always to deliver an appropriate level of service at a reasonable cost. Input from the Budget Review Committee and our community was important as we established our budget.
Speaking of input, many residents took time from their busy schedules to provide input on the new neighborhood parks that will be built as a result of the voter-approved parks general obligation bond. Public input meetings were held recently and I was fortunate to participate in these meetings to listen to suggestions from our residents about what they want to see in their new parks. The meetings for the community parks will be held in the coming months.
Cape Coral is the 8th largest city in the state and we are still growing. These quality of life improvements are investments for our future and will help to elevate Cape Coral’s appeal to current and future residents of this city.
The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1 and experts predict a normal season. The best way to protect your family and your home is to be prepared. Please don’t wait until a storm is headed this way. This newsletter includes important emergency preparedness information to help keep you and your families safe this summer.
We are hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s blue-green algae crisis. Staff is working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to obtain pre approval for mitigation options if a toxic bloom infects our saltwater canal system this summer. Cape Coral is now the 8th largest city in Florida and people are attracted to our city by the sunshine and abundance of water. We have more than 400 miles of freshwater and saltwater canals that provide fishing and recreation opportunities. Improving the quality of this valuable resource is critical to our environment, our residents and our local economy. This is an important issue for Cape Coral and I will continue to work with our Southwest Florida Mayors and encourage our state and federal officials to implement solutions. We cannot allow toxic water to disrupt our quality of life and the environment.
City Manager John Szerlag is working to negotiate the purchase of the abandoned golf course property with Ryan Company. These ongoing negotiations surround environmental concerns related to its use as a former golf course. This 175-acre parcel is one of the few large parcels available for parks and recreation development and will be a valuable asset to our community.
Your City Council will begin to work on the upcoming FY 2020 Operating Budget in August. Based on preliminary figures, we expect to see property values increase this year, which will provide some additional tax revenue.
We also expect to receive results from the Citizen Survey that was recently conducted. The City conducts this survey every two years using the National Research center, which provides benchmarks that will be used to compare Cape Coral to other cities across the country.
Cape Coral is moving forward with plans for a Sister-City relationship with Baise, China. I traveled to China with other city officials following a visit from Baise delegates. The purpose of our partnership is for cultural, educational and economic development opportunities in both countries. These visits are already starting to pay off. Baise will embark on an exchange program and will be sending doctors and nurses to the Lee Health System. The doctors and nurses will be staying here in our hotels and will be eating in our local restaurants.
By the time the school year begins, there will be 200 school bus benches installed throughout the city in an effort to protect children at school bus stops. We will continue to have a school resource officer at each school in the city. As a reminder, when children head back to school please watch for students walking to and from school and school bus stops and be careful around school bus stops.
Your City Council will reconvene in July, after a brief summer break. On behalf of our great City, I wish you a safe and enjoyable summer.
Our seasonal residents will be leaving Cape Coral soon and heading north. I wish you safe travels, and we look forward to seeing you again later this year.
Cape Coral is now the 8th largest city in the state and we are still growing. We are the largest city between Tampa and Miami and are approaching 200,000 people. Where we go with our next steps will determine what the city will look like in the future. A challenge related to our growth involves building the commercial tax base of the city to reduce the reliance on residential property taxes. The City is working on changes to the Land Development Code to streamline the development process. These changes are taking longer to complete than originally planned, however, they will have a significant impact on the city’s future.
As we head into spring, we also are headed into the driest part of the season and our freshwater canal levels are looking good thanks to recent rain. We encourage all residents to follow their lawn watering schedule that can be found in this newsletter.
Speaking of water, the importance of water quality has been on Council’s radar for many years. This issue is even more evident after last summer’s harmful algae blooms that impacted the city’s saltwater canal system. These toxic blooms had a significant impact on our residents and businesses. While our canals are free from cyanobacteria, I am working diligently at the state and federal levels to prevent another algae crisis in Cape Coral. I am optimistic that we may start to see some progress related to the Lake Okeechobee releases thanks in part to some of the recent decisions made by Governor DeSantis. There is no quick solution to improving water quality in the state but we may be making progress in our efforts to improving the water quality of the Caloosahatchee River.
City staff recently presented a plan to Council to finish the parks projects that were identified in the general obligation parks bond referendum that was approved by voters in November. This plan involves an aggressive three-year timeline. Public input meetings will be held later this year in different areas of the city to determine what amenities will be added to the new neighborhood parks.
The SE 47th Terrace Streetscape Project in South Cape is finished. This $13 million infrastructure and beautification project is already attracting residents and visitors to the area. Please visit South Cape, if you haven’t already, to support your local businesses and check out the completed streetscape project.
Another accomplishment this year that I am proud of is Council’s decision to move municipal elections back to even-numbered years. This decision makes sense because it saves money while increasing voter turnout. Cape Coral voters will elect city council members on the same ballot as county, state, and federal seats that are up for election.
Thank you for your support of our community. While there are some challenges, we are making progress and Cape Coral is moving ahead in a positive direction. Working together, we can keep this momentum going.
Happy holidays to our residents and snowbirds.
As I wrap up my first year as your mayor, it has been an honor and privilege to represent the Cape Coral community. Along with my fellow council members, the city is moving in the right direction, and our future looks bright.
This has been a very busy and productive year for your City Council. I am especially excited about our recent election results. Cape Coral voters overwhelmingly approved a $60 million general obligation parks bond referendum that was on November’s General Election ballot. This decision by the voters will elevate Cape Coral’s appeal to current and future residents. On behalf of your City Council I thank you for taking the time to vote on this important decision for your city’s future.
We are wrapping up the year with several accomplishments including an agreement with LCEC that Council asked me to negotiate. We quickly found a solution to the challenge of putting full-time school resource officers in all Cape Coral schools, as required by the state. As noted elsewhere in this newsletter at the end of September Council adopted the FY 2019 budget. One of the primary responsibilities of the City Council is to approve and adopt the annual operating budget. Council maintained the same property tax rate (millage) of 6.75 as the previous two years. Achieving solid financial stability is a multi-year process. We continue to invest dollars in our roads, streetlights and medians. Cape Coral is one of the best-value cities in Florida, and future and current businesses look to locate or expand in cities that provide a lower cost of living. The streetscape project in the South Cape is expected to be complete soon and should attract new investments in the downtown area. With the investment opportunities we are also creating at Seven Islands and Bimini Basin, and with the upcoming Land Development Code rewrite, I expect Cape Coral to continue growing at a fast pace.
Along with this year’s accomplishments, there are several challenges our city is facing. We must ensure our state and federal legislators are making policy decisions in the best interests of our citizens. Council has been addressing water quality issues for several years and this summer’s harmful algae blooms highlight the importance of water quality in our city. Another challenge we face involves building the commercial tax base of the city to reduce the reliance on residential property taxes. Council will continue working to develop solutions to these challenges as we continue to move forward.
Cape Coral is the 9th largest city in Florida in population, and that is a significant milestone. As mayor, it is important to represent Cape Coral’s short-term and long-term interests when issues arise that may affect our city. We value the input and ideas of the community we serve. There are many great ways to volunteer and stay involved in local government affairs. I am happy to be working with my fellow council members and am excited about this year’s successes. I also look forward to Cape Coral’s future.
My best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season.
We are moving into the second half of the hurricane season. Let’s not get too complacent because storm threats remain through November 30. This time of year, Southwest Florida is particularly vulnerable to tropical weather. Our summer has been hot and the first part of the hurricane season has been quiet, but we must continue to be prepared. For preparedness information, please visit LeeEOC.com. You will find valuable information to protect your family from disasters.
Speaking of summer, we are still being impacted by harmful algae blooms and Lake O water releases. Cape Coral is at the epicenter of the cyanobacteria crisis. These toxic algal blooms are having a significant impact on some of our residents and businesses. As your Mayor, I am working diligently at the state and federal levels to resolve this issue.
Early this summer, City Council requested relief from the Lake Okeechobee water releases but the releases have continued. This issue has been on Council’s radar for several years and the importance of water quality is even more evident. I have had multiple meetings with county, state, and federal agencies and representatives to find solutions to improving our water quality.
I, along with other Lee County Mayors, asked Governor Scott and the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to expand the emergency declarations in order to provide assistance to residents and businesses that have been affected by the water quality issues. We also passed a resolution at the annual Florida League of Cities conference urging the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency due to harmful algae blooms. The SBA recently announced that low-interest loans are available to businesses in Southwest Florida impacted by blue-green algae. To learn more about our efforts to find a solution to the water quality crisis we are facing, please visit the City’s website to view my message to residents.
In addition to the efforts of your local elected officials, City Council and staff have met with multiple vendors and assisted with test projects that aim to get rid of the algae in our saltwater canals. This newsletter has more information about the cleanup efforts that are underway. The newsletter also contains information about the FY 2019 budget.
City Council is in the process of setting the FY 2019 Operating Budget for the City. We are working with the City administration to develop a budget that will provide the level of service our community expects for their tax dollars. Our challenge is to deliver an appropriate level of service at a reasonable cost. Our final budget hearing is Thursday, September 20 at 5:05 p.m. Input from the community is important as we finalize our budget.
Cape Coral is the 9th largest city in the state and we are still growing. We must decide if we want quality of life investments to be a priority for our city. The Parks Master Plan, which was adopted in 2016, identifies the lack of park facilities in the City. Cape Coral voters must approve the Parks Bond referendum that will be on the ballot this fall, if we want to elevate Cape Coral’s appeal to current and future residents
Over the past two weeks members of the City Council as well as City staff have met with vendors, visited many sites of algae infestation, worked with AECOM on testing locations and assisted Ecological Labs in getting their test location set up. Even with the onslaught of rain we’ve had over the past week it is obvious the algae problem still exists. City staff showed a slide presentation during the August 27 Special Meeting that outlined several methods of containment that the City will be trying in the coming weeks. We will continue to explore and test approved methods until we can figure out what works best. Below is a listing of what we’ve been doing over the past two weeks as well as who we’ve met with in the ongoing efforts to obtain assistance for our canal cleanup. I’ve also listed meetings I’ve had on a few other topics of importance to the City.
- Boat tour of our canals and the River with Congressman Ron DeSantis
- Met with local bio-tech company Ecological Laboratory at Cabot Canal for the beginning of their DEP approved trial to treat the blue-green algae.
- City has just received the approval from DEP to trial the bubble curtain technology. This process can be deployed at the mouth of a canal just off the River with the expectation that it will keep algae from entering our canal system.
- Meeting scheduled with SWFL Coalition of Mayors and Bubba Wade from Big Sugar
- Attended Florida League of Mayors/Cities and participated in the passing of a resolution urging the Federal Government and White House to declare a state of emergency regarding blue-green algae and red tide
- Conducted three Budget Workshop meetings to move towards adoption of the FY 2019-2020 Budget
- Finalizing the LCEC Franchise Agreement
- Upcoming meeting with City staff, County officials, South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to discuss solutions to water quality
The Mayor’s Message publication updating the citizens of Cape Coral on current events and progress to make our City the best place to live, work, and play.
Round table discussion with Senator Bill Nelson for increased Federal involvement. As your Mayor I am working diligently to give Cape Coral a voice at the Federal level to resolve the algae blooms.
Productive meeting with Senator Rubio’s office. Members of his office accompanied me on a tour so they could see our waterways first hand. Our efforts have supported appropriations for EPA Studies that will play a part in fostering clean waterways.
Conference call scheduled with Governor Scott’s office for State action regarding Lake Okeechobee releases.
Establishment and meetings with SWFL Coalition of Mayors asking Governor Scott to expand the Declared State of Emergency. This will help provide relief to residents and businesses impacted by the water quality issues.
Discussion with the DOH on signage for Red Tide alert.
Sent letter on July 17 inviting US Army Corp of Engineers to Cape Coral. To view my letter click here. To view the U.S. Army Corps response letter click here.
DEP has verbally accepted an invitation from the Mayor of Cape Coral to meet.
Attended Emergency County Board of Commissioners meeting and spoke on behalf of Cape Coral’s need for canal clean-up. Canals have been identified and they are in a trial period to test cleanup processes. Disposal method has been approved by DEP.
Ongoing dialog with County Commissioners Hamman and Kiker, as well as discussions with State Representative Eagle.
City staff is attending an Open Water Restoration presentation with a Bio Tech Company. This company is working with city officials to provide a Free Trial in Cape Coral to rid canals of algae.
Met with numerous vendors touting solutions for cleanup including Nano2 technology, Ultra Sound, Skimmers, Suction devices and Conveyor belt retrieval method from the water.
Requested and received a waiver of fees for residents and visitors to use Cape Coral’s Community Pool for the next two weeks while there are “No Swimming” signs posted at the Yacht Club.