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District 6 candidates debate UEP, cuts to budget

By Staff | Aug 28, 2009

Cape Coral City Council District 6 candidates got a chance Thursday night to see what the other side of the dais looks like.
The three candidates were seated in council chambers for a debate, but only one will retain a permanent seat.
Although they found common ground on many issues, one candidate took the chance to chastise his opponents.
Kevin McGrail, a 53 year-old medical technologist, noted that unlike his opponents, he has been personally affected by the city’s most controversial issue: the utilities expansion project.
“I’m the only candidate on this dais that’s paid an assessment,” he said.
While McGrail spoke in favor of the UEP as a means to attract businesses, those challenging him expressed their reservations toward the project.
Frank Antos Jr., a 67 year-old retired publisher, said the next phase of the project to bring water, sewer and irrigation utilities to Southwest 6/7 should be rebid.
“If it were rebid, it’s over a 35 percent reduction,” he said.
John Cataldi Jr., a 69 year-old retired police detective, supports the UEP but said it should only go forward in main business corridors in the city due to the downturn in the economy and the high costs of the project.
“I believe in utility expansion, however it has to be done at the right price, at the right time and for the right reasons,” he said.
The panel was able to agree on one key budget issue, however, with all the candidates concluding that employee benefits and salaries need to be cut to some degree.
All three were in favor of the Financial Advisory Committee’s recommendation to have employees contribute $50 per month for health insurance, saving the city a projected $1 million.
Cataldi noted that the same suggestion was made last year, along with nine others, by the FAC but were not adopted by the council.
“I think the city council should go back and look at those,” he said.
Whereas Cataldi and Antos were in favor of a sliding scale for employee salary cuts, starting at 5 percent for the highest paid employees, McGrail pointed out that many of those salaries are tied up in ongoing union negotiations.
“We currently have nine unions in the city that are negotiating. I’m sure (pay cuts) will be worked out with the negotiations,” McGrail said.
The three candidates will be narrowed down to two after the Sept. 15 primary.
The top two vote-getters will then square off in the Nov. 3 general election.