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UEP meetings set for North 1-8 property owners

By Staff | Jul 7, 2009

A series of meetings this week, designed to outline payment options for the 57,000 lot owners north of Pine Island Road who are facing assessments averaging $6,000 for water utilities, is likely to draw the ire of residents opposed to the utilities expansion project.
The meetings will be held today, Wednesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Mariner High School.
A similar meeting held last week for the 6,200 residents in the Southwest 6/7 assessment area attracted hundreds of protesters with signs and stickers urging the stoppage of the UEP. Many walked out at the beginning of the meeting when told only the payment options would be discussed.
The assessment area in north Cape Coral, known as North 1-8, is the largest attempted by the city, and the meeting could draw more people than the SW 6/7 meeting.
“In the past maybe 3,000 people were outraged. Now you’ve got a lot more people affected,” said Councilmember Bill Deile, a UEP opponent.
Supporters of the UEP contend the project has never been cheaper, and say customers in previous assessment areas — who, in many cases, paid more for their utilities — face a larger increase in utility rates than would otherwise be necessary if the UEP does not go forward.
“I believe the city needs to be on water and sewer. We have the lowest price since 1992 right now,” said Councilmember Gloria Tate.
Utility rates for current customers will increase 92.5 percent over the next five years, beginning with an increase in the average bill from $81.97 to $103.70 effective Oct. 1, if new customers are not found to offset the cost of the project. Even if the UEP moves forward utility rates are projected to increase 47.6 percent over the next five years.
“(The utility rate hike) won’t be reversed unless we have a way to expand,” Tate said.
A special council meeting on the UEP is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers. The final vote on the project will be held at 4:30 p.m. July 20 in council chambers.