The Cape Coral City Council on Monday passed six "resolutions of necessity" to acquire land needed for the city to be able to construct two canal pump stations and four lift stations for the Southwest 6&7 utilities expansion project.
The total cost for four easements for lift stations and two parcels for pump stations, is roughly $25,000, with the possibility the land still could be attained by a swap for land purchased at auction in April.
Discussion centered on two things: A preference for a voluntary land swap instead of either buying the properties either through purchase or eminent domain "takings," and the timing of the expansion itself during bad economic times.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz gave a long dissertation, saying city staff was doing the right thing but he could not agree with the land acquisition process on the table.
"The city manager and council should use the property we acquired at auction in land swaps rather than buy the parcels. We have sufficient land to swap," Chulakes-Leetz said. "I'm trying to be part of this expansion in a positive way, but some roadblocks stop me from supporting these resolutions."
Chulakes-Leetz also reiterated his concern over the legality of the city's purchase of the land and over how ratepayers would be assessed.
"That's the longest no I've ever heard," Councilmember Kevin McGrail responded before calling Public Works Director Jeff Pearson in to clarify misinformation that financing would take place over six years, when that component related only to impact fees. The financing option for property owners would be over 20 years, as it has always been, Pearson said.
Six-year financing would cost ratepayers between $300 and $400 per month, Chulakes-Leetz had said.
McGrail moved to pass the resolutions, which were voted on individually instead of in bulk because of the issue of eminent domain.
Mayor John Sullivan sided with Chulakes-Leetz, who said economic conditions don't support the expansion.
"We're one of the biggest property owners in the city, and we shouldn't be. We shouldn't have anything near this much land," Sullivan said. "We have many on unemployment. We had kids who were given bikes for Christmas who said they appreciated the bikes, but needed food more. I can't support his."
Councilmember Marty McClain asked Sullivan if now isn't the time to put in utilities, then when?
"We hear talk of whether the economy is right or wrong. The only certainty is that people don't want to pay for it, that it will put them into foreclosure," McClain said. "Our job as a body is not to put you in foreclosure. Our job is to look after the best interests of the city. There's no good time. I can't tell you what this will cost."
All six resolutions passed with 5-2 votes, with Sullivan and Chulakes-Leetz opposed. Lenny Nesta was excused from the final city council meeting of 2012 because of sickness.
The parcels are:
Lots 4 and 5, Block 1913, Unit 28, 714 SW 15th St., Appraised value $9,500.
Lots 6 and 7, Block 1913, Unit 28, 710 SW 15th St., Appraised value $9,500.
Easement sites are:
937 SW 6th Court, appraised value $1,261.
833 SW 20th St., Appraised value $1,261.
1423 SW 20th St., Appraised value $1,261.
1602 SW 18th Lane, Appraised value $1,332.
City business manager Mike Ilczyszyn said the two canal pump stations would be for the benefit of the entire city, not just Southwest 6&7.