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City awarded $25 million utility grant

Council consideration on Wednesday's meeting agenda

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | May 14, 2024

A $25 million grant is up for approval by the Cape Coral City Council Wednesday night, which would benefit the current North 1 UEP project.

Councilmember Tom Hayden said the $25 million will go towards the current UEP project as a refund for property owners, which could be a couple thousand dollars.

“We can continue to apply for it,” he said regarding the city’s future UEP projects. “We know the assessments can be significant. The state is recognizing septic to sewer projects are important for the environment.”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a Water Quality Improvement Grant was awarded to the city for $25,000,000. The Office of Capital Improvements applied for the grant, which is funding for the purchase and installation of gravity sewer infrastructure for the North 1 UEP.

This will provide more than 7,000 parcels in the northeast quadrant of Cape Coral with municipal utilities as part of the North 1 UEP. The extension will convert wells and septic systems currently onsite to central water and sewer.

According to the city, the term of the agreement will end on April 30, 2028, unless both parties approve an extension in writing.

Pension benefits also are among the agenda items for Wednesday’s meeting with the city asked to consider extending its deferred retirement option plan to align an increase in years provided for in recent state legislation.

According to Ordinance 42-24, “The City of Cape Coral Municipal General Employees’ Retirement Plan provides a deferred retirement option plan (DROP) and a BAC-DROP as optional retirement benefits.” If approved by Council at a second public hearing, the ordinance would increase the allowable participation from five years to eight years.

The DROP program, implemented in Florida in 1998, allows eligible government employees to continue working when they become pension eligible and to “collect” pension benefits into an interest-bearing account for a period of time until actual retirement — the time at which retirement can no longer be deferred. Participants can then receive their DROP funds and begin collecting their monthly pension checks.

The proposed city ordinance states that an “interest at an effective rate of 6.5% per annum for the first 180 months a member has a DROP account, which time period shall include months of DROP participation and the number of months after termination of such participation, and 2.0% per annum thereafter with interest.”

Those earnings will be determined as of the last business day of each fiscal year quarter.

“The average daily balance in a member’s DROP account shall be credited or debited at a rate equal to the net investment return realized by the system for that quarter.”

The ordinance further states that “a member who elects this option and who has had a DROP account for at least 180 months, which time period shall include months of DROP participation and the number of months after termination of such participation, shall, for the remainder of the member’s deferral period, earn the same net investment return but at a rate not to exceed 4% and not less than 0%.”

The Council meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 15, in City Council chambers, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd. The meeting is open to the public.