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February 11, 2012
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Cape Coral City Council will meet Wednesday in a special session to discuss the city's utility expansion project.

It's a key meeting that could very well impact utility ratepayers and property owners alike.

The elected board will hear a staff presentation concerning the potential expansion of water and sewer services into neighborhoods designated Southwest 6&7 as well as North 1-8.

That's the neighborhoods south of Pine Island Road that are still on well and septic as well as virtually all of the un-serviced areas north of that major east-west corridor that splits the city geographically.

Plan 1 calls basically for re-starting the plan interrupted more than three years ago when the then-sitting council deadlocked on whether to continue the installation of utilities in the face of angry protests concerning assessment costs for Southwest 6&7.

Plan one also would put the north Cape utility expansion schedule back on track. Construction in North 2 would start in 2015 and finish up in 2017. North 1 and North 3-8 would stair-step its starts beginning in 2017. The final phase would be completed in 2031.

Since previously developed engineering plans may not be current, Plan 1 also calls for project review, development and bidding, and the hiring of an engineering consultant to help walk the city through the process. Following this would be various other components including the hiring of a contractor, value-engineering of any plans brought forward so as to mitigate costs, and the hiring of staff engineers to provide project oversight.

If council decides to move things forward, the board could hear a presentation by bond council on special assessment methodologies as early as March 7.

Wednesday's meeting is a potential stepping-off point on an issue that split the city two election seasons ago when sign-waving, slogan-wearing, petition-signing home and property owners in the upcoming assessment areas squared off against equally angry ratepayers over who should bear the cost - and when - for municipal services pretty much everyone agreed were essential.

That didn't need to happen then.

And it does not need to happen now.

We urge all affected parties - that's virtually everyone who pays a utility bill or owns property in an un-serviced part of the Cape - to get involved early. Become informed by gathering the facts as to timetables, costs and construction scheduling.

Those who protested the most vigorously last go around said they didn't know - didn't know despite posted notifications on the city's website, despite town hall info sessions and public hearings, despite legal ads and numerous news stories and media reports.

We'll do our part to make sure no one can say that with a straight face this go around.

But it still comes down to being pro-active rather than reactive, to getting involved early and to staying informed as the process perks.

Council may decide again that the timing isn't right. If that is your belief, now is certainly the time to share it.

But don't think this issue is going away.

Southwest 6&7 is developed beyond the density standard set by the state for utility services.

A timetable for the north Cape is only fair to those property owners who need as much notice as possible for expansion projects that will - and that must - go forward some time.

We urge you to attend Wednesday's meeting and the ones to follow.

Let our officials know we in the community are on the job - and we are going to hold them accountable:

That's making the tough decisions that will benefit our city in the long term.

That's squeezing every excess penny of expense from the project before it's brought forward and assessments are noticed.

That's developing payment plans that won't force people to walk away from their homes or properties.

And that's scrutinizing every cost before and after it's billed.

Wednesday's meeting begins at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. Cape Coral City Hall is located on Cultural Park Boulevard.

If you can't attend, the session will be televised on CapeTV, channel 98.

The meeting also will be available live on where it will be available for later replay on the same site at your convenience.

- Breeze editorial



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