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City council pulls back vote on overhead power lines

By Staff | Mar 24, 2009

Reversing its March 9 decision to place overhead transmission lines along Southeast 47th Terrace, the Cape Coral City Council voted 6-2 Monday to reconsider the issue.
Council members will conduct a workshop meeting April 13 with all parties affected by the issue — the Lee County Electric Cooperative, the Community Redevelopment Agency, and property owners and developers on 47th Terrace and throughout the downtown area — to iron out a solution.
“There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a more conservative approach and saying, ‘Let’s get together on this,'” Mayor Jim Burch said.
LCEC has worked with the CRA over the past two years to develop a plan to install underground lines through the CRA boundaries.
LCEC has been looking at connecting the substation on Everest Parkway to a substation on 47th Terrace, thereby creating a “loop” system that would allow for greater reliability, for the past 10 years.
But the CRA has decried the standard overhead lines as a “blight” that would prevent the kind of vertical development the CRA has been trying to entice to the downtown area.
CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen was poised to give a presentation Monday petitioning council to reconsider its vote, but he was preempted by citizens who spoke out against the overhead lines.
“I’m asking you to reverse your decision. It does not meet the vision and the understanding of the CRA,” Mike Sullivan, a downtown Cape Coral resident, said.
Ultimately, council members had no need of Jacobsen’s presentation as they were already familiar with the arguments against the overhead lines.
“I don’t need a presentation. I understand the CRA’s position,” Councilmember Gloria Tate said. “I want discussion from all the stakeholders in the game.”
Rick Fuson, director of electrical operations for LCEC, told council members the downtown line affects other parts of the Cape.
“If we lose one of those transmission lines, 22,000 homes and businesses will be with out power,” he said.
Fuson also pointed out that while LCEC would pay the cost of overhead lines, about $450,000, the CRA has had ample opportunity to fund the difference in cost between overhead and underground lines, between $4 million and $6 million by LCEC estimates.
“LCEC is willing to do underground, but the CRA has not developed a funding mechanism in the past 10 years,” he said.
Jacobsen applauded the council’s vote, but was more ambivalent about the workshop meeting’s chances for success.
“I’m pleased with the outcome. It’s something that needs much more careful consideration,” he said.
“There’s an old saying, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’ At the next meeting we’re going to find out what we don’t know,” Jacobsen added.