By Rich Pollack
Vice Mayor Bill Weitz wants to know if underground power lines are a feasible option for the town.
Still reeling from the small town being without electricity after Hurricane Irma for as long as eight days in some sections, Weitz at the Oct. 31 meeting asked fellow commissioners to support an effort to explore the feasibility of converting the town to a system of underground utilities.
“We need to know what the benefits would be and what the downsides would be,” he said.
Another question that would need to be answered, according to Weitz, is who would pay for bringing electric lines underground, which can be costly — up to an estimated $1 million per mile.
Weitz said he found information in his research indicating that Florida Power & Light has been more open since 2005 to providing incentives for communities to place power lines underground.
“We need to just gather data to see if it’s a viable option,” Weitz said. “Once we have the data, we can discuss the information with residents to see if this is something they want.”
There are two meetings set to talk to FPL representatives.
The first was scheduled for Nov. 1 for a Town Hall meeting with residents.
“Our focus is on improving the service delivery to our residents,” Weitz said.
Town Manager Valerie Oakes said town staff is scheduled to meet with FPL representatives later this month to discuss a variety of topics related to the town’s service.
She said the possibility of providing underground service likely would be one of the issues discussed.
Weitz, who is also on a committee exploring underground service for the Beach Condominium Association of Boca Raton and Highland Beach, said he thinks there could be a long-term benefit to Highland Beach residents should power be provided below ground.
“The goal is to maximize reliability,” he said.
While FPL restored electricity quickly to two-thirds of the town’s residents, it took much longer for residents in the southern portion of town to get their electricity back.
Many in that area were without power for six days, while some homeowners waited more than a week.
“I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Weitz said.
By Rich Pollack