Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Feature Stories

A Trip to the Utilities Office - Cape Coral UEP Part 2

Cape Coral UEP - Utility Expansion Project

This is the second installment in our Cape Coral Utility Expansion series.  Part One is herePart 3 is here.

I spent about an hour the other day in the Cape Coral Utilities Office up on Pine Island Road.

It's a large, stark office crowded with cheap cubicle furniture and Dell computer screens.  Directly inside the door are two windows with intercoms where you can pay your utility bills.  The glass windows look bulletproof.  A sign on the wall alerts readers they are under electronic surveillance.  The lady behind the window doesn't smile or offer any assistance.  It must be a dangerous job.  The security is tight. 

Five or six dirty, plastic chairs line the wall beneath photocopied and framed "Thank You" letters written to the utility department, presumably by lonely senior citizens with far too much time on their hands.

Four employees stand at open-air cubicle counters, in vulnerable contrast to the woman in the hurricane-proof payment vault.

"If you're here for customer service you can go right to the counter on the right...if you're here for new expansion hook-ups you'll need to wait your turn."

I sat in the least scuzzy chair and spent a few moments wondering about the origins of the stains and sticky patches on all the others.

The wall in front of me was emblazoned with a mission statement plaque: "We, the City of Cape Coral, will meet our community's needs through the efficient and professional delivery of quality services, with pride and integrity, in an open, honest spirit of teamwork, respecting the self-worth of the individual and the environment". The longer I waited, the more ridiculous those carefully chosen words looked to me.  Perhaps the plaque should be facing the employees?   Perhaps plaque is the perfect thing to write the Cape Coral mission statement on?  Perhaps Cape Coral should hire a dentist to see if he can remove this vulgar and offensive plaque?

The two "new expansion" employees worked at gopher tortoise pace.  The two "customer service" employees didn't have any customers to they just stood there silently and craned their necks around the corner every time someone opened the door.

Now, your views on the utility expansion process may differ from mine...but I'm not sure you could justify calling any portion of the process "efficient".  If pressured for adjectives, I'd probably reach for grueling, frustrating, and confusing.  Neverending.  Slow-paced.  Expensive.

There were only two people ahead of me...but I still waited about an hour.  Everyone in the waiting area traded war stories about high assessments, bad attitudes from the major hook-up companies, and regrets they have about choosing Cape Coral as a place to live.

Then they turned to me, "What do you think about Cape Coral?"

"Honestly...other than this water and sewer situation...I think it's pretty great?  I love the weather, love the location, love the vocal nature of the citizens...I love Cape Coral."

After that no one wanted to talk to me anymore.

I finally got to the front of the line, where they told me I didn't bring the right paperwork to accomplish what I came for.

Looks like I'll be visiting again sometime soon.

-- writing and photography by Eric Taubert

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