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City and LCEC in disagreement over paying for project

By Staff | Oct 27, 2009

The city of Cape Coral and the Lee County Electric Cooperative will likely lock horns again in the near future, though the battle will shift from the Community Redevelopment Agency’s district to Santa Barbara Boulevard, where a road construction project cannot be completed until an agreement is struck regarding who will pay to relocate electrical distribution equipment.
The city is requesting that facilities near the intersections of Santa Barbara and Kamal Parkway, and Southeast 24th Street and Trafalger Parkway be placed underground.
The city will pay to underground those facilities, but it is in disagreement with LCEC about the cost of relocating above ground transmission lines in the right of way.
To keep from delaying to project, city council will vote Monday on whether to approve an agreement with LCEC that would require the city to pay LCEC more than $127,000 to relocate the facilities, also preserving the city’s right to bring a lawsuit against LCEC to recover the funds.
Mayor Jim Burch, who has long voiced his displeasure with the city’s relationship with LCEC, said he feels as if the city is being “held hostage” in this particular situation.
“LCEC is dictating to us what they think we should be doing,” he said. “I’m not happy with any part of it.”
LCEC is effectively allowing the city to sue it to recoup the funds, but there is no guarantee a judge would rule in favor of Cape Coral.
LCEC spokeswoman Karen Ryan said the “bright side” of the agreement is allowing the city to move forward with the construction project.
“There is a risk we could pay the relocation cost,” she said. “But some utilities might not do that (create the agreement) because they don’t want to take that risk.”
Councilmember Derrick Donnell agreed that the two entities might have to fight it out in court, adding that it is a bad spot for the city to be in.
“I have a problem fronting the money just to move the project forward,” he said.

In other news
Recent repairs to the Chiquita Boat Lock will cost the city $110,000.
The money will come out of the city’s reserves, but city staff said the state Department of Environmental Protection might be able to help the city get reimbursed for the expenses.
Burch said he recently had conversations with DEP representatives, and that he is “encouraged” by some of the responses he received.
Public response to the newly repaired boat lock have been positive as well.
“I’ve gotten so many people telling us what a marvelous job was done,” Burch said.