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Alameda Power & Telecom Undergrounding Expensive

We’ve received numerous letters from residents of Alameda Power & Telecom’s Underground Utility District No. 30. It seems residents are getting surprised with whopping bills that they didn’t expect.

We’ve got people writing to tell us that they or their neighbors are looking at bills of $4,000, $12,000 and $20,000 for undergrounding their power, cable TV and telephone service wires, and the homeowner has to pay 70% of the cost. Residents clearly were expecting much lower costs, and some may have zeroed in on presentation material from AP&T that reads “For 2008, homeowner is responsible for first $1,766.80” although AP&T did provide sample calculations for undergrounding four services showing a total estimated cost of over $5,000.

One resident writes “I never heard that we had a CHOICE of undergrounding the other utilities.” Alameda Power & Telecom says that customers are not required to migrate services other than AP&T to underground but “frankly, we recommend that they do.” We’re going through the AP&T website to try to find any evidence that AP&T clearly and expressly informed residents that they had a choice whether or not to underground non-AP&T services at the same time. (Does it make sense to underground only the AP&T electrical and cable TV, and leave AT&T and Comcast service wires on aerial structures?)

In response to the letters, we asked Matt McCabe, spokesperson for Alameda Power & Telecom, a trio of questions about the process and the cost:

Action Alameda: “Do you have any sense what the median cost is that residents are paying in this district for undergrounding? The minimum? The maximum?”

Matt McCabe: “To date, we have received project estimates ranging from $1,580 to $7,950. These estimates have averaged $3,093. Let me emphasize that these are the estimates we have received to date. I believe there are a number of homeowners who have not submitted project estimates yet.”

Action Alameda: “How is it that homeowners who thought they would pay on the order of $2000 are getting hit with much higher bills?”

Matt McCabe: “I’m sure you understand that I can’t speculate with regard to someone else’s conclusions. But during the time of my involvement with this project (about the past 2 years or so), I’ve seen cost examples to the homeowner in the range of $2,330 based on a total cost of $3,000 (April 2006), $7,652 based on a total cost of $11,600 (October 2007), and $5,767 based on a total cost of $11,600 (March 2008). I must emphasize that these are examples, not estimates, as each property has its own unique considerations. Please take a few moments to check the materials presented in our series of Town Hall meetings posted on our web site at http://www.alamedapt.com/newsroom/reports/undergrounding.html

Action Alameda:“Is the City or AP&T planning to do anything to offset these extra costs?”

Matt McCabe: “In the case of owner-occupied, single-family dwellings, electric service conversion costs to the customer are capped at $1,767 for calendar year 2008. No reimbursement is provided for service upgrades or repairs, and no reimbursement is provided by Alameda Power & Telecom or the City of Alameda for other utilities or service providers. The customer is not required to allow for any of these other services, but frankly, we recommend that they do.

Over the past 2 years, we have undertaken extensive outreach to the neighborhood, as documented on our web site, http://www.alamedapt.com/newsroom/reports/undergrounding.html Of course, staff remains available to address any resident concerns.”

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