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Utilities expansion for SW 6/7 halted — again

By Staff | Sep 1, 2009

The controversial utilities expansion project again has been stopped in Southwest 6/7 after the Cape Coral City Council denied moving forward with the project 4-3.
After a motion Monday night by Councilmember Eric Grill to table the project until the next city council is seated following November’s election, Grill was advised by city staff to revise his motion to deny the project, lest it be revisited again.
Councilmember Tim Day, who has changed his position maybe more than any other council member, said he was deeply affected by public comment.
“I’ve heard all of these people’s stories and I’ve had enough,” he said. “It’s the wrong thing to do.”
Citizens were allowed unlimited time during public comment.
At one point, the line stood nearly 30 people deep, some waiting hours to speak their mind in front of city council.
Some citizens came baring detailed presentations, others quoted scripture, literature and Abraham Lincoln, but most simply wore the financial difficulties on their sleeves, begging the council to stop the project until economic conditions improve.
Eva Belton, a Lee County native, nearly brought herself to tears speaking before the council.
Belton warned the council that if the project had gone through, like many others in the Cape, she would be forced to walk away from her home because she could not afford the UEP assessments.
Underwater on her home, Belton currently owes $105,000 on her home, which is valued at $54,000.
“I thought this was over, but I had to come back (and talk council),” she said. “I will literally have to walk away from my home. I can’t pay for it. I don’t have a choice.”
The $80 million-plus project would have meant $17,000 or more in assessments and fees to property owners, bringing centralized water, sewer and irrigation to more than 6,000 parcels in SW 6/7.
The prospect of tabling the vote caused the most consternation on the dais.
Though Grill and Day originally favored tabling the decision until the next council took over, they were quickly challenged.
“A government that won’t vote on issues is ineffective,” Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, who is up for re-election, said. “Why even bother coming here on Monday night? We should just stay home until the election is over with.”
Though the next city council could bring the project back, Councilmember Gloria Tate thinks their work will start all over.
Tate also warned people that they should be ready for water and sewer in two years.
“A new council will have to start from scratch,” Tate said.
Councilmembers Bill Deile, Bertolini and Tate voted against denying the motion to move forward on the project.