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UEP engineering contract on the table

By Staff | Sep 29, 2012

Cape Coral City Council will determine Monday whether to spend more than $7.5 million for engineering for the long-delayed next phase of its utilities expansion project.

Council will decide whether to approve an agreement between the city and Tetra Tech Inc. for professional engineering services for the Southwest 6&7 Utilities Expansion Project for an amount not to exceed $7,679,332, including a contingency of 5 percent, or $383,966.

Another cost pending consideration is City Manager John Szerlag’s hiring of a project manager to handle long-term projects such as this.

“The city manager has been responsible for multi-million dollar projects in Michigan. He feels by hiring a project manager in-house and an outside engineering firm, he can deliver a cost-effective UEP,” Councilmember Kevin McGrail said.

McGrail added that city managers are ultimately graded by the way they handle big-ticket capital projects.

“The city manager’s success is tied to this project. He recognizes it’s his head,” McGrail said. “If he’s going to take responsibility, he’s going to take responsibility.”

The nearly $7.7 million price tag has Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz’s ire, especially since the resolution was not discussed at a workshop.

“I’m disappointed that the city manager and staff would not have this workshopped before bringing it to council for a vote,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “This is eerily reminiscent of the behavior that caused rates to be increased in 2007, 2008 and 2009.”

And that means more money coming out of the ratepayers’ wallets, Chulakes-Leetz said.

“There’s no other way to guarantee payment of this expenditure other than charging ratepayers because we can’t charge those who don’t have utilities presently to support it,” Chulakes-Leetz said.

City Council suspended the project in 2009 over cost concerns and management. It voted in February to restart it.

Tetra Tech is based out of Pasadena, Calif., but has an office in Fort Myers.

“Tetra Tech has been working with the city for years on smaller UEP projects, storm water and auditing,” McGrail said.

The project area will encompass 6,147 properties over four square miles. It is expected to be completed in 2015 before the UEP moves to the northern part of the city

In other business, the council will consider a resolution for an interlocal agreement between Lee County and the city providing for stray animal control services for the coming fiscal year.

This issue has been a point of contention for years, as Cape officials have complained the county has put Cape Coral on the back burner.

McGrail said there are sticking points to the alternative, which is running its own building.

“Every year we have the same discussion if we want to do it ourselves. The sticking point has been the housing of animals,” McGrail said. “You need certified people to open it, staff it and run it. We’ll just have to hold our nose and pay the $800,000 on it.”

The resolution authorizes the city manager to continue discussions with the county manager and other municipalities in hopes of reducing costs.