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Council to vote on Southwest 6/7 utility expansion; Stalled over stalemate

By Staff | Sep 9, 2008

The Cape Coral City Council voted 6-2 Monday to bring back the city’s utility expansion program for the Southwest 6/7 corridor for a vote.

The project has been stalled for the last two months as council members could not find consensus on the project’s costs.

Questions over costs still remain among some council members, most notably Mayor Eric Feichthaler, who voted against proceeding with the project until the utility assessments for homeowners are lowered $1,500.

Assessments for the 6/7 area average $17,000.

Last month, council members reached a 4-4 stalemate when the issue came before them. Yet Feichthaler voted for putting 6/7 up for another vote, holding out hope the price could be reduced this time.

“I’ve been steadfastly against the idea because we are going to be encouraging development in an area where we would rather not — north Cape Coral,” Feichthaler said.

Recently Councilmember Jim Burch has worked with officials at MWH, the company contracted for the project, to reduce costs by $500, but Feichthaler has said he would like to see another reduction of $1,000 for each assessment.

“I’m not going to tolerate $17,000,” Feichthaler said.

Although bids for the project expired Aug. 28, MWH program manager Larry Laws said the overall price of $60 million would not change.

“I’m convinced MWH would extend those prices,” Laws said.

Councilmember Tim Day gave 6/7 a lifeline after reconsidering his position on the project. Day brought it up for discussion on the council’s agenda, saying that delaying the project is not helping the city.

“The other alternative is simply, we do nothing,” Day said.

The methodology of the assessments is also in doubt among some council members. Councilmember Bill Deile, who currently has a lawsuit against the city over the issue of how his property was assessed, said oversized lots are unfairly assessed.

“I want to take away the preferential treatment of the smaller lots,” said Deile, who voted against the measure along with Councilmember Pete Brandt.

Deile said his lot in the Southwest 4 sector was assessed at $35,000, but the average assessment in that area was $20,000. His lawsuit against the city is pending.

The council will vote on whether to approve the Southwest 6/7 corridor at its Sept. 22 meeting to be held at 5 p.m. in council chambers.