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City staff to make hooking up to UEP easier for residents

By Staff | Dec 16, 2008

Cape Coral city staffers will implement a plan to reduce or eliminate some of the financial barriers that are keeping some potential utilities customers from hooking up to the system after receiving the unanimous backing of city council members Monday.
Formal sanction of the plan is expected in January, but under the initial proposal, city staff would be allowed to approve hardship applications in advance of financing the fee.
“It’s all for the benefit of the citizens to make it easier for them to pay some of these fees,” City Manager Terry Stewart said.
Staff also would be allowed to waive the connection deposit for property owners in the hardship program. The current program requires a 15 percent down payment — the amount of the capital expansion fee — before applying for hardship status.
Financial Services Director Mark Mason said the plan came about after he heard from residents who wanted to hook up to the water, sewer and irrigation utilities, but could not afford the 15 percent downpayment.
“Previous to the middle of this year we have not encountered any of these problems,” Mason said.
The plan will impact residents in the Southwest 5 sector of the utilities expansion project, but could extend to other areas where the utilities have already been installed, such as Southwest 4.
“We’re going to pick up everybody, even those that have liens on their property,” Mason said after being asked by Councilmember Bill Deile which areas are covered by the plan.
As the economy worsened more residents have opted not to hook up to the utilities, and the 180-day time limit is approaching or has already passed some homeowners. The new rules would allow financing beyond the 180-day window.
The new rules also would mean the meter fee of $$310 for a 5/8-inch line, which is currently due upon connection to the system, could be paid over a period of 12 months. The $100 deposit could be spread over two months.
The average assessment in SW 5 is $13,690, while impact, or capital expansion, fees are $6,750.
Councilmembers enthusiastically supported the proposal.
“I think this is a great idea,” Councilmember Eric Grill said.