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Cape council struggles with utility rate reduction

By Staff | Apr 8, 2010

With a 15 percent hike for utility ratepayers scheduled in October, Cape Coral City Council still is trying to find a way to reduce that burden, though Wednesday’s workshop held little in the way of new solutions.
A capital reservation, or assessment, fee on unimproved lots still is a possibility, but the question of its legality remains unanswered.
Restarting the utilities expansion project would bring the city some much-needed revenue, but when, and how, to bring services to SW 6/7 and N 1 – 8 also is unknown.
Burton and Associates, the city’s bond council, said if the UEP were restarted, and the capital reservation fees put in place, future increases would be no more than 1 percent, in a worst-case scenario.
But the council probably will remain divided, especially on N 1 – 8, as to whether water and sewer, or just water, will find its way to District 6, Councilmember Kevin McGrail’s district.
McGrail said people in his district, if ordered to pay an assessment, want some benefit, even if it only means having water services extended.
District 2 Councilmember Pete Brandt, though, said he would not support installing water, and then just turning around and ripping up the ground again for the installation of sewer infrastructure.
What council can agree on is there are no quick fixes while trying to lower escalating rates.
“If we do it wrong, even if it’s a timing issue, we’re going to get stung,” Mayor John Sullivan said.
Sullivan added that finding a way to stave off the next rate hike by October is probably not a reality, while McGrail thinks the workshops will be failure if council can’t find a way to make it happen.
District 4 Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said it is more important for council to take its time resolving the issue instead of trying to beat the deadline, so they will not “repeat the past.”
“I’m not going to be pushed by an imaginary timeline,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “There were problems that were set in place a long time ago.”