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Calmer crowd at second UEP meeting in days

By Staff | Jul 9, 2009

A quieter, more reserved crowd greeted city staffers Wednesday at a meeting on the controversial utilities expansion project, but residents who showed up were not any more pleased about the prospect of an average $6,000 water utility assessment.
Unlike a similar meeting held Tuesday, in which residents shouted abuse and expletives as city staffers attempted to outline payment options for the North 1-8 phase of the UEP, Financial Services Director Mark Mason was able to get through his presentation without interruption.
The question and answer session was more eventful.
“The city will rise and tell the city council to shut this project down,” one woman shouted, to which the some 300 residents in attendance responded with raucous applause.
Many residents are not pleased with facing another bill in an already deep recession, even though payments on the UEP can be put off until 2012 or later.
Mason outlined three payment options for residents north of Pine Island Road, commonly known as North 1-8.
The prepayment option, which must be selected before Oct. 23, carries with it a 20 percent discount, meaning the owner of an average lot of 10,000 square feet would pay $4,800 instead of $6,000.
In the amortized option residents would pay off the assessments and fees over 20 years, with the bill appearing annually on the tax bill beginning in 2012. For residents with a 10,000-square-foot lot, that means estimated annual payments of $1,053 at an estimated maximum interest rate of 7.5 percent.
Residents can also defer payments for 10 years. Compounding interest at an estimated 7.5 percent will increase the final amount to $16,570 for residents with a 10,000-square-foot lot, if no payments are made over the 10-year period.
Mason was careful to point out that the estimated payment amounts for the amortized and deferment options are based on worst-case scenarios and the actual amount could be less.
“We always say this is the worst-case, maximum amount, these are the highest numbers,” he said.
While the UEP has always been a controversial subject in north Cape Coral, it is growing more so as the assessments get closer to becoming reality.
A Northwest Neighborhood Association survey of its members in January produced a 50/50 result — half for the UEP and half against.
Another survey, conducted in the past two weeks as residents began receiving their assessment notices, showed 75 percent of the 200 respondents are against the project as it is currently constructed.
“My e-mail is deluged daily from the members,” said Susan Burhoe, president of the association.
The UEP has been so controversial the Northwest Neighborhood Association, the largest homeowners association in the north Cape with 500 active members, has so far refrained from taking a public stand on the issue.
That could change next week as the association will have a meeting to refine its position.
“We didn’t really come out against it. We’re working on how we’re going to be best responsive,” Burhoe said.