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Power lines drive wedge between CRA, LCEC talks

By Staff | Jul 22, 2009

The strained relationship between the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency and the Lee County Electric Cooperative might have taken a step toward the positive Tuesday night.
But only time will tell if the lines of communication will indeed stay that way.
Describing his presence as that of a mere citizen, LCEC Board Member David Scott spoke to CRA board members Tuesday, expressing his concern over how twisted their relationship has become.
“There’s a giant disconnect in here,” he said. “I’m trying to diffuse this situation. It looks like the wheels have fallen off this thing completely.”
CRA board members seemed to appreciate Scott’s presence, but it did little to alleviate their feelings that LCEC has been less than forthcoming when it comes to undergrounding power lines through parts of the downtown corridor.
The CRA took particular offense to a survey circulated by LCEC, which the agency felt was presented in a way as to skew the responses in LCEC’s favor.
“In the polling business that called a loaded sample,” said CRA consulting attorney David Cardwell.
Mayor Jim Burch said he was disappointed with the survey too, and how all communications have broken down between the two entities.
“I don’t know how it evolved to where it is now,” he said. “Quite frankly, I don’t understand it. There’s just no spirit of cooperation at all in this thing.”
With Cape Coral City Council scheduled to make a decision on the underground lines sometime in August, the CRA and its consultants are scrambling to make certain their presentation has solid information.
Holding up their progress is a lack of cooperation on LCEC’s part, who the CRA claims has denied it access to records which would help to determine ways to afford the cost of burying the power lines.
Stressing that his presence was that of a Cape citizen and not of a LCEC board member, Scott suggested a committee approach to the problem, which would be made up of LCEC and CRA board members and members of city council.
“I don’t understand how we got here, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
CRA Board Member Robert Greco felt that LCEC needed to step out of what he called “the rural age.” Though Marco Island, which falls under LCEC’s purview, has some of its lines underground, none of it was paid for by LCEC.
Greco said it is this lack of experience that is keeping LCEC from understanding how to approach the situation in the downtown Cape.
“They don’t have the methodology to pay for underground.” he said. “In my opinion, it’s strictly a matter of precedence.”