The decade-long debate of whether the Lee County Electric Co-op should place its new transmission lines above ground or under is a vote away from resolution, at least for Cape Coral's downtown.
With the help of a $4.5 million loan to be obtained by the city, the downtown Community Redevelopment Agency can assure the lines from Del Prado Boulevard to LCEC's transfer station on Southeast 47th Terrace, will be buried instead of strung along tall metal poles agency officials maintain would "blight" the emerging South Cape business district.
The city will obtain the loan; the CRA will pay back the principal and interest over 15 years. The interest rate is estimated at 3.5 percent, the annual payments at $400,000 per year.
That's a stretch for the CRA, which, like virtually all property tax reliant entities across Florida, has seen its revenue shrink substantially as values have declined.
Still, the decision to fund the difference between the price of above-ground installation and the cost to "underground" the lines is a good one based on one of the agency's founding missions, to improve infrastructure in the Cape's downtown to better position the area for new development.
It's also on track with a component of the CRA's current mission, which is to foster economic development in an area of the city both designated and specifically funded to encourage business growth.
The Cape Coral City Council signed off on the deal this week.
The CRA board is scheduled to vote Tuesday, and the funding plan is expected to pass with little or no dissent although officials there had hoped long and hard that both the city itself and the utility would do more to help defray those costs.
They should not consider those hopes dashed.
With times being what they are and line installation pending, the CRA likely cut the best deal it could to advance the utility project within parameters acceptable to the downtown's businesses and residents.
That's forward motion and that's a good thing, even if it's going to sting a bit every time they write a check.
- Breeze editorial