Winter Park wants all power lines under ground

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The City of Winter Park is trying to put all power lines in the city underground, but they are having a lot of trouble figuring out how to get residents to cooperate.
 
The city owns its own electric utility and has been working to underground the lines, but they only own most of those lines. What residents own is the line that goes from the power pole to the home.
 
City Utilities Director Jerry Warren says most people don't even know they own the lines and that it is their responsibility to pay for them to be buried.
 
"I would say that's the most common reaction, and once we explain it to them, and then the reaction we have been getting is why didn't you let us know in advance?"
 
He admits the city's marketing effort has been poor so far, and promises to improve it. Winter Park does have a special deal to underground power lines. They will do the service for a thousand dollars while they are in the neighborhood. The job normally costs at least $3,000. So far they are only getting about a third of customers to agree. Warren says they could ramp up the pressure.
 
"We could basically say we are an underground utility. If you want to continue to have overhead service we charge $9.35 a month. Maybe that would go to $50 or $35 or something. There are ways we could put pressure economically on our customers to go ahead and do it."
 
Warren says they could even opt to just do the work and then put a lien on the house of the customer to force them to pay. He says that would only be a last resort though because the city does not want to use what he called "the heavy hand of government." Warren does say what seems to be working best is peer pressure from neighbors.
 
"The neighbors started putting peer pressure on those that declined to go ahead and belly up to the bar basically and pay to have the wires underground, because the poles are going to remain where those overhead service wires are not converted to underground."
 
If the poles stay, then little has been accomplished for the aesthetics of a neighborhood. Winter Park hopes to have all lines underground int he next 10 years, but admits, stubborn homeowners may hold out and scuttle the plan.
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