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Election 2017 Question of the Week The city and LCEC have been unable to reach an accord. What is your position on the matter including any recommended action(s)?

August 11, 2017
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. As you review the races, please note that Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide elections. This means all registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.

The fifth Question of the Week is: The city and LCEC have been unable to reach an accord. What is your position on the matter including any recommended action(s)?

MAYOR'S RACE:

- Joe Coviello: Initially, city leaders were contemplating creating their own electric cooperative. Disclosing this information to LCEC would create much needed negotiating leverage. As a business professional, I understand the importance of gaining leverage during negotiations. I want the very best electric rates and service for our residents. However, the delay in this process has cost both the City and LCEC hundreds of thousands of dollars. I will be accountable with the prudent use of our tax dollars. Cape Coral needs to create a favorable franchise deal with LCEC and stay out of the electric business.

* * *

- Derrick Donnell: One of my final votes before finishing my term on council was to terminate any further research and focus all strategies towards the renegotiation of a franchise agreement with LCEC. That continues to be my stance today. The initial council vote was to research all options that would be made available to the city should the city decide to part ways with LCEC. I strongly support the council researching all options of any franchise agreement that will come to an end. After getting all the facts, the council can then truly make an informed decision as to which option to pursue.

* * *

- Rana Erbrick: The time has come for the City and LCEC to drop all pretenses and hammer out a franchise agreement. Put any past missteps, animosity or mistakes in the past and return to being good neighbors and community partners. Due diligence has been done by the City, so the next step is to move forward and negotiate a franchise agreement with LCEC that is in good faith and protects the rate-payers of Cape Coral. We need to ensure the franchise agreement has periodic review and update triggers, keeps any future rate increases in check with industry standards and promotes a true working partnership.

* * *

- April Freeman: "It's crucial the city move negotiations forward with expedience, fairness and patience, knowing that working as a team is key to our success.

Now that the franchise agreement between LCEC and the city has expired, Cape Coral is in a position to negotiate a new more progressive agreement. One that allows the utility provider access for a reasonable, yet profitable franchise fee - currently, Cape Coral profits roughly $6 million annually. Ideally, I would like to see an agreement with increased city profits, while making allowances for residents and businesses who use solar power, the ability to sell to the grid.

* * *

- Michael D. Hollow: LCEC has always been a great community partner. The only people who have lost out are the taxpayers. The contract expiration date didn't just sneak up on the city. Cape Coral has many other areas that can be focused on, being an electric company is not one of them. The City of Cape Coral has potentially lost out on millions of dollars. If our agreement were the same as the County, it would increase our franchise agreement by 50%.

* * *

- Kevin Koch: LCEC has provided our city with reliable and affordable energy for decades. The ongoing dispute between the city of Cape Coral and LCEC is fueled by personal feuds on both sides. We need a mayor that can negotiate on behalf of the people of our city without personal animosity getting in the way. The notion that we should abandon our relationship with LCEC and look for another electric provider is absurd.

* * *

- Daniel James Sheppard III: The problem here is simple; Our city government is not putting our best interest first. Their goal was a takeover of LCEC to enlarge government by using litigation, and consequently costing us around $1.7 million. We are now responsible for both sides' legal fees. What were our leaders thinking? What was the return on our investment, if any? Was there a problem of such magnitude, and did they even discuss our wants and needs as citizens? We must band together and drain the swamp. We should be discussing modernization of our infrastructure, and what can be done to help the citizens with solar energy.

________________________________________________________________________________

DISTRICT 1

- Jim Burch (Incumbent): Mr. Burch has withdrawn from the race; he is no longer running.

* * *

- James Frederick Foraker: The city and LCEC need to sit down and reach a agreement that will serve the people of Cape Coral and LCEC. Both entities need each other. The city had several good points in the early stages of negotiations but failed to finish when they filed the lawsuit. LCEC reacted like any business would. Ceasing negotiations until the legal status was acted upon. They, LCEC, did however act by putting their public relations department to work by keeping their shareholders, city residents, informed of the worse case scenario. This turned the public opinion against the city and for LCEC. Well played LCEC. Let's sit down and work out a contract that is best for both. This issue has gone on too long.

* * *

- John Gunter: Our city leaders and LCEC could not establish an agreement involving our electrical service provided to our citizens. Our leaders entertained the ideal of possibly establishing our own electrical service for our citizens, which I total disagree with. Subsequently, our leaders decided to file a lawsuit against LCEC and eventually withdrew the complaint. Unfortunately, our citizens will be paying over a million dollars in staff pay, and legal fees as a result of this suit just to get back to the same exact starting point. This is exactly the type of decision making that is unacceptable, and a total waste of our hard earned tax dollars. Let's just sit down and work this agreement out that will benefit all parties involved.

* * *

- Graham Madison Morris: The matter of LCEC and how it has unfolded is a frustrating one. Far too much of the taxpayers' and co-op customers' money has been spent towards this. The franchise agreement needs to be resolved so we can move on towards working with LCEC on policies. The two are different and separate. I have met with members of LCEC and discussed some of the controversial subjects such as utility line relocation cost, rebates, and LED streetlights in a positive and reasonable way - I am confident, if I am elected and this is not yet resolved, I have a good place to start from for getting it done.

________________________________________________________________________________

DISTRICT 4

- Jeffrey Alan Jones: It has been more than a year for the City of Cape Coral to respond to LCEC regarding the franchise. Again, it shows that the personnel involved have been dragging this out. I do not believe that this delay is in the best interest of Cape Coral. Not proceeding in a timely manner is not beneficial for either parties involved. LCEC has had an agreement that benefits both LCEC members and Cape Coral as well. Although LCEC was ready to talk, Cape Coral spent most of the discussion on the desire to own and operate street lights? Then the City suggested that LCEC abandon their non-for-profit business model?

* * *

- Richard Leon (Incumbent): Let's sign a contract with LCEC and move on. It's past time we do so. There is no other option.

* * *

- Jennifer I. Nelson: The LCEC negotiations should continue as our city is not ready to take on its own electric company as purchasing the infrastructure would be extremely costly. I would recommend the city negotiates a 20-year contract with an option to terminate after 10 years should the city want to spend the first 10 years planning for its own electric company. I would also recommend the city review our rates with LCEC and compare to FPL to ensure we are getting competitive rates for our residents. We should review capping the equity amount held for government and larger commercial businesses. In addition, I recommend an overall operational policy change in how LCEC handles deceased member's equity by either adding a beneficiary or providing money immediately upon receiving their death certificate.

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DISTRICT 5 (General Election ballot only)

- James Schneider: First, I am befuddled by the standstill in negotiations, with our city hoping to purchase LCEC's estimated $400 million in assets, and turn around to provide a cheaper product. I don't see how. Being outside of the negotiations I find it odd and am wondering what we do not know yet. LCEC has, in good faith, reduced fees several times over the past years. I am used to negotiating multi-million dollar contracts for over 35 years and never experienced such stand offs that lasted so long. Can the terms of this negotiation be transparent so the citizens can weigh in?

* * *

- Dave Stokes: It is time that LCEC and the City of Cape Coral come to a deal and stop wasting the taxpayers' and LCEC customers' money. For over two years negotiations have been ongoing costing Cape Coral taxpayers over $500 thousand dollars for consultants and attorneys. LCEC has also had large costs to negotiate this deal which will be passed on to the ratepayers. LCEC and the City of Cape Coral need to come to a deal very soon that is fair to the customers in Cape Coral and stop spending money on consultants and attorneys.

________________________________________________________________________________

DISTRICT 6 (General Election ballot only)

- John Karcher: WHAT WE KNOW TO DATE, the city spent over $450,000 and LCEC over $1 million trying to reach a new franchise agreement. The Council for Progress is now working to get both parties to agree on a way forward. Not being involved in contract talks, it's not wise to express my opinion on details. I do know that LCEC has been reliable. Currently, 3% of LCEC billings are rebated back to the city. Talk of city ownership has unnecessarily riled up citizens for over a year. Council finally said they have no interest in buying LCEC. I AGREE.

* * *

- Rick Williams (Incumbent): City Council has the responsibility to assure a fair franchise agreement with LCEC.

We sought information about rates and other financial issues and explored the possible buyout of their Cape Coral assets, an option under the expired franchise agreement, as we pursued a fair franchise agreement.

Remember, negotiations are always a TWO-way street. They take commitment and movement on BOTH sides. We have had staff negotiating with LCEC, without success. We hired a well-known professional negotiator, without success. We now have two highly respected, city business leaders trying to negotiate with LCEC and so far no progress.

I simply want a fair franchise agreement and don't want to spend any more money on this process.

______________________________________________________________________________

Important dates

PRIMARY, Sept. 12, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes - Closed Aug. 14

* Early Voting (primary election) -Sept 5-9;

- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

- Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

- GENERAL, Nov. 7, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes, Oct. 10

* Early Voting (general election), Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1-4

- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

- Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

- Voter registration:

Applications are available online at www.leeelections.com, at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3 A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.

 
 

 

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