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Council supports assessment study for power lines

By Staff | Apr 14, 2009

The Cape Coral City Council is looking at special assessments for some downtown businesses to pay for underground transmission lines along Southeast 47th Terrace.
During a workshop meeting Monday, council members urged for a study to be conducted to determine the size and scope of possible special assessments.
Representatives from Lee County Electrical Cooperative, who have been stressing the need for the power lines for 10 years, and one developer eyeing a project on Southeast 47th Terrace expressed optimism that the lines may be installed sooner rather than later.
“The need is critical right now, but if the plan is going to move ahead in the next six months it will be fine,” LCEC spokesperson Karen Ryan said.
Annette Barbaccia, a consultant for Island Development, which is trying to build a 450,000-square-foot mixed-use development on Southeast 47th Terrace, was pleased the previously erratic council was narrowing the focus of the issue.
“We had a feeling there was consensus among the (council) members toward 47th Terrace,” she said.
On March 10, the city council approved overhead lines on Southeast 47th Terrace, then reversed the decision two weeks later in order to develop a solution amenable to all parties involved.
The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency envisions Southeast 47th Terrace as a walkable urban streetscape. It contends the 77-foot-tall overhead transmission lines would ruin that vision.
CRA executive director John Jacobsen still has doubts the lines will be placed underground.
“I think they (council members) are waiting to hear what the funding options are,” he said.
Frank Schnidman, a CRA consultant, played down the need for the transmission lines. He said property owners in the area around Southeast 47th Terrace should not be required to pay for the council’s arbitrary decision to place the route there.
“They don’t need the route — 47th Terrace isn’t the perfect route. It’s only one of a number of options,” Schnidman said.
The route stems from LCEC’s desire to connect the substation on Everest Parkway with one on Southeast 47th Terrace in order to create a “loop” system and provide more capacity and reliability to the overall system.
During a council meeting last month, LCEC’s director of electrical operations, Rick Fuson, said if one transmission line went down in the area and power was not able to be rerouted, 22,000 homes and businesses would be without power.
LCEC has committed about $500,000 — the cost of installing the overhead lines — toward placing the lines underground. Initial LCEC estimates place the cost of undergrounding the Southeast 47th Terrace section at $4.6 million.
Despite the disagreements between LCEC and the CRA, Mayor Jim Burch believes they can move forward in developing a study for the special assessments.
“I want the shareholders (LCEC and CRA) to take that framework and form the legal aspects of it. That will signify everybody has a general agreement in place,” he said.

In other news
— Financial Services Director Mark Mason presented a plan to council members to refinance a $14.5 million bond for four firehouses and a gym for the charter Oasis Middle school. The proposal would institute a fixed interest rate at 4.4 or 4.5 percent. The current bond is at a variable rate.