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Council to mull downtown power line solution

By Staff | Apr 11, 2009

A proposal from Cape Coral Councilmember Gloria Tate suggests an extra charge be placed on Cape electric bills to help pay for underground transmission lines along Southeast 47th Terrace.
Tate released a memo Friday that also called for special assessments for properties on 47th Terrace, the proposed route for overhead lines, to provide for underground lines there, which are more expensive to install.
She is hoping to resolve the current impasse between the Lee County Electrical Cooperative, which says the additional transmission lines are needed to provide the needed capacity and reliability for other areas in the Cape, and the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency, which claims the overhead lines would impose a “blight” on the area that would prevent development.
“We have so many things on our plate right now, we need to get this on the table or get it off the table,” Tate said.
The transmission lines would connect the substation on Everest Parkway to another substation on 47th Terrace.
LCEC estimates the cost of undergrounding the lines along 47th Terrace from Del Prado Boulevard to the substation at $4.5 million.
The CRA has already pledged $1.9 million to put the lines underground, and LCEC has consistently said it would agree to contribute the cost to install the overhead lines, about $500,000, towards underground lines.
That leaves about $2.1 million to be made up by special assessments on 47th Terrace properties and higher fees on Cape electric bills. How much each revenue source would account for was not explicitly stated in Tate’s memo.
Tate reasoned that since the whole city would benefit from the lines, LCEC’s Cape customers could receive a surcharge to help pay for them.
“It is recommended that the funding from the City of Cape Coral come via a charge on all LCEC customers within the city limits of the city specifically for undergrounding electric lines primarily due to the fact that all properties will benefit from the (reliability) of the system as well as all properties will benefit from a reduction of blight that are caused by high tension and other local power lines,” Tate’s memo reads in part.
Mayor Jim Burch is looking for more time to resolve the issue.
He said he reached an agreement with LCEC CEO Dennie Hamilton to delay any construction on the overhead lines for 18 months. As part of the agreement, according to Burch, the city would have seven months to reach a solution on the lines.
“I think I bought some time to get this done right instead of just getting it done,” Burch said.
CRA executive director John Jacobsen said he is waiting to hear more specifics of Tate’s plan before taking a position.
“Until we know specifically how wide it is, who it covers, we don’t know,” Jacobsen said.