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LCEC, CRA still at odds over cost of transmission lines

By Staff | May 6, 2009

Little progress was made at a workshop meeting Tuesday designed to bring the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency and the Lee County Electrical Cooperative closer to a solution on the transmission lines aimed at connecting substations on Everest Parkway and Southeast 47th Terrace.
LCEC has been pushing for the transmission lines for the last 10 years, but the CRA has consistently resisted the 75-foot overhead lines that would be installed as a “blight” on the area, preferring more expensive underground lines.
LCEC officials have consistently said they would contribute the cost of overhead lines to put the lines underground, but CRA board members said they want more from the electric utility.
“I think it’s high time LCEC stepped up and tried to become a partner with this community,” CRA Board Member Don Heisler said.
Preliminary LCEC estimates put the cost to place underground lines along Southeast 46th Lane from Del Prado Boulevard at $5.1 million, while the overhead costs LCEC would incur for the route would be $610,000.
The cost for underground lines along the Southeast 47th Terrace route is estimated at $4.5 million, and overhead costs are placed at $460,000.
Rick Fuson, director of electrical operations for LCEC, said his company is bound by state regulations to charge all of its customers the same rate, and would not ask Cape customers to pay for underground lines in other service areas.
“Over the past 10 years, and especially over the past two years, we have been looking for solutions. The issue comes down to costs,” Fuson said.
City council members have until December to choose a route and develop a funding mechanism to support underground lines, or LCEC will likely install overhead lines on Southeast 47th Terrace, a road eyed by the CRA as a prime corridor for development.
Most CRA board members prefer the Southeast 46th Lane for the underground route and favored Southeast 46th Street — which lies outside CRA boundaries — should overhead lines be implemented, but did not vote on a specific route.
Far from finding a way to fund the underground lines on their own, the CRA asked LCEC to commit more to the project.
“I think LCEC needs to come forward with more funding than 10 percent of the underground when 40 percent of its customers are in Cape Coral,” CRA Chairman Jason Tramonte said.