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Consensus on UEP remains elusive for city council

By Staff | Jun 2, 2009

The controversial utilities expansion program in Cape Coral is set to come before the city council next week, but council members are still squabbling over how to proceed with water, sewer and irrigation utilities in the Southwest 6/7 portion and water utilities in the area north of Pine Island Road.
A water utility for about 57,000 properties north of Pine Island Road would mean an estimated $6,000 in assessments and fees, but Councilmember Tim Day, who has cast alternating votes for and against the UEP, was irked project manager MWH would still be in charge of the project, after previously expressing his desire for the city to takeover its duties related to the project.
“One of the things we had talked about this was phasing out (MWH). My position on that really hasn’t changed,” he said.
Public Works Director Chuck Pavlos explained that the move from MWH to the city would take time.
“The driving force though is getting as many people hooked up as fast as we can. Transitioning to the city is going to take longer,” he said.
But Day said his focus is on reducing the expense of the project.
“My whole thought was bringing down the overall cost,” he said.
Councilmember Pete Brandt, a consistent critic of the UEP, called the project in the north a “mistake.”
“I just think it’s a mistake to go up there and do water first. I just think it’s going to make it more costly and more difficult to go back later,” he said.
Councilmember Eric Grill proposed a two-year moratorium on payments, meaning new UEP customers would not have to make their first payment until 2012.
He said his focus is on a looming 92.5 percent rate hike over five years passed last month that takes effect Oct. 1. Bringing new customers into the UEP would mitigate the rate increase.
“My reason for bringing this back like I did was to find a happy medium with the ratepayers. We’ve got people out there that are going to face a rate hike if we don’t do something,” he said.