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Proposed downtown power lines hot issue at town hall meeting

By Staff | Jan 27, 2009

More than 100 people packed the Cape Coral Association of Realtors building Tuesday for Cape Coral Councilmember Gloria Tate’s first town hall meeting since being appointed to the District 1 seat last month.
Many topics, including median landscaping on Coronado Parkway, the new District 1 fire station and a proposed new police station for the district were discussed, but one topic monopolized most of the conversation — a proposal to install transmission lines in the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency district.
The Lee County Electrical Cooperative has said the lines are needed to ensure the reliability of electric service in the area, and has proposed three options for placing the lines: one along 46th Lane, another along 46th Street and another along 47th Terrace.
Some residents were concerned the lines would be installed along their street, depressing their home values.
“We understand where the line goes people are not going to be happy,” said Rick Fuson, director of electrical operations with LCEC. “We’re trying to pick the best of the worst (options).”
“We’re not the worst, put it on Cape Coral Parkway,” retorted Shirley Wiacek, a 23-year Cape resident who lives on 46th Street.
The CRA has been working with LCEC for the past five years to develop a plan that would install underground lines within the CRA boundaries.
Underground lines, however, would cost much more than the standard overhead lines LCEC would install. LCEC officials are asking the CRA to pay the difference between the cost of overhead and underground lines, but that cost is unknown because LCEC cannot solicit bids for the underground lines until a route is chosen.
“We are working with the CRA and the city to select the best route. LCEC is route neutral, we just want to get from point A to point B,” Fuson said.
In September city council members tacitly approved a route along 46th Street, but tempered their support after receiving negative feedback from residents.
Tate and John Jacobsen, the CRA executive director, are urging residents to attend a meeting Thursday at noon in council chambers in which route selection and funding for the underground transmission lines will be discussed.
“The choice (of the route) is council’s. It will be made with your input,” Jacobsen said pointing to the crowd Tuesday.
He also bemoaned the lack of an option that would please everyone.
“There is no happy solution — period. There just isn’t,” Jacobsen said.