Swing vote? Tate touts utility expansion
Recently appointed District 1 Cape Coral Councilmember Gloria Tate told Cape business leaders Friday the budget and the utilities expansion project in the Southwest 6/7 area of the city are her top priorities for the year.
City staffers are predicting a 35 percent drop in property values, and Tate, a Realtor with Raso Realty who previously served on the council from 1996 to 2005, said formulating a budget and finding areas to cut in 2009 will be a top priority.
“I’m a Realtor, and in real estate it’s location, location, location. This year with city council it’s going to be budget, budget, budget,” she said.
Tate doesn’t yet have her eye on any specific area of the budget to cut, but does want to ensure funding for core city services.
“Police, fire, water, sewer, and roads — everything else is behind the ball,” Tate said.
Restarting the controversial 6/7 portion of the UEP that would bring water, sewer, and irrigation utilities to the area is also a priority for Tate.
Speaking to members of the Council for Progress, Tate donned a sandwich board to promote extending the UEP in 6/7 and widening Pine Island Road.
“It’s right for ratepayers, it’s right for the environment. It makes sense,” she said of the utilities project.
After councilmembers gave their initial sanction of 6/7 last year, they voted 5-3 against what was expected to be the final vote for the project in October.
Since then, however, the arrangement on the dais has changed, and so, too, could the votes for 6/7.
Then-District 1 Councilmember Jim Burch, a proponent of 6/7, was appointed to replace outgoing Mayor Eric Feichthaler, who voted against 6/7, in November. Council members voted for Tate to take his seat in December.
Detractors of the project say the special assessments, impact and tie-in fees for 6/7, which would have added up to more than $17,000 in the previous incarnation of the project, would push many of the 6,500 residents in 6/7 closer to foreclosure during harsh economic times.
Tate pointed to the project’s low prices relative to other assessment areas and the city’s hardship and payment deferment programs as evidence the project will not force residents out of their homes.
“There is never going to be a time when someone is not going to be in a tough financial situation, so there’s never going to be a good time to do it,” Tate said.
Tate also derided audits of the project, and used a toilet as a prop replete with an iPod to make flushing sounds to drive home her point that money spent on the audits was a waste of time.
“The Kessler audit — $130,000,” Tate said as she balled up a piece of paper with “Kessler $130,000” written in bold, black letters on it and threw it towards the prop.
Kessler International conducted a forensic audit of the UEP in 2007. The possibility of bid rigging was alleged but no charges were ever filed.
Council is now considering another forensic audit of the utilities project but some members have questioned cost.