UTILITY UNDERGROUNDING

On March 19, 2007 a number of New Monterey residents attended a meeting about undergrounding the utilities. The meeting was conduced by Tom Reeves, City Engineer, and Richard Llanteros. The following potential schedule was discussed:

Attendees learned that the undergrounding process will take at least 3 years.  The following is a description of the process:

FIRST YEAR
Step One
Decide what area is to be included in the initial interest survey.
Step Two
Circulate initial interest survey. Record favorable and unfavorable votes, one for each property.
Step Three
If more than 50% are in favor, approach your neighborhood committee for funding to proceed with initial estimate. NIP Committee and City Council have to approve this funding.
SECOND YEAR
Step Four
Once funding is approved, PG&E prepares a preliminary engineering study of the probable cost to perform the undergrounding. Step Five
The results of the preliminary engineering study are presented to the property owners within the proposed assessment district. A petition is then circulated to each of the property owners. If a majority of the property owners wish to continue. The underground district is established. A 60% or greater majority avoids the 1931 Protest Act.
THIRD YEAR
Step Six
The NIP committee and the City Council need to approve funding for the cost to prepare engineering plans and estimates, preparation of the Engineer’s Report and hiring of a bond counsel.
Step Seven
The Engineer’s Report is presented to the City Council at a protest hearing. If approved by the City Council, the assessments are levied and the improvements are constructed.

Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP) funding can defray the cost of preliminary engineering and the administrative costs of setting up an Assessment District.

NMNA is supporting residents who have indicated strong interest in the undergrounding of the utilities. A petition to ascertain owner interest is being circulated to owners on Archer 300-900, Grace & Terry 500-900, and Jessie/Lobos/Lottie 500-800 blocks, including houses on cross-streets.

Petition responses will be tallied April 18th. The NIP Committee welcomes public comment at Hilltop Park Center April 19th at 7PM. The vote on NIP priority comes April 26th in the City Council chambers.

Questions or comments may be directed to Sharon Dwight, NIP Representative for New Monterey, 375-0841

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Monterey Herald Opinion on Undergrounding – 2/8/08

Frequently asked questions about under-grounding the utilities:

What is Rule 20?
Rule 20 is a set of policies and procedures established by the California Public Utilities Commission to regulate the conversion of overhead electric equipment to underground facilities, a process called “undergrounding.” Rule 20 determines the level of ratepayer funding for different undergrounding arrangements.
Does a project have to meet all the criteria to qualify as a Rule 20A or Rule 20B project?
No. Just one.
How do property owners know if they are Included in the established underground district?
After the utility district is established, all affected property owners are notified via written correspondence from the Department of Public Works.
How can I get an undergrounding project started?
Contact your NIP Representative or the City of Monterey Public Works Department at 831.646.3920.
Will my neighborhood experience fewer power outages after our electric lines have been undergrounded?
Information from several Utility Companies is inconclusive. Generally, in areas that experience frequent heavy winds, outages decrease when lines are undergrounded. In wetter areas, outages may increase due to the effect of water seepage on underground equipment.
Will the outages be longer or shorter?
There is also inconclusive information that seems to indicate that outages tend to be longer with underground facilities, simply because it is more difficult to find problems and replace equipment underground.
What do the pad-mounted transformers look like?
The exact size will be determined during the design process. To get an approximate idea, one could view the Del Monte Beach Neighborhood for a typical undergrounded residential area. There is also an in-ground (subsurface) transformer vault, available. Again, the exact size will be determined during the design process.
Are there any special requirements (electrical/wiring upgrades) for older homes?
No. The conversion of overhead to underground distribution will not require rewiring of houses. Only the service entrance panel will have to be modified to accept conduits and cables coming from the ground.
Are underground facilities more or less expensive than underground?
Underground facilities are more expensive to install and maintain than overhead equipment. The cost of overhead equipment is about 20% of the cost of underground. Maintenance costs for underground facilities are also higher than for overhead.
What is the cost to the individual homeowner?
Each homeowner is responsible for two cost elements (1) the share of undergrounding the general area or neighborhood (main lines); and (2) the cost of converting the lines to underground the lateral (service) and modifying the service entrance panel. Cost (1) will not be known until the conversion project has been laid out and project costs have been estimated. Previous estimates in the New Monterey Neighborhood ranges from $15,000 to $20,000 for each homeowner to underground to the meter. Cost (2) can be determined by each homeowner by obtaining an estimate from an electrical contractor.
Who is the approving authority in the selection of establishing underground utility districts?
The City Council is the approving authority of all underground Utility Districts.