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Southwest 6/7 passes despite objections by citizens; UEP area up for final vote Oct. 27

By Staff | Sep 23, 2008

Despite hearing from more than 15 residents who asked, and sometimes begged, officials not to move forward on bringing water, sewer and irrigation lines to the Southwest 6/7 area, Cape Coral council members voted 5-3 Monday to forge ahead with the utility expansion project.

“I’m begging you, please, do not pass this,” said Charlene Campbell, a Southwest 6/7 resident.

The project had been stalled since June when council members came to a stalemate over whether to proceed with the project. The deadlock was broken when Councilmember Tim Day, who initially voted against progressing with the project, changed his vote.

Day said he did not want to punish customers already on the city utilities in Southwest 4 and Southwest 5 whose rates would increase if the project stalled.

About $6 million in design work has already been done on the Southwest 6/7 area, and if the project stalled, current utility users would be forced to pay higher rates in lieu of new customers.

“The people who have already signed up should not have to come back and pay for this, too,” Day said. “It’s irresponsible for me to sit up here and allow people who have already paid their fair share to be faced with higher costs.”

One of the main complaints residents voiced Monday is that they cannot afford the cost of the assessments, impact fees and hook up fees, which average $17,000 in Southwest 6/7.

“I don’t want you to bank on me, that I’ll be able to pay my assessments,” said Southwest 6/7 resident Aimee McLaughlin.

“When the economy can stand on its own, I’d certainly be in favor of voting for something like that,” she told council members before the vote.

Some residents, however, spoke up in favor of the utility expansion project, saying that waiting will cost the city more in the long run.

“It’s a false economy to think what we’re doing now is free. I just want the council to be aware that doing nothing is not free,” said Southwest 6/7 resident Chuck Cantieny.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler and Councilmembers Pete Brandt and Bill Deile voted against the project.

“It’s kind of like a vampire — you kill it, it comes back to life, sucks our blood, you kill it, it comes back to life again,” Deile said of the project.

He has consistently called for a different assessment methodology to be used and is currently suing the city for what he considers an unfair assessment on his Southwest 4 property.

“The thing that continues to drive me is the overall cost is about $17,000,” said Feichthaler, who has tried to reduce assessments and fees by $1,500.

Other council members said it is time to move forward with the utility expansion project.

“I think the prices are about as low as we can get,” said Councilmember Jim Burch.

The resolution passed by council is an initial resolution, with a final resolution to follow on Oct. 27.

“This gives us an indication they want to move forward,” said Larry Laws, project manager for MWH, the company overseeing the project. “We can’t really do any (construction) until after the 27th of October.”