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Downtown power lines battle could grow into lawsuit

By Staff | Sep 15, 2009

Rumors of a lawsuit prompted Councilmember Eric Grill to broach the long-gestating subject of underground power lines through the Community Redevelopment Agency’s district, though the discussion at Monday’s meeting did little more than renew the angst on both sides of the argument.
Fearing the threat of costly litigation involving the Lee County Electric Cooperative, Grill thought the Cape Coral City Council should decide once and for all the proposed route of the power lines.
He suggested choosing the south side of Southeast 46th Lane, one of many proposed routes that have been volleyed back and forth between LCEC and the CRA.
“I choose this just because we need to choose a route,” Grill said. “We need to resolve this or it’s going to go to court and cost a lot of money and it’s still going to be overhead.”
LCEC representative Rick Fuson said LCEC board members could decide as early as Thursday whether to pursue litigation.
While not confirming nor denying that litigation is a possibility, Fuson told council members that the cooperative is out of options and power lines have to be installed, whether underground or aboveground.
“We don’t believe we have any other options,” he said. “We’re to the point where we need this line in.”
With council members facing tough budgetary decisions next week, Monday evening’s impromptu discussion over the ongoing power line saga seemed better suited for the next workshop, according to Councilmember Dolores Bertolini.
Bertolini thought the discussion would not be complete without hard numbers from both sides and the benefit of public input.
“I don’t know what we’re doing here because all I can see is next week,” she said. “I don’t know what we’re doing. We’re spinning our wheels, we’re not prepared, and the people are not here.”
Who will pay for the lines? Will they be aboveground, or underground? Where will they go?
All questions city council, Community Redevelopment Agency Director John Jacobsen and LCEC representatives could not answer.
Instead, Councilmember Tim Day voiced his frustration with the continued fight, claiming the situation “has no enemy.”
“It all sounds good, but I’m getting fed up with some of the things in this,” he said. “It’s looking kind of petty.”
Also Monday, City Manager Terry Stewart informed council that the head of the General Employees Union has declined an offer of a four-day work week for city employees.
The offer, directed by city council to staff, was to see if a four day work week for non-salaried employees was feasible.
Council is looking to reduce spending by shortening the work week to four, 9-hour days.
The proposed decrease in working days also spells a 10 percent annual decrease in pay.
City council will set the final 2009- 10 budget at a public hearing at 5:05 p.m. Sept. 23.
A final budget workshop will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.