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Fees to offset utility rates hikes discussed

By Staff | Jun 3, 2010

City council debated the wisdom of a long- or short- term fix when it came to utility rates on Wednesday.
Mayor John Sullivan said reducing debt on the Kismet water plant was a key first step of many to come.
“We have to take this a piece at a time to get this done,” he said. “Let’s work on the Kismet plant and take this as step No. 1.”
Sullivan thinks implementing a “capital facility expansion charge” on properties already abutting utility lines, or in North 1-8 and Southwest 6/7, would help to reduce the debt.
There’s still the question, however, of whether that assessment would be legal in unserved areas as the city has no plans as of yet to restart the utilities project.
Sullivan has said repeatedly that the charge is not an impact fee, but instead an expansion charge.
He proposed doing a sort of test run on roughly 1,000 properties within all three areas.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said it is important to lower the water rates long term, or Cape Coral will not be able to attract new residents because those rates would be too high.
He said that if water bills equaled, or were greater, than making a car payment, people would simply give up on the city.
“We need to come to grips with the rates and how we’re equitably going to share this,” McGrail said.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz suggested what he described as a citywide “water or sewer perpetuity fund assessment” of $250-$300 a year, per parcel, that would pay off the Kismet water plant and establish a maintenance fund for future generations.
This may be a solution to pay for the current problem and also the vehicle to provide for the city for the next 50 to 100 years, he said.