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SW 6&7 property owners to get UEP rebates

By Staff | Dec 20, 2018

For property owners in the area where the Southwest 6&7 Utilities Expansion Project took place, there may be some good news. They will be getting a rebate on the total cost of the project.

The rebates, which are being made because the total price was less than projected in 2013, will come in the form of a check for UEP?prepays, or a bill adjustment if the cost was paid in installments.

How good the news will be still remains to be seen: The amount is still being computed.

Maureen Buice, city spokesperson, said the original costs were based on estimates, and that any overages will go to current property owners, as per the ordinance that mandated the assessments.

“Those people will get a balance adjustment or a refund in the mail. Those costs are still being finalized. All the costs including interest are still being looked at,” Buice said. “According to the ordinance, the property owner of record when the costs are finalized, will receive the refund or adjustment.”

Buice said the final totals should be finalized by the first of the year. Property owners should receive their adjustment or check within 60 days from that point.

Councilmember John Carioscia, the only member remaining from when the ordinance was approved in 2013, said since the money is owed to ratepayers and they are entitled to it.

Councilmember Jennifer Nelson was happy that property owners would be getting some money back from the project.

“If the project came in underbudget and homeowners overpaid, they should get a rebate. That’s transparency at its best,” Nelson said. “I’m pleased to know we came in under budget and that our residents will benefit.”

But not everyone is happy, especially those who paid for the UEP in full, moved away, and are now seeing the new property owners getting the refund for the project they paid for.

Mike Bador and his wife, Eileyn, paid about $14,000 for the UEP when the city extended water and sewer utilities to their neighborhood in 2015.

They then sold their home and moved to South Carolina in 2016.

“We knew we were going to move out of Florida and I figured it was more difficult to sell a home with a lien on it. I paid up front so I don’t owe anything and make the sale of the home much easier,” Bador said.

Bador was told by the city that the rebate will go to the current owner, for which he countered the UEP didn’t improve the value of their Cape Coral property, which they bought in 2003, at all.

“We paid for the work. We had no choice. So, we should get the money back,” said Bador, who added that depending on what the rebate amount is, he may contact an attorney for a class-action suit.

Carioscia said that while he understands the situation, the ordinance is clear and, if it isn’t followed to the letter, Bador’s suit would be nothing compared to the alternative. It would “light up the board.”

“The city is fulfilling its obligation it agreed to when the document was put out. We’re following the document set forth at the time. They were disseminated to the homeowners at that time,” Carioscia said. “If we do something contrary to that, we get sued and it gets upheld because we have a document. If it shows A, B and C and we do that, it’s a trivial lawsuit.”

Carioscia agreed such a situation should be further discussed when future UEP projects are considered.

At the time of Southwest 6 & 7, Carioscia said nobody made a suggestion to change the policy. Had it been mentioned, he said he would have been open to debate.

“It’s fair because we’re doing what we said we would do. It would be unfair if we did it any other way,” Carioscia said. “What about the current homeowner?”