homepage logo

State funding for Cape Coral’s EOC expansion lands on Florida TaxWatch’s ‘turkey’ list

City’s $9 million appropriation should not be coming from state coffers, watchdog group contends

By CJ HADDAD - | May 20, 2024

An upcoming Cape Coral project that will expand emergency resources in the city has landed on an independent review of Florida’s budget that are deemed “turkeys.”

Florida TaxWatch on Wednesday released its 2024 Budget Turkey Watch Report, which is defined as an independent review of the state’s Fiscal Year budget that provides Floridians with an additional level or oversight by identifying individual appropriations projects “that circumvent or violate a thoughtful and thorough legislatively established budget process.”

The Cape Coral project that made the list is Cape Coral’s acquisition of $9 million for an expansion project of the city’s Emergency Operations Center in the state’s FY 2024-2025 budget.

According to Florida TaxWatch, “funds appropriated by the legislature belong to Florida taxpayers, the process must be transparent and accountable, and every project should receive proper deliberation and public debate.”

The 2024 review identified 450 appropriations projects worth $854.6 million that qualify as “Budget Turkeys.”

TaxWatch emphasized that the Budget Turkey label does not signify judgement of a project’s merit, value, or need, just the funding by the state.

Florida TaxWatch Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Kottkamp, in a release stated, “With the annual Budget Turkey Watch Report, Florida TaxWatch, on behalf of the taxpayers of Florida, is holding the legislature accountable. We’re reminding lawmakers that they should follow the long-standing budget processes put in place to protect hard-working Floridians. Government investments should be meaningful, and spending should make a positive, lasting difference in our communities, but there must also be transparency and opportunities for public input before a project makes it into the budget. We will never stop advocating for the taxpayers of Florida, which is exactly what we’re doing with today’s report.”

While details on what the expansion of the city’s EOC will entail exactly are not yet available according to the city’s fire department/emergency management, officials said this project is a vital one for city safety, preparedness, and growth.

“The EOC expansion is needed because the current space was designed when the city only had a population of 100,000 and for a much smaller staff, as has been evident during the past several hurricanes and activations,” said CCFD Chief and Emergency Management Director Ryan Lamb. “The expansion will ensure that the EOC is best equipped to serve our community through build out to over 400,000 residents and a growing staff accommodate that.”

The budget request was filed this past legislative session by Rep. Mike Giallombardo, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Martin, and requested by Director of Capital Improvements for the city Paul Clinghan.

The request states, “The Cape Coral EOC expansion will allow for better coordination during all-hazards emergency response through all phases of a disaster. The City operates an All-Hazards Emergency Management Program through an interlocal agreement with Lee County to provide services to the Cape Coral community.”

As for the expected benefit or outcome, the request reads: “Consolidated Emergency and Disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The construction of an expanded Emergency Operations Center will allow for all essential coordination to be conducted in a hardened facility with the necessary capabilities (e.g. meeting space, restrooms, showers, technology) needed to properly prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster. The City of Cape Coral can quantify the number preparedness activities and outreach events to take place, as well as measure the number of partners that can be accommodated during an activation.”