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Cape Coral Vote 2011: Question of the week, week two: Water and sewer rates

By Staff | Aug 6, 2011

Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. Week two’s question: The city’s water and sewer rates have been the subject of much discussion. Should this issue be addressed again? If so, how should the city proceed?

Peter Brandt (I)

District 2

It’s difficult to understand why you use the phrase “address again” when referring to the utility rates. We have been and still are working essentially continuously to reduce them or at least reduce their rate of increase. The scheduled 15% increase for this October has already been almost cut in half to 8%. Other initiatives we are currently planning or are considering have the potential to bring the ’12 and ’13 proposed increases to zero. Some are saying the solution is to restart the UEP now, but I believe there are unintended consequences of doing that, that have the potential to actually increase rates, perhaps dramatically. Efforts to produce a clear explanation of this position are in the works.

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John Carioscia Sr.

District 2

Yes, rates need to be addressed.

In June, 2008 the Council, including Councilmember Brandt, voted to halt the Utility Expansion Project, effectively increasing the financial burden to existing rate payers, by not adding the SW 6/7 assessment area. The vote was made without any discussion of the North RO Plant construction that was in progress. Here we are three years later and still no progress or solutions offered by council.

Solution: The UEP issue needs to be restarted in accordance with the criteria established in the Dames & Moore Study, as a way to address the utility rates.

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Joseph Coviello

District 2

Water and Sewer rate increases are hammering Cape Coral residents during these trying economic times. The 8.25% rate increase in FY 2011 is draining the limited fixed income of many in this city. This also hurts sales of excess home inventory by turning off prospective buyers with increased costs. We need to explore additional revenue sources that would utilize our water while controlling our costs. In addition, we should be promoting efficient management and operations to provide the affordable water and sewer services our residents deserve.

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Daniel Sheppard III

District 2

The water and sewer rates in Cape Coral today are an overbearing and unjust burden on many of our citizens, especially elderly citizens, many of whom survive on limited fixed incomes. Unfortunately, poor decisions regarding investment in utilities structures were carried out on behalf of the citizenry. The citizenry, meaning our whole body of citizens. The city must examine whether an equitable distribution of the burden is being passed on to all our citizens.

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William Deile (I)

District 3

The question implies rates are not being considered by Council. Not true. Significant reductions in programmed increases have been achieved. Rates for the next three years were reduced from a 15% annual increase to 8%. Operational improvements for FY 2012 will reduce rates by another 1%. The biosolids initiative is expected to reduce the rate increases by 1.5%. If enacted the infill initiative will see another 5.5% decrease resulting in no rate increase for the next two years. The facile answer “start the UEP” has proved to be meretricious in the past. Increases followed expansion.

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Leonard Nesta Jr.

District 3

I believe that yes the city’s water and sewer rates should be look at again. Council should look at all the issues and research the best solutions for the betterment of the city and its people. With the previous projected rate hike of 15 percent and the new rate of 8.25 percent (thanks to City staff) we need to keep looking at this.

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Alan Sheppard

District 3

Just recently, the City Council, by a 7-1 vote set the infill assessment to reduce water rates. I believe that sends a message about the desire to see these rates lower. There is also strong sentiment within the Council to re-start the UEP. The City Council should find ways of keeping the water and sewer rates down to help foster and maintain city-wide support for the continuation of the UEP. Some citizens are very concerned about the effects of the UEP on their water bills. Nevertheless, the UEP is essential to the future of our city.

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Carlos Alvarez

District 5

The City Sewer and Water Rates are always on the table for discussion. Any charge which impacts the citizens of Cape Coral is important to me. I am an advocate for reduced government through efficiency. This also applies to City Sewer and Water as well. I would suggest an examination of the potential saving through privatization could be a worthwhile exercise for the City. While I am not suggesting privatization is the ultimate solution, I do believe it might prove to be a cost effective option for consideration.

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Bennie Barnes

District 5

I was told we had the third highest water bills in the state, (I would’ve thought the nation).

If the city continues to pay for the North RO plant, upgrades to existing plants, more studies, etc. with our water bills, then we need to find a better way. The technology to make electricity out of bio solids from the waste plant is here. Ah that’s going to cost more money! Yes, but we would get a nice return from it. I feel the potential is there and we could use a break.

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Rana Erbrick

District 5

Rates should be addressed yearly. We can start by empowering our staff to complete and monitor rate studies to save the cost of hiring outside firms. Any in-house rate study should ensure that all users (commercial, single and multi-family) are treated fairly while considering growth, consumption and potential operating cost efficiencies. Halting the UEP placed a huge rate increase burden onto the current users. While a suspension of the UEP was economically warranted at the time, we must now prepare to restart this program, bring additional customers online and get rates under control.

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Richard Leon

District 5

The only responsible way I see is to bring down the water bills is to add more users to the service. As a city we must move forward in expanding utilities to all areas of Cape Coral and possibly in the future, outside Cape Coral. Adding users to the service will spread out the payment of debt lowering the cost of utilities. Yes, our elected officials need to work hard in addressing the rates and to address the issue we need to move forward with utilities.

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James McManus

District 5

The City water & sewer rates have been under constant review for many months. I expect that this will continue. Rates have to be high enough to support the Revenue Bonds that need to be issued to refinance the water & sewer short-term financing. I want to explore the option of using internal financing to pay some of the principal on these notes. We would then repay the internal borrowing with the future impact fee receipts. This will cause current rate payers to pay more now but they would receive relief in the future when building continues. Think outside the box.

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Wm. “Scott” Morris

District 5

Reducing rates for water and sewer should be the subject of discussion until we make it happen for current customers. Common sense would indicate that the more users on the system the more individual rates would be reduced. The system we have was designed to move forward and we should do just that. We should look at new bids for areas 6 and 7 and move them forward. We should also examine the option of the Utility System Infill Assessment from all points of view.

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Charles Stanton

District 5

Yes, I believe this issue should be readdressed.

Currently the Meter reading and Billing system are outsourced. Putting these systems in house should reduce expenditures.

Continuing with the UEP and bringing more rate payers onto the system, should help in reducing the rates.

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Derrick Donnell (I)

District 7

ABSOLUTELY!

The residents have clearly communicated to me that lowering the water and sewer rates is a top priority. We must continue to research strategies that will enable us to lower the water and sewer rates. Most importantly, we need to IMPLEMENT those strategies that will allow for such a reduction. Specifically, we have researched and identified approximately eight strategies for lowering the rates. Two of these strategies are – accepting the updated rate study and resuming the Utility Expansion Program for Southwest 6/7. We have to act NOW to IMPLEMENT the strategies so we can lower the rates for 2012.

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Michael Garr

District 7

We, the residents of Cape Coral have a substantial issue with the ever increasing water and sewer rates. How should the city address this issue? I have read many articles, blogs and comments; as well as, listened to several leaders, neighbors and friends. To the individual, they all agree; the city should begin by exploring options which ultimately utilize adding people to city utilities in a more economical manner. Knowing how we have expanded in the past, suggests improvements are mandatory to better proceed in the future.

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David Stokes

District 7

Water and sewer rates for the past few years have skyrocketed and are set to increase through 2013 if nothing continues to be done. The City Council has an obligation to the people of Cape Coral to constantly review and look for solutions to bring the lowest utility rates to the residents of Cape Coral. This could be done in a variety of ways, such as selling water to other communities, getting better rates on our bonds, or actually expanding if the rates for assessment can be done for an affordable price.

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Erica Warren

District 7

It’s time for Cape Coral to move forward with the Utility Expansion Project. Citizens on utilities are already footing the bill for the cost of the north reverse osmosis plant. Residents who have already paid their assessment must not be forced to pay them again, and residents must not lose their homes because they can’t afford to hook up to utilities. In my opinion, the city should hire an accounting firm to review the debt already incurred by the present system, re-bid the project for completion, then explore alternative means to pay for the project (such as federal grants).