Council stays course on undergrounding projects

The Del Mar City Council decided this week to move forward with plans to bury utility wires underground and remove poles in the North Hills and Sunset districts, despite residents’ requests to change the assessment formula and replace the engineer overseeing the projects.

“The Del Mar assessment formula needs to be revised,” stated a letter addressed to the council that was signed by 10 residents from both districts. It also stated that assessment engineer Ernesto Aquilar, of PBS&J, has “clearly demonstrated that he will not present our districts with an appropriate revised formula” and that he should be replaced by Carmen Kasner, from the same firm.

City Attorney Leslie Devaney suggested that the council ask Aguilar to use an alternative formula developed by Don Smith, a retired UCSD mathematics professor who lives in the Sunset District, and show why it would or would not be appropriate for the projects.

A survey conducted in 2002 concluded that the top priority for Del Mar residents was removing utility wires and poles to clear the views of the ocean, canyons and valleys.

North Hills and Sunset residents will soon be asked to vote on whether they want to go forward with the plan, but they are now concerned about what they say is a confusing, if not unfair, fee formula.

Pat Welsh, who submitted the requests to the City Council, said she has contacted 44 residents who agree that the formula is flawed.

Mayor Crystal Crawford said the council received 56 letters on this item, most of which come from residents of the Sunset District. She said 53 letter writers said they “want to proceed without delay” and are opposed to the request to change the formula and the engineer.

“I’ve never seen such divisiveness in the community,” Arlene Lighthall said. “It’s like a disease, a plague, spreading. It is terrible. The formula should be tweaked so it will benefit everyone.”

The council decided to wait until Aguilar presents his assessment in a couple of weeks before making any changes to the formula. Crawford said the concerns voiced in the 1 1/2 hour-plus public comment period would be kept at the forefront.

Assistant City Manager Mark Delin said the bids the city had received from contractors were well below their original estimates, giving urgency to the construction process. He said those bids would expire after 200 days and that the plan is to begin construction by March 3, 2010.

But the council concluded that there could be some flexibility in the amount of time property owners will have between receiving their assessments and securing funds to pay them. The current plan allows 30 days.

Welsh requested an additional 30 to 60 days. The council agreed to reconsider the request once they’ve heard more from Aguilar.

Related posts:

  1. Sunset undergrounding assessment: What’s the formula?
  2. Council OKs more funding for undergrounding projects
  3. Some say power line formula is flawed
  4. Council clears up utility project details
  5. Assessment questions need some answers

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Posted by on Sep 16, 2009. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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