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Municipalities to have membership on Lee resiliency, recovery board

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 16, 2024

Steps continue to be taken with the Lee County Recovery Task Force regarding Resilient Lee Recovery, which now includes municipalities selecting who will represent them for the evaluation committee.

Fire Chief Ryan Lamb said the ordinance that has been adopted by the Board of County Commissioners includes a 12-member board for the evaluation committee for projects.

There is one representative from the County Commission, as well as one from each municipality.

“The makeup of those people cannot be an elected official, employee, or driven a benefit — subcontractor or contractor,” Lamb said, adding that there is a rubric for rating, which will get sent to the board of commissioners for a final vote.

Cape Coral City Council had a great deal of conversation stemming around if they should write the Board of County Commissioner chairman a letter expressing the desire to have more than one representative on the board.

Councilmember Richard Carr said he understands the idea behind having more than one representative due to the size of Cape Coral, but he did not know if the outcome would be any different. He said it’s about getting the right person in the seat, so they are heard properly with the city’s needs and concerns.

“Every municipality will fight for their slice of the pie — wanting their fair part of the project. It still comes down to the County Commissioners. The best role is to stay in communication with the County Commissioners. That is what it is going to take,” Councilmember Tom Hayden said.

Assistant County Manager Glen Salyer said the evaluation committee will assess all projects in relationship to community needs and score all applications on a technical basis. He said they will rank the projects and make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.

“The County Commissioners will see all the applications, the technical scoring package and the evaluation committee rankings,” Salyer said.

County Manager Dave Harner said the Board of County Commissioners first created the advisory committee for a long-term recovery plan after Hurricane Ian, which was followed by a workshop and bigger discussion.

He said the commissioners wanted to ensure the county was a little more involved — having county staff involved to make sure county issues were being addressed. He said the board also decided that municipalities also needed to be partners and have their own autonomy with a plan.

The Resilient Lee Recovery is an overarching plan. There are branches under the plan — planning and capacity, infrastructure, housing, economic recovery, education and workforce, natural resources, cultural resources and health and social services.

“The county does not plan to amend it at all,” Harner said of using it as is. “We have our recovery plan that we are working on — the board’s plan. Objectives will match that as well. We have Hurricane Ian items morphed into long-term recovery items.”

He said they are waiting until March 19 to approve the plan, as they want to make sure that the task force and municipalities approve.

Mayor John Gunter, who has been a member of the task force over the past year, said the goal was to come up with a regional approach on how to recover, or provide resiliency for the future.

“This is only the first step — developed silos and understand funding restrictions,” he said as state dollars have a lot of tentacles and restrictions that go along with it.

The second step, Gunter said, is how to apply the dollars in the silos identified and meet the needs of the community.

“We have to develop a Cape Coral Plan. We have to see how we are going to do that moving forward,” he said. “Utilize existing staff, a contractual staff, or combination of both. It is important for all of us to recognize it’s only the first step. We have to look at projects we identified — prioritize those projects and how we are going to move forward.”

Lamb said pending the recovery task force finalizing the plan, they are looking to bring it back before the Cape Coral City Council for the overarching goals.

He said Resilient Lee is the overarching guide for cities to recover with their own resiliency plans.

“We are looking at all those things to accomplish specific priorities we have and set some timelines,” Lamb said of the Cape Coral Recovery and Resiliency Plan.

He said they are working with FEMA Public Assistance, as well as the CBDG_DR notice of funding availability, which closes on Feb. 23.

“We have a number of projects coming back on the 21st to move forward,” Lamb said.

Hayden said the key component of this is communication. He asked if they could have a standing agenda item about recovery, so Council could be kept abreast of where they stand at every level and every step of the plan.

“Keeping that information circulating not only among us, but the public, will be important moving forward,” Hayden said.