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During an April 17 discussion of Punta Gorda’s capital improvement projects for fiscal year 2025, City Council members made public safety projects a priority. 

A new public safety building is needed due to the county’s population growth, and the city’s police and fire departments are outgrowing their present building at 1410 Tamiami Trail. 

Voters approved a referendum for a 1% sales tax option with funding that runs until the last three months of 2026. The proposed fiscal year 2025 budget shows a 1% sales tax revenue of $4,438,913. 

A committee was formed after the sales tax option was approved, and members suggested where the money should be spent, with the city making the final decision.  

A new public safety building is one of the projects the city chose to be a recipient of sales tax dollars. 

Mayor Lynne Matthews, during the April 17 Council meeting, said sales tax money from one project could be moved to another project eligible for the tax funding. She said the Virginia Avenue improvements project, which is projected to cost $1,056,000, is earmarked to receive sales tax funding, but that money might be better suited for a different project. 

Approved in 2020, the project, which includes parking changes, hasn’t come to fruition because the city didn’t receive cooperation from residents in the community, Matthews said. 

She said an “extremely critical public safety issue” is the Henry Street area. She has received emails and other forms of communication from residents asking for sidewalks and a crosswalk, saying it is dangerous to cross the street and walk in the area without them. 

The Henry Street sidewalk that has a projected cost of $156,000 and the Henry Street crosswalk, expected to cost $539,000, should be of the utmost priority, Matthews said. 

The projects are where Henry Street and Olympia Avenue divide, in Punta Gorda Isles near Fishermen’s Village. 

Matthews asked Council to approve moving the money earmarked for Virginia Avenue and move it to the Henry Street projects. 

She also asked if staff would identify which public safety issues have to be funded and to determine which money should be moved from another nonpublic safety project to one that would be a public safety improvement. 

Council will take up the matter at a later meeting, after staff provides a priority list of public safety projects. 

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