Residents face 'sticker shock' on cost of underground power lines

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 0 Comments


After Hurricane Irma left a trail of damages in South Florida, Miami Lakes residents living in Lake Patricia and Lake Katharine were without power for 10 days since their neighborhoods have overhead power lines.

They turned to the town’s elected voices about burying the power lines underground like other areas, where residents’ power was restored in six hours following the tempest.

But when a town engineer assessed the costs for a six-year project through a bond that would impact 465 homes in neighborhoods with overhead power lines, residents left the meeting concerned about paying $50,000 each over a 30-year period. 

The amount averages out to about $1,888 per home a year and only residents with overhead power lines would foot the bill.

But the town would need residents’ approval through a referendum to proceed with the project. 

Concerned they may absorb all of the costs for underground utilities, the residents plan to attend the September 4 Town Council meeting and voice their displeasure.

“We need to open up a discussion into the reduction of project cost per homeowner or alternative ways of paying for this project,” the residents of Lake Patricia and Lake Katherine said in a letter. “Be informed before you vote. The town is planning to move this project forward as soon as possible.”

According to the residents, at a July 23 meeting, a preliminary assessment was given by the town for the 30-year bond that would impact their homes but the estimates were given without an official project assessment.

They said the assessment will cost an estimated $50,000-$80,000, which would be addd to the over cost of the project.

The town offered the residents two scenarios, an annual payment of $1,742 or $1,888 to be added to their annual property taxes for 30 years to complete the underground utilities project.

According to the town’s presentation, the estimated cost of conversion for six miles of underground wiring is between $12 and $15 million. The scenarios are based on $13 million excluding the project assessment cost survey of $50,000-$80,000.

Residents were also concerned that the costs would more likely be calculated on unit size (square footage or lot size) and not divided evenly over 465 units.

“At the assumed projected costs, this project will possibly negatively impact our property resale values for the next 30 years,” the letter said. “Can we afford underground utilities at these costs.”

 Councilmember Nelson Rodriguez said the meeting was just a fact-finding session and to make sure FPL cost estimates were accurate for the project.

He said a town survey discovered 90 percent of the residents were well informed but 60 percent of them were “very” concerned with the rates.

Rodriguez said about 51 percent of the residents indicated they wouldn’t mind placing the 30-year bond on an upcoming ballot.

“The bond is not a burden on the entire tax base for Miami Lakes, but those in the affected areas,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a difficult decision they would have to make. The town got involved when they asked us to help them.”

Rodriguez said maybe the town needs to schedule another meeting so residents can fully understand the pros and cons of the project.

“We need to understand the dilemma we are in,” he said. “At the end of the day, the town is trying to facilitate something for residents and it is a concern at the same time, costing $30,000 per home. The town financially doesn’t have the money.”

Mayor Manny Cid said town staff researched the issue and presented their findings to the residents living in those neighborhoods. He said the town, which has discussed underground power lines since incorporation in 2000, plans on conducting a non-binding survey of all the homeowners in the arts to gauge their interest.

“If the residents don't want it, then we will not pursue it,” Cid said. “We are working diligently to lower the cost since prices for construction and materials have risen exponentially since this issue was first discussed years ago.”


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