Mayor: State of Punta Gorda ‘outstanding’
PUNTA GORDA — Mayor Bill Albers explained why the City Council hiked the city’s property tax rate 17 percent last year, and why it’s now considering building a $28 million reverse-osmosis water plant to soften its water, during a state of the city address to the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
Albers, however, also touted a plethora of improvements in the Punta Gorda area over the last several years. They include the conversion of the former Municipal Mobile Home Park into the Laishley event park and marina, the development of two downtown hotels and the Sunloft center, and such events as the 2012 disabled sailing world championship, the city’s 125th anniversary celebration, and the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association’s 50th anniversary celebration, which culminated in the Harbor Happening event.
“When you add all these things together, and add to that our residents who are the most generous, most considerate out there, and you wrap that around this beautiful harbor … the state of the city is outstanding,” he told the audience of about 70.
The event was held at the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association building.
Albers highlighted a “pet project,” getting advanced life-support-response capabilities established at all three of the city’s fire stations.
The department launched ALS at Station 1 a year ago, with plans to bring it to Station 3 on Aqui Esta Drive this month. That has been accomplished. The City Council last week also agreed to establish the service at Station 2 on Acline Road months ahead of schedule, Albers said.
“I am unbelievably excited about that,” he said. “This program has already saved lives.”
The ALS program means at least three firefighters per shift will be qualified to administer such advanced aid as intravenous drug administration and heart defibrillation from their firetrucks.
Albers also touted that the city is close to completing its long-planned Ring Around the City bike and pedestrian path project. The last segments are either under construction or will be within a month or so. That includes a key Harborwalk link behind the Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel, which is now under construction, he said.
The pathways, which include the Harborwalk, the Linear Park and the Multi-Use Recreational Trail, allow people to “walk, jog, roller blade or whatever” from residential areas to downtown, he said.
The city failed in one 2012 goal: to expand its tax base through annexation, Albers conceded. However, the city garnered 78 new businesses and issued permits for 64 new homes last year, he noted.
Albers praised city employees. Not only are they dedicated to their jobs, some 40 employees also volunteered to wash cars to raise money for a New Jersey town slammed by Hurricane Sandy, he said.
Albers explained the city doesn’t need the proposed RO water plant to meet demand for water. However some residents have lobbied for the $28 million project to improve the water’s quality. Purified water from the new plant would be blended with city water from Shell Creek to reduce hardness.
The city is sending out a survey about the proposed project this week.
“Bill is a true leader amongst men,” John Wright, chamber president, told the audience.
Wherever a new businesses is holding a ribbon-cutting, “he’s there smiling,” Wright said.