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Underground power lines issue arises again

By Staff | Mar 22, 2010

The struggle between the Cape Coral and LCEC over transmission lines reared its head again Monday night, but the questions were the same as struggles past: where is the money to pay to underground the lines? And can the city withstand the time frame it would take to construct the lines before facing critical power shortages?
According to LCEC’s Rick Fuson, the city cannot wait the additional year and a half it would take to bury the transmission lines.
He added that installation of the above-ground transmission lines — approved by the previous City Council in October 2009 to be constructed on Southeast 46th Lane — is scheduled to begin this June and will be completed no later than December.
Doing so, he said, will stave off any major power shortages, and will complete a negotiation process over the transmission lines that began nearly a decade ago.
That prolonged period, he added, will keep the electric cooperative from entertaining another underground request, especially since the funding mechanism is still up in the air.
“This is an issue LCEC wished not to be brought back up again,” Fuson said. “We spent a lot of time vetting a lot of different scenarios.”
Rose Marie Verdico, a resident of Southeast 46th Street, said dealing with the power line discussion was comparable to the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day,” in which Murray’s character keeps living the same day over and over.
The struggle with LCEC over the power lines has been similar she said, ever since she bought her condominium in 2001.
Verdico is worried the transmission lines will not only ruin her home, but her property values, too.
“It’s been a long haul,” she said. “I’m looking for a common sense approach between LCEC, city leaders and stake holders … this has been going on for ten years.”
That resolution will probably be difficult to find, though council did direct staff to look again at possible funding options.
The Community Redevelop-ment Agency has $1.9 million it can commit to the project, but no one knows where the other $3 – 4 million will come from.
District 1 Councilmember Marty McClain brought the issue back up during Monday’s workshop hoping to find a solution.
He said the CRA was never given the chance by the previous council to fund the difference itself.
McClain also suggested the possibility of moving the line from Southeast 46th Lane to Southeast 46th Street, but didn’t find any support on the dias for the idea.
All of the council members agreed they want the lines to put underground, but still didn’t know how it can be funded.
“There’s no one up here that wants overhead lines,” said District 4 Councilmember Bill Deile. “But the problem is the cost.”