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Meeting on SW 6/7 draws ire of citizens

By Staff | Jul 1, 2009

Hundreds of residents filled Cape Coral City Council chambers Tuesday to speak out against the controversial utilities expansion project that will bring an average of $17,000 in assessments and fees to Southwest 6/7.
Many of those seats were promptly empty just moments into the meeting after citizens learned the meeting dealt with information on the payment options associated with the project, and was not a discussion of the UEP itself.
“We’re really here simply to talk about the various payment options that have been sent to you,” Financial Services Director Mark Mason said at the onset of the meeting.
Many of the protesters had signs, flyers and stickers with one message: Stop the UEP.
“A lot of people were very upset when they left,” said Duane Adams, a resident of north Cape Coral, an area which faces average assessments of $6,000 for water utilities.
Many residents decried the timing of the project, which will bring added bills on parts of a city grappling with record foreclosures and more than 12 percent unemployment.
“With the economy the way it is, whether it’s $6,000 or $18,000, you’re going to put on people the financial straw that broke the camel’s back,” Adams said.
Proponents of the UEP say the payment options, some of which delay the first payment for several years, leave time for the economy to rebound.
Residents of SW 6/7 can choose to pay the assessments and fees off over 20 years, with the first payment showing up on their tax bill in 2011, opt to defer payments for 10 years or pay the entire amount upfront.
The 20-year financing and 10-year deferment options carry estimated annual interest rates of 7.5 percent.
But opponents of the project claim that even in a good economy the UEP should not go forward as it is too expensive and based on unsound growth projections that leave the city with unnecessary amounts of water.
“Even with all the new people (connected to water utilities) there we’ll still have too much capacity,” Councilmember Bill Deile said.
For residents who were disappointed they were not able to properly voice their opposition to the project, although many did so during Tuesday’s meeting, there is a protest planned at 4 p.m. July 13 in front of City Hall.
“I think people thought they would have a chance to voice their opinion,” said Gary King, a SW 6/7 resident and outspoken critic of the UEP.
Public input will also be allowed when council members take up the final vote on the issue during their July 20 meeting.
Informational meetings for the payment options available in the North 1-8 section are set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Mariner High School.