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Final UEP hearing Wednesday

By Staff | Aug 15, 2013

If you plan to voice your views about the Southwest 6 & 7 utilities expansion project, the special meeting on Wednesday is likely your final opportunity to share them before the Cape Coral City Council votes.

Wednesday is the final hearing on the assessment resolution to move forward on the project phase, projected to cost $102.7 million.

And in anticipation of another large crowd, the elected board voted 6-2 during its regular meeting this week to limit each person’s public input to three minutes so everybody can get in their say and to prevent the possibility of a filibuster.

City spokesperson Connie Barron said the idea is to make sure everyone gets their fair say.

“We’re not trying to put a muzzle on anyone. The goal of the three minutes is to give an opportunity for people to speak,” Barron said. “We don’t want them to think they’ll never get a chance to speak.”

The limit wasn’t popular with everybody. Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz suggested giving city council members the same limit.

However, the move is not unprecedented. Council imposed a similar limit during the debate over the public service tax in May.

Before that, early in the spring, a debate that didn’t have a time limit, regarding a proposed gas station on Cape Coral Parkway, dragged on for hours, with the meeting not finished until well after midnight.

“We can’t have one person or entity monopolize the time. We wanted it as far up as possible so people understand,” Councilmember Rana Erbrick said Thursday. “By the time you get to two or three hours, there’s a lot of repetition. We want to listen to all of you.”

On July 24, despite contentious debate that included council members blasting each other and nearly everybody in the audience speaking against it, the UEP moved forward with the passing of three resolutions that established the terms of the special assessment, capital facility expansion and hook up.

Erbrick said she expects the same atmosphere Wednesday, only more enhanced.

“This is the final chance. Anyone who didn’t come the last time may be there, along with those who were,” Erbrick said. “I would hope everyone on the dais will comport themselves appropriately.”

The project, which will be financed through a state revolving loan at rates of 1.98 percent for clean water and 2.12 percent for drinking water, will cost a homeowner with a 10,000-square-foot equivalent parcel $15,411, $15,828, or $24,414.

That depends on whether property owners pay in full (and earn a 20 percent discount on the capital facility expansion charge portion of the bill) between Aug. 22 and Oct. 31; pay in full between Nov. 1 and July 31, 2014, or choose the 20-year payoff after Aug. 1, 2014.

Construction costs are estimated at a hair more than $10,000, with the full capital facility expansion charge of $6,750. The discount on the latter would bring it down to $5,400.

There will be a hardship program to help defer some payments, but that will be based on income and you must apply for it annually.

But for all the protests by citizens and some members of council who say now is not the time, Erbrick has said this is the “least worst” time.

“I don’t see where waiting longer will produce a better income. We have better financing, better costs,” Erbrick said. “I understand those who want to wait, but we need to get this moving.”

A Website developed for the project, www.sw6and7uep.com, includes project history, overview and benefits; maps; public hearing and construction dates; FAQs and more.

The meeting is schedule for 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall at 1015 Cultural Parkway.