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Cape Coral’s state of emergency declarations geared toward hurricanes, not pandemics

Customer service counters and lobbies at Cape Coral city buildings are closed to the general public to limit the spread of COVID-19, parks are closed, and the Yacht Club beach is roped off.

Southwest Florida’s largest city has taken steps to protect you from the coronavirus, but as of now, the city has not declared a local state of emergency.

Councilwoman Jennifer Nelson told WINK News if they declared a local state of emergency right now, it would cost the city $1.5 million a week because of how that declaration is currently written.

She said, “With the COVID-19, this is all new territory for all of us, for the county, for the state, for the country, for everybody.”

Nelson called it a delicate balance, trying to figure out how to potentially implement a local state of emergency amid the coronavirus pandemic without bankrupting the city.

“As council members, we are stewards of our residents’ tax dollars. We are stewards of their money. So we need to make the best decision possible. And absolutely it’s a delicate balance,” she explained.

As it’s written, Nelson said Cape Coral’s local state of emergency is more geared toward hurricanes or natural disasters.

And as soon as it’s declared, every working city employee is paid double time.

“If you look at it from that perspective, there really isn’t any benefit to the community. So if we’re doubly paying the person who pays our water bills, that doesn’t really make sense to me as a taxpayer or as a leader in our city… I would rather our tax dollars go to people who are handling COVID-19 activities.”

She added that the labor and fire unions would need advance notice and a vote to ratify the contract, as it’s currently written.

“I had many questions asked, ‘well why don’t you just fix the state of emergency and fix the labor contracts’ and I promise you that is a definite recommendation I’ve given to staff since yesterday’s meeting at the county. I’ve spoken to several staff members who are working to figure out what we can do. I know our fire union president reached out to us last week and is definitely willing to work with us. It’s just a process.”

Even though there isn’t a local state of emergency in Cape Coral, Nelson insists the city has already followed all of the Surgeon General’s guidelines.

City Council has a meeting on Monday she said, and she hopes to talk about this emergency declaration and maybe adopt an emergency resolution similar to Lee County.

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