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City to delay sending ‘undergrounding’ ballots in North 2

By Staff | Jun 17, 2016

Input from property owners living in the North 2 utility expansion project area has delayed the mailing of ballots concerning a proposal to also “underground” electrical services in that area.

The ballots, which were set to go out to more than 1,820 property owners next week, will not be sent after residents attending last week’s information session balked at costs and what they perceived as a lack of information.

The city is going to evaluate some possible options to reduce costs and then reach out again to the residents and property owners, said city spokesperson Connie Barron.

“After we received input it seems as if they were not neccessarily opposed to the concept, but the costs,” she said Thursday. “That was something we were aware could be an issue. We can understand the residents’ hesitancy for something that would add an additonal impact on their wallet.”

The cost of the undergrounding portion of the project is estimated to be between $6,286 and $8,162 in addition to an estimated $19,000 for the water and sewer expansion assessment, which includes impact fees and plumber’s connection charges.

All told, the undergrounding component would cost between $11.679 million and $15.165 million, including new lighting for $1.45 million and $2.16 million in communications.

The crowd of 100-plus attending the June 8 info session were told the cost to “undergound,” or bury, electric and communication lines while also adding street lighting would equate to between $50 and $60 per month per parcel.

The city is looking at possible ways to reduce costs, including asking Comcast and LCEC to be partners in the project, Barron said.

The city also is looking at its public service tax, franshise fees and projected revenues to be generated by increased property values the project is expected to foster, she said.

The is no timetable for the ballot mailing.

The benefits of undergrounding, as opposed to traditional overhead wires, are that it is more aesthetically pleasing and less susceptible to outages during extreme weather, city officials have said.

The primary disadvantage is cost, which can be more than triple the cost of overhead. It is also very intrusive, with sidewalks and roads having to be cut.

Also, outages take longer to correct because they are more difficult to locate.