Cape Council to take over CRA, Board is disbanded
A decades-old organization devoting to growing downtown Cape Coral is now a thing of the past. Video by fox4now.comvideo
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The special meeting was scheduled for an hour but took Cape Coral's City Council four to make a decision. Now the agency that credits itself with transforming the downtown, will no longer be making those changes.
"I think what they do is great," said the owner of Backstreets Sports Bar, in downtown Cape Coral.
From the podium, another business owner added, "Without them, we cannot make our businesses run."
Even those pleas couldn't sway council from disbanding the Community Redvelopment Agency (CRA). They voted 5-3.
"I'm in favor of bringing this back to the city council and having the buck stop here where it rightly should," said Dana Erbrick, a member of city council.
After 26 years, the CRA will now be goverend by the city, not an independent body. As of Monday night, executive director John Jacobson no longer at the helm.
"I'm passionate about this and i'm passionate about our downtown," said Jacobson.
He even offered to take a 25 percent pay cut to save the agency. He also proposed that his staff take a 10 percent cut, among other reductions.
"We're the only place for small businesses and small busiensses need a voice down there," emphasized Jacobson.
But the city fears the cRA would become insolvent and the at least $300,000 it costs to staff the agency could be better used.
"We have great employees but we have antiquated rules and regulations that stifle our employees to be proactive and creative," said John Szerlag, the city manager, who's the new director of the CRA.
It was a vote CRA chairman Rich Greer says is a bad one that could have unintended consequences.
"You have bigger fish to fry than shutting down the CRA and taking on additional responsibilities," said Szerlag. "When you're looking down a gun barrel right now, a financial gun barrel for the city."
The next step is for council to meet with the CRA between November 4 and 8. Officials will work out the best way to transition the agency and who will keep their jobs.