Ordinances offer some relief with UEP payment
Two measures passed Monday by the Cape Coral City Council that can reduce or delay the payments for some residents in areas where utilities are already available could provide a new way forward for the long-delayed Southwest 6/7 portion of the utilities expansion project.
Council members unanimously passed an ordinance that will eliminate the 15 percent down payment requirement for residents in Southwest 4 and Southwest 5 who have passed the 180-day time limit for tying in to the potable water, sewer and irrigation utilities.
The ordinance also eliminates the fines imposed for exceeding the time limit.
A resolution creating a hardship program in which residents who qualify can defer payments for up to one year also passed unanimously. Qualifying residents would have the option of applying each year for the deferment.
Councilmember Dolores Bertolini included a last-minute addition to Monday’s agenda to discuss the SW 6/7 project, and said the measures passed by the council should be applied to that area.
“We have the opportunity to bring this back with more information in it, with more opportunity for homeowners,” Bertolini said.
The SW 6/7 project has been in limbo since October when council members voted not to move forward with it in a controversial vote on what was supposed to be the final ordinance.
“I suggest we bring this back. I think it will further the utilities. I know there will be floods of e-mails (Tuesday),” Bertolini said.
While the council voted unanimously to bring the SW 6/7 issue back with the new financial options recently made available to SW 4 and SW 5, some were not pleased with the overall push forward with the project.
“I agree with the concept of making available any new plans for 6/7 … having said that I cannot support going ahead with the assessments,” Councilmember Bill Deile said.
Deile proceeded to pull out three pharmaceutical pill bottles with skull and crossbones labels on them to denote poison, placing them on the dais to demonstrate that three payment options previously made available for SW 6/7 are “poison pills.”
“Nonetheless they’re all poison pills. One must pay the piper here, and the piper’s fee is too high,” Deile said, reflecting the sentiment among critics of the SW 6/7 project that the assessments and fees for the project will drive some of the 6,500 residents in the area into foreclosure during tough economic times.
The assessments and fees for SW 6/7 currently total $17,000 for an average lot.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion we’re going to (go forward with SW 6/7),” Deile said.
Councilmember Tim Day also resisted the idea that it was a “foregone conclusion,” but said he does not want SW 6/7 to be the only area in the city without some utilities.
A proposal for potable water is to be discussed next week for the area north of Pine Island Road.
“I’m glad you’re not a pharmacist, you’re kind of scaring me,” Day told Deile, referring to his props.
“I don’t want to be bold about it and say that it’s a foregone conclusion. For me it’s a little difficult to see one section of the city with no utilities,” he added.