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Council reverses utilities vote on North 1-8, SW 6/7

By Staff | Feb 10, 2009

One week after approving an initial resolution to move forward with a plan to bring potable water utilities to the area north of Pine Island Road, Cape Coral City Council members voted to rescind that portion of the city’s utility expansion project.
In a memo to council members Friday, Councilmember Tim Day expressed his desire to bring the issue up during Monday’s council meeting after reconsidering his vote.
Day cited the highly contentious nature of the project and his wish to seek more information about the project in the area known as North 1-8.
“This has been such a tense issue between all of us here on council. I’d rather see a much clearer direction from council for this,” Day said.
Critics of the UEP applauded Day’s decision.
“I was very pleased for the people in the north. I feel very strongly many residents would be pushed to foreclosure,” outspoken UEP critic Lynn Rosko said.
The reversal means the more than 60,000 lot owners in Southwest 6/7 and North 1-8 will be spared what critics of the two projects called a small fortune.
Residents of SW 6/7 were facing about $17,000 in assessments and fees, while North 1-8 residents were looking at an estimated $6,000 in assessments and fees for the water utility.
Council members narrowly passed the North 1-8 water utility project last week in a 4-3 vote. Day voted in favor of the project at that time.
Council members also voted Monday to rescind three other initial resolutions originally passed in September to implement water, irrigation and sewer utilities in the Southwest 6/7 sector of the city as part of Day’s motion.
Only Councilmember Derrick Donnell voted against the motion to rescind, with Councilmembers Dolores Bertolini, Bill Deile, Pete Brandt, Eric Grill and Day voting in favor of the motion.
Mayor Jim Burch abstained from the vote while Councilmember Gloria Tate was absent.
Day said the crumbling economy is one of the main reasons for reversing his decision, but also that a capital facility expansion, or impact, fee would be assessed to the owners of vacant lots that would not see an immediate benefit from the UEP.
“I sure couldn’t sleep about it,” Day said about his buyer’s remorse over last week’s vote.
Vacant lot owners in North 1-8 would have been forced to pay an impact fee to pay for the debt service on a water plant on Kismet Parkway had the water utility project gone forward.
Now that the UEP lays dormant, the city must find some other way to fund the debt service.
“We might have to do something with the millage rate. We’ll have to do something,” Day said.
The company in overseeing the UEP, MWH, which in the previous week was soliciting bids from local contractors to work on the North 1-8 project, must now decide how to restructure since the project has been postponed indefinitely.
“All the members of the team (subcontractors) will have to look at reorganizing,” said MWH project manager Larry Laws.
“It will certainly mean the contractors who have held their pricing for several months will see layoffs,” he added.
In addition to future layoffs, Monday’s vote prevented the creation of about 500 new jobs, Laws said.
“Rather than creating more jobs here in the Cape, this will mean more layoffs in the Cape,” he said.