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Sawicki wants electric utility issue to be regular agenda item

By Staff | Mar 22, 2016

The subject of LCEC negotiations was raised by Mayor Marni Sawicki at Monday’s City Council meeting along with a suggestion that a weekly discussion on the electric utility provider be added to the agenda.

“We should have discussions that are out in the open and public,” said Sawicki.

She hoped the discussions will counteract the stream of rhetoric coming from one side or the other during negotiations on a new franchise agreement.

Assistant City Manager Mike Ilczyszyn reiterated that the city’s goal is to secure a “fair share” rate for Cape Coral residents, who make up 45 percent of LCEC’s total membership. He again pointed out the disparity between the city’s 746 customers per square mile and the rest of the co-op’s density of 55 customers per square mile.

“We are on the short end of the stick when it comes to benefiting from LCEC,” Ilczyszyn said. “LCEC’s electric rate is 17 percent higher than FP&L and a recent study shows FP&L service is more reliable.

“This is one of the reasons we are requesting customer information from LCEC and at the same time exploring the feasibility of the city providing its own electric service.”

Councilmember Marilyn Stout countered, saying FP&L’s lower rate does not take into account the equity payments LCEC customers receive on a yearly basis.

“FP&L plans to go to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for a rate increase in the near future that would make their rate higher than LCEC’s,” Stout said.

Stout also cited the city’s franchise agreement request for LCEC to underground transmission lines at no cost as unreasonable.

Ilczyszyn explained that the city is just looking to recoup some of the money Cape Coral residents pay into LCEC that goes to subsidize the rest of the company’s customer base.

Councilmember Jim Burch said, “We absolutely need to know every little thing about LCEC’s operation to make a decision. That’s why we run a parallel research with the option of an MEU. It is not our intent to become an MEU, we just want what’s best for our rate payers.”

Last week, the city filed a complaint with the PSC to obtain rate structure information in order to make an informed decision on the franchise agreement under the current or a new electric rate. It may be several months before the PSC rules on the city’s complaint.

Even if the LCEC agreement expires, one council member stated the utility will continue to provide service under that agreement until a renewal document is agreed upon.