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Condo News Online Local News Page

 

Condos of 

South Ocean Blvd., 

Palm Beach

By Madelyn Greenberg

Last Updated 05/09/2019


Condos of So. Ocean Blvd.  

view from Intracoastal at Lake Worth Bridge

Photos by Jimmy Shirley


Utilities Legislation Trades One Risk For Another!

(5-8-19) 

In Florida’s Legislators big rush to judgment, they are unfortunately not really seeing the pitfalls of their decision to pass this new Legislation and the effects that will be imposed on Florida residents as a result of these Bills. The two-fold implications are filled with inconsistencies and problems for property owners and ratepayers on multiple levels.

The Florida Senate and House Bills, SB 796 & HB 797 flew through the 2019 Legislature! The Florida House Bill 797 was passed in a 110-3 vote. Then, on Thursday, May 2nd, the Florida Senate passed the 796 Bill by a 39-1 vote. Now the Bill heads to the Governor of Florida.

It is assumed that Governor DeSantis will sign the Bills into law, as recommended in a bipartisan and heavily favored vote by the Legislature. When implemented this law will be the beginning of a new road to yearly escalating utility bills! Lawmakers passed such Bills in the face of sea-level rise, increased flooding and chronic water inundation which is eventually expected to spread inland in parts of Florida that are NOT PRESENTLY CONSIDERED flood-prone.

As stated in an article written on 4/29/19 by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board, "Plan to underground power lines will hit your wallet hard", it states that this new Legislation, "…will almost certainly mean higher electricity bills for customers—and higher profits for an investor-owned utility." In addition, "As the staff analysis of the Senate bill confirms, however, the utilities’ costs are ‘unknown’ and will be passed on to their customers."

Experts have labeled Florida as "Ground Zero" for Sea-Rise and Flooding. The consequences of this Bill are that it will give FPL the opportunity to underground utilities wherever they designate to be not flood-prone! Thus, having "wind" problems with overhead poles, could become A FORMULA FOR UNDERGROUNDING POWER INFRASTRUCTURE UTILITIES SYSTEMS AND RESULT IN LONGER POWER OUTAGES!

It appears that Florida’s Legislators, in their eagerness to resolve power outages that come during hurricanes, have not taken enough time to research ALL OF THE IMPLICATIONS AND IMPACTS THAT COME WITH THESE FLORIDA UTILITY HOUSE AND SENATE BILLS.

In addition to the negative impact that this new Legislation will have on utility ratepayers with the onset of increasing utility bills every year ad infinitum, there is also the need to understand that undergrounding DOES CONFLICT with the onset of sea-level rise, tidal flooding, storm surge, saltwater corrosion, increasing rain events and all the flooding issues that go with it.

Therefore, undergrounding utilities, which is expensive, problematic and difficult to maintain, is NOT THE ANSWER TO ELIMINATING POWER OUTAGES IN PREFERENCE TO INSTALLATION OF HARDENED POLES WITH SMART SWITCH TECHNOLOGY!

Plus, the Legislators appear unaware that in those areas that are prone to flooding, especially along the coast and on barrier islands, that they need to step in and prevent burying power lines because they are neither resilient nor safe.

Let us dissect these two pitfalls for residents within the State of Florida.

It appears that Legislators are unaware of the fact that undergrounding utilities in certain areas can have additional problems. Let us consider that it is already a known fact from several National studies and experts, that there may be fewer hurricanes but those hurricanes will NOT SIMPLY BE WIND STORMS! THEY WILL INCREASE IN OTHER WAYS, WHICH INCLUDE INTENSE RAIN, LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND EVEN INLAND FLOODING, FOR DAYS! This was revealed in a recent 4/28/19 article in the Palm Beach Post, entitled "It’s all about water, not wind: Should ‘Cat’ scale be scrapped?"

The article explained that, "The discussion of transferring the hurricane conversation from wind to water permeated the National Hurricane Conference to the point that one speaker suggested redoing the National Hurricane Center’s symbol- a red circle that mimics the wind field of a storm- to something water related."

Most significantly the Palm Beach Post article states, that Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes said that, "It’s time to change the visual, folks…. We all know it’s about water, but no one else does." Also, the article goes on to say that "Sixty-nine percent of deaths during the 2018 hurricane season were water related. In the supercharged 2017 season, 91 percent of deaths were drownings."

The article states, "People feared the wind, they are terrified of the wind, the last thing they were thinking about were flood waters."

In fact there has been discussion about how there is a need to change the metering of "CAT" for hurricanes, because they are currently rated only by wind and there is a need for it to be based on a variety of diverse contributing factors, such as flooding, rain and storm surge, rather than simply wind.

Now, let’s put that into perspective regarding the new Florida utility Legislation and this push, especially promoted by FPL to underground in areas not designated as flood-prone.

FPL’s website, under https://www.fpl.com/reliability/underground-conversions/faq.html states that, "While underground facilities are not as susceptible to wind and debris-blown damage, they are more susceptible to water intrusion and local flood damage, which can make repairs more time consuming and costly. Overhead facility damage is easier to locate than underground and can generally be repaired quicker. Underground interruptions may be less frequent, but typically last longer due to more complex repair requirements. Following recent hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passed. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers. Storm winds can damage both types of systems, causing outages. Overhead systems face outages resulting from trees and debris blowing into lines. Underground systems face outages from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers and switch boxes or from tree root systems uprooting buried cable when trees topple. While a neighborhood may be locally served by underground cable, all electric service eventually comes back above-ground and connects to overhead service, either in the surrounding neighborhoods, or further down the street. So, exposure to above-ground electric service from weather, animals and trees is never fully eliminated."

FPL also acknowledges on their same website that conversion to underground utilities should not take place in "…. areas prone to flooding. (Excessive flooding can short out transformers, which then cannot be safely restored until flood waters recede.)" It is significant that the underground conduits are NOT waterproof and are therefore vulnerable to saltwater intrusion.

In a 4/26/19 South Florida Sun-Sentinel article, "Plan to bury power lines advances- at a cost to residents", Ted Kury, Director of Energy Studies at the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center said, "What you want to avoid is spending all the money and then making things worse." He said, "Underground lines may be protected from high winds, flying trees branches or debris, but THEY’RE ALSO MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO SUDDEN RISE IN WATER LEVEL AND FLOODING."

Dr. Kury said, in reference to converting to underground utilities as FPL plans to do in certain non-flood prone areas, "You’ve traded off one potential damage to the system for another potential damage to the system."

Ted Kury also stated in the article that, "…many communities have tallied the expense of undergrounding— generally about $1 million a mile—and decided that it wasn’t worth the price. He points to North Carolina, for example, which ended its pursuit after estimating burying the entire state’s utilities would raise electricity prices by 125 percent." "Kury has no doubt that electric bills would be affected: ‘I think it’s reasonable it would double rates in Florida,’ he said."

Most significantly, Ted Kury stated something all FPL customers and property owners need to heed. He said, "UTILITIES AREN’T SPENDING THEIR MONEY—THEY’RE SPENDING CUSTOMERS’ MONEY"!

Plus, unless Florida’s Legislatures intervene in those flood-prone barrier island and coastal areas, which have taken it upon themselves as municipalities to underground utilities Town-wide, i.e. The Town of Palm Beach, in their Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, is a perfect example of a coastal community which, upon completion of their Town-wide Project will be destined to have their POWER SHUT OFF DURING A HURRICANE AND LIKELY FOR SOME TIME AFTERWARDS WITH THE THREAT OF STORM SURGE AND FLOODING! This situation will occur on flood prone barrier islands and in coastal municipalities that underground their utilities Town-wide.

It is important that Florida Legislators know the realities that these problematic underground utility systems now being installed in flood-prone barrier islands such as the Town of Palm Beach will encounter.

Regardless of who finances these types of Projects, those coastal municipalities that are flood -prone and are in the process of Undergrounding Utilities Town-wide with all of its inevitable failures, will end up having negative economic consequences on Florida’s Coastal real estate!

Real estate values will plummet in these areas. Florida relies on tourism! Tourism is predominant in Coastal communities in Florida. Coastal community beaches are a major economic engine in the State of Florida. In these situations, Town-wide Underground Utilities Projects are a disaster for the Town, property owners and residents. There will be serious negative economic implications for real estate and tourism for the State of Florida as a result.

The real question is, WHY WERE THE FACTS IGNORED THAT ARE IN FPL’S WEBSITES REGARDING THE PROBLEMS AND PITFALLS TO UNDERGROUNDING?

WHY WERE THESE LEGISLATIVE BILLS RUSHED THROUGH BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA?


FPL Gains While Ratepayers Lose In New Legislation

(4-24-19)

New Florida Legislation that affects FPL ratepayers will see their utility bills increase ad infinitum. Town of Palm Beach property owners will now be destined to face another expense that will add insult to injury!

This is because of the new Florida legislative House Bill 797 & Senate Bill 796 going through the House and Senate and already having been read once, appears it will become a reality. As stated in an April 8, 2019 WPTV news report, "… it’s not really known yet how much your bill could go up or if that would mean higher monthly bills if this measure passes."

This latest revelation is, in fact, in store for ALL FPL RATEPAYERS but will be especially injurious to any municipality’s property owners such as those who reside in the Town of Palm Beach, who are paying individually for Town-wide Underground Utilities through a Special Assessment.

There are three facts that will have a special impact, for example, upon Palm Beach property owners. One is the fact that FPL has initiated a 3-year Underground Pilot Project! It does NOT INCLUDE, "Areas prone to flooding…."! FPL WILL NOT CHARGE THE PROPERTY OWNERS IN THIS PILOT PROJECT TO UNDERGROUND THEIR UTILITIES! These are property owners who have been selected by FPL because of power outages caused by wind and ARE NOT IN FLOOD-PRONE AREAS!

The Town of Palm Beach property owners who do reside in a flood-prone area will pay for an Underground Utilities Project with Special Assessments for 30 years!

However, EVERY FPL CUSTOMER RATEPAYER, THROUGHOUT FLORIDA, INCLUDING THOSE WITHIN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH, WILL PAY FOR THE DESIGN, INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE UNDERGROUNDED PILOT PROJECT PROPERTIES!

This means that a municipality like the Town of Palm Beach would NOT have been selected by FPL because they are situated on a flood-prone barrier island, with low elevation, high water table, storm surge, surrounded on three sides by salt water and on ground that is coral reef limestone in which the salt water rises up from underneath. To add to this fiasco, the Town is assessing their property owners so as to finance this hazardous boondoggle with 30 years of Special Assessments, which is the equivalent of a 30-year Tax!

In a 4/3/19 article in The Coastal Star, the article discusses FPL’s Pilot Underground Projects. In reference to undergrounding, the article states, "FPL OFFERS NO GUARANTEE THAT BURYING POWER LINES WILL ELIMINATE OUTAGES."

Most significantly, the article states, "BUT UNDERGROUND LINE OUTAGES ALSO CAN BE TRIGGERED BY FLOODING AND STORM SURGES, AND IT CAN TAKE MORE TIME TO LOCATE A PROBLEM AND FIX IT. DAMAGE TO OVERHEAD LINES CAN BE EASIER TO SPOT AND REPAIR."

So, for those areas that FPL has determined are in need of "wind protection" and are NOT "prone to flooding", it appears FPL has decided not to install Hardened poles with Smart Technology. Instead, FPL will underground in those areas!

This new Legislation will allow FPL and other power utility companies within the State of Florida, "to recover certain costs". As a result of the new Legislation, ALL FPL RATEPAYERS, INCLUDING TOWN OF PALM BEACH RATEPAYERS, would now pay for these additional FPL Underground Pilot Projects.

It is significant to note that FPL covers at least half of the power in the State of Florida!

Hardened poles with Smart Technology will continue to be installed, but it is important to realize that these Legislative Bills make it possible to underground those areas that FPL has determined to be viable for undergrounding which are NOT FLOOD-PRONE areas.

As Union of Concerned Scientists Energy Analyst, Julie McNamara, identified, Underground Utilities Projects should only be installed with "A Location Specific Consideration". In fact, there are Underground Utilities Projects being installed that ARE NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS of State taxpaying residents and property owners! It is unfortunate that the Legislature in Florida is not more aware of what is going on throughout the State.

Most significantly, State Legislators need to become informed that undergrounding utilities in flood-prone, coastal barrier island municipalities subject to FLOODING and sea-rise WILL NOT BENEFIT those Floridians who are living in such municipalities!

It is the responsibility of our State Legislators to protect all Florida residents. Those specific coastal barrier island municipalities in the State of Florida that are installing infrastructure Projects that will underground energy utilities that will be subject flooding and sea-rise SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE! Those coastal municipality officials are endangering Florida residents and taxpayers by installing such hazardous, non-resilient infrastructure Projects in coastal communities!

It should be noted that, within the House Bill 797, on page 4 of 6, the Bill does state that any plan by the utilities should "…enhance reliability, strengthen infrastructure, and reduces restoration costs and outage times in a prudent, practical, and cost-efficient manner, including whether the plan prioritizes areas of lower reliability performance."

Under 3 (b) of the House Bill 797, it also states the significant fact that demonstrates why any Town-wide Underground Utilities Project on the barrier island Town of Palm Beach would NOT be an area FPL would ever select. The Bill clearly specifies that the utility company which does the installation must meet the requirements that, "Whether storm protection of transmission and distribution infrastructure is feasible, reasonable, or practical in certain areas of the utility’s service territory, including in flood zones…."

According to a 4/8/19 article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Public Service Commission will no longer be able to reject the plans of utilities and hence, THERE IS EXPECTED TO BE LARGE PRICE INCREASES TO RATEPAYERS UNDER THESE NEW FLORIDA BILLS. In those feasible and practical areas selected by FPL to be undergrounded, "As part of those plans, utilities would be allowed to move lines underground, with the cost borne by ratepayers. It’s hard to say just how much this would wind up costing…"

It should be noted that in Florida, as I was told by an FPL representative, EACH MUNICIPALITY PAYS DIFFERENT UTILITY RATES.

After Palm Beach has their Town-wide Underground Utilities Project completed, FPL will pass along those expenses related to Palm Beach Underground Project problems, maintenance and repairs to Palm Beach utility ratepayers in their monthly bills!

This is the bottom line! The Palm Beach Town Council has been promoting and installing a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. This Project will be subject to continuous flooding impacts, accidents and power outages. It will also have a greatly reduced lifespan created by power outages, flood issues and saltwater intrusion impacting the underground equipment. In addition, Palm Beach property owners will have continuous increasing Special Assessments due to a Project that is financially out of control.

The reality is that Palm Beachers will have escalating utility bills to pay for the bad decision made by the Town Council in having denied FPL the appropriate installation of 145 mph wind resistant and FLOOD PROOF Hardened poles with Smart Technology! This situation was preceded by the Town Council neglecting to have FPL come in on a continuous basis to remove the foliage around power lines as well as never taking proactive measures as is done by other municipalities with regard to tree trimming!

THE ICING ON THE CAKE IS THAT, IN ADDITION, PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS AND ALL RESIDENTS IN THE TOWN WILL PAY ADDITIONALLY FOR EVERYONE ELSE WITHIN FPL’S SERVICES AREAS!

This is more proof that Palm Beach’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is clearly NOT A BENEFIT, BUT RATHER A MASSIVE FIASCO AND A FINANCIAL DETRIMENT FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!


Flooding Requires Elevated Infrastructure

Sea-Rise is here in Palm Beach! It can not be denied.

Photo taken by Charles Pepper on 3/21/19.

(4-10-19)

SEA-RISE IS NOT A MYTH! IT IS A REALITY THAT ALL OF US MUST FACE! It causes FLOODING, encroaching tides and storm surge! It is happening NOW AND PREDICTED TO GET WORSE! It must be dealt with to protect our safety and our quality of life. The future of our investments and the infrastructure that serves us depend upon how we manage sea-rise!

It is essential that Counties and Municipalities with high water tables and low elevation pursue thorough and unbiased sea-level rise and flooding studies to enable them to initiate and develop projects that will provide resilient and safe infrastructure to combat flooding and sea-rise.

There is much confusion about "500-year flooding." Most people think it can only occur once in 500 years. In fact, from 2010 to 2017, in only 7 years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported 25 separate "500-year flooding" events, nationwide!

This REALITY was verified when I interviewed, Julie McNamara, Energy Analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The highly respected Union of Concerned Scientists has done many National Studies on Sea-rise and flooding, that Include the State of Florida. One of these studies specifically cites the barrier island Town of Palm Beach as a major area that, within less than 30 years, will have a large number of homes and properties "chronically inundated with flooding"! Unfortunately, as the study progresses, the number of chronically inundated homes and properties escalates dramatically.

In a Palm Beach Post 6/19/17 article, "PBC homebuyers must think about the sea." They cited a report from the UCS and said that for the NOAA and the UCS "an appropriate conservative projection to use when estimating risk to homes", defines "chronic flooding as an average of 26 flood events or more per year, even in the absence of major storms."

Energy Analyst Ms. McNamara stressed to me during our interview that, "Electricity underpins so much of what we do!" In addition, she said that "RESILIENT ELECTRICITY IS SO CRITICAL."

More specifically, USC Expert Energy Analyst McNamara strongly stated that, "UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES IN SEA RISE FLOOD AREAS HAS A HIGH RISK OF FAILURE."

It is most significant and news worthy that on March 25, 2019, WPTV reported that FPL is doing a PILOT PROJECT. In fact, FPL has selected certain areas in Palm Beach County for the purpose of testing undergrounded utilities. FPL has stated that, "AREAS PRONE TO FLOODING ARE NOT BEING CONSIDERED FOR THE PILOT TEST!"

During a 3/29/19 Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach lecture series on "Rising Waters", Lisa Craig, a consultant from the Craig Group, said that the threat of flooding to landmarked properties is a greater threat than the issues presented from hurricanes!

Ms. Craig also stressed to the interested audience that preparation for flooding in Palm Beach means that landmarked properties must be elevated, as well as the utilities. I agree with Ms. Craig, with one major exception. The "preservation" of our homes and investments should not be only narrowly focused on landmarked properties. All properties and homes/buildings are at risk and this includes, MOST ESSENTIALLY, THE ENERGY AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURES THAT SERVE THEM!

The idea of elevating buildings and infrastructure in the face of flooding and sea-level rise is part of the essential requirements with which to combat the oncoming flooding events that threaten the fabric of property owners’ existence in "Ground Zero", as the coastal areas and barrier islands along the State of Florida have been identified.

Therefore, in order to "preserve", "protect" and give the most reliable and safe energy infrastructure for our utilities in ALL low-lying, high water table, flood prone coastal areas, it is only logical and practical that ALL ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE MUST BE ELEVATED AND STRENGTHENED, NOT BURIED UNDERGROUND AND VIRTUALLY INUNDATED WITH CORROSIVE SALTWATER!

Regarding undergrounding utilities, USC Energy Analyst Julie McNamara stated that it is important to "Consider if infrastructure does get flood inundated, IT TAKES LONGER AND COSTS MORE TO REPAIR."

Another extremely significant statement she made regarding underground utilities is that, "IF THEY ARE SUBMERGED, UNDERGROUND WIRES GET DAMAGED OR CORRODED." And that "SALTWATER INCREASES THE CHALLENGE AND MAKES IT MUCH WORSE."

Ms. McNamara stressed how critical it is "To build a resilient and reliable system, for today and for the future."

During preservation consultant Lisa Craig’s presentation, she also pointed out that the FEMA Maps deal with coastal community resilience but DO NOT TAKE sea-level rise into consideration! Think about that for a moment. Let’s use the Town of Palm Beach as our subject and focus here. Just take a look at the most current FEMA Flood Maps, https://maps.co.palm-beach.fl.us/cwgis/?app=floodzones on the barrier island Town of Palm Beach.

This narrow island municipality, both on the north-end and the south-end are predominantly within either the most severe Special Flood Hazard Zone, AE on the Intracoastal Waterway/Lake side, or on the extreme wave velocity hazard of VE (wave action) on the ocean side.

It was noted by experts when the most recent FEMA Flood Maps came out, that ALMOST 75% OF THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH IS WITHIN THE MOST SEVERE SPECIAL FLOOD HAZARD ZONE, AE.

It is also important to note that a portion of the Breakers Hotel Golf Course has flooded after a good rain. Longtime residents told me that it was once "a swamp, which was later filled in." The northwest to middle portion of the north end of the Town is also "filled in swamp."

USC Energy Analyst Julie McNamara said that "What we ask is that THESE INVESTMENTS LAST A LIFETIME OF SAFETY." We know, from all the research, that undergrounded utilities in a saltwater and flood prone environment with rising seas on the coastline and on barrier islands in Florida, have a greatly reduced lifespan. Since it is so difficult to get to the particular undergrounded utilities area that is causing the power loss, MOLD WILL RESULT FROM THE HUMID AND HOT FLORIDA ENVIRONMENT, WHICH IS UNSAFE FOR SO MANY REASONS, INCLUDING HEALTH!

Energy Analyst McNamara continued with this essential point, "Seas are rising and over the lifetime of this underground utilities equipment, they are going to rise more! The Flood level will be higher. Investing in something not just for today but for the future and for long-lived infrastructure, it should be built for exposure to sea-level rise!"

When asked under those circumstances to compare between Hardened Utility Poles with Smart Switch Technology, Ms. McNamara did not hesitate when she declared, "Hardened Poles have shorter outages, shorter recovery times and are much faster to repair."

She also stressed how essential it is to, "MINIMIZE THE TIME OF POWER OUTAGES."

Environmental author, Jeff Goodell, in a 1/15/19 Palm Beach Daily News article taken from his presentation at the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach during the "Rising Waters" series gave a report. "Goodell displayed a map of Palm Beach, with flooding projections, based on current conditions. It showed that a sea-level rise of 3 feet would put some low-lying areas under water."

It is important to realize that many coastal areas, especially barrier islands, such as the entire Palm Beach barrier island are within "Evacuation Routes", because of the hazards of potential storm surge and flooding.

If a municipality in an evacuation route is threatened by flooding caused by storm surge, FPL turns the undergrounded power off Town-wide! This creates the perfect environment for the onset of dangerous MOLD. This will not only be a health hazard but will greatly diminish property values!

Ms. McNamara explained that when you have or convert to underground utilities infrastructure projects it should, be "A LOCATION SPECIFIC CONSIDERATION."

An important distinction made by Analyst Julie McNamara, is that THE ENTIRE POWER GRID WHICH INCLUDES LOCAL UNDERGROUND SYSTEMS OR OVERHEAD SYSTEMS ARE PART OF THE UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE!

It is time for Municipalities, both on the coast and on barrier islands, to work diligently with the State to take positive and aggressive action to initiate Projects that will elevate and strengthen energy infrastructure and to work on Projects that will mitigate and protect all the taxpayers’ properties.


Sea-Rise CLASHES With Undergrounding!

Sea-Rise IS increasing! Lake Trail, Palm Beach.

Photo taken March 21, 2019,  by Charles Pepper, Palm Beach.

(3-27-19)

The impacts from Sea-Rise have arrived!

Palm Beach Post reported on 3/20/19 that, during the week of 3/11/19, the Florida Senate Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources passed the Senate Bill 78 which will require that, near the coast, State funded infrastructure projects be preceded by Sea-Level Impact Studies.

Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami said, in a 3/22/19 Palm Beach Post article about flooding in coastal communities. "Sea-level rise also is a contributing factor."

On March 21, 2019, Charles Pepper a Town of Palm Beach property owner in midtown, took phenomenal and frightening photos of flooded Lake Trail in Palm Beach.

Charles Pepper said, "Each tide is higher, not only the 'super tides' ...I have been watching the bike trail for over 30 years....WE ARE DEFINITELY EXPERIENCING RISING WATER LEVELS IN THE LAKE AND, OF COURSE, THE OCEAN!"

FLOODING IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH IS NOT AS UNUSUAL AS TOWN OFFICIALS WOULD LIKE US TO BELIEVE! Mr. Pepper's photos are just one of a countless number of other pieces of evidence proving this assertion.

The Town of Palm Beach Overhead Energy Infrastructure Project is in the process of being converted to an Underground Energy Infrastructure Project. New legislation that the State of Florida has just passed requires a "Sea-Level Impact Study" to be done PRECEDING ANY STATE FUNDED INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT TO BE CONSTRUCTED IN COASTAL AREAS.

Although the Town of Palm Beach Coastal Underground Utilities Infrastructure Project is not State funded, FOR THE SAFETY OF RESIDENTS AND THE PROTECTION OF PROPERTIES WITHIN THE STATE OF FLORIDA, THE STATE SHOULD REQUIRE A STATE SEA-LEVEL IMPACT STUDY TO BE DONE TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO CONTINUE OR STOPPED IN ITS ENTIRETY!

No coastal, flood-prone Town in the State of Florida should be free to pursue a Town-wide Infrastructure Undergrounding Utilities Project that bury power lines and utilities that are subject to coastal flooding, corrosion and combustion. Clearly, any Town-wide Underground Utilities conversion Project in the Town of Palm Beach is a disaster waiting to happen. THERE ARE NO BENEFITS FOR PROPERTY OWNERS, ONLY DIMINISHED PROPERTY VALUES!

It is obvious that Sea-Rise and the conversion to underground utilities in coastal communities and on barrier islands, as well as any flood prone areas, CLASH!

POWER IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH WILL BE SHUT OFF TOWN-WIDE IF AND WHEN UTILITIES ARE UNDERGROUNDED TOWN-WIDE, FOLLOWING ANY FORECASTS THAT WARN OF FLOODING!

FPL has confirmed this fact to the Town Council and Town Officials.

Potential storm surge is exactly why there are areas that are now designated as "Evacuation Routes." It is important to realize that the entire Palm Beach Island is a barrier island and is within an "Evacuation Route" because of the hazards of potential storm surge and flooding!

Recently, The Town Commissioners of the barrier island Town of Highland Beach, Florida, retained a consulting firm, which presented a "Master Plan" for a Referendum vote on three different projects, one of which was to do an underground utilities conversion, Town-wide, in Highland Beach.

The Referendum vote in Highland Beach was held on March 12, 2019. IT FAILED ON ALL THREE REFERENDUMS! The voters in Highland Beach overwhelmingly rebuked conversion to Town-wide Underground Utilities by a vote against financing GO Bonds with ad valorem taxes by 94.1%! I was told that the highest number of voters ever recorded in Highland Beach turned out to vote against the three Referendums. This had never happened before in Highland Beach.

I have since interviewed newly elected Highland Beach Town Commissioner, Evalyn David, who strongly opposed all three Projects including Highland Beach's conversion of Town-wide utilities to underground.

I also interviewed Highland Beach Financial Advisory Board member, Greg Babij, who also vigorously opposed the Projects as did his Board members, including conversion of Town-wide underground utilities.

In addition, I spoke with Highland Beach's leader of the opposition, Highland Beach resident, John Ross.

Commissioner Evalyn David stated that undergrounding utilities was not a necessary Project. She reported to me that the Entergy study of 2008 on undergrounding was not favorable. In addition, it established that undergrounding was no panacea. Commissioner David said that undergrounding utilities would cause negatives both financially and environmentally for the Town of Highland Beach.

When all three Projects were presented to the residents, Commissioner Evalyn David said that the vote proved that residents and voters, having learned the facts, were "wildly against it."

Unlike any Town Board in Palm Beach, the Financial Advisory Board of the Town of Highland Beach took a stand that differed from their Town's Mayor, Vice-Mayor and Town Commissioners. They opposed the Projects, which included Town-wide conversion to underground utilities.

Greg Babij, member of the Financial Advisory Board, said that, had it gone forward, he felt that "all of it" would have diminished Highland Beach's property values! Mr. Babij felt that there was "too much risk to Highland Beach's property values."

Both newly elected Commissioner David and Financial Board Member Babij cited all of the proven problems that have occurred in the Town of Gulfstream, Florida because they had embarked on undergrounding their utilities. Significant to note, since their straw ballot vote and pursuing the Project, Gulfstream has not undergrounded utilities, Town-wide, because there are now new Hardened utility poles in Gulfstream which have been installed on South Ocean Blvd.

Greg Babij also said that the proposed Projects, such as the Town-wide undergrounding utilities Project, "...clearly had no bottom line in cost!"

Financial Advisory Board member Babij said that, "... it would cause irreversible damage to property values." Mr. Babij also said that, had they gone through with any of what was being proposed to the residents it would have, "financially, created an unstable equilibrium" for the Town.

Mr. Babij further added that any unnecessary "multi-year project like undergrounding utilities Town-wide, would destroy residents' quiet enjoyment." That, in turn, along with the cost overruns from the undergrounding Project, would raise taxes. The Highland Beach Referendum was for ad valorem taxes. The Palm Beach Referendum is being used for 30 year annual special assessments.

Mr. Babij said that either way, whether ad valorem or a special assessment, it is a tax and will devalue property values!

John Ross, the Highland Beach property owner and resident who created a committee to "Save Highland Beach", felt much like Ms. David and Mr. Babij that the residents were never given the facts by their Town. Therefore, Mr. Ross made sure that he informed residents of all the facts and faults they would encounter if they did not vote these Referendums down.

John Ross told me that, much like the Town of Palm Beach, nobody knew what the underground utilities Project that had been presented to them would cost. He shared with the residents the many negative impacts that undergrounding would have with flooding and sea-rise. He felt very strongly that, if the Referendum for Town-wide conversion to underground utilities would have passed, it would be "A BOONDOGGLE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS!"

Mr. Ross felt that the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project and the storm water management Project were both "ill-conceived." Mr. Ross felt that the "THE WHOLE THING WAS FALACIOUS."

All three Highland Beach property owners who represented the leadership for the opposition to the Projects, were in agreement that the most important thing for the Town to concentrate on were Projects that were necessary investments, such as sea-rise and flooding, to protect their municipality!

Why would ANY Florida coastal municipality, like the Town of Palm Beach, with access to National studies, various news media articles and experts in the field of sea-level-rise and flooding, never have engaged a thorough, all-encompassing Sea-Level Rise and Flooding Study, PRIOR TO CONVERSION TO UNDERGROUND UTILITIES to determine if undergrounding utilities was even plausible on a flood prone barrier island?

In the case of the Town of Palm Beach, Town Council members have had and will continue to have the responsibility to do what is truly in the best interests of protecting the residents of Palm Beach and the properties located therein.

NO TOWN COUNCIL OR EVEN REFERENDUM VOTE TAKES PRIORITY OVER PROTECTING RESIDENTS AND PROPERTIES AND CERTAINLY IS NOT A JUSTIFICATION FOR INVOKING SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS TO CREATE A TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN INITIATED IN THE FIRST PLACE!

 

Negligence In Governing Will Drown Palm Beach!

(3-13-19) 

AT NO TIME WAS ANY VULNERABILITY STUDY DONE BY THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH TO DETERMINE WITH ALL THE HURRICANES AND MULTIPLE FLOOD ISSUES, WHETHER ANY TOWN COUNCIL SHOULD EVER HAVE CONSIDERED TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDING OF UTILITIES. The fact that any Town Council voted to do such a Project without a prior study demonstrates poor judgment and negligence of government!

Alternatively, was it because to bury utilities on a flood prone barrier island would have been considered irrational and unthinkable?

Especially, since we now know that THERE IS NO WAY TO WATERPROOF underground conduits, which have seams and splices to connect wires to buildings. Underground conduits are completely different from submersible submarine cables that are used under bodies of water. In addition, should it ever have been a consideration to bury utilities in the ground of Florida on a barrier island that is mostly limestone made of compressed ancient reefs full of tiny holes, like "Swiss cheese" that allows the saltwater to rise up through the ground?

In order to further the Town of Palm Beach public relations campaign and TO JUSTIFY ITS NON-ACTION when it comes to NOT focusing on ESSENTIAL PROJECTS TO PROTECT the barrier island Town FROM THE ONSLAUGHT OF SEA-RISE AND FLOODING, the Town of Palm Beach HAS JUST NOW PRESENTED AN INCOMPLETE Vulnerability Assessment report, prepared by the Town’s consulting firm, the Woods Hole Group.

It is important to clarify that the Town’s consulting firm, the Woods Hole Group, a CLS Company, is not affiliated with the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute of Falmouth, Mass. It was acknowledged at the 2/13/19 Town Council Meeting that, in fact, they were "compiling the information with the Town". Translation for this is that the Town provides Woods Hole Group with selective information. This is exactly how this very same consulting firm previously handled the Coastal Management Peer Review for the Town.

It is interesting to note that Bob Hamilton, Woods Hole Group and CLS Company consultant, who made the Vulnerability Assessment presentation at the 2/13/19 Town Council Meeting, explained that hurricane storm events were the basic reason given for the assessment of the potential for flooding in the report.

An important fact that the report DOES NOT deal with is that The Town of Palm Beach can not only experience flooding from hurricanes, but ALSO with its low elevation and the composite of Florida’s ground-level, THE WATER COMES UP FROM UNDERNEATH this barrier island!

According to Mr. Hamilton, "Despite the severe erosion, we have been a little lucky as to severe flooding events!" He also admitted that, "For something much more severe in the future there might be a higher risk." Sounds like an understatement since Palm Beach is so obviously flood prone.

What makes the Vulnerability Assessment report presented by a favored consulting firm so questionable, is that it is a report in which the Town compiled the data. The Woods Hole Group alone did not do this important research. This report would therefore reflect a bias towards the results the Town is seeking and wants the outcome to reveal.

Is it the purpose of the Town to diminish the severity of the fact that about 75% of the Town is located within the MOST SEVERE FEMA Special Flood Hazard AE and also VE Zones?

Also, this Coastal Vulnerability Assessment, DOES NOT DEAL WITH ANOTHER MAJOR CAUSE OF FLOODING, WHICH IS FLOODING FROM RAIN EVENTS!

The consultant’s response to flooding from rain events was that they are "NOT DOING LOCAL RAIN THAT CAUSES FLOODING."

It is significant that most of the utility boxes being installed for the Town-wide Project, ARE NOT BEING ELEVATED ABOVE THE FLOODPLAIN! The utility boxes are NOT WATERPROOF! However, it is standard practice to install utility boxes at a MINIMUM OF 2 FEET ABOVE THE FLOODPLAIN. The Town of Palm Beach thus far has installed utility boxes in AE Special Flood Hazard Zones on cement slabs that are only 6 inches high.

A Miami Herald 4/19/18 article describes "Miami Beach’s $500 million attempt to elevate and pump itself out of sea level rise’s path…." It went on to say that, "The experts praised the city for ‘acting with courage’ to start construction on the elevated roads and pumps…"

This Palm Beach Vulnerability Assessment is little more than a joke at this point in time. IT IS TOO LITTLE TOO LATE!

It is beyond understanding that the Town Council, the Leaders and promoters of this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, CONTINUE TO IGNORE the realities and risks in which they have placed the Town’s population and properties!

Another important point was revealed with regard to Palm Beach’s lack of preparedness for flood events when Public Works Director, Paul Brazil, replied to a few Council members’ questions about the Town’s storm pump and drainage system and said, "You can’t pump the water out when the lake is higher than your pump is."

Moreover, Brazil responded further that, "our existing drainage system and its functionality was NOT part of this study." He continued with "There will ALWAYS be a storm that CAN OVERWHELM IT."

NO MENTION WAS MADE OF the underlying "Swiss cheese" geology of Palm Beach. NOR WAS THERE ANY MENTION MADE OF THE HIGH RISK that all of these realities will bring upon the Town IF THEY COMPLETE A TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT.

When Paul Brazil was asked by Council President Moore, "How much water does our system pump?" Mr. Brazil’s response was quite frightening for this FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone Town when he said, "WE CAN HANDLE ABOUT AN INCH AN HOUR"!

While Palm Beach IS NOT ELEVATING ANYTHING, they are instead TAKING DOWN OVERHEAD UTILITY POLES AND BURYING THEIR POWER SYSTEM AND COMMUNICATIONS UNDERGROUND with their storm drain pipes and pumps!

One of the Town Council members, Ms. Araskog acknowledged that, when she said, "We have had rain events that have caused major flooding in a short period of time." She went on to say, "Three years ago it (the flooding from a rain event) was up to my knees on Australian and also on El Vedado." (Streets in mid-town, Palm Beach.)

Another Town Council member, Ms. Lindsay said, "Being on a barrier island… we had flooding here when I was a child …"

Ironically, a property owner from the north end specifically told me that they have gotten flooding from rain in their garage and that the man in the house stood in floodwaters over his thighs. Another time I was told that the pressure from the flood actually tore the garage door off its brackets.

Council Member Lindsay made claim that Palm Beach was ahead of Miami Beach in their storm drain station efforts. I researched her claims, already knowing that Miami has embarked on a $500 million Project to battle sea-level rise and flooding. I found proof that Ms. Lindsay’s statement was inaccurate. MIAMI, unlike Palm Beach, IS ELEVATING THEIR STORM PUMP SYSTEM with an elaborate plan and this is in addition to raising their roads.

Palm Beach’s Public Works Director explained to the Council prior to Ms. Lindsay’s statement, that the drainage pipes, which are underground would be too expensive to modify in any way. Therefore, Palm Beach’s antiquated storm drainage and pump system, WHICH IS RUN BY ELECTRICITY, WILL BE SHUT DOWN WHEN THE POWER IS TURNED OFF BY FPL TOWN-WIDE, IF THE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IS EVER COMPLETED.

Between the Town-wide electrical power shut down and its inadequate ability to have any sort of rain or flood waters not "overwhelm it" when there is more than 1 inch of flooding an hour, that makes Palm Beach’s storm drainage system and pumps for the most part rendered USELESS!

It appears that the yet to be completed Vulnerability Assessment report is being used as a stall tactic for a municipality that never has shown any interest or involvement in Resiliency Projects, nor was the Town ever a member of those types of associations over the years!

A perfect example is one of the recent National studies published from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which cited the Town with an unbelievable number of properties that will have chronic flooding as compared to much larger municipalities, all by 2045 and 2100.

ULTIMATELY, THE TOWN COUNCIL’S POOR DECISIONS AND NEGLIGENCE IN GOVERNING WILL DESTROY THE PROPERTY VALUES OF PALM BEACH!

Unfortunately, by embarking on a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, Palm Beach’s Town Council will have doomed the Town of Palm Beach to drown without power when it is most needed!

It defies reason that the Town Council continues to bury utilities underground in a Project that will decimate a world-renowned Town because the Council DID NOT DO ITS DUE DILIGENCE!

 


Not A Fait Accompli 

For Palm Beach Project!

(2-27-19)

THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IS NOT A FAIT ACCOMPLI!

It is significant that a Class-Action Lawsuit, the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit, was filed on July 28, 2017 against the Town’s Special Assessment for the Underground Utilities Project. In defiance of this, on September 15, 2017 the Town Council of the Town of Palm Beach decided to gamble with taxpayer’s dollars and initiated construction on this Town-wide Project that was being challenged in court! To have taken this action the Town Council took and continues to take a significant risk with the monies of their constituents, despite the fact that the Town could lose the above-mentioned class-action lawsuit in a Court of Law!

At the February 13, 2019 Town Council Meeting, it was announced by a Town Official that both Phase 1 north and Phase 1 south are finally ready to test. The FPL switch and transformers in the utility boxes are scheduled to be energized, after which the contractors for the Town are expected to switch over, within the next month or so to power up the FPL utility boxes. This switch over however, DOES NOT INCLUDE the internet and telephone services. It only energizes FPL power. Thus, the utility poles will remain and the equipment will continue to be on them for the time being.

Although the Town would like residents to believe otherwise, Phase 1 of the "8 Phases" scheduled for the Project will not be completed by the timetable previously promised. Each Phase of the Project consists of two Phases, the north Phase and the south Phase. Therefore, the Project consists of 16 Phases of design and construction. Also, if it is anything like the other underground projects the Town had initially referenced, the removal of Utility Poles takes much more time.

This follows what the Town’s attorneys said at both the January 11th and February 13th court proceedings for Class Certification of the Lawsuit.

It appears that the Town’s legal team, as is the Town Council, are attempting to claim that the Project has gone this far and will therefore be entitled to finish, regardless of whether the Plaintiffs’ prevail with their Class-Action Lawsuit. One should wonder whether the Town believes that the Palm Beach municipality can do whatever it wants and get away with it!

It is obvious that the Town’s strategy is to make it appear to their taxpayers and to the Courts that the Project, is a fait accompli. NOT SO! The following legal examples will verify why this Underground Utilities Project IS NOT A FAIT ACCOMPLI!

This is an example of Case Law that WILL DEMONSTRATE THE FACT THAT THE TOWN SHOULD NEVER HAVE INITIATED THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IN DEFIANCE OF THE KOSBERG/SCHARF CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT! ALSO, IT SHOWS WHY THE TOWN SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT BE REWARDED FOR SUCH RECKLESS ACTIONS!

WHAT PALM BEACH DELIBERATELY DID WILL DEMONSTRATE THAT THEY GAMBLED WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS AND SHOULD NOT BE EXCUSED OR TOLERATED!

The first example of Case Law is represented by Pruitt v. Sands, Fla App. April 18, 2012, Pinecrest Lakes Inc. and the Villas at Pinecrest Lakes Limited Partnership, Appellants v. Karen Shidel, Appellee. In this lawsuit, Property owners challenged a County’s approval of a development.

Much like the Town of Palm Beach, in this lawsuit, "… the developer decided to commence construction, notwithstanding the pendency of an appeal." In this case, the developer’s gamble in initiating construction while the lawsuit was outstanding WAS NOT REWARDED! "…THE COURT FOUND THAT THE DEVELOPER HAD ACTED IN BAD FAITH."

In parallel to the above case, Pinecrest Lakes Inc. v. Shidel, the Town of Palm Beach used deliberate intent to initiate construction on the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project on or about September 15, 2017 in defiance of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit that had been filed July 28, 2017 and amended in August 2017.

The Town Council and their staff took this action knowing that a precedent setting Lawsuit, a Class-Action Lawsuit, had been filed by two Palm Beach property owners, Carol Kosberg and Michael Scharf, on behalf of thousands of affected Palm Beach property owners. TO MY KNOWLEDGE, A CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT ON BEHALF OF PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS HAS NEVER TAKEN PLACE BEFORE IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!

The Case Law that I am referencing in the Pinecrest v. Shidel case, stated "… the court found that the developer continued construction during the pendency of the prior appeal and continued to build … during the trial…. THE COURT FOUND THAT THE DEVELOPER ‘ACTED AT (ITS) OWN PERIL…."

As stated in the case law being referenced and is perfectly apropos to the gamble being made by the Town of Palm Beach, which demonstrates malice and arrogance that should not be rewarded is what the court decided with the Pinecrest v. Shidel Lawsuit.

The Town of Palm Beach, in their flagrant action to initiate and continue at breakneck speed, attempted to get as far as they could with the Project during the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit and, like Pinecrest with the construction and funds laid out, "…. COULD HAVE BEEN ENTIRELY AVOIDED IF THE DEVELOPER HAD SIMPLY AWAITED THE EXHAUSTION OF ALL LEGAL REMEDIES BEFORE UNDERTAKING CONSTRUCTION."

It is also timely for the Mayor and Town Council to remember what happened at Mecca Farms with Palm Beach County and Scripps beginning in 2003 and ending in 2005. The County began that Project and spent approximately $100 million even though there was a Lawsuit challenging them. That Project also appeared to be a fait accompli, but the Court in the end, forced the County to dismantle the Project!

This is an example of a governmental entity moving forward during litigation, thinking they will get the Project done and it will be too late for the litigation to stop the Project, which proved to be a major failure for Palm Beach County and its taxpayers!

In the face of an unprecedented and unparalleled Class-Action Lawsuit, the Palm Beach Town Council, in defiance, initiated construction of their Town-wide Underground Utilities Project and is continuing to press on despite all the facts and obstacles.

Every member of the Town Council that was and is currently in office, ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AND CAN NOT PASS IT ALONG AS SOMETHING THEY INHERITED! This includes Lewis Crampton, who campaigned vigorously for Town-wide Underground Utilities prior to his becoming a Town Council member and continues to do so.

There is abundant proof, including National studies, that this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project will become obsolete before its construction is even completed! It will be unsafe and unreliable in the face of the inevitable Sea-Level Rise, water inundation, saltwater intrusion coming up over its banks and up from beneath its surface. Also, the Town of Palm Beach is located on the most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island! The construction of this Project has proven, with continuous accidents and perils, that it has been extremely hazardous, in addition to its need for a blank check to cover the inevitable cost of this disastrous and unnecessary Project!

ATTENTION TAXPAYERS! THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IS NOT A FAIT ACCOMPLI WHATSOEVER!


Keep Utility Poles For 5G In Palm Beach!

(2-13-19)

The U.S. is quickly moving forward into the new generation of 5G Mobile Technology that is already rolling out and will be in full force in many areas by 2020!

This State-of-the-Art "Ultrafast" 5G Technology will change our lives!

It will connect everything around us to a wireless network that is a much more reliable, 100 times faster than our present cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service!

It will also shorten or eliminate the lag in time delays and will increase Connectivity!

More people with more devices should be able to communicate at the same time!

The Washington Post reported on 6/5/18 regarding 5G Technology that, "At the human level, for example, 5G will be used for connecting smart clothing, prosthetic devices and even ingestible health monitors…. At home, 5G networks will move beyond the cliché of refrigerators that automatically reorder milk to fully integrated living spaces that adjust to the needs of every member of the family, providing home security, optimizing power and water usage and personalizing entertainment." This sounds like what we would have thought of as "science fiction" but it is apparently the first stages of this super advanced Technology that is right upon us!

THE ONE CATCH IS, 5G EQUIPMENT NEEDS TO BE UP IN THE AIR ON POLES, SUCH AS THE UTILITY POLES CONNECTED TO ELECTRICITY THAT ALREADY EXIST IN PALM BEACH!

This further proves that IT IS ESSENTIAL TO KEEP THE UTILITY POLES IN PALM BEACH STANDING AND CONNECTED, so that the Town of Palm Beach and its property owners will not be left behind in an antiquated past with an outrageously expensive, outdated, hazardous underground utilities system that lowers property values, has absolutely NO "Special Benefits" and is a detriment to those residents who live on this barrier island!

How absurdly ironic it is that the Town of Palm Beach is planning to do the opposite by removing its utility poles and proceeding to bury wires to create an underground system that is already antiquated!

Interestingly, even before the rollout of 5G, the barrier island Town of Palm Beach has had "abysmal cell service" for some time now. A Palm Beach Daily News 9/10/18 Letter to the Editor written by Palm Beach property owners, John and Diane Sculley, brought out the undeniable cell phone problems that north-end owners on the island have been enduring. John Sculley is a former Apple CEO and was part of the founding team of Metro PCS. According to the Sculley’s Letter, "… we need to drive around in our car looking for where we can get more than a bar of service in order to make a mobile call. The biggest fear is if we needed to make an emergency call to the police or the hospital and could not make a call."

Most significant, also, is their description of "…friends" who "spent thousands of dollars to boost their signal. Their only relief was to purchase and install a hard-wired landline phone system." It is important to note here that if the Town of Palm Beach is allowed to "remove" the wires and utility poles to bury all utilities underground, THERE WILL NO LONGER BE "HARD-WIRED LANDLINE PHONE SYSTEM(S)" IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!

In another article on 12/29/18, the Town claims that erecting a "Temporary cell tower could mean better service for Palm Beach." The point is, with the current 4G service available, Palm Beach is struggling with the prospect of installing ONE cell tower to cover a wide range of area. However, with the newest superfast and advanced 5G Technology rolling out as early as 2020 in many areas of the U.S., there is the necessity for MORE "SMALL CELL" POLES at a much closer proximity of up to 500 yards apart, in order to carry the new 5G signal.

Conclusion: How can Palm Beach’s Town Council "mandate" taking the wires and utility poles down while undergrounding when WHAT THEY WILL BE DOING IS CUTTING OFF ACCESS TO THE AMPLIFIED AND HUGE 5G TECHNOLOGY!

Poles are absolutely essential for 5G Technology that brings 100 times faster connection to internet, TV programming, surveillance equipment, autonomous vehicles, health monitoring equipment and even home appliances, heating, A/C and lighting. IT IS THE 5G EQUIPMENT ATTACHED TO POLES, SUCH AS UTILITY POLES, THAT ARE NEEDED TO CARRY THE 5G CELL SIGNALS!

We know that the Town of Palm Beach’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is already riddled with an inordinate number of failures on so many levels. WE CAN NOW ADD ONE MORE MAJOR FAILURE TO THIS PROJECT!

This failure was confirmed at the 1/29/19 Town Hall Underground Utilities Community Meeting. The Town Officials were asked if the Town is "cutting ourselves (itself) off…" from 5G Technology with the "…one-time undergrounding Project" that it has undertaken?

The response from Town of Palm Beach Underground Utilities Project Manager, Steven Stern, was that 5G is "… OUTSIDE THE SCOPE of the Undergrounding Project." He continued with, "OUR MANDATE HAS BEEN DELIVERED TO US BY THE COUNCIL. WE ARE HERE TO TAKE THE WIRES OFF THE POLES, TAKE THEM DOWN AND PUT THEM UNDERGROUND! ANYTHING IN ADDITION TO THAT IS OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF THE PROGRAM."

So, let’s look at this stunning revelation! The rest of the United States, with FCC approval and support, is moving to the next generation of ultrafast, ultra-advanced 5G Technology with networking that will give homeowners access to fast, clear and reliable telephone service, TV and internet WITHOUT CABLES, WHICH WILL BE AVAILABLE to the public throughout municipalities in the United States. Instead, Palm Beach will be stuck in an expensive and failing time warp, without the availability to the 5G Network throughout the Town!

Why? It is because the Town Council in their appalling lack of wisdom has forced an expensive, antiquated Town-wide Underground Utilities Project upon the property owners. IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF ULTRAFAST 5G TECHNOLOGY, THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH INTENDS TO TAKE DOWN THE POLES!

A general rule of thumb for 5G Ultrafast Networks is that 5G does NOT travel as far as current wireless frequencies, so the poles need to be 100-500 yards apart. They must be in close proximity to each other. This makes the use of existing utility poles, and even more so the Hardened Pole State-of-the-Art Smart Technology, 145 mph wind and flood resistant utility poles, PERFECT for 5G equipment in the Town of Palm Beach!

What does that spell out to investors and property owners on the most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island Town?

It means that not only will the Town of Palm Beach require property owners to pay a Special Assessment TO REMOVE ALL THE UTILITY POLES IN THE TOWN but also to replace them with underground conduits!

PROPERTY VALUES IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH WILL BE NEGATIVELY IMPACTED IF THERE ARE NO TOWN-WIDE UTILITY POLES THAT SUPPORT THE NECESSARY 5G SMALL CELLS WHICH REQUIRE A POWER SUPPLY AND TAP INTO EXISTING POWERLINES OR EQUIVALENT POWER SOURCES!

Besides the advantage and progress that 5G will bring to home owners who reside in municipalities, 5G will allow the municipalities to operate more efficiently. Utility companies will be able to easily track usage remotely, as sensors will be able to notify public works departments when drains flood, storm drains go down or even when street lights go out.

PALM BEACH WILL BE TOTALLY WITHOUT ACCESS TO THE ADVANCES AND BENEFITS OF 5G TECHNOLOGY!

The FCC is now promoting and facilitating the deployment of 5G Technology by speeding up the rollout process and reducing the costs of attaching new network equipment to utility poles. To enable broadband providers to enter the new 5G markets and deploy this high-speed network, ACCESS TO POLES MUST BE SWIFT, PREDICTABLE, SAFE AND AFFORDABLE.

POLE ACCESS IS ESSENTIAL IN THE RACE TO DEPLOY FAST 5G WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE, WHICH RELIES ON SMALL CELLS.

If Palm Beach removes the Town-wide Utility Poles, what will Palm Beachers be left with? A MEGA SIZED BOONDOOGLE THAT FAILS THE PROPERTY OWNERS OF THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!

No wonder Palm Beach property owners are looking to the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit to remedy this nightmare that their Town Council continues to create!

 


Explosive Conduct In Palm Beach!

(1-30-19)

The Mayor and Town Council of the Town of Palm Beach have now demonstrated what is the acceptable "Standard of Conduct" for themselves, Board Members and employees. The following display is both real and stunning!

At the 1/22/19 Town of Palm Beach Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) meeting, the Vice-Chair Donald Gulbrandsen announced that UUTF member Susan Gary’s OP-ED of 11/18/18 in the Palm Beach Daily News, has "Disturbed the trust in this group by taking their personal grievances and assumptions to another public forum." "This has likely lowered trust with Town employees…" It appears the UUTF vice-chair’s hostility towards Mrs. Gary gained the unanimous approval of the UUTF Board members present.  

This was the Town’s response to the 11/18/18 OP-ED from long time pro-underground advocate and UUTF member Susan Gary. Mrs. Gary’s critical and candid OP-ED and the long-hidden facts it revealed are one of the biggest indictments of the failing direction in which the Town is headed! 

Mrs. Gary opened up many key areas such as, the Town’s chaos of mismanagement and the continuing out of control bottom line cost for this Project, as well as the lack of safety.

Mrs. Gary also described with clarity and knowledge how the Town is failing to take the steps to "…correct the major challenges: gas-line incidents… and cost-overruns", while "…Town Hall appears engaged in an effort to hide problems…".

This OP-ED by Mrs. Gary was considered by UUTF as the essence of disobedience and dissension from "within the ranks" and an explosion by one of the insiders "in the know." 

This most overt assault on anyone who would break from the ranks of the inside internal chaos, mismanagement and poor leadership, then continued at this 1/22/19 UUTF meeting. 

While original UUTF member, Susan Gary, was conspicuously absent, the unbelievable and unacceptable verbal lashing and assault on Mrs. Gary came directly from UUTF Board members who unanimously said they all agreed with Gulbrandsen.

This demonstration by UUTF Board members towards anyone who, as Board member, Thomas Parker called it, "casts aspersion on the Project", will be the recipient of such a verbal lashing. 

UUTF member Thomas Parker stated at the meeting, referring to what the UUTF Board and apparently Town Council’s driving force was, "… AESTHETICS WAS THE REASON FOR THIS PROJECT"!

Mr. Parker had spoken earlier in the month at the request of the Town Council, at the 1/8/19 Council meeting, in a mini version of what was to come at this UUTF meeting. 

Apparently, according to the "Standard of Conduct" demonstrated at UUTF meetings and Town Council Meetings, those who reveal the truth about the Town’s Underground Utilities Project deserve to be verbally insulted and assaulted.  QUITE A "STANDARD OF CONDUCT" FOR THE ONCE RESPECTED TOWN OF PALM BEACH!

At the same 1/22/19 UUTF meeting, some interesting revelations further confirmed that this unsafe, unreliable, fatally flawed Project was NOT to protect Palm Beach property owners and residents; was NOT to give any "Special Benefits" to property owners, as required for a Special Assessment, a) to increase property values and b) to decrease insurance premiums; NOR was it to provide a better electrical and communication service to the Town’s property owners. 

There was much discussion at the UUTF meeting about "deploying easements" as Underground Utilities Project Manager Steven Stern called it.  UUTF Board member Anthony Dowell was clearly upset that some property owners were resisting granting easements. Demonstrating another form of pressure, Mr. Dowell said he wanted these property owners to be told that they should "Be a team player".  This is evidence of the Town strong-arming those owners. It was also said that the Town has "a strategy" for obtaining easements. These are more strong-arm tactics used by the Town.

This further demonstrates the lengths and depths to which the Town is willing to go in order to force property owners to comply, beyond the hundreds of easements already acquired for well over a year now as a result of requiring easements as originally recommended by a Council Member, in exchange for many different types of Permits. 

It appears currently that in Phase 1 South, FPL HAS NOT APPROVED OF THE PLACEMENT OF A NUMBER OF UTILITY BOXES, mostly the large switch boxes. 

To remind our readers, most of the condo/co-ops south of Sloan’s Curve uniformly did NOT grant easements to the Town or anyone else.  Therefore, most of the 82 utility boxes, predominately switch boxes, were placed in the FDOT Right-of-Way (ROW).  This ROW is in front of beautifully landscaped properties!  The condo/co-ops stood firmly and strongly for their property rights and refused to grant easements.  Now, the situation is that FPL has not approved the placement of some of these utility boxes because of FPL’s lack of access to them!

So, the Town has surreptitiously come to some of these condo properties and is again asking for easements! The Town has threatened that if these easements are not granted, the utility boxes might be placed in such a way to make them even more of an eyesore! 

As one condo property spokesperson told me, what the Town is attempting to do, is nothing less than "EXTORTION"!

The reality is that these threats are scare tactics! To move the boxes so they are much further apart and in a different location would not be practical due to conduit installation and other underground equipment. 

A perfect example of the Town’s strong-arm EXTORTION TACTICS took place when the management of a small peninsula of time-sharing units on South Ocean Boulevard was told by the Town’s staff and consultants that, if they did not grant an easement, the electricity would no longer service all of the units in the time-sharing property.

That was an outrageous threat, since the units have been serviced for years by overhead electric poles!  Is this the level that the Town of Palm Beach has now reached in their drive to force this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project onto property owners in their municipality?     

At the January 2019 UUTF meeting, it was stated that Comcast’s Wi-fi boxes, which are now on the utility poles, need to be placed at ground level.  Also, there can be NO CAMOUFLAGE LANDSCAPING AROUND THESE BOXES BECAUSE OF WATER ISSUES WHICH PREVENTS TRANSMISSION OF A SIGNAL. Yet, it is okay for the Wi-fi boxes to be installed at ground level in FEMA designated Flood Zones!

With regard to the Town’s determination to take down all the utilities poles for aesthetic reasons, a comment was made regarding Wi-fi boxes by UUTF member Harry Wolin. He said, "Can a box be mounted on the light poles?  It is aesthetically more pleasing!" Is this not hilarious?

Also, interesting to note, was the question by UUTF member, Anthony Dowell to Kevin Schanen of Kimley-Horn & Associates, the Town’s engineering consultant. Mr. Dowell asked if FPL can place "submersible" utility boxes on the "sea streets" in Town that are "low elevation" (and frequently flooded).  Mr. Schanen responded to Mr. Dowell that "FPL DOES NOT HAVE SUBMERSIBLE BOXES"!  This means that since MOST OF THE TOWN IS IN THE MOST SEVERE FEMA SPECIAL FLOOD HAZARD ZONE, UTILITY BOXES WILL GET FLOODED AND ARE NOT SUBMERSIBLE! This makes as much sense as this Project!

It became apparent at the January 2019 Town Council Meeting, that mismanagement with regard to the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project starts at the very top with the Mayor and Town Council! 

Town Council President Pro-Tem Margaret Zeidman claims that there is, "A bit of confusion among the residents that scares them that the Project which… is not over Budget, but is on Budget…". However, it is a known fact that there are continual cost overruns which have been confirmed by Town staff on different occasions. Plus, as stated by Mrs. Gary and also, in another OP-ED on 12/16/18 by former Town Council President, David Rosow, the cost of this Project is out of control!   Mrs. Gary wrote, "We have a 10 year, $100 million plus construction project going wrong."  Mr. Rosow wrote that he "found it impossible to reconcile the cost numbers".  

With all of this and more, it appears that it is not the Town’s residents that are confused. Rather, it is the Mayor, Town Council President Pro-Tem Mrs. Zeidman and the members of the Town Council that are confused!   

It was stated by Town Manager Kirk Blouin at the 11/29/18 Informational Town Hall Meeting that since the Project’s cost will exceed the $90 million bonding, the Town will have to explore all options to cover the increased costs. He said that higher assessments, use of other revenue sources, etc. were ways to cover increased costs. Blouin also said that the Town will just have to "deal with it later".

At that same meeting, Town engineer Patricia Strayer said that economic factors just come into play in an adverse way, thus the cost overruns and projections so far make it essentially impossible to accurately project for the cost of this Town-wide Project for the remaining years of the Project. Translation: THE TOWN DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE TOTAL COST OF THE PROJECT WILL BE. Which is exactly what Steven Stern, the Town’s Underground Utilities Project Manager testified to Under Oath while under Cross Examination during the January 11th Class Certification Court proceeding of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit!

At the January 2019 Town Council Meeting, Councilman Lewis Crampton, in his attempt to cover-up and denounce those that revealed the truth, said that, "… information that sort of circulates back out there to the community and the people become frightened of it and maybe that we don’t know what we are doing."  Really? Who might conclude that and why?  

WITH ALL OF THIS AND MORE TAKING PLACE, NO WONDER PALM BEACH’S TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITY PROJECT IS SPIRALING OUT OF CONTROL AND NEEDS TO BE PUT OUT OF ITS MISERY!

ATTENTION!

PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS

You are invited to attend the Closing

Arguments of Class-Certification for the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

DATE: Wednesday, February 13, 2019

TIME: 2:00 pm

LOCATION:

Palm Beach County Courthouse,

205 N. Dixie Hwy.,

WPB, FL 33401

COURTROOM: 11E

CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE: James Nutt


Class-Action Lawsuit Brings Packed House!

(1-16-19) 

On Friday, January 11, 2019 at 1:00pm, the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit Court Proceeding took place in the Palm Beach County Courthouse, in Courtroom 11E.

The purpose of this particular court hearing was to certify this lawsuit as a Class-Action Lawsuit by showing that property owners, Carol Kosberg and Michael Scharf, will provide adequate representation as class representatives for all affected Special Assessed Palm Beach property owners who are the members of the Class, with regard to the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project in the Town of Palm Beach.

It is significant to note that a Class-Action Lawsuit, such as this one, represents all property owners who have been Special Assessed in this Project, regardless of whether they are voters or not.

Palm Beach property owners turned out "en masse"! The Courtroom 11E became crammed! The bailiff exhausted the number of folding chairs for people to be seated. Many people attempted to stand in the room that could not accommodate this crowd of Palm Beach property owners! Those unable to get a seat clustered in the vestibule as others went outside to wait.

It was then announced that the Honorable James Nutt had decided to move the proceeding into a much larger courtroom, 11F, to hold this crowd of interested Palm Beach property owners. Within minutes, the much larger 11F Courtroom where the court proceeding was now to be held became packed as well!

The "Plaintiffs" in this Class-Action are represented by the Law firm of Weiss, Handler & Cornwell, Boca Raton, Florida. Attorney William J. Berger, (former Circuit Court Judge) conducted the statements, direct examining and cross examining of witnesses. Attorney and Principal Partner Henry B. Handler also presided.

The "Defendant", in this Class-Action is the Town of Palm Beach. It is represented by Robert W. Wilkins and Joanne M. O’Connor, attorneys from Jones Foster Johnston & Stubbs, the Town’s Law firm that is located in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The witnesses that were direct and cross examined are Palm Beach property owners, Michael Scharf and Carol Kosberg; Stephen Stern, Town-wide Underground Project Manager and Jane La Clanche, Town of Palm Beach Finance Director.

William Berger, the Plaintiffs’ Attorney, gave the Opening Statement. Mr. Berger described the criteria for a class-action lawsuit and explained why this case qualifies for class certification. Attorney Berger also brought out that while the estimate for the Town-wide Project was $90 million, the Town has no idea of what the final cost of the Project will be.

During the hearing, Mr. Berger also said that the Referendum DID NOT approve the Project; only the $90 million financing.

The Town’s undergrounding Project Manager Stern said that he doesn’t know what the Project is going to cost at the end of the Project.

The Town’s attorney, Robert Wilkins, said that the Town has already spent $30 million on the Project.

Attorney Berger stated that, before the Town Council vote on July 12, 2017, at the Public Hearing in the Town Council chambers for a Special Assessment on all affected Property owners, there is a two prong test for the Special Assessment and the criteria or threshold that MUST BE MET before going on to any methodology or formula to assess properties.

It was explained by Attorney Berger that the essential threshold is that the Project had to confer a "SPECIAL BENEFIT" to each property, that is, improve property values and lower insurance premiums. Plaintiffs’ Attorney Berger said that the Town DID NOT meet this Special Benefit threshold.

If the Special Benefit, the first prong, had been met then the Town must fairly apportion the amount to be paid among property owners, through the methodology formula. Mr. Berger said that the Town DID NOT meet the first prong for the Special Benefit.

Mr. Berger stated that the Plaintiffs are not asking to reallocate the Special Assessments or for the Project to be paid for through ad valorem taxes.

It was brought out during Mr. Berger’s Cross Examination of Jane La Clanche that the Town does have the choice of other alternatives.

Both Witnesses, Michael Scharf and Carol Kosberg, said the goal in this Class-Action Lawsuit was to have the SPECIAL ASSESSMENT DECLARED INVALID and it does not justify itself. They said there is NO Special Benefit. There is NO hard evidence that property values will increase or insurance premiums will decrease from Town-wide Underground Utilities.

Property owner Mr. Scharf said he will represent the entire class. Mrs. Kosberg also testified to the same thing.

As information and the Judge’s decision become available, it will be announced to our readers.

 


Evidence Mounts Against

Palm Beach Undergrounding

(1-2-19) 

It is now confirmed that the premise for doing a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project in Palm Beach, which is located on a barrier island with all its issues, is based on skewed and unsubstantiated positions that are hazardous and a massive financial blunder of unlimited proportions.

The necessity for the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit has been reaffirmed by the multitude of failures and the poor management that surround the Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!

In this regard an Important Announcement needs to be reported here. The Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is headed to court as early as Friday, January 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm. It will commence in Courtroom 11E, Palm Beach County Courthouse, 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33401. Before Circuit Court Judge, James Nutt.

ALL PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS AND RESIDENTS SHOULD ATTEND SINCE THEY ARE REPRESENTED BY THIS CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT.

The Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit at trial will rectify the need for the thousands of Palm Beach property owners it represents, to have the flaws and failures of this Town-wide Project as well as the ill conceived financing program of Special Assessments, to be finally brought to the forefront and evaluated once and for all.

It is because of this Lawsuit that this Special Assessment which the Town of Palm Beach plans to use to finance the Project is currently being kept in an escrow account.

A 12/16/18 OP-ED from former Town Council President, David A. Rosow, spotlighted one significant reason, among many, for the imperative need for the DEMISE of the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project ASAP!

He described, "The cost has escalated and is almost double what we were told to expect. We all know rates are going up. What will the real cost, including interest, become?"

Mr. Rosow wrote, "The original projection was $90 million and I voted for it. I’ve changed my mind and so have many of my friends here on the island."

Most important was the former Council President’s emphatic declaration, "I believe the council should stop the project now, when they can…"

I have been informed by regretful Palm Beach residents, who said that they had previously voted for the financing of the Project, that due to all the facts they now know, they are STRONGLY OPPOSED to the Undergrounding Project and want it to STOP!

In addition, we know from all accounts, including the admission by Town Engineer, Patricia Strayer, at the 11/29/18 Special Town Hall Underground Information Meeting, that THE ULTIMATE COST OF THIS PROJECT IS UNKNOWN! She admitted that it is essentially impossible to project the costs accurately for the remaining years, because economic factors come into play in an adverse way. It was also made clear that the Town plans on continuing the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project regardless of the unknown cost.

At that same meeting, Town Manager, Kirk Blouin, responded to a question about the budget, that the Project’s cost will indeed exceed the $90 million bonding and that the Town will have to explore all options to cover the increased costs, referring to higher assessments etc. and that the Town will have to "deal with it later"! Property owners take note: the Special Assessments already increased this year, without notice for many.

This only further demonstrates the financial chaos, with its uncertain and elusive bottom line that has been clearly given for this ill-fated, unnecessary Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

Among the reasons for this out of control financial nightmare with its mismanagement, are the escalating costs of construction, the hazardous underground construction accidents, such as the striking of gas-lines that can explode. Construction accidents are causing power outages plus the loss of communication and phone services. All of this results in the ever increasing assessments and additional higher taxes for property owners!

Is it not reasonable to conclude that all of these significant issues and more will lead to diminishing property values in the Town of Palm Beach?

Also it seems extremely relevant to highlight some of the statements that were verbalized by the Town’s own Flood Plain Administrator, William Bucklew, at a Town Planning and Zoning Meeting, on 12/18/18.

William Bucklew in his presentation repeated twice that we "Can’t talk about flood prevention unless you talk about hurricanes."

In his presentation, Palm Beach Flood Administrator Bucklew relayed that in terms of storms, such as hurricanes and flooding, "…it is not a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN."

Mr. Bucklew further stated, "PARTICULARLY IN OUR AREA, particularly in Florida, when it is related to floods and sea level rise and the information about the water coming in."

Palm Beach’s Flood Plain Administrator went on to say, "When you have low lying barrier islands on the coast. What it does is STORM SURGE COMES IN AND SCOURS, LIKE WASHING OVER AND REMOVING EVERYTHING! IT’S CALLED SCOURING (OVERWASH PENETRATION, TO SCRUB HARD). IT JUST TAKES EVERYTHING OFF OF THOSE (BARRIER) ISLANDS."

Bucklew described a frightening situation; he said that "The worst case scenario for the Town of Palm Beach, is (storm surge) coming in just below the inlet so that the Eyewall rotates directly into the inlet. Because, once that water comes through the inlet, it is going to go somewhere!"

"It is going to go north, it is going to go SOUTH (washing over the barrier island and scouring it)! And, what that is going to do is cause what it looks like when we have a King Tide in Palm Beach when you are on the west coast of the island!"

The most revealing and graphic visual statement that the Town’s Flood Plain Administrator described is, "WELL, IMAGINE A 12 FOOT STORM SURGE (IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH) AND WHAT THAT IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE! NOT ONLY ON THE EAST SIDE, BUT WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE ISLAND?"

Mr. Bucklew talked about increasing elevation for construction over maximum heights. Yet, the Town is installing underground conduits, that are vulnerable to saltwater intrusion and corrosion and on ground utility boxes BELOW the Flood Plain, which demonstrates the Town Council does not care about the lack of reliability and safety that it will bring.

The Town is predominately in the MOST SEVERE FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone, AE. Mr. Bucklew defined the A in the AE represents, "subject to rising waters". The VE Special Flood Hazard Zone in the Town, he described as along the coast and now also on the west side. It represents, NOT ONLY "RISING WATERS, BUT ALSO WAVE VELOCITY WITH STORM SURGE OF 6 FEET OR MORE"!

Mr. Bucklew talked about Palm Beach’s Seawalls and said that, "The Seawalls in Town are NOT FEMA certified Seawalls"!

Mr. Bucklew’s statements as a Flood Plain Administrator need to be brought out to the public and linked to the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

It is now evident that the only truly valid recourse, at this point in time, in order to change the Council’s current untenable and hazardous path, is through the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

This Class-Action Lawsuit is about exposing all the facts and the negative impacts of the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. It will find the legal course of action that will SAVE PALM BEACH and its property owners from the Town’s Folly, a Project that would inevitably damage the lives and investments of all those who reside within its boundaries!


Expert Cites Undergrounding 

"High Risk For Failure"

Summer rain with Sea-Rise cause Palm Beach Midtown flooding- photo contributed, 7/18

Sea-Rise with High Tide cause sunny day flooding at Seaspray Ave. & Lake Trail, Palm Beach. Photo taken by 

Charles Pepper 

on 11-25-18

(12-19-18)

More evidence continues to mount which confirms that burying utilities Town-wide on a flood-prone barrier island risks the "Public Safety" of every Palm Beach resident and property owner.

A verification of this can be found in the following interview that I conducted with Julie McNamara, an Energy Analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). UCS has done National studies on Sea-Rise and Flooding.

This article provides many riveting statements by Energy Analyst, Julie McNamara, concerning underground utilities. Ms. McNamara emphasized to me that, "ELECTRICITY UNDERPINS SO MUCH OF WHAT WE DO." She further said that, "RESILIENT ELECTRICITY IS SO CRITICAL!"

In one of her most significant statements, UCS Energy Analyst Julie McNamara declared, "UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES IN SEA RISE FLOOD AREAS HAS A HIGH RISK OF FAILURE."

This fact alone establishes why it is imperative for Palm Beach property owners to pursue the legal way to derail the Town of Palm Beach’s Town-wide Project!

An important update has been announced regarding the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit! IT IS NOW SCHEDULED TO BE HEARD ON JANUARY 11, 2019 AT 1PM AT THE PALM BEACH COUNTY COURTHOUSE.

PALM BEACH RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS SHOULD ATTEND! This Lawsuit is a Class-Action Lawsuit which represents the thousands of Palm Beach property owners. It will bring into focus all of the negative consequences of this Underground Utilities Project to be financed by a Special Assessment paid by the residents and property owners who never voted to do it in the first place! They were only invited to vote in a Referendum on how to finance the Project.

A point of interest regarding this Lawsuit took place at the December 11, 2018 Palm Beach Town Council Meeting. Town Attorney, John C. Randolph, responded to a request by a member of the Town Council who asked for an update on the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit. Town Attorney Randolph replied, "We are in the Discovery stage and we will PROCEED TOWARDS TRIAL."

During my interview, Ms. McNamara clarified that, "in the right place, underground utilities is worth the investment." However, from all the research studies, the experts declare that it is abundantly clear that in a coastal flood prone area, undergrounded utilities are a different story.

The dangers of burying underground utilities in flood areas, especially in "Ground Zero" Florida are further exacerbated when the power is shut off Town-wide! This will happen when there are forecasts that warn of flooding. Potential storm surge is exactly why there are areas that are now designated as "Evacuation Routes". 

It is important to realize that the entire Palm Beach Island is a barrier island and is within an "Evacuation Route" because of the hazards of potential storm surge and flooding.

Let us not forget that the tropical, humid and hot environment of southeast Florida creates the perfect environment for the onset of Mold. The insistence of Town Leaders to underground utility infrastructure that will bury power and communication lines in the face of inevitable flooding that their predominantly FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone Town faces, will in turn, greatly enhance the conditions for Mold in homes and businesses and will diminish property values!

UCS Energy Analyst McNamara told me that it is important to, "Consider that if infrastructure does get flood inundated, it takes longer and costs more to repair,"

Ms. McNamara made another extremely important statement when she said, regarding underground utilities, "IF THEY ARE SUBMERGED, UNDERGROUND WIRES GET DAMAGED OR CORRODED."

It is also significant that, as stated by Ms. McNamara, "SALTWATER INCREASES THE CHALLENGE AND MAKES IT MUCH WORSE."

As published in a WLRN July 2018 article, the U.S. Department of Energy stated, "…saltwater intrusion….associated with sea-level rise can also damage underground wires."

UCS Energy Analyst McNamara said, that where you have undergrounding utilities infrastructure, it is, "a location Specific Consideration." She said the entire power grid, which includes local underground systems or overhead systems are part of the utility infrastructure.

It was indeed ironic when Ms. McNamara warned that any Underground Utilities Project that is subject to Sea Rise and Flooding issues will be subject to much worse conditions.

What type of investment is that? How can any responsible Town Council pursue such a Town-wide Project despite the realities of overwhelming evidence that this is and will be a Town-wide disaster?

Ms. McNamara cautioned that, "IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE BE AWARE OF THE VULNERABILITIES WHEN DECISIONS ARE BEING MADE AND ESPECIALLY BEFORE ANY DECISION IS MADE TO DO SUCH A PROJECT."

She also stressed that it is, "Important to have fully considered to first have an evaluation take place, a COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS, before the decision to do the Project is made."

In the Town of Palm Beach, it is most significant that NO such evaluation EVER TOOK PLACE PRIOR to the initiation of the undergrounding Project in the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project! In fact, the Town’s residents and property owners were never informed of any such evaluation!

As Ms. McNamara said, "Different types of storms, storm surge and flooding should have been taken into consideration to be able to understand the trade off, prior to such a Project."

She said, "This process should be fully transparent as to the pros and cons; the risks should be fully stated before embarking on undergrounding utilities. It is not just for today but also looking down the line."

Energy Analyst McNamara also stressed how critical it is to "Build a resilient and reliable system, for today and for the future. It is not to be based on historic flood risks."

She also said that, "What we ask is that THESE INVESTMENTS LAST A LIFETIME OF SAFETY."

Ms. McNamara continued, "SEAS ARE RISING AND OVER THE LIFETIME OF THIS EQUIPMENT, THEY ARE GOING TO RISE MORE! THE FLOOD LEVEL WILL BE HIGHER. INVESTING IN SOMETHING NOT JUST FOR TODAY, BUT FOR THE FUTURE, AND THE LONG LIVED INFRASTRUCTURE SHOULD BE BUILT FOR EXPOSURE TO SEA-LEVEL RISE."

She explained that, "HARDENED POLES HAVE SHORTER OUTAGES, SHORTER RECOVERY TIMES AND ARE MUCH FASTER TO REPAIR." That is a known fact.

UCS Energy Analyst Julie McNamara did discuss the benefit of "elevating equipment." She said, "It might be standing 10-15 feet above ground."

This is NOT SO in the Town of Palm Beach. The conduits that carry the electrical wiring and communications wiring are in "Water Resistant" conduits, with "taps" or "splices" for each connection at buildings and homes. This makes them able to be penetrated and susceptible to saltwater intrusion. Plus, the utility boxes, whether they be transformers or giant switch boxes, ARE BEING INSTALLED, BY THE THOUSANDS, BELOW THE FLOOD PLAIN IN THE FEMA SPECIAL FLOOD HAZARD ZONE TOWN-WIDE PROJECT OF PALM BEACH!

Ms. McNamara said that, "If they have to come back in, it is expensive and disruptive! We are facing a myriad of challenges. Adaptation to climate change will require great sums of money because we cannot afford to rebuild and rebuild!"

Ms. McNamara also explained to me that it is so important to "Minimize the time of power outages."

One way to do this, according to Ms. McNamara, is to have trees and vegetation trimmed back, frequently. As Ms. McNamara further pointed out, just as trees and vegetation must be trimmed for overhead power lines, it follows that the roots of trees and shrubs are a problem for underground conduits!

In the scenario of undergrounded utilities, Ms. McNamara said that when there is a flood event, the roots of trees and hedges which wrap around the conduits are then uprooted and cause damage to the underground conduits. She said those roots and nearby vegetation also threatens the on-ground level utilities equipment. This is exacerbated when there is above average precipitation which will cause trees and hedges to topple!

Ms. McNamara’s comments and expert opinion should be heeded! This is especially true for the Town of Palm Beach which, despite all common sense and reason, IS IGNORING THEIR FLOOD ISSUES AND ALL THE HAZARDS THAT ACCOMPANY FLOODING! Instead, they continue to pursue a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project which is, and will continue to be, a fiasco that they refuse to face.

Expert UCS Energy Analyst Julie McNamara’s statements only give more credibility and emphasis to the fact that, with the onslaught of sea-rise and flooding, it is a Public Safety menace on the flood prone barrier island Town of Palm Beach to underground utilities!

Furthermore, Julie McNamara’s professional evaluation of underground utilities on a barrier island, that is subject to sea-rise and flooding, makes the need for the successful outcome of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit even more imperative for Palm Beach’s vulnerable property owners.


FPL States FACTS About Undergrounding Utilities

(12-5-18)

FPL has stated on its website, as of December 3, 2018, important Basic Facts concerning Overhead vs. Underground Utilities Service. Below are three of the fundamental Fact-Based descriptions of Overhead and Underground Utilities Service. The excerpt from the FPL website containing these Facts, as stated by FPL, is shown below in its entirety.

It is most significant that FPL is presenting a preponderance of negative aspects regarding "Reliability" of Underground Service when compared to Overhead Service. This is especially true when applied to "conversion" from Overhead Service to Underground Service.

The following are the FPL questions and answers as taken from FPL/Reliability/ Underground Conversion FAQs


(Q) What are the different strengths and weaknesses of overhead and underground service that affect performance and reliability?

(A) While underground facilities are not as susceptible to wind and debris-blown damage, they are more susceptible to water intrusion and local flood damage, which can make repairs more time consuming and costly. Overhead facility damage is easier to locate than underground and can generally be repaired quicker. Underground interruptions may be less frequent, but typically last longer due to more complex repair requirements. Following recent hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passed. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers. Storm winds can damage both types of systems, causing outages. Overhead systems face outages resulting from trees and debris blowing into lines. Underground systems face outages from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers and switch boxes or from tree root systems uprooting buried cable when trees topple. While a neighborhood may be locally served by underground cable, all electric service eventually comes back above-ground and connects to overhead service, either in the surrounding neighborhoods, or further down the street. So, exposure to above-ground electric service from weather, animals and trees is never fully eliminated.

(Q) What are some of the impacts associated with converting an older overhead system to new underground?

(A) Converting from an overhead to an underground system means basically abandoning an existing working grid system. The logistics of converting an existing grid system in an established neighborhood can be considerably more expensive and disruptive to personal property and surroundings than, for example, building new. For example, utilities often share poles above ground, so that if the objective is to move utilities underground – it’s not just electrical service that needs to be considered, but also phone, cable television and Internet service. This then presents additional considerations, such as different spacing requirements, boring and/or trenching needs and ground-level switching boxes involved in providing each type of service. Driveways, sidewalks, fences, landscaping, sprinkler systems and yards may need to be torn up or may be inadvertently damaged if not clearly delineated. Entry and exit ways to homes and business could be impacted for extensive periods of time. Because permits are needed to change meter-related equipment, conversions in older homes and neighborhoods may end up triggering city or county requirements that homeowners/businesses bring interior wiring up to current code. This could require the expense of a licensed electrician and potentially extensive interior rewiring and remodeling. Finally, legal easements are needed from all conversion participants that allow FPL access to its underground equipment, including the above-ground components – and a number of people must agree to have the large green transformer box and pad or other switching boxes in their yards.

(Q) What are some examples of instances where proposed overhead-to-underground conversions would not be feasible?

(A) Examples include instances in which private property owners aren’t willing to provide the easements that are necessary for FPL to design and engineer the conversion; locations where necessary safety standards and operational clearances cannot be met, for example extremely congested areas where switch cabinets cannot be installed with sufficient operating clearances; and areas prone to flooding. (Excessive flooding can short out transformers, which then cannot be safely restored until flood waters recede.)


POINTS TO REMEMBER CONCERNING THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT:

• The Town of Palm Beach residents never approved the Town-wide Utilities Undergrounding Project. There was never a "Straw" vote of the property owners. There was never a formal vote, i.e., Referendum, of the property owners on whether or not to do the Project.

• The Town Council alone, unanimously, approved the Project at its October 14, 2014 meeting.

• The March 15, 2016 Referendum was ONLY to approve the $90 million financing for the Project and was limited to the Town’s registered voters. The Referendum narrowly passed by only 62 votes.

The TOTAL COST of the Town-wide Project IS STILL UNDETERMINED and has incurred cost- overruns.

• The property owners of Palm Beach are paying for the entire Project through Special Assessments, many of which have been increased this year from their original amount that were assessed last year, WITHOUT ADVANCED NOTICE OR A PUBLIC HEARING!

• When FPL builds a Project, it spreads the cost of the Project across its ENTIRE RATE BASE, not just across a single community.

• When the Town-wide Palm Beach Project is completed, the assets of the Project will be "gifted" (turned over) in their entirety to FPL.

• It is important to note here that FPL does not have a uniform electricity rate for all municipalities. Therefore, when there is Town-wide undergrounding, repair costs will increase the rates in the affected municipality.

What IS SO IRONIC is that the Palm Beach Town Council NEVER informed or educated the Palm Beach property owners about the multitude of hazards and vulnerabilities there are in burying utilities Town-wide, before the Town Council, and ONLY the Town Council, unanimously approved doing the Project on October 14, 2014.

It is also noteworthy that subsequent Town Councils failed to enlighten Palm Beach property owners during the following interim two year period prior to the 2016 Referendum vote to "Finance" the Project that had already been determined to be done by the Palm Beach Town Council.

It is a known FACT that when it comes to flooding and sea-rise, Florida is Ground Zero; especially the Town of Palm Beach which is on a low-lying flood prone barrier island in a FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone.

CURRENTLY, THE TOWN STILL IGNORES, DENIES AND REFUSES TO ACCEPT THE FACTS AND, INSTEAD, CLAIMS THAT ANY FACT-BASED INFORMATION IS NOTHING MORE THAN "MISINFORMATION."

IN FACT, IT IS THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH WHICH CONTINUES TO PERPETRATE "MISINFORMATION" TO THE DANGER AND DETRIMENT OF THEIR RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS!

 

(To view the FPL WEBSITE CLICK ON  the following link) https://www.fpl.com/reliability/underground-conversions/faq.html


Undergrounding,

The TITANIC Of Palm Beach

Photo contributed

Rain in Palm Beach brings flooding. 2018

(11-21-18)  

In the Palm Beach Daily News, Sunday, November 18, 2018, in a "Local Voices" letter, Susan Keegan Gary, resident and member of the Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF), stated:

"Recently, Town Hall appears engaged in an effort to hide problems by canceling the monthly Underground Utilities Task Force meetings as problems mount."

It was specifically stated in the March 15, 2016 Town of Palm Beach, Florida Underground Utilities Project General Obligation Bonds Referendum: "…with project review by a citizens advisory committee…"

Ms. Gary went on to state, "We continue to exceed the $90 million estimate that was approved by voters for financing."

She acknowledges, "Unfortunately, the underground program has ‘hit the rocks’ and threatens to sink in a chaos of mismanagement and poor execution."

As an early advocate for the Project, Ms. Gary admits "Make no mistake- this is a serious business for all town residents…We have a 10-year, $100 million plus construction project going wrong."

She goes on to describe what the Town has mostly withheld from the public, "Gas-line incidents: There have been a dozen fractures of gas lines in the past year exposing residents to safety risks….In Palm Beach, we have had condominium and homes fires related to gas line issues."

"…the costs keep escalating." "The bad news is that we have another six phases to complete."

What Ms. Gary fails to recognize is that THIS PROJECT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN UNDERTAKEN IN THE FIRST PLACE and it should be stopped now before it is too late!

THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT HAS NOT ONLY SUNK INTO THE "CHAOS OF MISMANAGEMENT", BUT ALSO INTO THE HAZARDS AND REALITY OF SEA RISE AND FLOODING!

The new name for this disaster should be THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH TOWN-WIDE TITANIC!

This brings me to another major issue facing this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

It is already a known FACT that when it comes to flooding and sea rise, FLORIDA IS "GROUND ZERO"!

A 9/18/18 Washington Post article includes a map of "Maximum Rainfall caused by North Atlantic & Northeast Pacific Tropical Cyclones and their remnants per state 1950-2018".

This map of the United States demonstrates that the State of Florida has by far, the second most significant amount of rainfall, 45.25, next to Texas’s 60.58!

That is startling and a warning signal for Florida’s coastal communities, especially the low lying flood prone FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island Town of Palm Beach!

The Washington Post article goes on to say that, "Records like these may only be the beginning…"

You would think that ‘500 year’ storms, should happen once in 500 years. NOT SO! A ‘500 year’ storm is a rain event, such as a hurricane, that has a one-in-500 chance of occurring in any given year. The fact is that in less than 10 years, we have had 26 of these particular storms.

According to an 8/29/17 Washington Post article, "… 500 year floods, as it turns out happen more frequently than you might expect." The article also points out that, "Practically speaking, that means you can have multiple 500-year flood events happen essentially back-to-back."

"Recently published research has shown hurricanes are slowing down, taking in more water and growing bigger. ‘If you have bigger, slower, wetter storms, you’re going to set rainfall records,’ said David Titley, professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University."

Water, especially salt water flooding, is the enemy of buried energy infrastructure and utilities. That is an UNDENIABLE FACT!

The article continues with…"Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, author of a study exploring the link between ocean heat and hurricane intensity, said the extra heat not only increases the rainfall intensity but also ‘enlarges the storm’, expanding its rainfall footprint."

"Scientists are careful to note that the extreme rainfall events over the past year represent a small sample size among the storms that have occurred through history."

It is important to recognize this salient point: "CHARACTERIZING THESE EXCEPTIONAL TROPICAL RAINFALL EVENTS AS PART OF THE ‘NEW NORMAL’ MAY EVEN UNDERSELL WHAT IS HAPPENING."

These catastrophic rain events with sea rise and the other various flood issues, along with the inevitable oncoming chronic water inundation that will flood properties, ARE EITHER HERE OR ARE ASSUREDLY COMING WITHIN LESS THAN 27 YEARS FROM NOW!

There have been a plethora of studies, many National ones and others from renowned Universities, Oceanographic Institutes and recognized scientists that have detailed the undeniable flood issues and dangers that are coming our way!

This research shows that it is TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE AND UNACCEPTABLE for a low-lying barrier island Municipality, such as Palm Beach, which is predominately within the most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone, to ignore, deny and refute the "New Reality" and the "New Normal" that its residents and properties are facing.

Instead, the Town of Palm Beach is immersed in a dangerous, unreliable Project to bury their Energy Infrastructure and Utilities Town-wide.

This conclusion is especially so, when all these major and significant warnings are clearly amplified for high water table and vulnerable flood prone coastal areas.

It is essential that protective, safe and reliable Utilities Projects be initiated to replace the current Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!

The "New Reality" is the "New Normal"!

It must not be pushed aside with this reckless Project that is essentially putting at risk the residents, their properties, property values and quality of life.

All of the above is for perceived superficial beautification!

Otherwise, if the Town Council is allowed to continue with its misguided Town-wide Project and it is not stopped, Palm Beach residents and their properties will confront the reality of sea rise and increased flooding and will potentially suffer the costliest disaster that the Town of Palm Beach has ever known!


A New Reality Confronts Palm Beach

King Tide during sunny day flooding in 

midtown Palm Beach on Lake Trial. 

Photo taken on 10-27-18 by Charles Pepper

(11-7-18)

In an article in the Oct. 24, 2018 Palm Beach Post, Erin L. Deady, a Florida land use attorney and planner wrote, "It’s hard to dispute that a warmer Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean is fueling strong storms and higher sea levels. IT’S OUR NEW REALITY."

She also made the fact based statement, "Hurricane Michael has given us another lesson in what life will be like in Florida as climate change and sea-level rise worsen." This would also apply to the recent Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.

Additional facts and logical conclusions revealed by Erin Deady related to "Cities (Towns) and counties are on the front lines of this reality."

"All of us living in Florida are going to have to confront this reality too."

She continues with, "Our storm water systems are being compromised. Our buildings and facilities are at risk. AND WE NEED TO CONFRONT WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD: HOW ARE WE GOING TO ADDRESS ROADS (and ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE) DAMAGED BY MORE FLOODING?"

Ms. Deady goes on to make some extremely significant points, such as, "…WHEN YOU PAY TAXES TO GOVERNMENT TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN INFRASTRUCTURE, YOU HAVE THE EXPECTATION THAT IT WILL KEEP YOU SAFE AND DRY. BUT AGAIN, WHEN THAT (NEW) REALITY KICKS IN, WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE CAN ACTUALLY DO IN CERTAIN AREAS IS GOING TO BE CONSTRAINED BY FUTURE FLOODING."

For example, THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH’S TOWN-WIDE PROJECT WILL DO THE OPPOSITE BY BURYING ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE, EQUIPMENT WITH WIRING AND INSTALLING IT UNDER THE FLOOD PLAIN WITHIN FLOOD AREAS.

On October 14, 2014, when the Town Council voted unanimously to convert, Town-wide, to underground Energy Infrastructure, they had a responsibility to their constituents, as they still do today, to protect the residents and their properties within the Town.

That would apply to any Energy Infrastructure Project. An Energy Infrastructure Project is required to provide the most safe and reliable power transmission and to keep that Energy Infrastructure power system out of flood areas.

However, by continuing to pursue their Town-wide Underground Utilities Project and burying their Energy Infrastructure in a multi-million dollar fiasco, the Town of Palm Beach is ignoring the New Reality of sea rise and flood issues!

It is pure and simple common sense that by burying Energy Infrastructure like power, phone and cable lines on a barrier island like Palm Beach, these NON- WATERPROOF CONDUITS, with connection points to each building that they service, along with the HIGH VOLTAGE UTILITY BOXES THAT ARE ALSO NOT WATERPROOF, BEING INSTALLED BELOW THE FLOOD PLAIN, ARE MUCH MORE SUSCEPTIBLE DURING FLOOD EVENTS TO FAILURES THAN ANY OVERHEAD SYSTEM!

Ms. Deady in her Post article explains, that, "the saltwater king tides, (and other flood events are currently and will be) engulfing neighborhoods…"

In a 6/19/18 Palm Beach Post article, it shows that by 2045, less than 27 years from now, conservatively speaking, The Town of Palm Beach, which is much smaller in land mass and population than the other communities listed, will have nearly 1,000 homes worth $1.09 Billion, WITH CHRONIC WATER INUNDATION.

This confirms the danger that the Town of Palm Beach will encounter.

Yet, in the Town of Palm Beach, by burying Energy Infrastructure in a Town that is predominately in the most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone area, it flies in the face of sea rise and flooding!

Palm Beach is refusing to accommodate, mitigate and protect its property owners from the New Reality!

Flood waters are known to be insidious, but by doing a Project of this nature on this particular barrier island, Palm Beach Town Leaders are forging ahead in a reckless and irresponsible direction.

As Erin Deady stated so well at the end of her article, "The time to act on mitigation and adaptation is upon us. THE COST OF DOING NOTHING WILL BE INSURMOUNTABLE."

In the case of the Town of Palm Beach and their refusal to confront the New Reality of sea rise and flooding, the minimum cost of this $200 million (including interest) Project, goes well beyond the actual Town-wide buried Energy Infrastructure.

IT IS THE UNENDING COST OF THE LOSS OF QUALITY OF LIFE, PROPERTY VALUES AND THE LACK OF SAFETY AND RELIABILITY OF POWER TRANSMISSION TOWN-WIDE!

No one should conclude that this ill conceived and hazardous decision by Palm Beach Town Leaders is a "fait accompli".

Palm Beach property owners will have the opportunity to change this course of action through the legal system, to the benefit of all affected property owners. This is because a Palm Beach class-action lawsuit, the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit, is heating up in the courts, to be heard early next year!


Sea Rise Contradicts Undergrounding Utilities!

King Tide & Sea Rise cause over one foot of flooding on Lake Trail in Palm Beach. Photo taken by Charles Pepper, October 2016

Rain and Sea Rise cause flooding in midtown Palm Beach. Photo taken summer 2018. Contributed

(10-24-18)

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute issued a publication "More Floods & Higher Sea Levels, February 8, 2017, containing "Geological records help forecast escalating coastal hazards." It is revealed by WHOI that in a study by scientists at Rutgers and Tufts Universities, a new database of geological sea-level rise demonstrated "A statistical analysis of the data showed that global sea level rose by about 5.5 inches from 1900 to 2000—a substantial increase, especially for vulnerable, low-lying coastal areas."

The UN report on Climate Change said that, "…shifting weather patterns that threaten …. to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding… unprecedented in scale."

The Palm Beach Post, in the Sunday edition of 10/21/18 article, "Time is ‘critical’ to develop sea-level rise strategy" discusses how government leaders in Southeast Florida should be reminded of the threat of sea level rise and flooding as King Tides "force water into parks, shopping centers, neighborhood yards and streets all along the Intracoastal Waterway."

The Palm Beach Post continues with, "They (governmental local leaders) know that in the past century, the sea has risen 9 inches in Key West. In the past 23 years, it’s risen 3 inches…. with no sign of slowing down. That means many of those areas along the Intracoastal could be underwater."

What brings this critical situation home so vividly, is that Florida and particularly southeast Florida, which includes the Town of Palm Beach, IS DIRECTLY IN "Ground Zero" for sea rise and flood inundation catastrophic conditions!

At the October 9, 2018 Palm Beach Town Council Meeting, Council member Crampton made an incorrect assertion that the Town of Palm Beach, "is close to Ground Zero for the potential effects of sea-level rise." By all research, scientific studies and more, Palm Beach is directly IN Ground Zero!

Councilman Crampton, during the Mayor and Council comments, since the issue of sea rise and flooding have never been an agenda item, suddenly went on the defensive and made claims that the Town had engaged a Town consulting firm to look into sea level rise.

Showing how ill-informed Palm Beach’s Town Leaders really are, Crampton asked a series of questions and made incorrect statements to clearly demonstrate his lack of knowledge. For example: "I would like to ask the staff and let us know… what our vulnerabilities are with respect to that over time?" "What are we doing? I understand we have Woods Hole doing a study. Some other things going on. We changed our codes to deal with the issue to some extent…. I have no idea what kind of oversight the Council can issue with respect to this….It is not clear to me."

Most appropriate to note, in all this time, NO mention has been made at Town Council Meetings, nor has there been any reference to the progress of a report by Woods Hole Group, a consulting firm used by the Town on previous occasions to now study the "potential effects of sea-level rise!"

The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, formed January 2010, is a collaboration between Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties to address climate changes and other long-term threats in Southeast Florida. Local governments have been involved and actively participating since 2012 to "protect our regions and create equitable solutions." It is significant, that the Town of Palm Beach is conspicuously absent from the list of municipalities that recognize their risks from flooding and sea-rise issues and are working to protect their population!

The Post article related that Palm Beach County has created the Office of Resilience and appointed Megan S. Houston to be the director. The purpose of this office is to raise awareness of sea-level rise and flooding among residents and business owners and implement a strategy to deal with it.

As my readers are aware, in the field of sea rise and utilities, I have been citing respected National studies and the facts in National news media, interviewed retired FPL engineers, current FPL utility technicians and supervisors and various experts for several years now, in order to educate the public as to the hazards and dangers that we need to be cognizant of and find safe ways to protect ourselves and our properties. My articles have been widely circulated.

Does it not defy all reason and common sense that the Palm Beach Town Council is continuing to pursue a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project on a vulnerable barrier island in Southeast Florida that is now facing sea rise with increased flooding?

As we know from South Florida Water Management District scientist Jayantha Obeysekera who said said on July 11, 2018, that those of us in Southeast Florida, "Ground Zero" are facing three "whammies."

• "Sea Levels are rising in and around…" us faster than in most of the world.

• "South Florida is a vexing geological one. Our underlying geology is like Swiss cheese." "The solid ground under South Florida… is mostly limestone made of compressed ancient reefs that are full of tiny holes. That means salt water is rising up through the ground itself, not just in the waters surrounding Florida."

• Lastly, Obeysekera said "…. Many scientists agree that we can expect storms to be more intense, which could mean higher storm surges and more rainfall."

This has been proven to be so, as recently as the catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas’ caused by Hurricane Florence and the intense Category 4, almost 5 Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle, that caused wind and flooding in its path.

During the same 10/9/18 Town Council Meeting, Mayor Coniglio commented that the answer to the Town’s vulnerabilities to sea-level rise rested on building what she labeled as "seawalls". The reality is that seawalls, which cause erosion on the ocean side, are constructed as bulkheads or retaining walls on the Intracoastal side.

What was even more interesting was the excuse that the Mayor gave for delaying the sea level rise vulnerability report. Mayor Coniglio said in reference to the Town’s delay in completing the study, which she apparently perceives to be only the construction of "seawalls", "It was tremendously expensive and at some point it is going to be a big ticket item to these property owners."

Yet, the Mayor’s constant promotion of a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project WHICH IS BEYOND "TREMENDOUSLY EXPENSIVE" TO ALL PROPERTY OWNERS will actually cause more harm then good in this barrier island town.

During this bizarre discussion on this most critical issue, NO MENTION WAS MADE OF the Town’s historic flood issues, King Tides, or the fact that the Town is predominately in the most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone.

IT IS A FACT THAT UNDERGROUND UTILITIES IN FLOODED AREAS FAIL!

Instead, the Town should stop this frivolous, wasteful and dangerous Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that is doomed and move in a productive and protective action that will make Palm Beach safe!

Significantly at the same October Town Council Meeting, I heard reference made by two Town of Palm Beach residents to the Book of Proverbs (KJV) Proverb 29; Verse 18. It begins with a truly ironic relevancy to the path that Palm Beach’s Town Council has taken with the Project to convert to Town-wide Underground Utilities:

"Where there is no vision, people perish…."


Time To Change Course, Palm Beach!

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

2018 Summer rain with flooding in Palm Beach.

This photo was taken on S. Ocean Blvd., just north of Sloan's Curve.

(10-10-18)

"The present course of neglect increases social climate change vulnerability on a wide scale. As Southeastern Florida struggles with its uncertain future due to rising salt water, its plight is an early alarm to address microeconomic imperatives for the rest of America's vulnerable coastal regions."

The above quote, taken from a July 11, 2018 article by Mitchell Chester in the Climate Monitor Media, should be another wake-up call for every vulnerable coastal community in "Ground Zero" Florida.

In the July 11th Chester article, we learn that to this end, Miami Beach has allocated money to "confront its problem with sea-level rise head on." In fact, the article explains that "the City of Miami voted for a $400 million bond deal-- at least half of which is supposed to be dedicated to protection from sea-level rise. Jim Murley, the resilience officer for Miami-Dade County, said the county is using projections to estimate just how high every structure should be and then RENOVATING when possible."

The Town of Palm Beach, however, continues with their "present course of neglect" by defiantly ignoring the evidence, the facts and the vulnerability that exists for the Town, its residents and their properties located on a low elevation, high water table, FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island.

This is while Palm Beach Town Council members proceed as if they are in some kind of alternate universe and are determined to endanger their residents as they pursue a Town-wide Project that will bury power lines and utilities underground!

How ironic that in a Business Insider, 4/12/18 article, entitled: "Miami is racing against time to keep up with sea-level rise", it is explained that Miami is trying to make positive changes in "low-lying neighborhoods" by "accelerating the development of adaptive success models" by utilizing "the need to plan for impacts such as sea level rise."

Yet, there ARE NO SUCH REVELATIONS as are stated in the Business Insider article by the Palm Beach Town Council for "providing a far reaching damage prevention initiative."

Instead the Palm Beach Town Council acts AS IF they have NO flood issues whatsoever!

They continue to spend property owners' monies on a minimum $200 million frivolous and dangerous Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that will cause more harm than good as it moves forward despite all the warnings of negative impacts and outcomes to the future economy and well-being of the Town!

IS THIS WHAT PALM BEACH TOWN LEADERS SHOULD BE DOING? Or, should they be emulating what Miami is doing with their bond monies that are dedicated to protect their population from sea-level rise?

It is significant that Miami's bond referendum is based on ad valorem taxation, the traditional American way that is based on property values. What was described in the Miami Beach bond deal with the same approximate $200 million is for a Project that is necessary and protective in addition to an end result that will increase property values.

The Tampa Bay Times, in an August 21, 2018 article, by journalists Janet Long and Susan Glickman, stated something that has been written over and over again, because it is worthy of constant repetition, "It's plain to see that it's time for action. As sea levels rise, WE CAN EXPECT TO SEE GREATER STORM SURGE, MORE INTENSE RAIN EVENTS AND AN INCREASE IN HURRICANE INTENSITY, ACCORDING TO NASA HURRICANE AND CLIMATE SCIENTIST TIMOTHY HALL."

"Dr. Hall said, 'THERE WILL BE MORE CATEGORY 3, CATEGORY 4, CATEGORY 5 STORMS—THE MAJOR HURRICANES. IN FACT THERE WILL BE STORMS THAT ACHIEVE INTENSITY LEVELS NEVER SEEN BEFORE HISTORICALLY'."

The Tampa Bay Times article continues with the warning, "FACED WITH DAUNTING CHALLENGES LIKE SEA LEVEL RISE AND INCREASING HURRICANE INTENSITY, LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS MUST STRENGTHEN EFFORTS TO PROTECT COMMUNITIES AND OUR NATURAL RESOURCES..."

The Sun Sentinel stated, in a 6/12/18 article, ANOTHER REALITY, "SOUTH FLORIDA'S LEADERS PLAN FOR RISING SEAS, BUT IT'S A RACE TO HOLD BACK THE WATER." It is stunning as well as revealing that the Palm Beach Town Council is NOT PART OF THIS GROUP OF SOUTH FLORIDA'S LEADERS.

The article goes further as it states how important it is for municipalities (especially the extremely vulnerable coastal ones) to be considering ways of "how best to respond to sea-level rise."

It goes on to say that, "WE MUST PURSUE TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE NOW, WITH REAL DEMONSTRATIONS OF RESILIENCE THAT WILL ADD VALUE TO OUR COMMUNITIES. INVESTMENTS IN RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE WILL PROVIDE RESIDENTS, BUSINESS OWNERS AND VISITORS WITH BETTER FLOOD CONTROL, IMPROVED SERVICES AND ENHANCED QUALITY OF LIFE."

A Palm Beach Post article published on 5/15/18 states that there is an essential need for infrastructure and beach re-nourishment projects to minimize the effects of sea-level rise and King Tides.

It contains a chart labeled, "Unified Sea Level Rise Projection (Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, 2015), which illustrates that in 2030, just less than 12 years from now, that the NOAA prediction is that near Key West there will be 12 inches of sea level rise!

Why does the low elevation, historic flood prone Town of Palm Beach think they are immune to these facts and forecasts?

Why do they continue with a doomed Town-wide Project that is unsafe, unreliable and downright hazardous?

Why is it that Palm Beach is not investing ad valorem tax monies to protect their threatened barrier island Town?

Instead, the Palm Beach Town-wide Project that is know to cost at least $200 million paid by assessed property owners will be used to create: 1) Longer power outages 2) Inevitable Mold throughout the homes and 3) Numerous other safety issues!

It is difficult to understand why the Town, instead, is NOT using the monies to mitigate the oncoming chronic flood inundation problems that will occur in thousands of Palm Beach homes!

Also, why is the Town not using these monies to protect property values by raising structures and dealing with storm related issues, such as the rising seas, which include the King Tides?

What is really happening with the Palm Beach Town Council that is producing this blindness to reality and preventing them from doing what they were elected to do?

It has been stated so well in a WLRN 5/24/18 article, "BEYOND THE THREAT OF FLOODING, LEADERS IN BROWARD AND THROUGHOUT SOUTH FLORIDA ARE WORRIED RISING SEAS COULD SPELL TROUBLE FOR THE REAL ESTATE MARKET THAT HELPS DRIVE THE REGION'S ECONOMY."


Undergrounding Project Dangerous For Palm Beach!

Can you believe Palm Beach revised their Town ordinance to install electric utility boxes and conduits in these places? Photo taken by Charles Pepper, on Lake Trail during King Tide- 2016.

(9-26-18) 

"Sea level rising, simply put, makes every coastal flood deeper and more destructive… IGNORING IT IS INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS", said Ben Strauss, CEO of Climate Central. Climate Central is a research organization. It has published dozens of studies about rising sea levels.

Just as North Carolina chose to ignore its dangerous sea level rise and flooding threat on the state’s coast back in 2010, the Town of Palm Beach is choosing to ignore sea rise and their historic flood issues by pursuing a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!

At that time, North Carolina’s state Sen. Deborah K. Ross made a most fortuitous statement that ironically applies now to the barrier island coastal community Town of Palm Beach. Senator Ross said, "By putting our heads in the sand, literally, we are not helping property owners. WE ARE HURTING THEM. We are not giving them information they might need to protect their property. IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS. IT’S DANGEROUS."

As Town Council Meetings have repeatedly demonstrated, Palm Beach Town Officials are deliberately ignoring the risks of sea rise and flooding and instead moving forward with a hazardous Town-wide Project that defies scientific facts!

The numerous studies and predictions show sea level rise will bring more of these types of storms. In addition, these studies include all the non-hurricane flooding issues like King Tides, rising saltwater from below the ground, water inundation, chronic flooding and even increased intensity of rainstorms!

Is it not reasonable to expect that a low-lying flood prone coastal municipality like the Town of Palm Beach would be working overtime to prepare, protect and provide safe and reliable conditions for infrastructure and utility power systems in the event of such flooding?

But, NO! Instead, Palm Beach Town Officials are working overtime to install a Project, Town-wide, which will BRING nothing but POWER, INTERNET AND COMMUNICATION OUTAGES IN FLOODING SITUATIONS!

We know now that coastal areas, especially barrier islands, are extremely vulnerable.

We know now that with underground utilities, ground level equipment utility boxes and underground conduits are NOT waterproof, ARE susceptible to flooding and vulnerable to saltwater corrosion and explosions!

We know now that underground utilities are NOT accessible when in need of repairs, all of which causes much longer power outages.

We know now that if Palm Beach has Town-wide Underground Utilities, FPL WILL TURN THE POWER OFF TOWN-WIDE, when storm surge and hurricanes are forecast and will create risk.

We know now that long periods of power loss in hot humid environments leads to MOLD inundation in homes. These are health hazards that will reduce property values!

We know now, as reported in articles, "And the rise in sea levels, experts say, is making the storm surge worse."

We know now that "Sea level rise can also affect the severity of hurricanes", said William Sweet, oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Article after article, expert after expert, and even utility companies themselves HAVE CONFIRMED THESE FACTS.

On 9/14/18, after Hurricane Florence made landfall in both North and South Carolina, a television interview with Paul Fischer, Customer Supervisor/Spokesman of South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) utility company, was conducted on FBN. Host Melissa Francis inquired of Fischer about Hurricane Florence and asked him if undergrounding utility wires is better than overhead wires?  The SCE&G Supervisor/Spokesman explained (paraphrasing) ‘...we have both overhead and underground wires...but undergrounding is not always the answer...especially in situations like this where you expect a lot of rain and flooding...with undergrounding, it can take a long time to identify the problem and repair it...’

In addition, in a recent E&E News article, "Utilities mobilize for ‘catastrophic’ damage from Florence". The article said, "Scana Corp.’s SCE&G has inspected and replaced thousands of poles in an eight-year period as part of efforts to rebuild and harden roughly one-third of its transmission system, a spokesman said."

"Much of SCE&G’s electricity travels over more than 3,500 miles of aboveground transmission lines in South Carolina, while only 20 miles of its transmission is buried below."

The article goes on to say, "The utility, like others, faces an ongoing tug of war over how much of its power lines to place underground because much of the state is in low-lying areas. This means storms such as Florence that are expected to bring heavy rains and flooding could actually delay restoring electricity to areas where power lines are underground, Paul Fischer said."

It is significant to note that if the Carolina’s had more undergrounding, restoring the power after the massive flooding from Florence would have taken considerably longer than with overhead poles.

Knowing all of this, the flood-prone barrier island Town of Palm Beach, which is low-lying, with a high water table, having 75% or so of the Town within the FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone, STILL insists on moving ahead with a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that defies the warnings and is fraught with problems before it is even installed! What are we missing here?

On 9/12/18, I interviewed Theodore (Ted) Kury, Ph.D., and Director of Energy Studies at the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center. Dr. Kury studies impacts of the energy policy. Dr. Kury and I talked about undergrounding utilities in the light of sea rise and flooding with regard to safety and reliability threats in coastal areas and on a barrier island.

Dr. Kury said that we need to ask, "Is this investment providing benefits?" He also said, "WE DON’T WANT TO SPEND MONEY AND MAKE THINGS WORSE."

Ted Kury told me that sea rise (which includes King Tides), "GREATLY INCREASES THE RISK OF INCREASED STORM SURGE…. IT PUSHES UP THE RISK OF DAMAGE, INFRASTRUCTURE IS IMPACTED AND YES, IT IS MULTIPLIED."

Dr. Kury stated and confirmed that "Sea-level rise makes an area susceptible to water inundation…SEA-LEVEL RISE INCREASES YOUR RISK OF WATER INCURSION AND INCREASES THE RISK TO UNDERGROUND INFRASTRUCTURE!"

Ted Kury also mentioned his concerns over what he identified as "What happens to Florida’s tax base?" He said, "We rely on property taxes. That is where revenues come from."

The Town of Palm Beach’s property taxes are based on property values and they will be seriously impacted by underground utilities power and internet outages caused by sea rise and flooding issues.

In an article from The Conservation, written by Dr. Kury on 9/12/17, these issues are further confirmed with these statements: "In addition to the capital cost, undergrounding may make routine maintenance of the system more difficult and thus more expensive, because of reduced accessibility to power lines. This may also make it more difficult to repair the system when outages do occur, prolonging the duration of each outage."

It is important to review that, in 2014, the Palm Beach Town Council voted, unilaterally, to underground utilities Town-wide!

Currently, this present Town Council, by continuing to pursue this Project, in defiance of sea rise and flooding, are knowingly putting at "RISK" the Town’s power supply, internet and telephone systems!

It appears at Town Council Meetings that the only thing that concerns the Mayor and members of the Town Council is how they want to bring down their latest $2 million overrun! It is as if THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS THE MONEY, NOT THE SAFETY OF THE RESIDENTS AND THEIR PROPERTIES!

NO CONCERN is expressed for the lack of reliability of the undergrounding, or for the shutdown of power Town-wide with the inevitable sea rise and flooding!

The fact is that Palm Beach Town Officials are willfully ignoring the sea-rise and flood issues! They know these issues WILL INCREASE MANY TIMES OVER. Yet they continue to move forward with burying utilities Town-wide! THESE ACTIONS ARE IRRESPONSIBLE, UNSAFE AND BEYOND REASON!

The time is now for the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit to go forward! It is scheduled in the coming season.


Lights Out Palm Beach?

Photo taken by Maddy Greenberg, 4/16.

Historic and chronic flood area along S. Ocean Blvd., 

just south of Southern Blvd.

(9-12-18)

A new, significant study based on projections of sea level incursions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), entitled "Lights Out: Climate Change Risk to Internet Infrastructure" was just published July 16, 2018. The researchers and authors of this detailed study are Carol and Paul Barford of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ramakrishnan Durairajan of the University of Oregon.

This study reaffirms the reporting in National news media articles and other related studies that reveal how it is inevitable that rising seas and flooding will increase, especially along coastal areas.

The impacts are shown to be more magnified for barrier islands, especially in the State of Florida, which has been identified by experts as "Ground Zero."

This new study focuses on how thousands of miles of "fiber CONDUIT will be underwater ... and surrounded by water IN THE NEXT 15 YEARS" WITH ALL THE RISKS TO INDIVIDUAL SERVICE PROVIDER INFRASTRUCTURES.

"Though some major, internet-carrying cables are designed to remain submerged forever (such as the huge cable network that spans the world's major oceans), other wires that snake through cities and towns are less waterproof and, the study says, 'not designed to be surrounded by or under water.'" Those huge cables under bodies of water are called submarine cables.

This research suggests that there is an "URGENCY OF DEVELOPING MITIGATION STRATEGIES AND ALTERNATIVE INFRASTRUCTURE..."

The study further describes the problem that exists with "conduits" for Internet. It is important here to recognize that there is no real difference between internet conduits and those that hold electrical wiring!

The electrical wires that are in conduits are exposed to the "taps" or connection splices. When these conduits are buried in flood prone areas, especially in low lying areas along the coast, they become inundated with saltwater resulting in corrosion. The breakdown of electrical wires and conduits will then, ultimately, have a negative impact on not only communication transmissions, but on every source of power!

All electrical underground lines that will be put further at risk by sea rise, will then negatively impact the very power supply that is essential in the hot, humid environment of Florida!

The obvious result will be massive electrical power outages which will affect the safety and reliability that is required for any quality of life and survival here in southeast Florida!

According to this well researched study, "While the standard buried fiber conduits are designed to be water and weather resistant, most of the deployed conduits are NOT DESIGNED TO BE UNDERWATER PERMANENTLY."

The results of the analysis show that, "Given the fact that most fiber conduit is underground, we expect the effects of sea-level rise could be felt WELL BEFORE THE 15 YEAR HORIZON."

"WATER, HUMIDITY AND ICE HAVE LONG BEEN RECOGNIZED AS THREATS TO FIBER OPTIC STRANDS AND CONDUIT."

The study declares that the starting point for their work is that these conduits are NOT DESIGNED TO BE SURROUNDED BY OR UNDER WATER!

Among the risks that are due to sea-level rise are listed as, "Potential effects include physical damage via tidal inundation and corrosion leading to signal loss."

"Second, buried conduits will become submerged, which will expose them continuously to all of the threats...and the possibility of physical damage due to exposure caused by tides and storms."

The study says that SALTWATER INCURSION is most vulnerable in coastal areas.

Also, like the repairs for electrical underground wiring, the internet underground wiring and conduits are very "challenging since they are buried and therefore much more difficult to access." This will cause, much like their sister electrical underground wiring, the need for LONGER OUTAGES AND REPAIRS!

The study suggests that, "An important next step after a risk assessment, such as ours, is developing mitigation strategies. The strategies should be designed to minimize the impact of failures in coastal areas..."

Although this study is related to communication systems, the advice of these researchers applies also to underground electrical systems on a barrier island, such as Palm Beach Island.

The study concludes, "WE BELIEVE THAT THESE RESULTS HIGHLIGHT A REAL AND PRESENT THREAT TO THE MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS OF COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS AND THAT STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN SOON TO DEVELOP PLANS TO ADDRESS THIS THREAT."

The obvious conclusion by reasonable and practical thinkers would be that, in the Town of Palm Beach, which is located on a barrier island, the ONLY ALTERNATIVE FOR SAFE AND RELIABLE POWER AND COMMUNICATIONS TRANSMISSION IS—INSTALLATION OF HARDENED POLES AND SMART SWITCH TECHNOLOGY!

FPL HAS SPENT BILLIONS ON THIS STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY AND ADVERTISES THAT HARDENED POLE TECHNOLOGY WILL WITHSTAND 145 MPH WINDS AND FLOODING! What more should any resident and/ or property owner ask for or expect?

With all of this and more going on, The Town of Palm Beach still struggles to go forward with their outdated and doomed Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!

It is as if they believe that they are in an "alternate universe" and immune to the realities of "Chronic Flooding", "Saltwater Inundation", "Sea Rise" and "King Tides" on their more than 75% severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island.

How much longer can they deny that the Town's high water table and historic flooding will touch them? How much longer can they ignore it as a threat or serious issue?

It has been confirmed by FPL that, if there are Town-wide Underground Utilities, with the threat of storm surge FPL WILL SHUT THE POWER OFF IN PALM BEACH TOWN-WIDE!

The question becomes, WHO ARE THE BENEFICIARIES WHEN IT IS "LIGHTS OUT IN PALM BEACH!"


Underground Utilities Fail In Flooded & Sea Level Rise Areas

Photo contributed

Midtown Palm Beach Flooding, AGAIN! Photo taken July, 2018

(8-29-18)

The Town of Palm Beach needs to find solutions for current and future flood and sea level rise issues.

National news is filled with reports on flooding and sea level rise supported by scientific data that demonstrates the need to confront these critical issues, especially in coastal communities.

According to Mitchell Chester, Esq., CEO of Climate Monitor Media Inc., Southeast Coastal Florida has been identified as high risk for flooding and rising sea levels.

There is a necessity for municipalities, such as the Town of Palm Beach, which are situated on flood prone barrier islands with low elevation, to step up to the plate with financial commitments and resiliency Projects to protect the safety and security of the Town and its residents.

Furthermore, to date there has been no public acknowledgment by the Mayor or Town Council of the scientific data related to sea rise and flooding or recognition of the serious situation the Town is in, as a barrier island community on the Southeast coast of Florida.

The Town's blatant negligence in addressing these critical issues and undertaking Projects that will protect the Town's residents and their properties will result in the inevitable destruction of all that makes Palm Beach so desirable.

As further proof of the Town's cavalier and defiant attitude, at the 8/15/18 Palm Beach Town Council Meeting, Mayor Coniglio said, "There are no Chicken Littles", in reference to her ever constant desire to underground utilities Town-wide and all that comes with it!

The Town of Palm Beach's Mayor, Town Council and Officials are ignoring not only the Town's historic flood issues but, more importantly, according to the Palm Beach Post 6/19/18, the scientific facts show that, within approximately 27 years, the Town will have almost 1,000 homes inundated with saltwater flooding!

NOTE, THIS IS SOONER THAN THE 30 YEARS OF ANNUAL SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS THAT THE TOWN HAS LEVIED ON ITS PROPERTY OWNERS TO PAY FOR THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT!

Also, at the Town Council Meeting, Officials and employees spent ZERO time discussing the fact that more than 75% of the Town is in the MOST SEVERE FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone!

In this regard, there was NO discussion of what these flood and sea level rise issues WILL COST, NO discussion regarding the Town's flood issues, NO discussion of King Tides and the Town's growing problems caused by King Tides, NO discussion of the rising water levels of the Intracoastal Waterway and the resulting problems and NO discussion of the sea level rise from the ocean side of the barrier island Town!

Most significantly, there was NO discussion regarding THE SCIENTIFIC DATA THAT PROVES THAT THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH'S UNDERGROUND UTILITIES WILL BE UNDERWATER prior to the final annual 30 years of payments of Special Assessments made by the Town's property owners for the Underground Utilities Project.

At the same Town Council Meeting, with all of this and more hanging over their heads, the Council decided to gamble with taxpayer dollars and approve a $60 Million GO Bond issue, in the face of the outstanding Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit bearing down on them!

The Town needs to pay off the Commercial Paper that it borrowed in its determination to start, according to former Town Council President Michael Pucillo, the "nice but not necessary" Town-wide Underground Utilities Project with A STILL UNKNOWN TOTAL COST and outstanding Lawsuits, including the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

Moreover, the Town is faced with many "necessary" Projects including the $100 million unfunded pension liability debt which the Council is committed to fund at $5.4 million a year for 15-20 years to pay it back.

Perhaps the Mayor and the Town Council and their staff should note, as stated in an article dated 7/11/18 by Mitchell Chester, "Through myopic indifference, society is making adaption to sea-level rise exponentially riskier than it needs to be."

He goes on to say, "Each day that passes, reluctant lawmakers are unnecessarily escalating the destabilizing physical and emotional effects of swelling oceans with an unprepared and risky fiscal future."

This same article states, "The victims of this careless disregard of climate change planning are homeowners, renters, entrepreneurs, corporate entities and just plain ordinary people...."

"Institutional lenders and credit agencies are not ready for the consumer and financial implications of intruding salt waters."

MOST PROPHETIC IN THE ARTICLE WAS A STATEMENT THAT REALLY SPEAKS TO THE PROBLEM WITH THE ACTIONS AND ATTITUDE OF THE PALM BEACH TOWN COUNCIL. The article says, "Delaying the inevitable duty of proper financial planning for our changing neighborhoods will needlessly harm the vitality of vulnerable communities."

In a 4/12/18 Business Insider article, Kevin Loria said, "On my last day in town, the City of Miami voted for a $400 million bond deal—at least half of which is supposed to be dedicated to protection from sea-level rise. Jim Murley, the resilience officer for Miami-Dade County, said the county is using projections to estimate just how high every structure should be and then renovating when possible."

The article describes Miami and Miami Beach, not so different from the barrier island Town of Palm Beach, as: "... flat, low-lying places surrounded by rising seas, and the ground underneath them is mostly porous limestone, which means water will eventually rise through it as well.... Water is coming for Miami from all sides."

A scientist with the South Florida Water Management District, Jayantha Obeysekera said, "THE SECOND PROBLEM FACING SOUTH FLORIDA IS A VEXING GEOLOGICAL ONE, OUR UNDERLYING GEOLOGY IS LIKE SWISS CHEESE."

"The solid ground under South Florida—Miami, Miami Beach, the Keys, and much of the rest of the (Florida) peninsula—is mostly limestone made of compressed ancient reefs that are full of tiny holes. That means salty water is rising up through the ground itself, not just in the water surrounding Florida." That describes why the barrier island Town of Palm Beach has such a high water table.

Obeysekera continued, "...the third whammy, the effect of future storms.......we can expect storms to be more intense, which could mean higher storm surges and more rainfall."

You may think that Miami and their problems do not relate to other coastal communities, barrier islands or even inland communities further north. That would be incorrect. Municipalities are involved and working towards solutions to the flooding and sea-rise issues.

The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact is a collaboration among Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties to address climate changes and other long-term issues that threaten future quality of life in South Florida. Local governments have been involved since 2012 and are working on Projects that are "proactive, responsible and informed measures." Within the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact are municipalities such as: West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Dania Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, Deerfield Beach, Hallendale Beach, Highland Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Miami Beach and more.

Also involved and supporting the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact is the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. Its members include municipalities such as: The Town of South Palm Beach, Ocean Ridge, Lake Worth, Wellington, North Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Tequesta.

Conspicuously absent from the list of municipalities that recognize their risks from flooding and sea-rise issues and are working to protect their populations, is the Town of Palm Beach!

Instead and in spite of the scientific evidence that is mounting in the National news media, the Town of Palm Beach continues on its perilous and reckless path to bury utilities in this severe Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island Town!

WHERE IS THE COMMON SENSE?

Palm Beach's Mayor and Town Council's refusal to recognize the issues of flooding and sea rise and the need to pursue NECESSARY protective Projects Town-wide must cause any reasonable investor and homeowner to wonder...

"WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH?"


Palm Beach Gambles With Taxpayer Dollars

(8-15-18)

The Town of Palm Beach is proposing to approve at its Town Council Meeting, to be held August 15, 2018, the issuance of up to $60,000,000 of General Obligation Bonds ("Bonds") for the Town-wide Underground Utility Project. The Bonds are payable first with non-Ad Valorem Special Assessments levied for the Town’s Underground Utilities Project and to the extent that these non-Ad Valorem Special Assessments are insufficient to pay the Debt Service, the Town’s Ad Valorem taxes collected on all taxable property in the Town will be used to pay the Debt Service.

These Bonds are being issued by the Town under the March 15, 2016 Bond Referendum that approved up to $90,000,000 of General Obligation Bonds to finance the cost of the Town’s Project.

Three Lawsuits/Complaints have been filed against the Town. The Town has disclosed the status of these Lawsuits/Complaints in the "Litigation" section of the draft Preliminary Official Statement (POS), a bond offering document that is distributed to all potential buyers of the GO Bonds!

The first Lawsuit, the Arthur Goldmacher v. Town of Palm Beach was filed challenging the Bond Referendum asking the Court to declare the GO Bonds approved by the voters to be illegal and void and to stop the issuance of GO Bonds under this Bond Referendum. The Town prevailed in this case.

A second Lawsuit/Complaint, Plaintiff PBT Real Estate, LLC ("PBT") filed a Complaint against the Town asking the Court to determine the Special Assessments levied by the Town on certain Property Owners were Unconstitutional, Illegal and Void. The outcome of this Complaint has not been concluded.

Most importantly, a third Lawsuit/Complaint, the Carol Kosberg, as trustee and Michael Scharf v. Town of Palm Beach, etc., et al., a Class-Action of ALL Assessed Property Owners, IS STILL OUTSTANDING. This Lawsuit, as stated in the "Litigation" section of the POS, is "seeking a declaratory judgment that the special assessment and the liens imposed are null, void and unenforceable, and that the Town refund in full any special assessments collected with interest and award attorneys’ fees. Kosberg and Scharf also seek injunctive relief to enjoin the Town from implementing the special assessment, cease and desist collection, and release and discharge all liens."

The Town has attempted on two different occasions to get this "Complaint" dismissed by a Judge. The Town has failed both times! It is significant to note, that the Town did not include this information in the "Litigation" section of the POS.

THE NEXT STEP FOR THIS COMPLAINT WILL BE A HEARING BEFORE A JUDGE IN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER FOR CERTIFICATION OF ITS CLASS-ACTION STATUS. THIS WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A TRIAL IN MID-WINTER.

The Town’s Counsel and Bond Counsel "are of the opinion that the Town has good defenses and will prevail", as stated in the "Litigation" section of the POS.

However, if the Court decides against the Town in all respects with its imposition of Special Assessments, the Court may require the Town to REFUND IN FULL, WITH INTEREST, ANY SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS COLLECTED AND AWARD ATTORNEYS’ FEES.

The Town’s Director of Finance, Jane Le Clainche, has recently stated "We have received $11,559,490 in prepaid assessments to date." In addition, several millions of dollars of Special Assessments have been collected on an annual basis on property tax bills. To date, ALL of the Special Assessments collected have been held by the Town in an Escrow Account due to the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit/Complaint.

In 2016, the Project costs were estimated to be $90 Million plus interest of $62 Million. This brings the total estimated cost to be $152 Million. In accordance with this estimated cost, the Project costs have continued to increase. Therefore, the real total cost of the Project is UNKNOWN!

Finally, if the Court rules against the Town and the Special Assessments are determined by the Court to no longer be available to the Town as a source of payment for the GO Bonds and other Project costs, then the Town will have to pay for the GO Bonds and all other Project costs with the Ad Valorem taxes levied and collected on all taxable property in the Town!

This outcome would be devastating for the Town and some of its residents, given that the Town would now have to use its Ad Valorem taxes (without limitation as to Rate or Amount) to fund a discretionary, unnecessary Town-wide Project.

How unfortunate for all the residents of Palm Beach given all the "necessary" Town Projects that have to be funded and paid for, such as the unfunded pension liability of $100 Million, the essential beach nourishment project and the unknown costs of the rising sea and flooding issues that plague the Town.

How ironic it would be for the Town to have to let go of its "black box" Special Assessment methodology and to be forced to use Ad Valorem taxes! Especially, when the initial purpose of the Special Assessment was to defray the costs from the biggest taxpayers and place it on the properties valued at $1 Million or less to pay for a frivolous unsafe, unreliable, Town-wide nightmare Project!

THE KOSBERG/SCHARF CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT HAS YET TO HAVE ITS DAY IN COURT. THE FINAL OUTCOME OF THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITY PROJECT AND ITS FUTURE HAS YET TO BE DETERMINED BY A COURT DECISION.


Keep The Power On In Palm Beach

Photo contributed

White water in Palm Beach? This was ONLY a rain event! 

Photo taken on 7/22/18 at Peruvian Ave. in Town.

(8-1-18)

Like it or not, coastal municipalities, such as the Town of Palm Beach, which is located on a barrier island, are under siege from the dangers of sea rise and flooding!

As a result of the Town’s refusal to adopt Projects to protect the Town from these hazards, the Town Leaders are laying the groundwork to destroy the Town of Palm Beach by needlessly burying the electrical and utility wires on this flood prone barrier island!

The defiance by Palm Beach Officials to accept these inevitable facts that the Town faces is jeopardizing the safety of its property owners and the future of the Town’s economy.

If this Town-wide Project continues to be constructed, the property values in Palm Beach will decrease as will the property tax revenues of the Town. This will inevitably impact the very core of the quality of life which sustains the Town of Palm Beach.

This situation is occurring simultaneously with the financial crisis that has been presented by the Town’s unfunded pension liabilities deficit.

At the July 10, 2018 Town Council Meeting, Pension Fund Board Commissioner, Edward Carter, discussed the unfunded $100 million liability debt. Mr. Carter said, "ULTIMATELY, THE TAXPAYERS ARE GOING TO PAY THIS $100 MILLION"!

In tandem with this, Palm Beach’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project has an Unknown Cost that is only based on "ENGINEERING ESTIMATES"! Meanwhile, continuous underground construction accidents are endangering the safety of residents as well as their property investments.

ULTIMATELY, THE TAXPAYERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY THIS UNCONFIRMED COST OF $150- 250 MILLION OR MORE PROJECT, THROUGH SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS!

THIS IS IN ADDITION TO THE PAYMENT BY THE TAXPAYERS OF THE TOWN’S UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY DEFICIT!

Where is the wisdom of putting people at greater risk while, at the same time, devaluing their properties and real estate investments for a needless Underground Project? And, WHY? Reduced property values WILL negatively and dramatically impact the overall economy of Palm Beach!

The Miami Herald Article, "Risk from Rising Seas Could Sink South Florida’s Economy Before The Water Even Arrives", published on 7/20/18 and carried on WLRN, South Florida’s NPR and PBS TV Station, was focused on Miami but the flooding and sea rise issues are eerily and ironically quite similar to the barrier island Town of Palm Beach.

As stated in the article, "It’s not just the property damage; it’s also the uncertainty that comes with living in an area that’s prone to storm surge from hurricanes and increasingly vulnerable to sea-level rise."

The article also states, "Scientists say South Florida rising seas mean more flooding during high tides and a greater threat from storm surge. The increasing flood threat means more risk for property owners, investors and insurers."

It is becoming evident that Florida has a growing public image problem in real estate and insurance circles, as being "ground zero for sea-level rise".

Most significantly, the article points out that these facts have "...real financial implications"!

South Florida’s economy is predominantly driven by real estate values. The Town of Palm Beach is, historically, a prime example.

Photos and chronicles by many Palm Beach residents, over the years, show that the barrier island Town suffers from flood issues caused by rainstorms, rain driven hurricanes, high tides and the rising Intracoastal Waterway. The Town’s eroded shoreline makes Palm Beach most vulnerable and at high risk.

As stated in the 7/20/18 article, "You mostly hear today about the water—the water in the streets, when is it coming, how long do we have, said Wayne Pathman, chair of Miami’s sea-level rise committee. But what’s already happening is risky and the economics are already changing." This scenario clearly applies to Palm Beach, also.

The article further points out that "credit ratings agencies and insurers will influence investors’ decisions." PALM BEACH CANNOT HIDE THEIR FLOODING ISSUES MUCH LONGER.

At this point in time, because of FLOOD INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS, Palm Beach will only "raise buildings above the flood plain". For Palm Beach to construct a Project that is so vulnerable to flooding, by burying electrical wiring, they are defying scientific warnings.

Most significantly, as a result of the choice by Palm Beach Officials to do this unnecessary Town-wide Project, they will NOT QUALIFY as a community that is taking preventive measures to abate their flood and rising seas issues. They are NOT one of the communities the article describes as, "…the agencies that guide investors and banks do take into account efforts communities make to reduce the risk from sea-level rise."

Jennifer Jurado, Broward County’s chief resilience officer, has advice for Palm Beach when she said, "WE’RE GOING TO NEED TO BE ABLE TO RESPOND WITH PROJECTS." (Jurado) was among leaders ….who said, "ADAPTION EFFORTS ARE CRITICAL TO THE FUTURE OF SOUTH FLORIDA’S ECONOMY."

Palm Beach’s Town Council should take note of a significant point made, that "Credit ratings agencies have said communities that don’t take steps for adaption will suffer credit downgrades."

Within another, Miami Herald article, WLRN, dated July 16, 2018, "Are Underground Power Lines Really The Solution To Power Outages In South Florida?" there were some significant quotes that Palm Beach Officials need to recognize and accept.

The article states, "Buried power lines are kept inside PVC pipes (or conduits) that are made to be watertight (water resistant). BUT IF WATER MANAGES TO ENTER THE (SPLICES ON THE) PIPES, THEN THE OUTAGES CAN TAKE LONGER TO REMEDY BECAUSE ACCESSING BURIED INFRASTRUCTURE TAKES MORE TIME. ‘The U.S. Department of Energy ESTIMATES REPAIRING WIDESPREAD BELOW-GROUND FAILURES, CAN TAKE SEVERAL WEEKS.’ "

There has been discussions about experiments with sub-aqueous power lines, but FPL’s Bryan Olnick admits "That means most neighborhoods that have underground power lines, OR ARE BEGINNING THE RETROFITTING PROCESS, AREN’T EQUIPPED WITH THE UNDERWATER TECHNOLOGY."

The 7/16/18 article states, that the study by the Union of Concerned Scientists "found that sea-level rise aggravates storm surge…"

Co-author of the study, Julie McNamara, an energy analyst, says "When you build these pieces of infrastructure, you have to be thinking about not just the reality of potential exposure today, but over the course of a lifetime."

The article also quotes the U.S. Department of Energy, "SALTWATER INTRUSION- SALTWATER SEEPING INTO GROUNDWATER- ASSOCIATED WITH SEA-LEVEL RISE CAN ALSO DAMAGE UNDERGROUND WIRES."

These articles have a prophetic warning that applies to Palm Beach’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project perfectly.

They declare, "… South Florida can’t just bury its vulnerabilities."

NEITHER CAN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!

Undergrounding Utilities is NOT the answer in THIS UNDERWATER SITUATION!

NOTE TO PALM BEACH TOWN COUNCIL:

Before the Undergrounding Project is underwater, go with the rest of the country, in both coastal and inland areas by making use of the State-of-the-Art Hardened Pole Smart Switch Technology.

Secure Palm Beach’s property values with the safest, most reliable power and sustain the Town’s economy with Projects that protect the Town and its property owners.

 


Financial Turmoil In Palm Beach

(7-18-18)

Palm Beach property owners need to be reminded that in late August or September they will receive their preliminary notice of property taxes for 2019 from the Property Appraiser. It will show a line item under "Non-Ad Valorem Assessments" for "Palm Beach Underground Utilities".

It is important to be aware that the Special Assessment monies WILL BE PLACED DIRECTLY INTO AN ESCROW ACCOUNT, just like last year's Special Assessment payments. THIS IS BECAUSE THE KOSBERG/SCHARF CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT IS PROCEEDING TO TRIAL.

At Palm Beach's Town Council Meeting on July 10, 2018, Kirk Blouin, Palm Beach Town Manager, said in regards to the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, "WE ARE REALLY RUNNING OUT OF MONEY FOR THE PROJECT!"

The final cost of the Undergrounding Project IS AN UNKNOWN ESTIMATE which only adds to the Town's FINANCIAL BLACK HOLE. In follow-up to Mr. Blouin, Council member Lew Crampton verified this fact when he said that, the cost for undergrounding is an "... engineering estimate so far".

The Town's plan was to use Special Assessment monies to finance this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. However, if the Town were to decide to use the Special Assessment monies that are now being held in Escrow, the Town will risk FINANCIAL CHAOS should the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit prevail!

The Town of Palm Beach has, thus far, FAILED TWICE IN ITS EFFORTS TO DISMISS THE KOSBERG/SCHARF CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT. This strong lawsuit continues to move forward as it is headed to trial!

The Referendum of 2016 stated that Special Assessments would be used to finance the Underground Utilities Project. While the lawsuit is forcing the Town to put the Special Assessment monies into Escrow the Town has been forced to take out "Commercial Paper."

The use of Commercial Paper was confirmed at the July 10, 2018 Town Council Meeting by Council member, Bobbie Lindsay, "For the sake of the public, we have $21 million in Commercial Paper." The Town has documented that the "Commercial Paper" will be paid down through non ad valorem revenues.

It is now evident that there are at least two major financial difficulties facing the Town! The second major financial difficulty for the Town is the $100 million debt of "unfunded liabilities" from the Retirement Pension Fund.

Retirement Fund Pension Board Trustee, Edward Carter spoke to the Town Council at the July 10, 2018 Town Council Meeting and said regarding the Town's $100 million unfunded pension liabilities debt, "WE ARE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION." Trustee Carter spoke of "Going back and looking at 2017 actuaries...there was an actuarial loss of $1.5 million last year and no headway last year." Plus, in addition Mr. Carter said, "...forecast is we are not going to make any progress this year."

Regarding the Town's $100 million pension debt, Mr. Carter also told the Council that they "...are now spending a disproportionate amount of the budget on your pension plan, because of the unfunded liability." The Town, due to its debt, Carter informed, is putting "$14 million" a year additionally into the Town's budget. That additional budget money has to come from somewhere! According to Mr. Carter, that means that "17.5% of the new Town budget you are going to approve in September." Trustee Carter explained to the Town Council that the pension contribution should be "less than 2% of the budget."

Apparently unfunded liabilities are still a major financial problem for the Town. It appears that Retirement Board Trustee Carter was reminding the Town Council of this financial jeopardy that they are in and a long way from getting out from under. In addition, Trustee Carter told the Council that the Retirement fund Pension has a "...negative return on our bond portfolio."

This information plus the undergrounding quagmire does not build financial confidence for residents and investors in the Town of Palm Beach.

In terms of the cost overruns, constant frequent and hazardous accidents, such as the undergrounding construction blunders that have caused "gas leaks" in the north end, hitting and breaking of sewer pipes underground in the north end, even causing sink holes, the cutting of phone lines by the contractors, cutting of the power off, the fact that in the north end residents have claimed they have been trapped in their houses, can't get to their homes and have had major loss of their quality of life just during the construction stage. This is quite telling and a just a small sample of the future loss of quality of life that Town property owners and residents will encounter.

This is a preamble to the loss of property values once this is all realized by real estate buyers. Plus, common sense tells you the cost of the Town-wide Project is bound to sky rocket!

With all of the financial problems the Town is facing there is also NO mention at Council Meetings whatsoever of the serious hazards and the realities they are facing like sea rise, historic flooding, the current flooding from "King Tides", flooding from rainstorms, the fact that the Town is more than 75% within FEMA's most severe AE, Special Flood Hazard Zone.

A perfect example of the Town's upside down and harmful attitude can be seen in what was said at the July 10, 2018 Town Council Meeting by Council member, Lew Crampton and the conversation between him and the Town staff.

Mr. Crampton from what he said appears not to take the issues seriously, such as the undergrounding of utilities Town-wide on a flood-prone barrier island! This was demonstrated by the fact that he thinks it should be paralleled to a night at camp. Council member Crampton said at the July 10, 2018 Council Meeting, "Is there any fire or smoke emerging from the campfire around all of which you are gathered?"

This Council member apparently chooses to ignore the fact that the Town is undergrounding utilities, Town-wide, on a low elevation high water table flood-prone Barrier Island! It is no laughing matter! Nor is it to be compared to sitting around a campfire!

Mr. Crampton, is a south-end resident. At that same meeting, he said "When are we expected to complete Phase 1 South?" He then added that he wanted it completed, the poles removed and energized by February 2019. He was told by Town Engineer Strayer that "We will not be taking the (utility) poles down until we finish...." She said that this would not take place by February 2019.

Later, in Mr. Crampton's discussion with Town Manager Kirk Blouin, it was revealed that AT&T has not been cooperating with the Town. In fact, AT&T has not cooperated with the Town for at least a year now! Mr. Blouin said, at the same Council Meeting, that, with regard to AT&T, which is essential in order to complete the Project, "... THE NEGOTIATION WITH AT&T IS PRETTY MUCH NON-EXISTENT AT THIS POINT. IT WAS HARD TO GET THEM (AT&T) TO SHOW UP FOR A MEETING. AND THEN THE MEETING WAS NON PRODUCTIVE WHATSOEVER."

Sadly, south-end resident and Councilman Crampton took this opportunity at the Council Meeting to misuse his position and attempt to intimidate the residents of the south-end by stating, "I think we have a couple of lawsuits that may still be in play, which have been filed by south-enders. So, folks down there in that neighborhood should probably consider the realities of the situation, when we are talking about how it's moving forward. Because, it is going to be done by February or March or so of next year."

Really? How can a Council member think that inaccurate intimidation is the manner in which an elected official should conduct themselves?

In addition, Mr. Crampton brought up, "Those Vista Switches that we've talked about..... (Vista Switchgear utility boxes). Are they located in low-lying areas?"

It is apparent that Mr. Crampton refused to acknowledge the scientific fact that THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH IS ONE HUGE FEMA SEVERE SPECIAL HAZARD ZONE, LOW-LYING, HIGH WATER TABLE, FLOOD-PRONE BARRIER ISLAND!

The response by Town Manager Blouin is rather telling. He said, "The Switches, although they are waterproof.... More for space requirements...Vista boxes are a lot smaller. They also are a lot more expensive....." Therefore, in answer to Crampton's question about how many are in the south end, out of the current number of some 80 utility boxes, all located within the FEMA AE severe Special Flood Hazard Zone, the Town is installing only 3 in the south-end!

Most significantly, was Town Manager's Kirk Blouin's reply to Council member Crampton. BLOUIN SAID, "BECAUSE IF THERE IS FLOODING in the area, regardless of whether the switches are waterproof, or not, THE SYSTEM IS SHUT DOWN!"

More proof of the financial quagmire the Town of Palm Beach has put themselves in is when Mr. Crampton, at this same Council Meeting, said he wants to use the entire amount that the Town will receive from the one cent sales tax to make up for the Town-wide underground Project "shortfall". He requested that not only the "First $2.5 million, I mean the second $2.5 million to go to undergrounding."

NOT ONE COUNCIL MEMBER APPEARED INTERESTED IN INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS TO PROTECT AGAINST SEA-RISE AND FLOODING ISSUES THAT ALREADY EXIST!

IS MOLD AND MORE MOLD TO BE THE TRADEMARK OF THE UNDERGROUNDING PROJECT IN PALM BEACH?


Flooding & Sea Rise Impact  Real Estate Values

Photo submitted by Maddy Greenberg

The waters of Lake Worth invade Bradley Park and Palm Beach 

during a high tide!

(July 4, 2018) 

The National News Media are now giving their attention to the current flooding issues and sea rise that are taking place along the east coast and, particularly, in the State of Florida.

Major studies are confirming that serious economic impacts that result from frequent flooding, high tides and rising seas can not be further ignored or pushed aside.

States and municipal governments of coastal communities are now being forced to recognize their vulnerability to the risks and impacts that come with the dangers of flooding.

Florida’s coastal barrier island communities with their low elevation have been identified and their municipal governments are and should be required to direct their efforts and resources toward the protection of their population.

Bloomberg News, June 18, 2018, refers to the governments in vulnerable areas, "Communities in Florida, New Jersey, New York were ranked most vulnerable to rising sea levels."

It has become increasingly evident that the Town of Palm Beach is noteworthy for its lack of recognition and for its cover-up of the serious flooding issues facing Palm Beach and the dire forecast for more flooding in the future.

Maybe, one reason that Town Officials are trying to keep their vulnerability to flooding and the rising seas undercover, is what has been reported in Bloomberg News, in a June 19, 2018 article:   "SEA LEVEL RISE is an extremely serious issue with direct IMPLICATIONS FOR MUNICIPAL CREDIT RATINGS, WHICH WILL IN TURN AFFECT THE VALUE OF THEIR BONDS," said Andrew Teras, vice president at Breckenridge Capital in commentary on the report. (Referring to the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists).

In the Bloomberg article, Teras further stated, "Also if the tax base contracts substantially, that will affect the ability of municipalities to pay back bond investors."

The article states that Spanger-Siegfried, said "…data underscore the need for governments to begin planning now: It’ll be more expensive and they’ll have a harder time raising that money in the municipal-bond market because they won’t be seen as credit worthy as their neighbor..."

How does the Town of Palm Beach justify their pursuit of a frivolous, unnecessary, "aesthetic" Undergrounding Utilities Project Town-wide?

HOW CAN THE PALM BEACH TOWN COUNCIL RATIONALIZE THAT THE BURIAL OF POWER LINES WILL BE SAFE AND RELIABLE IN A FLOOD PRONE BARRIER ISLAND WITH LOW ELEVATION AND A HIGH WATER TABLE THAT IS INHABITED BY 9,500 RESIDENTS?

How much more time should be granted to a defiant municipality to pursue this hazardous, dangerous and reckless Project?

The answer is there is NO time for further delay!

The choice to confront flooding issues and sea rise is NOW!

With all the facts that are published nationwide, there is no way that Town Leaders can claim they don’t know the dangers and the unnecessary risks that they are taking.

The question is what is the REAL purpose behind this Town-wide Project?

"Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods and Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (2018)" from the Union of Concerned Scientists says, "The implications for coastal residents, communities and the economy are profound."

In addition, they say "And hundreds of US COASTAL COMMUNITIES WILL SOON FACE CHRONIC DISRUPTIVE FLOODING THAT DIRECTLY AFFECTS PEOPLE’S HOMES, LIVES, AND PROPERTIES."

Interestingly enough, the report also says, "And most homeowners, communities, and investors are NOT AWARE OF THE FINANCIAL LOSSES THEY MAY SOON FACE."

That may be true of some investors in Palm Beach. However, TOWN LEADERS HAVE TO BE AWARE by now of the serious situation that is confronting them. Town Leaders MUST BE AWARE OF THE JEOPARDY that a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is creating for their most severe Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island Town.

In an article in the 6/19/18 Palm Beach Post, "PBC homebuyers must think about the sea", says the Union of Concerned Scientists report, that Nicole Hernandez Hammer, biologist and consultant, stated "If this report gets the attention of any state, it should be Florida."

This article cites: "Homes At Risk By 2045" Within the municipalities of Jupiter, Juno Beach, North Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Ocean Ridge, Delray Beach and Boca Raton, it is the barrier island Town of Palm Beach that will have the MOST HOMES FLOODED! "720 homes worth $1.09 billion" will be "chronically inundated" with flooding in Palm Beach according to the article.

The fact is that Palm Beach’s Special Assessment for the Underground Utilities Project, the methodology of which is based on safety and reliability, will go on for 30 years. According to the report, in about 27 years at least 720 homes in this small barrier island Town may likely be inundated with saltwater. That is MAJOR VULNERABILITY!

Yet, the Town of Palm Beach is defying the odds and continuing to move forward with their Underground Utilities Project. They are gambling with other people’s money, with lives and with the safety of their residents by refusing to deal with the dangers that Underground Utilities will bring on a Town-wide basis.

Where is the common sense in that?

Also, just think about this! 1- WHEN THE POWER IS OUT, HOW WILL THE PUMPS OPERATE WITHOUT ELECTRICITY? 2- A/C is contingent on power. 3- If there is no electricity, the onset of mold is inevitable in the hot, humid environment of Florida!

As has been discussed in Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, the Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post, in various Reports and Studies, flooding and the rising seas will negatively impact property values especially in coastal communities and those on a barrier island like Palm Beach!

If the Town undergrounds utilities Town-wide, ALL PROPERTIES WILL BE IMPACTED, because the utility boxes and the conduits carrying electricity and communications are almost all within the most severe Special Flood Hazard Zone. The conduits will be submerged and the utility boxes, which are not elevated, will get flooded.

It is a FACT that undergrounding utilities Town-wide on the barrier island of Palm Beach is NEITHER SAFE NOR RELIABLE and, therefore, the MOST RECKLESS ENDEAVOR ANY TOWN GOVERNMENT COULD TAKE!

For safety, reliability of power, quality of life and property values, THIS TOWN-WIDE PROJECT MUST BE HALTED!

THE KOSBERG/SCHARF CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT IS THE NECESSARY RECOURSE TO PROTECT PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS WHO LIVE ON A BARRIER ISLAND FROM A TOWN-WIDE PROJECT THAT IS UNSAFE AND UNRELIABLE!

Saltwater Intrusion And Power Outages

Photo by Palm Beach resident, Charles Pepper, October, 2017

Pictured above is Lake Trial, Palm Beach, UNDERWATER!

Is more proof needed to show FLOODING IN PALM BEACH?

(6-20-18)

Flooding issues have increased for coastal communities! Those municipalities that have lower elevation, a high water table and are on a barrier island are extremely vulnerable. So, what can be done about it?

For one thing, residents and taxpayers in a community such as this do not expect, NOR SHOULD THEY ACCEPT, Town Leaders putting their "heads in the sand"!

Town Leaders who ignore this emerging problem of flooding are shirking their responsibility to protect their residents and the private and public properties within the boundaries of their municipality. Does an "aesthetically pleasing" Town-wide Project surpass a community's vulnerability and safety?

In this type of municipality, it is the responsibility of the Town's Leaders to concentrate on the protection of their community from the onslaught of rising seas, sunny day flooding, rainstorm floods, storm surge and all the destruction that accompanies it.

Unfortunately, in the Town of Palm Beach, the Officials act as if by concealing the serious nature of their flood issues, they can go on as if no damage and/ or possible catastrophic impact will ever come to pass. NOT SO!

In Sunday's June 10, 2018 Palm Beach Post, "Invading Sea", which is the collaboration of four South Florida media organizations---the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media---had an article written by the editorial board of the Sun Sentinel, "Ways to protect our drinking water from rising seas."

Most significant is that, in the online Palm Beach Post, the photo at the top was of the sunny day flooding, or "King Tide" in the Town of Palm Beach on the Flagler Museum property bordering the Intracoastal and facing West Palm Beach!

The decorative bench and the adjacent grounds are completely flooded in the photo accompanying the article.

How ironic, that this is the second article in the Palm Beach Post that is discussing flooding issues and rising seas. Both articles include, visually, the serious nature of the flood issues

This same article, which is discussing a major problem in Florida and the need to protect our drinking water from rising seas and saltwater intrusion, should alert residents with regard to saltwater intrusion and also its resulting corrosion of buried electrical utilities and ground level high voltage utility boxes on a barrier island!

We know for a FACT THAT SALTWATER IS HIGHLY CORROSIVE, CAN MAKE ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT FAIL AND BE COMBUSTIBLE!

As this collaborative article says, "Now in some of South Florida's most vulnerable spots, sea-level rise is expected to push that underground line of saltwater inland at twice the rate it would otherwise move, according to U.S. Geological Survey projections."

The article also states, "IT'S A SALTWATER INVASION THAT IS EXPECTED TO GET WORSE."

More pointedly, which applies not only to drinking water, but to electrical underground utilities, the article appropriately warns, "THE SALT WATER IS COMING AND WE MUST DO MORE TO MEET THE THREAT GROWING BENEATH US." In the case of the barrier island of Palm Beach, THE SALTWATER IS ALREADY HERE!

So, why would a flood-prone barrier island Town, which is more than 75% in the FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone, has a low-elevation, high water table and is currently experiencing flooding from rain, sunny day "King Tide" and the rising Intracoastal Waterway, plus threatened storm surge, be undergrounding its electrical utilities? It actually defies reason and common sense!

For more verification of the high risk factor and inappropriate decisions that are being made by Palm Beach's Town Council, let's go back to the sustainability study that was published, November 1, 2016. It is the "Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas: Impacts, Adaptation Measures, and Implementation Challenges", by Beatriz Azevedo de Almeida and Ali Mostafavi.

The study is quite clear that "Low-lying coastal areas are particularly susceptible to storm surge and flooding from torrential precipitation and the effects on communities can be catastrophic."

Most significantly, the study states, "The rising sea levels threaten energy infrastructure systems and pose a risk to the energy assets located in coastal regions."

Among the main impacts on energy infrastructure is "coastal flooding" and "saltwater intrusion in energy utility assets." The study also says, as an example that, "identified that the coast of Florida is vulnerable ..." and that "Saltwater intrusion in energy utility assets ... with saltwater at high water table areas."

The study further states that the "implementation of adaptation measures requires.....Protection of energy facilities is achieved by "hardening" the structures..." It goes on to say that, "Hardening energy infrastructure across the supply chain is part of the energy industry's responsibilities to ensure that the existing infrastructures will be able to deliver energy to its customers under extreme weather events."

This Resilience study for coastal areas refers to Entergy Corporation and their study which "IDENTIFIED A NUMBER OF POTENTIAL HARDENING MEASURES, SUCH AS REPLACING WOODEN TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION POLES WITH STEEL OR CONCRETE ..."

The other significant fact that the Sustainability and Resilience study stated was that "A good method to reduce the exposure of energy infrastructure to flood damage is elevating..." Later, the study explained, "the elevation solution includes raising energy infrastructure equipment and assets that are vulnerable to the inundation of sea level and erosion by saltwater intrusion ..."

THESE FACTS LEAD TO THE CONCLUSION THAT, IN VULNERABLE COASTAL AREAS, THERE SHOULD BE NO BURIED WIRES OR CONDUITS WITH CONNECTIONS OR GROUND LEVEL UTILITY BOXES THAT ARE INSTALLED IN THE AE FEMA SPECIAL FLOOD HAZARD ZONE!

It appears that Town of Palm Beach Officials are living in some kind of alternate universe where the facts that are reported in major news media and in studies around the globe are completely eliminated.

This false delusion of lack of vulnerability and reality, have repeatedly been demonstrated at both Town Council and their advisory board Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) meetings. For example, at both meetings this month, Town Officials make NO mention of the obvious serious flooding and inevitable saltwater intrusion issue, which, in the case of a Town-wide Project of this nature, will speed up the corrosion and failures in the power system that will inevitably take place.

It is a FACT that in the Town of Palm Beach the electrical underground conduits will NOT be waterproof! This is due to the thousands of connection points, or "taps" from the main line conduit with wires that veer off to the single family homes, condo/co-ops and assorted other buildings in the Town, if this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is ever completed.

It is essential that Town Leaders in Palm Beach concentrate on protecting their island and work towards essential Projects that will keep their residents safe and maintain their property values.

Palm Beach needs to learn a valuable lesson from Miami, as described in the April 21-22, 2018, Wall Street Journal, which revealed "Concerns over rising sea levels and floods are beginning to reshape one of the largest U.S. housing markets..."

THE RISING SEA, FLOODING AND BURIED UTILITIES IS THE PERFECT FORMULA TO CREATE POWER OUTAGES AND LOWER PROPERTY VALUES!

A TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IN THE MOST SEVERE FLOOD ZONE TOWN OF PALM BEACH IS JUST PLAIN IRRESPONSIBLE!


FPL Rep Says Undergrounding 

"Does NOT Work If It Is Underwater"!

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

Another rain storm on April 17, 2016 that caused flooding in the Town of Palm Beach. Photo taken South of Southern Blvd., along S. Ocean Blvd. The road and the properties on either side were flooded. Clearly Palm Beach suffers from Flood issues!

(6-6-18)

It is abundantly clear that the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit forced the Town to withhold the Special Assessment payments for the Underground Utilities Project in an Escrow account pending the outcome of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit. The Special Assessments are being assessed annually for 30 years to each Palm Beach property owner to fund the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

The Class-Action Lawsuit's success will legally demonstrate that this obviously inappropriate Project is neither safe nor reliable for the Town of Palm Beach and MUST be halted NOW!

FPL/NextEra Energy representative, Christopher Gregorio, Senior Manager for Risk Management, was the principal speaker at the Town sponsored Hurricane Seminar that was held at the South Fire Station on South Ocean Boulevard on May 24, 2018. This FPL representative in his statements, made it perfectly clear why the barrier island Town of Palm Beach is the last place that should install Town-wide Underground Utilities.

The small audience present at this seminar heard FPL's representative say three most significant statements.

• FPL is worried about storm surge on a barrier island, such as the Town of Palm Beach.

• FPL is aware that on sunny days there has been flooding in Palm Beach.

• FPL's REPRESENTATIVE STUNNED THE AUDIENCE WHEN HE SAID THAT UNDERGROUND UTILITIES "DO NOT WORK IF THE THEY ARE UNDERWATER"!

The Town Council of Palm Beach is inviting disaster! It is as if Palm Beach Town Officials are so busy in their master "cover up" that they refuse to face the harsh reality of what this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project would do to the Town if it were to come to fruition. Town residents and property owners would be endangered and put irrevocably at risk.

Palm Beach Town and its residents need protection. They should not be subjected to a mass catastrophe which would have been caused by Town Leaders refusal to admit their errors and halt this dangerous Project.

Just 9 months prior to the unanimous vote by the Town Council to underground utilities, Town-wide, at their October, 14, 2014 Town Council Meeting, a news article entitled, "Heavy rains lead to flood of calls to safety officials- High water traps several people in their cars", appeared in the January 10, 2014, Palm Beach Daily News.

A copy of this article was recently sent to me by a resident.

This 2014 article discussed the intense flooding, in the Town of Palm Beach, which was caused by just a rainstorm. It is important to note that this was NOT the first rainstorm that caused tremendous flooding throughout the Town of Palm Beach.

The article describes how many people were caught in this flood event. For example, it revealed how one couple, "... Suddenly were in water up to the door of their Lexus SUV."

The article further described an eyewitness account saying, "It was a bloody lake between the church (Bethesda-by-the-Sea) and the north side of The Breakers." It also mentioned that while one couple, "... was lucky enough not to get stranded, dozens of others were not so fortunate after a historic amount of rain fell ... including more that 13 inches in at least one island location."

"Police and fire-rescue officials were inundated with 'flood' calls, dozens of which involved disabled vehicles." According to a police spokesman, "Officers broke out the department's armored Humvee to give rides to more than 50 residents."

"The flooding 'limited our ability to respond to several areas in our standard police patrol vehicles. Due to the large number of stranded motorists, we utilized our....SUVs and mechanics pickup truck, Public Safety Director Kirk Blouin wrote in an email. 'We also deployed our Humvee to access the areas where there was deep, standing water'."

Another Town fire-rescue spokesman said, "THERE WERE SEVERAL PEOPLE TRAPPED IN THEIR CARS IN HIGH WATER."

It is most significant to realize that the former Town Council President Michael Pucillo and his wife, Deborah, "... were two of the many people requiring rescue because of the flooding."

Former Town Council President Pucillo said "they got stuck in 30 inches of water on Barton Avenue."

In this January 2014 flood article, the Town, which is now categorized as more than 75% in the most severe FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone, was described as "That area of town, plus much of the North End and parts of Midtown, received 'historical flooding, according to the National Weather Service. The weather station at the Par 3 Golf Course recorded 10.9 inches of rain overnight. Some sections of Worth Avenue were under 3 to 4 feet of water."

According to this article the Town's fire-rescue "... received reports of 'lots of property damage.' 'Lots of garages were flooded, mainly the low lying garages...."

The then Town Manager Elwell said that the pumps "got more rain than our system can handle"

The property owner who sent me this article, wrote, "I lost a car outside of Michael McCarty's. People were stranded...walking in water...People who attended a function nearby were walking in water in formal attire trying to get rides."

As a long time resident of the Town, I recall that, prior to 2009, coming out of a Town meeting after a heavy rainstorm, I was trapped for hours in the car that I had at that time. It took me hours driving into each flooded street and backing out again, before I found a way to slowly drive through high water on the roads towards my home.

I have spoken to many long time residents who described their experiences of being caught in Town where the flooding meant, "walking home in hip high water", and having their homes flooded.

How can elected officials justify their vote to bury electrical utilities?

The responsibility for voting for this dangerous Project remains with every Town Council Member from October 2014 to the present.

Each and every Town Council Member who continues to ignore, minimize or rationalize why the installation of this hazardous Project should be continued is to be held responsible.

THE FACT THAT THE TOWN'S LEADERS ARE IGNORING THE FACTS AND DENYING REALITY IS NOT ONLY RECKLESS, BUT OUTRAGEOUSLY DANGEROUS FOR EVERY TOWN RESIDENT!

Palm Beach Town Officials are to be held accountable if they continue on this path to underground utilities Town-wide. The sea-level rise, which is already causing flood events, the increasing Intracoastal Waterway levels, the sunny day flooding is here! Flooding from strong rainstorms will only increase, Town-wide underground utilities will create safety hazards and power outages! Property values will plummet!

The Town Council of Palm Beach is putting the safety of their residents and properties at risk.

As described in the Wall Street Journal, it is time to recognize the flooding catastrophes that have occurred in Miami. The government of Palm Beach is in denial of their serious flood issues as they continue a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that will negatively impact property values.

The time is now for the Town to construct essential Projects that will protect the residents and their properties from flooding and continued sea-level rise.

The Town of Palm Beach, an historic world renowned place to live, has NO choice. IT MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACTS OR ACCEPT FUTURE CHAOS!

Is it prudent for a barrier island Town, such as Palm Beach, to gamble on flooding and sea-level rise?

The Rising Sea vs. Underground Utilities

(5-23-18)

As individuals, we need to bring ourselves into a newer level of thinking and conversation when it comes to rising tides. They are the obvious consequences of sea-level rise and are occurring in communities such as we have never seen before.

Knowing what the facts are and putting oneself into the framework of what can be done about it, is where we all need to place ourselves, regardless of where we live in Florida.

Undergrounding is fine to install in inland communities in Florida that are NOT low-lying areas.

However, no coastal municipality should be wasting precious time, resources or assessing property owners for Undergrounding Utilities Projects, such as is taking place in the Town of Palm Beach. Palm Beach Officials are putting their heads underground in the sand on a barrier island with a Project that is doomed to fail. Instead, Palm Beach should be undertaking Projects that PROTECT AGAINST THE ONSLAUGHT OF FLOODING which will only get worse with sea-level rise.

PALM BEACH TOWN OFFICIALS ARE STUCK IN THE PAST! They need to move on to what, inevitably, they will confront since Palm Beach is a low lying flood prone barrier island Town. This is the time to put their resources and energies into figuring out how to deal with the undeniable catastrophic impacts that sea-level rise will bring.

A barrier island Town like Palm Beach is a perfect example of a vulnerable municipality. More than 75% of the Town is situated in the most severe FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone. It has the Intracoastal Waterway rising to the level of its western shoreline and, at times, washing over it! It has increasing impacts from "King Tides." The Town is at a LOW elevation with a HIGH water table. It has flooding from heavy rainstorms and is vulnerable to storm surge because of its "critically eroded" beaches. This places all upland properties in danger from storm surge!

In the Sunday, May 20, 2018 Palm Beach Post, "The Invading Sea" is a collaboration of the editorial boards of The Palm Beach Post, The South Florida Sun Sentinel and The Miami Herald. The article is the fourth in a series of "Our Views Sea Level Rise." It is entitled, "South Florida, our sea-level rise problem is urgent." This particular article in the series makes important statements that we all need to take heed of, such as "Well, wake up, folks, South Florida is ground zero for sea-level rise and unless we address the insidious rise of water around us, much of our region, our culture and our legacy is going to disappear."

"We’re already seeing things we’ve never seen before: sunny-day flooding, sea water bubbling up from stormwater drains, flood-control gates that can’t open because water on the coastal side is higher than the inland side, saltwater intrusion in more drinking water wells, the Intracoastal Waterway spilling over seawalls, drainage canals lapping at sidewalks, gravity-driven stormwater systems hampered by the rising water table and people unable to leave their homes during autumn’s king tides."

IRONICALLY, THE PHOTO IN SUNDAY’S ARTICLE WAS TAKEN IN OCTOBER, 2015 AND SHOWS THE FLOODING IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH! It reveals a flooded Lake Trail where, as described in the caption, "….water rushed in from the Intracoastal."

In the Wall Street Journal article, dated April 21-22, 2018, "Rising Seas Reshape Miami Home Market", by Laura Kusisto and Arian Campo-Floren, it could not be stated more clearly what municipalities like the barrier island Town of Palm Beach will confront. "Concerns over rising sea levels and floods are beginning to reshape one of the largest U.S. Housing Markets, with properties closer to sea level trading at discounts to those at higher elevations."

"Research published Friday in the Journal of Environmental Letters shows single-family homes in Miami-Dade County are rising in value MORE SLOWLY near sea level than at higher elevations as buyers weigh the possibilities of more frequent minor flooding in the short term and the challenge of reselling properties that decades from now could be submerged!"

"Jesse Keenan, a real-estate professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and author of the paper, said he was initially surprised to see ordinary homeowners already seeming to factor sea-level rise into their calculations."

"Low-elevation properties are becoming Miami’s laggards, he said. To see them really separate is pretty shocking, because you can infer that this is a pricing signal from climate change."

"Mr. Keenan said, king tide flooding is making people more wary of living in those areas."

In a scientific study, published 11/1/16, "Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas: Impacts, Adaption Measures and Implementation Challenges" by B. Azevedo de Almeida and A. Mostafavi, the study states that sea-level rise is vulnerable in areas of "low elevation… coastal areas which are at elevated risk of storm surges and flooding… as a result of sea-level rise. These phenomena could have catastrophic impacts on coastal communities and result in the destruction of coastal infrastructure…".

No municipality should ignore the impacts that are coming to Florida which, according to the study, is extremely susceptible to the adverse impacts of sea level rise. The Town of Palm Beach is particularly vulnerable since it is surrounded on three sides by water, Lake Worth Inlet to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. The Town’s historic flooding events have long been documented, (although the Town has recently, somehow, deleted most evidence). However, it is still recalled by many Town residents.

According to the study, "Low-lying coastal areas are particularly susceptible to storm surge and flooding from torrential precipitation…." "As sea level rises and water tables approach the land surface, the frequency and severity of flooding… will increase. Hence, it no longer takes a strong storm to cause coastal flooding."

As you may recall from my previous article, a long time homeowner in Palm Beach’s north-end Phipps Estates said that, "With the water table being so high here and the brackish water often just one foot below the ground, we are asking for trouble!" This property owner was referring to the ill fated initiative of Palm Beach’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. Clearly, Palm Beach doesn’t have to wait years for a sea-level rise to endanger their properties and property values!

In this regard, the scientific study said "The rise of sea-level is likely to cause saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater systems affecting … underground utilities that could be vulnerable to damage when in contact with the saltwater." It also stated that, "Rising sea levels will increase the degradation of energy infrastructure materials with corrosion by saltwater intrusion due to inundation…" and "… energy equipment is NOT designed to withstand saltwater exposure." "In particular… the exposure of underground utilities and assets may affect pipelines and equipment."

The Study clearly states that "protection of energy facilities is achieved by ‘hardening’ the structures, either by building new enhanced infrastructures or upgrading the existing infrastructures. Hardening energy infrastructure across the supply chain is part of the energy industry’s responsibilities to ensure that the existing infrastructures will be able to deliver energy (power) to its customers under extreme weather events."

The "Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas" study also states that "A 100-year storm surge, which is expected to begin occurring every 3-20 years could cost billions of dollars in direct damages…"

We already know from experts that UNDERGROUND CONDUIT CABLES ARE NOT WATERPROOF AND ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO SALTWATER INTRUSION at the various splices or "taps" that connect to homes and buildings. In the Town of Palm Beach, high voltage electrical utility boxes are being installed below the flood plain and most will be located within the FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone which is a major portion of the Town. In fact, the Town recently modified their own ordinances to deliberately place high voltage electrical equipment and conduits right within the "King Tide" areas off Lake Trail.

To underground utilities, Town-wide, in the FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone, the Town is wasting resources, money and time on a Project that will bring nothing but destructive problems which could have been avoided had Town Leaders concentrated instead on PROTECTING their world renowned barrier island Town. The prospect of rising tides, flooding and sea-level rise are all inevitable!

Instead of causing Town residents to waste their money on 30 years of Special Assessment payments for an Undergrounding Project, Palm Beach Town Officials need to wake-up and protect their Town from Flooding, Mold and the danger of having NO power from undergrounded utilities!

Sea rise studies now confirm that coastal communities will be subject to the increase of flooding and king tides. Power will best be provided and/or maintained through overhead Hardened Pole technology as recommended in the study!

Property values in coastal communities that have Underground Utilities will be adversely affected as has already been demonstrated in Miami-Dade Counties!

Palm Beach Officials need to wake-up now, not when water is in the living room of single family homes!

Stop the farce of undergrounding before it is submerged in saltwater!

THE PROACTIVE APPROACH TO SEA-LEVEL RISE IS THE STRONG KOSBERG/SCHARF CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT!

 


Mold vs Common Sense

(5-9-18)

For safety reasons, utility companies, like FPL in Florida, will turn the power off when coastal municipalities underground their utilities Town-wide. On a FEMA severe AE Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island the hazards of possible storm surges or flooding is just too great. It would be irresponsible for FPL or any utility company to do anything less.

It is both realistic and inevitable that a storm, or hurricane will strike the Town of Palm Beach with flooding and a storm surge, sooner rather than later! This is in addition to the rising sea-level, fair weather "King Tides", the elevated Intracoastal Waterway, the Town's low elevation and high water table.

MOLD IS INSIDIOUS! Mold damage alone will create uninhabitable residences as the power will be out for extended periods of time, until they are finally able to begin digging, find the problems and fix the underground power lines and equipment.

The following is an excerpt from a homeowner in the Town who wrote to me after Hurricane Irma. This Palm Beach homeowner wrote, "I have been highly skeptical of the wisdom of undergrounding. We live in the Phipps Estates and during hurricanes we get our power back later than the rest of the island. After one storm we were out for thirteen days and got black mold in the house."

The homeowner continued with, "Everything I have read points to overhead looking ugly but being faster to repair once there is a problem. With the water table being so high here and the brackish water often just one foot below the ground, we are asking for trouble!" Phipps Estates is a development of homes in the Town that are undergrounded.

Clearly that homeowner had experienced mold inundation as a result of a longer power outage. Her conclusion that overhead utilities are more reliable and safer due to the faster repair time is in accord with the experts! The reality that she came to the conclusion that aesthetics are not worth life, safety and the onset of mold, is just plain common sense!

What this homeowner probably did not know at that time, because the Town had never informed her, is that their home and property is enveloped in the FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone! That being said, the entire area is extremely damp from the surrounding environment.

There is a big difference between area to area overhead power outages that can be repaired quickly and A DELIBERATE, TOWN-WIDE POWER SHUT DOWN due to Undergrounding!

To illustrate, there are overhead utilities along South Ocean Boulevard in the southern end of the Town of Palm Beach. During and after Hurricane Mathew the entire strip had power! During and after Hurricane Irma, there was a section of the overhead utilities on South Ocean Boulevard that controls hundreds of apartments in condo/co-ops that NEVER HAD A POWER OUTAGE! Those addresses were, 2600, 2660, 2760, 2770, 2773, and 2730.

It is important to realize, that with overhead utilities, hundreds of apartments had power, phone service, internet and T.V., THE ENTIRE TIME DURING AND AFTER HURRICANE IRMA! However, if the Town is undergrounded, that would not be possible, because FPL will turn the power off for safety reasons and liability.

ONCE THE POWER IS TURNED OFF, ESPECIALLY IF THERE IS FLOODING AND WATER ISSUES, THE RESULTING CONSEQUENCES WILL INVARIABLY BE THE ONSET AND INVASION OF MOLD!

Besides damage to your home and depreciation of one's property value, Mold can cause a variety of health issues!

As pointed out to me by several property owners in the Town, after my last article, although for safety reasons FPL must turn the power off, they went on to say that Liability for Mold and health issues would be ENTIRELY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!

They have a valid point. As one individual said, the decision to underground utilities was NOT made by the Town's property owners, but by a succession of Town Councils, nor were those same property owners ever informed by the Town Leaders of the numerous negative, lack of safety, lack of reliability consequences, if there were a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

They said that the Town of Palm Beach should be held liable and should be sued by the affected property owners if FPL turns the power off and it results in MOLD IN THEIR HOMES!

Izak Teller, local property owner and licensed electrical engineer with over 30 years of experience in municipal engineering with underground utilities in both New York City and Connecticut, gave further insight into this serious issue if the Town is ever able to underground utilities Town-wide.

Engineer Teller said that sometimes after the flooding and the underground equipment dries out, "You can and will get a power failure in many areas of the Town some 8 to 9 months later! Saltwater gets into the equipment and the conduits and you really have problems." Problems like Mold!

He described how when Super Storm Sandy hit, in 2012, Izak and his wife, who also have homes in Connecticut and New York City, experienced the failures of underground utilities. Mr. Teller insisted that the couple go to Connecticut, instead of staying in New York City, even though both had power outages. WHY? His home in Connecticut has overhead utilities and NYC has underground utilities! He told me the power in the overhead system in Connecticut was restored in little more than three days, while in the NYC, TOOK OVER 3 WEEKS!

Mr. Teller's point, "Palm Beach will NOT get the same priority as NYC to get the equipment and the specially trained underground contractors. It will be much more difficult to get technicians that are underground specialists in the Town of Palm Beach if it is undergrounded, Town-wide."

Engineer Teller said that "FPL or outside contractors are accustomed to repairs for overhead lines." He added that it is "More expensive to get qualified technicians to do the repairs and replacements on underground utilities. FURTHERMORE, THE COST OF THE REPAIRS AND TECHNICIANS WILL BE PASSED ON TO THE FPL CUSTOMERS OF PALM BEACH."

He also said, "With overhead utilities you can see the problems. With overhead power you can patch the problem and quickly restore the power. With underground, you can't see the problems, takes much, much longer. There will be tremendous delays in restoring the power and you can't patch the problem like you can with an overhead system and get the power back up. With underground utilities it takes a long time to detect the problems and when you do, things must be replaced."

Engineer Teller finished by saying that, "IN THE HOT, HUMID ENVIRONMENT OF SOUTH EAST FLORIDA, EVEN MORE SO IN THIS PARTICULAR BARRIER ISLAND TOWN, THE ONSET OF MOLD WITH EXTENDED POWER OUTAGES AND DELAYS, WHEN FPL TURNS THE POWER OFF TOWN-WIDE IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH MOLD IS INEVITABLE AND EXTREMELY DAMAGING."

Apparently, nothing seems to faze the Palm Beach Town Council when it comes to accepting the undeniable negative consequences and impacts of their undergrounding Project decisions and ongoing drive to underground utilities Town-wide.

IF PALM BEACH UNDERGROUNDS THEIR UTILITIES TOWN-WIDE, RESIDENTS WILL BE COMPLETELY VULNERABLE TO UNSAFE AND UNRELIABLE CONDITIONS!

Now that residents are aware of the reality that FPL will turn the power OFF before the flooding, THE MOLD THAT WILL FOLLOW, THE DAMAGE, THE DISRUPTION CAUSED BY LOCATING THE PROBLEMS UNDERGROUND, THE TIME LOST, THE COSTS THEY WILL CONFRONT, PROPERTY VALUES DROPPING AND MUCH MORE!

The inevitable question that even those few that continue to support this Project should now be asking themselves is, "Is aesthetics worth it?" Or, is it now time to do something to stop the Project?

PROPERTY OWNERS OF PALM BEACH ARE AT A CROSSROAD!!

They have been left no other choice by a Town Council that is unwilling to do right by their constituents and halt this UNRELIABLE and UNSAFE TOWN-WIDE PROJECT other than to support the strong and compelling Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit!


FEMA Flood Hazard Zone Ignored By Palm Beach

(4-25-18)

What does it really mean to have your home and property in the FEMA, AE, Special Flood Hazard Zone? First of all, by definition, the AE Zone is at HIGHEST RISK FOR FLOODING under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Now let’s take the low-elevation, high water table, historic flood- prone Barrier Island, the Town of Palm Beach. At a May 2017 Planning & Zoning (P&Z) meeting, the Town’s Flood Plain Administrator acknowledged that "…75% of the Town is in the ‘Special Flood Hazard Area’ "! Navigating through the October 2017 FEMA Flood Zone Maps, one quickly realizes that the Town staff’s 75% estimate was grossly an understatement! Anyone can go onto FEMA’s interactive Flood Maps and zoom in on their community, streets, homes and properties. What can easily be verified is that the Town of Palm Beach is MORE THAN 75% IN THE MOST SEVERE, SPECIAL FLOOD HAZARD ZONE AE!

Once Palm Beach has Town-wide Underground Utilities, FPL WILL SHUT THE POWER OFF WHEN THERE IS THE THREAT OF A STORM SURGE OR FLOODING! In anticipation of a hurricane, an "Evacuation" order takes place due that very same possibility.

Do you realize that FPL has never turned the power off Town-wide with the overhead poles and it certainly would not with Hardened Poles and Smart Switches! In Palm Beach’s predicament of being largely situated in the most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area with the power turned off, THE MOLD WILL BECOME PREVALENT IN HOMES!

The significance of this is both the ground level electrical utility boxes and the conduits and wiring to be installed underground are clearly placing residents and their properties in jeopardy!

Why is the Town concealing these facts?

You can go onto the interactive FEMA Flood Maps site yourself. Scroll and click throughout the Town of Palm Beach. You will discover the frightening reality that the Town Leaders are keeping quiet, which is how dangerous underground utilities really are in this most severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone Town! The site is: http://maps.co.palm-beach.fl.us/cwgis/?app=floodzones

Let’s first review the ground level electrical utility boxes, like Switch boxes, Capacitors and Transformers. They are ALL high-voltage electrical equipment that have thin sheets of metal between the electricity and the salt air and saltwater corrosive environment. They contain posted warnings to any individual that might get too close!

Remember, FPL and every expert have declared that "water and electricity don’t mix".

It is standard practice to install the utility boxes at a MINIMUM OF 2 FEET ABOVE THE FLOOD PLAIN, BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF FLOOD IMPACTS. The FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone, in which the Town of Palm Beach is enveloped, has the MAXIMUM HEIGHT in those areas of 5.5-6 ft FEMA North American Vertical Datum (NAVD). That would mean that the platforms would have to raise the utility boxes a MINIMUM of 2-3 feet to be ABOVE the Flood Plain in those areas.

In this regard, in the southern most part of the Town, in Phase 1 of the Project, the Town and their contractor have hurriedly installed Switch boxes, Capacitors and a few transformers in some of the areas. What is so bizarre is that there is no uniformity of boxes. They are all different and either the platforms are on ground level or, perhaps, 1 foot above. ALL the utility boxes, with none of them hooked up, have been installed well BELOW the Flood Plain. That indicates that ALL of the utility boxes are within the AE FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone!

Izak Teller, licensed electrical and municipal engineer with 30 years of experience in New York City and Connecticut, resides on South Ocean Boulevard. Mr. Teller explained, that in his opinion, "The reason you see so many different types of Switch boxes etc is because the Town didn’t want to wait and instead took what they could get." He further said that if, under the worst case scenario, the boxes are not removed and the Project is completed, the boxes being BELOW the Flood Plain will get flooded and saltwater corrosion will result. He also said that, these electrical boxes quickly will degrade and break down. Due to the lack of uniformity, the parts will be more difficult to find. The repair time will therefore take longer! That becomes a big expense and Mr. Teller insists that all expenses will be passed on to Palm Beach FPL customers!

Engineer Teller’s expert opinion is that, "The conduits are in many cases BELOW the water table. At times the cables and wires will be underwater. These cables are different from the submarine cables that go under the Intracoastal Waterway or ocean and are continuous with no ‘taps’. The conduits being installed in the underground Project have many ‘taps’ as they are connecting to various homes, etc. The cables get cracked and break when they hit things underground during the installation process. Those cracks and breaks speed up the corrosion."

Engineer Teller says that for the Town to tell residents that once the Project is finished the cost will be on FPL is just not true! He said that FPL will have a "pass through to the FPL customers." "When the utility boxes need repairs from being installed under the Flood Plain and when the underground wires corrode, there will be repair problems! FPL WILL RAISE THE UTILITY RATES."

I have spoken with FPL and they acknowledged that each Municipality pays different electric rates. Do the math: 1 + 1 = electric utility rate hikes.

The real question here is: Why is the Town Council so intent on this Project with all its dangers and drawbacks that are undeniably evident? Why would Town Leaders place their property owners and residents in this impossible situation?

In fact, to that end, the Town Council at their 4/11/18 Town Council Developmental Meeting unanimously passed an amended Town Code of Ordinances #4-2018 and slipped in a very problematic and unsafe section, #34-1698. What makes this modified Ordinance so hazardous is what the "Essential Services West of Lake Trail" will allow! Essential Services consists of public utilities such as water, electrical distribution systems, telephone and gas. These are contained in Switch boxes, transformers and underground wiring.

Our readers may recall the many photos of Lake Trail walking path and surrounding properties that become badly flooded from the rising waterway to its west. Even during sunny days and "King Tide", the inundation of flood waters from the Intracoastal Waterway have been high enough to come up to the seat level on the park benches.

The Town Leaders have decided to place the high voltage electrical utility boxes right along those flood FEMA AE Zone areas. In fact, they just passed an amended Town ordinance, #4-2018, to make that possible. Frightening? Yes!

Remember, FPL is not doing this Project. FPL is not paying for the Project, nor has FPL said, at any time, that it is safe to underground in flood areas, such as the FEMA AE Special Flood Hazard Zone. All the responsibility and desire is upon the Town Councils and their dangerous decision making.

To summarize, IF THE TOWN IS NOT PREVENTED FROM DOING THIS TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT, PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS WILL not only be placed in peril, have their electricity shut off during a storm when a storm surge or threat of inundation of flood waters is forecast, but also, they will have to pay for a senseless out of control Project! Inequitable non-tax deductible Special Assessments will likely increase as the assessments for this Project are scheduled to go on for 30 years, which is longer than the undergrounding life span! In addition, accidents that endanger life and safety will inevitably result from saltwater corrosion. Finally, repairs for all these problems will most certainly be covered through an increase in Town residents’ utility rates!

As this dangerous and unacceptable situation proceeds out of control, property owners have no other choice but to put all their confidence and support in the compelling and strong Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit!


Utilities Supervisor Says "(The Town Council) They Have No Common Sense!"

(4-11-18)

More confirmation that specifically demonstrates that on a FEMA Severe Flood Hazard Zone Barrier Island Town, like Palm Beach, a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project causes LESS RELIABLE and LESS SAFE utility service than the power distributed through State mandated Hardened Pole Smart Switch Technology.

I am pleased to add two more utility expert opinions to the myriad of others that have no vested interest. Also, these two utility experts, a subcontractor and a repair technician, are working for FPL.

The facts that come from these utility workers, who have many years of experience, further demonstrate that when conversion to underground utilities is being pursued by a municipality on a barrier island in a flood hazard area, it is a major hazardous and financial blunder!

On AIA, along the coast of southeast Florida, as one drives through the southernmost area of the Town of Palm Beach, into the Towns of South Palm Beach, Manalapan, and further southward, one would have to notice that ALL of the coastal communities along A1A have been upgraded to Hardened Utility Poles, with Smart Switch Technology.

It is significant to note that, in the Town of Gulfstream, which had originally decided to do a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, they did not underground their utilities on AIA. Instead, on A1A, Gulfstream has Hardened Poles with Smart Switch Technology!

The other day, I saw utility trucks, with various types of equipment, including a horizontal Hardened Pole on one of the trucks, lined up along A1A. The utility technicians were working on the Hardened Poles and overhead lines.

When it was possible, I spoke with the utilities technician Supervisor for the subcontractor that has been hired by FPL to install this "State-of-the-Art" Technology and found what we discussed to be most relevant and significant.

The Supervisor was very forthcoming, but understandably, wanted his name to be kept confidential. This utilities expert said he has over 20 years in the field and he knew all about overhead and underground utilities and their installation. The following is a summary of what we discussed.

As an expert in the field, he said that, "The Hardened Poles and Smart Switches are a MUST on the main arteries, especially in the coastal areas!" This utilities expert said "IT IS A MUST FOR STREETS LIKE A1A."

The Utilities Supervisor said that they have been installing many Hardened Poles along AIA. He said that, in the location where I was standing with him, that they had Hardened Poles already but that they were now being upgraded with new Smart Switches on A1A in Manalapan and in the Town of South Palm Beach.

However, this work ended at the southern boundary of the Town of Palm Beach.

It is mindboggling that the Town of Palm Beach plans to remove all Hardened Poles and replace them with a LESS RELIABLE UNDERGROUND SYSTEM!

He said that it was not his task to go into the Town of Palm Beach. I told him that the Town is proceeding to do a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. Also, that the decision to do this Project had been made by the Palm Beach Town Council in a vote by five former Council Members and was being continued by the present Town Council.

I told him that their plan is to underground utilities Town-wide and remove ALL poles, including those that were already Hardened, and overhead wires.

The response of this experienced Utilities Supervisor veteran was, "IF THEY ARE DOING THAT, THEY (THE TOWN COUNCIL) HAVE NO COMMON SENSE!"

He explained that the Hardened Poles have proven to be very successful, especially in coastal areas that are flood prone. They withstand 145 mph winds and that FPL is even upgrading with Smart Switches. He said that the Smart Switch fixes an outage automatically because it identifies the problem area and limits the outage to that location only. The outage will then be relayed to FPL and will quickly be repaired!

This experienced Utilities Supervisor went on to say that in coastal areas, the saltwater and salt air are both extremely corrosive. He said the salt corrosion is bad for ground-level equipment and worse for underground equipment!

This utilities expert also described how the underground conduits have "taps" (cuts in the wires) at each place where there is a connection. Those "taps" he said, "especially those in the underground conduits, within an underground utilities system, are extremely vulnerable to the high water table, storm surge and the saltwater!"

He described to me how "the saltwater and mist in the air corrodes everything and, unlike overhead equipment that can be seen and upgraded, with underground equipment, it is extremely difficult to find the problem and fix it."

He said that now there is special equipment to locate the underground problems, but, it is necessary to first wait for the area to dry out. This special equipment "is quite limited in locating where the problem lies". Therefore, FPL or their subcontractor must "dig, dig and dig huge holes and that always causes delays, problems, striking other things underground and can also damage things above the ground too".

This Utilities Supervisor said that HARDENED POLES AND EQUIPMENT ARE MUCH MORE RELIABLE IN HIS EXPERIENCE IN COASTAL, STORM SURGE, HIGH WATER TABLE AREAS THAN ANY UNDERGROUND UTILITIES SYSTEM WILL EVER BE!

He said that in these flood prone areas, like the Town of Palm Beach, if it were undergrounded Town-wide and there is a possibility of a storm surge/ hurricane, FPL will turn the power off! This is because, "It would be dangerous (to leave the power on), because water and electricity do not mix. It is way too unsafe to take a chance and leave the power on in a storm in case of storm surge and flooding."

This Utilities Supervisor also said that, "Underground Utilities in a FEMA AE, Severe Flood Hazard Zone, (which the Town of Palm Beach is more than 75% in that category), is the last place they will restore the power!" He repeated to me that "Repairs are difficult to find, even with the new machinery. They must dig up the equipment and keep digging to find the problem".

He said that through small tariffs on our monthly bills, all FPL customers pay for Hardening, State-wide! Also he said that FPL is "reimbursed by the government for the Hardening".

In addition, I was contacted by a north end Palm Beach homeowner with more information from a soon to be retiring FPL worker, who was doing repairs behind her home.

He told this homeowner that if the Town of Palm Beach undergrounds its utilities, all the utility boxes will be rusted out within ten years. He said that FPL will not be so quick to replace the rusting utility boxes! Also, he explained to this homeowner that the salt in the air will corrode things rather quickly.

It is bizarre that successive Town Councils continue to ignore the hazards and accidents that keep occurring and will continue with this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

IT IS A FACT THAT THIS TOWN-WIDE PROJECT IS IN A FINANCIAL QUAGMIRE THAT IS CHAOTIC AND OUT OF CONTROL!

Palm Beach property owners and residents are now left with one alternative, the Legal System!

The Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is the BEST and ONLY recourse to SUCCESSFULLY counter this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!


Turmoil & Defiance In Palm Beach

(3-28-18)

When a municipality that is run by elected officials makes a mistake or error in their judgment, those decisions can impact thousands of residents for many years. In turn, that makes the responsibility of those Town leaders and the continuation of such poor judgment, lack of due diligence and refusal to attempt to rectify these errors so much more egregious!

The error in judgment began in the Town of Palm Beach when their Town Councils, over the years were driven by the desire to do a "nice but not necessary" Town-wide Project to bury utility wires on a FEMA Severe Flood Hazard Zone low elevation, high water table barrier island.

What is so heinous is that in the Town of Palm Beach, Town Officials are exacerbating this irresponsible decision. They are refusing to face the negative impacts that their Town residents will face with a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. They are continuing to allow hazardous incidents that are repeatedly taking place during Phase 1 of their construction in both the north and south ends of Town. This Project, which consists of Eight Phases of construction, is placing the safety of residents and their properties in peril with gas line leaks, water main hits, sewer pipe strikes, loss of electric service, internet and television from underground construction.

On top of this, the Town Officials decided to put the onus on NOT the utility companies, NOT the Town, but ON THE PROPERTY OWNERS for this frivolous Project with annual, inequitable, Special Assessments to finance it, based on non- existent benefits.

Regardless of who sits on the Town Council, they defiantly refuse to protect the quality of life of their residents and the investments of every taxpayer by making financially reckless decisions regarding this Project that will put the Town and their taxpayers at risk!

At the March 20, 2018 Town Council Meeting the following demonstrates why there is no other choice but the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

The planned financing for the Town’s Project, are the annual Special Assessments which are being held in an Escrow Account by the Town due to the pending Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit. The Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge ruled in January, 2018, and the Town was denied a motion to dismiss the Kosberg/Scharf Lawsuit. The ruling demonstrates that the lawsuit has legal merit and the Plaintiffs proceed to Discovery and Trial. The Special Assessments being held in the Escrow Account will be refunded with interest to the property owners when the Kosberg/Scharf Lawsuit is successful!

The Town has issued short-term Commercial Paper to tide them over. However, they will run out of this money according to the Town’s finance director, Jane Struder, "We are getting close to our limit of what we can finance with the Commercial Paper. But, we should be able to finance Phase 2, AS LONG AS IT COMES WITHIN BUDGET."

What is unsaid is the Town has pledged that Commercial Paper will be repaid primarily by the Town’s Non-ad Valorem Revenues, including parking tickets, dock fees, etc. Interestingly enough, those same Non-ad Valorem Revenues are paying for the additional pension deficit shortfall, an annual $5.4 million dollar payment by the Town for some 15-30 years to mitigate the pension deficit,

At the March 20, 2018 Town Council Meeting, the following quotes say it all:

• Council member, Araskog: "We started with a $90 million budget, which was approved, now we have the $98.6 million, which we now are going to have to go up more… When on February 7, 2017 a lot more was revealed to show another $30 million over……" Araskog went on to say: "WE RAISE THE BUDGET, THEN WE SAY WE ARE ON BUDGET"!

• Town Manager Blouin: "… $4.7 million (for ATT and Comcast) is not in the budget."

• Blouin: "We are going to bring it (budget) down from its current cost of $105 million (budget includes $6.1 million)."

• Strayer: After Town Manager said that the additional cost was $4.7 million, Strayer said that the cost of service conduit between ATT and Comcast is "$6.1 million"!

• Council member, Crampton: regarding the negotiations with ATT fiber for the houses. "Each time going through Phases is a new ATT number."

• Underground Project Manager Stern: "Each phase requires (negotiating) with ATT & Comcast, absolutely."

Following this the Town Council turned around and unanimously passed Resolution #35-2018, which made a commitment by the Town to bury the conduits now.

The Council voted to do this even though they still are in negotiation with ATT and really have no idea what the costs will be for Phase 1 and Phase 2. Also, they do not know if they are going over budget once again, or, how they will pay it back.

• Lindsay: "Even though we have not settled with ATT. We’ve got to do it!"

• Blouin: "…IF WE DON’T DO IT NOW, WE POTENTIALLY WILL HAVE TO STOP THE PROJECT!"

• Mayor Coniglio, "Rather than get into a discussion of what cost will look like, we should leave it up to the staff."

• Araskog: "Quite a bit more money is being added. Not just ATT, but quite a bit of money is being added." (To the total cost of the Project).

• Crampton: "Are we on time and on budget?"

• Stern: "We do need to increase the budget."

• Crampton to Struder: "Are you comfortable although we don’t have a final price for Phases 1 and 2? That we should go forward with Phase 4? Even though this is part of Phase 2, we don’t have a cost for Phase 2?"

• Struder: "IT DEPENDS HOW FAR YOU WANT TO GO WITH THE PROJECT."

Yet, the Town Council unanimously voted to pass Resolution #34-2018, approving a purchase order for Kimley-Horne to design Phase 4!

• Crampton to underground Town engineer Strayer: "Do we have a construction figure yet for Phase 2?"

• Strayer: "We have an opinion of cost."

According to Strayer, these increases to the budget would be offset by an estimated $3 million to $6 million in credits from FPL that were recently approved by the Florida Public Service Commission. THE TOWN IS RECEIVING THESE CREDITS BECAUSE IT IS SAVING FPL MONEY! The Town is saving FPL the cost of "Hardening" a portion of the Town’s overhead electric lines. This FPL cost has never been stated definitively! How do we know $3 million to $6 million in credits from FPL is appropriate? Especially if the true cost to FPL of "Hardening" a portion of our overhead electric lines really costs far more than $3 million to $6 million!

Both Mayor Coniglio and Council member Lindsay said that they want to speed things up and combine the Phases. This is not challenged by any other Council members, even though they have no idea what the costs are and how they are going to pay them back and with what and whose monies.

• Araskog: "…On the Lake Worth section… it is actually $525,586. Why was that not in the original budget? Why is it considered ‘other’ or ‘outside’ the budget?"

• Araskog: Regarding the unstable underground budget numbers, "It was $120 million…. Then there was a meeting and Tom (Bradford) told us it was at $120 million and then some of the things were moved into Public Works ….. YOU KNOW WE ARE NOT BEING TRANSPARENT…. We are having to do the paving, when it comes to some of the streets…. So, IT WASN’T REALLY IN THE BUDGET FOR PUBLIC WORKS. Then we got rid of the Vista Switch Gear, which was originally in there, because it was over budget. At least that is what they presented to us."

• Strayer: " … The $120 million was never presented and not a realistic number."

The Master Plan that Strayer said was developed to provide a detailed cost estimate, according to the Town’s own Peer Review, said, "As it stands now, the presentation of this project’s $98,600,000 cost results in a false sense of security about the amount that will be needed to complete this project." The Peer Review also said that the "Process is complicated by lack of electrical details, schematic drawings"… and that it "Requires system inventory."

• The Peer Review, principal engineer Hanson, explained to the Town Council at their 12/12/17 Town Council Meeting that the Town’s Master Plan was nothing more than a design and that the Town has "NO ACTION DOCUMENT." He also explained to the Council that the Town should have developed such a plan prior to their starting the Project in the first place.

Instead of allowing FPL to upgrade with hardened pole smart technology the Town Council discusses the monies and ignores the continuous hazardous accidents and incidents taking place due to their Undergrounding Project.

Don’t forget the Town will turn over all the Undergrounding Assets, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars that the taxpayers of Palm Beach have paid for, to FPL GRATIS!

Palm Beach’s Town leaders are clearly placing the Town’s finances, the taxpayers and the Town itself into CHAOS!


BREAKING NEWS: 

Hardened Pole Technology More Reliable Than Undergrounded Utilities!

(3-14-18)

It is now confirmed! HARDENED POLE SMART TECHNOLOGY IS MORE RELIABLE AND SAFER THAN UNDERGROUNDED UTILITIES ON THE FLOOD-PRONE, LOW ELEVATION BARRIER ISLAND OF PALM BEACH THAT HAS ALSO BEEN CLASSIFIED BY FEMA TO BE IN THE SEVERE FLOOD HAZARD ZONE.

This was revealed by retired FPL Utilities Engineer, Alan Boaz, who granted me an interview! Mr. Boaz, who is currently the Senior Utilities Coordinator for the Florida based WGI Engineering Firm, is also the author of the online article, "Why Aren’t More Utilities Going Underground?" dated 11/14/17. I was fortunate that Mr. Boaz granted me an interview and was most generous with his time!

Alan Boaz retired from FPL two years ago. His expertise is with overhead and underground design and "Dealing with overhead conversion and the complications of doing it." Mr. Boaz has extensive experience and knowledge related to the design and construction coordination of utilities facilities in the power distribution field.

While speaking with Utilities Engineer Boaz about his knowledge of why conversion to underground utilities in flood-prone areas is so ill-advised, Mr. Boaz brought up that the Town of Palm Beach’s Project is an example of a conversion Project that he said has already begun.

With Alan Boaz’s vast expertise in the Utilities Engineering field and having read his article about the negative impacts of undergrounding utilities, I asked Mr. Boaz the following question:

"Since 75% or more of the Town of Palm Beach is in the FEMA Severe Flood Hazard Zone AE, with historical flood issues and is on a low elevation barrier island subject to climate change and sea-level rise, with a high water table that has existing gas, water and sewage lines as well as internet and telephone, my question to you is, with your experience and knowledge, would Hardened Pole Smart Technology or Underground Utilities be the more reliable and the safest utilities power for the Town of Palm Beach?"

Sub-Surface Utilities Engineer, Alan Boaz responded without hesitation, "My personal opinion is HARDENED LINES ARE MORE RELIABLE THAN UNDERGROUND UTILITIES ON PALM BEACH ISLAND!"

Mr. Boaz agreed that his opinion is based on his experience and knowledge. I then asked for confirmation of his stunning revelation by saying, "Are you saying that Hardened Poles and Smart Technology would be MORE reliable and safer in the Town of Palm Beach than converting to underground utilities?"

Mr. Boaz’s response, "Yes, absolutely!"

It should be noted that Utilities Engineer Alan Boaz is not being paid by the Town of Palm Beach or anyone else for his statements to me in this interview. He has nothing to gain from any of the facts in his statements that are derived from his years of experience in the field. Former FPL utilities engineer Boaz is merely using his many years in utilities engineering, his education and knowledge to declare the truth.

Now let’s delve into the content of Mr. Boaz’s article along with what he stated during my interview with him. These facts demonstrate that Palm Beach and their Town-wide conversion Project to bury their utilities should never have begun in the first place! It MUST BE HALTED by whatever means possible!

Utilities Engineer Boaz wrote in his article and also stated to me that FPL, which he says, "is an overhead utility company" has "spent over $3 billion upgrading its network with Hardened Pole and ‘intelligent devices’ known as Smart Switch Technology". Mr. Boaz told me that FPL CEO, Eric Silagy has stated many times FPL’s success in all the hurricanes with the Hardened Pole Technology.

Alan Boaz, in his article, states that 75% of the damage caused to overhead poles and wires are from vegetation. He also states, "But alternatives, such as proper vegetation management practices…." are necessary.

Last year when I had interviewed coastal municipalities from Highland Beach to Juno Beach, I found that only the Town of Palm Beach was so poorly maintained with overgrown and neglected vegetation management practices! This negligence by the Town is the cause of the majority of the power incidents, especially in the north-end and also in midtown. Instead of Palm Beach being proactive in vegetation management, the Town has allowed things to deteriorate to the dangerous level that they are in currently for many parts of the Town. It is most significant that during and after Irma, a portion of the south-end, whose vegetation is visibly better maintained, NEVER LOST POWER, INTERNET OR PHONE SERVICE!

A chart illustration in retired FPL Engineer Boaz’s article shows many more "CONS" for "below ground" and none for "above ground" utilities. The below ground utilities’ CONS are: "SHORTER LIFESPAN, ACCIDENTAL DAMAGE, VULNERABILITY TO FLOODS, REPAIRS CAN BE COSTLY, TAKES LONGER TO REPAIR, DIFFICULT TO LOCATE FAULTS, TAKES 60% LONGER TO FIX."

To summarize the critical facts that Alan Boaz included in his interview and in his article, "Why Aren’t More Utilities Going Underground?"

• "Shorter lifespan for cables that are underground"

• "One of the main problems is locating faults."

• "Accidental damage"

• "Underground Utilities take almost 60% longer to fix."

• "Saltwater intrusion causes corrosion and damages the conduits and wires."

• "…Explosions in Switch Boxes and other Utility Boxes. These can absolutely happen, depending on flooding, lightning, animals and there are many variables that cause explosions."

• "Burying power lines in areas cluttered with internet, cable and phone lines can quickly get expensive and complicated. The situation is made worse when there are already other lines underground for water, sewer and gas."

Clearly, any Town-wide Underground Utilities conversion Project in the Town of Palm Beach is a disaster waiting to happen. THERE ARE NO BENEFITS FOR PROPERTY OWNERS!

It needs to be HALTED, in whatever way it can as soon as possible!

The best chance these residents have is the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit, which is moving forward in the discovery stage towards trial.

Don’t believe that all is lost just because the Town is rushing to prove that they can keep the Project going by using the Town’s Emergency Reserve Funds and a Bank Loan! The Bank Loan can not get them very far because Palm Beach is using non-ad valorem revenues to pay it back, not the planned Special Assessments that are in an "Escrow Account".

This Project despite the rush to do construction is not a "fait accompli!"

Remember, what happened at Mecca Farms with Palm Beach County and Scripps! The County started that Project and spent approximately $100 million even though a lawsuit was challenging them. That Project also appeared to be a "fait accompli", but the Court forced the County to dismantle the Project!

This is just one example of a governmental entity moving forward during litigation, thinking they will get the Project done and it will be too late for the litigation to stop the Project.

The same is true with Palm Beach and their mad drive to make it appear that they are unstoppable. IT IS JUST NOT SO!!

 


Shell Games And Deception

(2-28-18)

WHAT IS DRIVING THIS TOWN COUNCIL TO CONTINUE THIS TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT? I have been asked this question so many times by an incredible number of Town residents and I, myself, wonder. It appears that Palm Beach Town Council’s wire-crossed actions with their unsustainable Town-wide Project, is an enigma to many.

The tactics and methods that they use demonstrate a Town government run adrift and a Town Council that has either self-serving interests or totally skewed priorities.

A clear example is when, a few months ago, Council President Richard Kleid at a Town Council Meeting, attempted to persuade condo/co-ops to grant utility easements, on their private properties, in lieu of having utility ground level boxes installed on the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) right-of-way (ROW) along South Ocean Blvd. This ROW is the land that runs in front of the condos. Condos were told by the Town Council, staff and consultants that if they granted a utility easement for the equipment, the Town would then landscape and screen the above ground equipment. The statements told to Condo Administrators were that otherwise, those same utility boxes would be installed right in front of their condo properties on the ROW, without shrubbery to disguise them.

Clearly this was deception because at the February 13, 2018 Town Council Meeting, Resolution #17-2018 says the Town of Palm Beach is responsible for landscaping and screening the Switch cabinets and Transformers for the Utility Undergrounding Project that are to be potentially located within the FDOT right-of-way in the south-end segment of Phase 1 in the Town of Palm Beach. The back-up memorandum states: "Therefore, any new landscaping within the right-of-way must be maintained by the Town of Palm Beach." The funding and fiscal impact "for the maintenance of the hardscape and landscaping under this agreement will be contained within future Public Works annual operating budget."

This is a perfect example of a Town Council playing shell games with undergrounding budget items and using duplicitous tactics in order to gain utility easements. Resolution #17-208 was passed unanimously.

The discussion during the agenda item that followed was packed with assumptions by the Town Council. Town Council President Kleid assured the Town Council that that " … I know this is an obligation of the Town, to maintain … particularly on the right-of-way. I will tell you from my own personal experience, Lew Crampton who also lives in the south end can ECHO MY THOUGHTS."

Lew Crampton, (professed pro-Town-wide Underground Utilities Town Council candidate) while Chairman of the Citizens’ Association (CA) promoted the Project of Town-wide undergrounding with annual Special Assessments for 30 years.

Mr. Crampton also requested, as he chaired a public meeting of CA, that property owners of the south end must surrender their opposition to the Town-wide undergrounding Project, if they ever want to get sand on their beaches. This was even reported in the local newspaper.

After stating that Town Council candidate Crampton is in agreement with the statements Council President Kleid would make, Kleid continued by saying, " I guarantee, I am reasonably convinced that the condos will probably enhance it", (the landscaping of the plants installed by the Town.)

"In addition to that, every condo along that area … they take care of all the maintenance on the grounds or the ROW. So, I feel reasonably confident that there will be NO CALL UPON THE TOWN FOR ANY KIND OF MAINTENANCE AND IT REALLY WILL BE TAKEN CARE OF BY THE INDIVIDUAL CONDOS."

Reality is that if a condo did do such a thing, it would then possibly alter the Town’s responsibility requirement to maintain them and irrigate them thereafter.

When asked by Council member Araskog about the fact that there are condos that "are mad" at the Town and what if they do not cooperate, Council President Kleid responded: If a condo refused and residents "SAW A MESS" in front of their condo, they would be "upset."

The Town, from what is said in Council President Kleid’s previous quotes, plans to renege on their agreement and leave things "a mess" and that is what the Town Council apparently agrees with.

It is easy to see that, in fact, the bait used by the Town to attempt to elicit utility easements was a false pretense. In fact, not only is the Town required by code and the FDOT to plant the permissible screening, but in addition, the Town is obligated to do so and also, when it is on the right-of-way the Town is obligated to maintain the landscaping. Therefore, the bait used was deliberately deceiving to any property condo owner that might have fallen prey to this threat and granted a utility easement. Luckily, very few did.

Therefore, the Town according to Code and the FDOT, if this utility Project ever comes to pass, would mean that THE TOWN SHOULD BE HELD TO THEIR OBLIGATION AND CONDOS, CO-OPS AND SINGLE FAMILY HOMEOWNERS SHOULD NOT TAKE ON THE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND LIABILITY WITH THESE UTILITIES BOXES. These boxes that would be installed on the FDOT ROW have been forced upon Town residents of this area of the Boulevard.

The maintenance of the Town’s landscaping should be part of the undergrounding budget, but due to the usual shell game antics, it is now placed under the Public Works budget.

Hence, this would have been a win-win for the Town and a lose-lose for the grantor of the utility easement, who, in addition, is still liable for any accidents on private utility easement property.

It should be noted here that all of this can be halted if the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit prevails.

As a property owner asked me, "How can anyone trust the Town Council or their staff to be truthful on anything undergrounding at this point in time?"

He also said that "The Town must be made to uphold their responsibilities to the property owners and their agreement with the FDOT and should not be let off the hook."

Interesting observations.

 


Hazardous Vs. Cutting-Edge!

Every ground level Utility box in Palm Beach, will have this Warning Sign- KEEP OUT! HAZARDOUS VOLTAGE INSIDE: Can SHOCK, BURN, or CAUSE DEATH; ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT: 

Maintain Clearance....from Fences, Shrubs and Structures; STOP!: ELECTRICAL CABLE BURIED BELOW: 48 Hours before you Dig.

Notice, NO Overhead Utility Pole, Hardened with Smart Switch Technology or not, has any required warning.

(February 14, 2018)

Technology is racing at the speed of light!

WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES, WHY IS AN UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT HAPPENING IN PALM BEACH? WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE?

There is new Technology that is capable of bringing consumers reliable electric utility service, with smart switches and insulated overhead utility systems. The best part is that this State-of-the-Art Utility Technology comes at NO COST to property owners. On the heels of Hardened Pole Smart Technology that withstands 145 mph wind speeds and flooding, there is the Cutting-Edge Technology that captures Solar Power and should be of great interest in the Sunshine State of Florida. This advanced technology uses roof tiles or panels with the Tesla Powerwall batteries.

These State-of-the Art, Cutting-Edge Technologies are bringing the United States into the 21st century! Meanwhile, with all this High Tech progress that has been taking place, the municipality of the Town of Palm Beach is struggling to bury powerlines underground!

The Palm Beach Town Council in the world famous resort of Palm Beach voted to impose 19th century underground utilities technology similar to that which was installed in New York City in the 1800's. The difference is that Palm Beach property owners will pay for the Project with Special Assessments for 30 years in contrast to the City of New York.

The Palm Beach community deserves the newest Technological advances available! Yet, the Town is intent on staying with an outdated Project that is fraught with hazards and ever increasing cost overruns. For some reason, from its inception, the Town Council and staff continue to play shell game budget maneuvers that hide the truth from their constituents by using deception and spin tactics.

Also, the Town of Palm Beach decided not to proceed with this Project by utilizing property taxes that usually pay for Town-wide infrastructure Projects. Instead, the Town, through a non-tax deductible annual Special Assessment methodology and annual liens on property owners that will continue each year for 30 years, has placed the total financial burden of this Project upon the property owners and are attempting to install an antiquated electrical utility system that does not belong on this flood prone barrier island. They justify their decision based on the fact that overhead poles do not please some of their property owners!

Let's look at what kind of investment and quality of life decision the Town of Palm Beach is forcing on their residents and compare it to the State-of-the-Art Technology that is AVAILABLE NOW, as well as the Cutting-Edge Technology that will become another preferred electrical utility alternative.

It is important to note that FPL is not making the investment in the Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project at their cost! If it is such a great reliable and safe means of providing utility service on this flood prone barrier island, WHY IS FPL NOT FINANCING AND CONSTRUCTING IT as they would have done if the Town had allowed FPL to install the Hardened Pole Smart Switch Technology which is happening now in the coastal communities that extend from south of the Lake Worth Bridge to Highland Beach? The Hardened Pole Smart Switch Technology that already exists in the southernmost part of the Town of Palm Beach, is the perfect answer for reliable and safe service that costs property owners nothing and is suitable for coastal areas and especially a low lying, high water table vulnerable flood prone barrier island like the Town of Palm Beach. WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT, THAT THESE HARDENED POLES WITH SMART SWITCH TECHNOLOGY WILL BE REMOVED??

As stated in the February 2018, Coastal Star article, "AIA inconvenience now will be repaid with better power service later", it confirms that what FPL has been saying since Hurricane Matthew and continued after Hurricane Irma, "'We're installing poles and equipment that will help to restore power faster and improve everyday reliability', said FPL spokesman Bill Orlove."

The Coastal Star article goes on to say, "All new poles and equipment installed as part of the hardening projects, as well as main lines, are now capable of withstanding wind gusts of up to 145 miles per hour, Orlove said."

The Hardened Pole Smart Switch Technology is a reliable and safe alternative available to the Town of Palm Beach until other alternatives like Solar Power and the Tesla Powerwall system becomes something that Palm Beachers may choose on their own, which could be as early as the next couple of years.

Solar Power has come a long way. It is no longer a futuristic theory. It is not science fiction but a current reality as a means of an electric power source.

Did you know that there are actually "solar roof tiles" that look just like any other roof tile? Most significantly there are not only Tesla panels and/or tiles, but they can now connect to Tesla Powerwall batteries 1 or 2.

This is today's "Cutting-Edge Technology", not that of the future.

The real clincher is, the Tesla Powerwall battery can power a house for 7 days, WITHOUT BEING CONNECTED TO THE ELECTRIC UTILITY!

This is Tesla Technology today! There are already Tesla energy autonomous houses out there. This Technology is called a "Smart Ecosystem" or, "Smart House Technology."

In an article from 06880danwoog.com, the writer describes just one situation where the house is powered by a Tesla battery that is "Cutting Edge Technology". "The house includes 177 connected devices, operating 24 zones. His voice (the owner’s) controls lights, locks, thermostats, TVs, music, security cameras, alarms, blinds, fans, garage doors, solar storage and irrigation." This is an alternative and is today's up to date Technology that will be available to the average consumer in a short period of time.

With "Cutting-Edge Technology" like this already available in the United States, for example, in a 2/7/18 on-line article in proudgreenhome.com, it says: "Soon, customers across the country will be able to boast Tesla Residential Rooftop Solar, along with its rechargeable battery technology simply known as the Powerwall, in their homes."

As recently as Wednesday, February 7, 2018, Tesla set up branded kiosks in more than 600 Home Depot stores. Eventually, the Tesla products will be offered in more than 800 of Home Depot's 2,200 U.S. locations. The first Tesla kiosks were set up in Home Depot stores throughout Southern California, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida. Orlando has their own utilities company.

For the Town of Palm Beach to dig and bury wires underground, while "Cutting-Edge Technology" has arrived, demolishes the opportunity for property owners to avail themselves of the newest reliable modern Technology!

Overhead wires are manageable and accessible vs. wires buried in underground and underwater conduits where you have to dig things up to find the problem!

Therefore, at this time, the Hardened Overhead Poles and wires, Smart Switch State-of-the-Art Technology is the only direction that makes sense for Palm Beach Barrier Island.

Don't you find it a strange coincidence that FPL presented conversion to Town-wide Underground Utilities in October 2014 as an alternative to overhead Hardened Pole Technology, just months in advance of Tesla announcing their "Powerwall" home battery system in May of 2015?

It is also interesting, that according to the Miami New Times, people are criticizing FPL for spending money on lobbying anti-solar laws in the House of Representatives. According to the Miami New Times, "the Sunshine State trails behind other states in solar adoption due to power company influence."

All the negatives presented here make Town-wide Underground Utilities an extremely bad investment. IT IS HAZARDOUS AND UNRELIABLE ON PALM BEACH ISLAND!

Palm Beach Town Council's Town-wide undergrounding conversion Project is not only a poor investment, but a decision that further demonstrates a lack of due diligence and sound judgment.

 


Palm Beach’s Risky Financial

& Reliability Gamble

(January 31, 2018)

The Town Council is taking a financial and reliability gamble, leaving Palm Beach property owners at risk!

An important question is why has FPL, the Florida, Power and Light Company, remained neutral on the Town of Palm Beach’s conversion to Town-wide Underground Utilities Project?

Is it because financially, the Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is a WIN-WIN for FPL?

Instead of FPL paying to install and operate the Hardened Pole Technology that the State of Florida and Florida Public Service Commission had mandated for each municipality in the State, FPL partnered with the Town of Palm Beach by substituting conversion to underground utilities in place of Hardened Pole Technology. This put the financial burden upon the Town of Palm Beach property owners.

This WIN-WIN for FPL assures them the best financial and profitable outcome!

The Town does not publicize that their partnership with FPL includes the Town paying FPL somewhere over $40 million for the privilege of the Town taking on the undergrounding vs. FPL paying for the entire Hardened Pole Technology Project.

Did the Town Council ever require FPL to disclose their cost for installation of Hardened Pole Technology in the Town Palm Beach? Remember, all FPL customers pay a surcharge every month on their bills for FPL installation for hardening throughout the State, due to it being a State mandate!

Instead, property owners in the Town of Palm Beach are forced to take on fully financing the construction, with interest, for a Project that would otherwise be the responsibility and financial investment of the utility company. Where is the logic in this investment for the property owners saddled with 30 years of annual non-tax deductible, inequitable "Special Assessments" for a Project soon to be obsolete?

Add to this the quagmire of the maintenance and repairs for these undergrounded utilities that will be ongoing because of the saltwater intrusion, rising sea level on its east and western shores, flood issues from low elevation, high water table and the severe FEMA Flood Hazard Zone throughout the Town.

An article in the Palm Beach Daily News, January 19, 2018 warns that "… finding that cause of an underground outage and repairing it is generally more difficult and time-consuming than it is for overhead, and the duration of outage may be longer."

There will be RATE HIKES and clearly this is a WIN-WIN for FPL and a LOSE-LOSE for PALM BEACH FPL CUSTOMERS!!

Palm Beach property owners are now paying for the construction, the equipment and interest rates of this Project. If the Project is completed and FPL takes control, those property owners having paid for the installation and equipment, have NO SAY regarding maintenance, replacement parts, FPL rate hikes and NO CONTROL over when and how long FPL will implement a Town-wide "SHUT DOWN and SHUT OFF" of power!

The maximum life span of underground utilities is 30 years, (the length of the annual special assessment). In the environment of this particular barrier island, the life span will be much shorter and property owners will be paying for a Project well past its useful life.

What is left for Palm Beachers at that point in time? Only, continued annual and ever increasing, "Special Assessments" that will go on for 30 years.

Such a poor investment for Palm Beach property owners but a great profit for FPL!

Another fact to demonstrate what a poor investment this Town-wide Underground Utilities is, can be found in the progress of technology. While Palm Beach struggles to construct their underground utilities, before they finish, technology will have made this Project an obsolete system.

I-phones are just 10 years old, but now they are EVERYWHERE and have totally changed the way that people handle phone calls, email, photography, video, music listening and collections, radio/T.V., etc.

Tesla solar roofs and home batteries have just become AVAILABLE. How much will they proliferate in TEN years?

Why would this Town insist on pursuing this soon to be obsolete electrical system of distribution?

What role has the Mayor and the Town Council played in this massive Town-wide Underground Utility financial and reliability fiasco? Are they not complicit and responsible for bringing about this Project and implementing it in the first place, thereby putting the Town’s people in this untenable situation? You decide.

Now, due to the Town Council’s refusal to take responsibility for their feckless decisions and the negative consequences of this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, property owners have no other choice but to legally challenge the Town so as to regain their rights and attempt to undo this impossible situation!

That is why the success of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit has become essential for property owners throughout the Town in order to regain sound financial stability and restore to all the residents and property owners the quality of life that is rightfully theirs!

The Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit continues to move forward! The Judge’s order, entered on January 17, 2018, has DENIED the Town’s Motion to Dismiss, on every Count, the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

Why did the Palm Beach Town Council initiate an unnecessary and massive Town-wide Underground Utilities Project in the face of a pre-existing Town financial quagmire and liability issue of $100 million or more of unfunded pension liabilities? That issue alone has strapped the Town’s finances. It will now require an additional annual $5.4 million for 30 years just to get Palm Beach out of its financial hole.

The "Peer Review" that was recently completed at the request of the Town, proved that this Underground Utilities Project was approved by the Town Council without a planning document, without a bottom line and without the appropriate reliable equipment.

Also, instead of using the "American Standard" ad valorem taxes, based on property values, which are tax deductible, the Town initiated an inequitable, non-tax deductible "Special Assessment" methodology, which is so flawed it is astounding.

Now, due to the lack of control over costs, the Town must shift certain Project costs to the Town’s Budget: i.e., $12 million out of the Undergrounding Project, into the Town’s resurfacing Budget. Is this magic or deception?

Additionally, the Project is riddled with climbing cost overruns many of which have been shifted into various places in the Town’s Budget. Is this not shell game cover-up tactics?

The Town-wide Underground Utilities Project TOTALLY ignores the newest FEMA Flood Maps that prove that the low elevation of Palm Beach Island and the salt water intrusion will corrode and degrade underground conduits and ground-level equipment. All of this will bring on power failures and probable explosions.

All of this proves that this highly questionable "mad drive" by Town Council members and their advisory Underground Utilities Task Force members made wish-list and unsubstantiated determinations that demonstrate their lack of due diligence.


The Unraveling Of Palm Beach's Town-Wide Underground Utilities Project

(January 17, 2018)

The present Mayor of Palm Beach and the Town Council with their appointed Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) Board have brought Palm Beach right into science-fiction's "Outer Limits".

The Town Council upon the recommendation of the (UUTF), agreed to hire a consultant to do a "Peer Review" of their Town-wide UU Project. The idea was discussed at a UUTF meeting prior to retaining a brand new consultant. It was said that a "Peer Review" would have the purpose "to validate" whatever path the Town was currently taking. The Town and their Town serving Civic Association paid $100,000 for this "Peer Review".

The consulting firm selected, by the Town Council, to do the "Peer Review" was Patterson & Dewar Engineers. The "Peer Review" report did not follow the planned "validation" pattern that the Town had expected. Instead, it brought out some significant failings in the Town's Town-wide Project.

The report that the Town received in the "Peer Review" proves that the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is not only an ill-fated boondoggle, but also a poor investment for this low elevation, flood prone barrier island. This 10 year Project is already causing all kinds of disruption and is proving that it is a bad investment in many ways, including the fact that, before it is completed, it will be an obsolete method of distributing power!

With some of the most important contents of the "Peer Review" exposed, the actions and statements by Town Council members, UUTF members and staff demonstrate just how this Town-wide Project is unraveling before everyone's eyes.

For some unknown and bizarre reason the elected Palm Beach Public Officials are still defiantly refusing to "protect" the quality of life of their residents and the "investments" of every taxpayer. They appear intent on moving forward regardless of the negative consequences that this Project is bringing to their municipality and its citizens!

Here are a few of the facts showing the unraveling of Town Officials and their Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

The "Peer Review" of the Town of Palm Beach's Underground Utilities Master Plan makes a clear, concise financial revelation that exposes the fact that this Project should never have been started and is certainly a financial black-hole for the Town's taxpayers.

The "Peer Review" states, "As it stands now, the presentation of this project's $98,600,000 cost results in a false sense of security about the amount that will be needed to complete this project."

The "Peer Review" also states that the "Process is complicated by lack of electrical details, schematic drawings" .... and that it "Requires system inventory."

At the 12/12/17 Town Council meeting, not only was the "Peer Review" an agenda item that was discussed, but also other revelations were finally brought to light.

Anthony Hanson, principal engineer with Patterson Dewar Engineers, who conducted the "Peer Review", introduced another individual from his firm who explained that the Town's Master Plan was nothing more than a design and that the Town has "NO ACTION DOCUMENT". He explained that the Town should have developed such a plan prior to their starting the Project in the first place. It is part of the management of the Project. The "Peer Review" consultant also explained that there were no details from the Town regarding the Town-wide Undergrounding Project or how the plan would be laid down. He also stated that, therefore, the Town had (and apparently still has) no accurate cost estimate of the Project.

Significant quotes taken from the December Town Council meeting must be recognized.

COUNCIL PRESIDENT RICHARD KLEID SAID, "WE REALLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THIS THING IS GOING TO COST."!!

UUTF member, Susan Gary said, "The problem is, we as a Town, as a Task Force, have NO credibility with the residents because the numbers keep going like this." Mrs. Gary was referring to the lack of control over the escalating cost of the Town-wide Undergrounding Project and the fact that the Town is moving monies into the Town Budget to cover up how out of control the cost of this Project really is.

Mrs. Gary then said, "If we are not going to do this right, let's not do this!" She said this last statement with regard to her insistence that only Vista Switchgear should be installed instead of the standard Switchgear that is less reliable.

Town resident Harris Fried, who happens to be a candidate running for Town Council, challenged the Council about the fact that "In all due respect, you people (the Town Council) are enabling this project to move forward."

Mr. Fried also stated that Town residents and the "Peer Review" have presented some serious issues. He told the Council, "It is the duty of the Council to consider these issues. Particularly with regard to the cost and particularly in regard to the 'Project Action Plan', which is absent at the moment and which seems to be unusual for a Project of this magnitude."

Council President Kleid's response was most revealing. He said, "Even if they gave us an estimate and say it will cost $120 million. What are you going to do 6 to 8 years down the path if all of a sudden we have rampant inflation and the price escalates? To me, the common sense thing would be to STOP IT, re-group, wait for things to happen. Or, GO TO THE TAXPAYERS AND SAY, 'LOOK YOU WANT TO FINISH THIS PROJECT. THIS IS WHAT IT IS GOING TO COST."

The real dilemma here is: the Town has NO PLAN, NO CONTROL over the cost of the project, NO CONTROL over all the accidents, like "hits" on gas mains, leaks and possible explosions, NO CONTROL over hitting ATT and Comcast lines and the loss of phones and internet that have constantly occurred, NO CONTROL over "hits" on water main pipes and flooding, NO CONTROL over rising tides, rising sea level, rainstorms which cause floods, hurricanes which can also cause flooding and NO CONTROL, according to Kimley Horne and FPL, over the fact that FPL WILL TURN THE POWER OFF TOWN-WIDE, DURING A HURRICANE WITH HIGH WINDS AND THE POTENTIAL OF FLOODING.

Why did the Town initiate this disastrous Project and risky investment in the first place?

Council President Kleid went on to say to Mr. Fried: "Harris, do you think we should stop the Project?"

Mr. Fried's response to the Council was, "I THINK WE SHOULD PAUSE FOR A MOMENT, RECONSIDER AND SEE IF WE ARE DOING THE BEST THING FOR ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE TOWN.....TO UNDERTAKE A PROJECT LIKE THIS ON A WHOLESALE (Town-wide) BASIS WITH UNKNOWNS SUCH AS COST AND THE MANAGEMENT OF PHASES 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 IS, IT MIGHT BORDER ON BEING A LITTLE IRRESPONSIBLE."

In follow-up, Council President Kleid stated, "The answer is the previous Town Council voted in a 5 to nothing vote and now we decided to go ahead with it. If a new Town Council or even this Town Council wants to stop it, it is certainly their discretion."

Palm Beach's Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is placing the properties and the citizens of the Town in peril, for nothing more than a perceived aesthetic benefit.

Undergrounding utilities in this most severe flood hazard zone Town is unwarranted, unnecessary and an unwise investment!

 


Building Permits Require Utility Easements In Palm Beach

(1-3-18)

Despite all the warning sirens demonstrating why the disastrous Town-wide Underground Utilities Project should be halted, something new and even more outrageous and onerous appears.

Fasten your seatbelts because THIS REVELATION WILL BE A STUNNER!!!

At the August 9, 2017 Palm Beach Town Council Meeting, during the Developmental Review, the Town exercised a surprise, strong arm tactic on every property owner who is seeking a Building Permit in preparation for making improvements to their property.

The Attorney for the property owner of 158 Everglades Avenue was seeking a Building Permit for a "Special Exception" and "Site Plan Review" when he heard Paul Castro, Town Zoning Administrator, declare that before the Town approves the Building Permit, the property owner will be required to provide an acceptable Utility Easement that "will be created prior to the issuance of the Permit."

Again, the public and the property owners were kept in the dark regarding this unannounced Policy with its negative, far reaching consequences! The Town's Zoning Administrator is now administering a "quid pro quo" in order for a property owner to obtain a Building Permit. A Utility Easement that is acceptable to the Town must first be granted by every property owner who seeks various types of Building Permits.

Is this new Town Policy not an excessive abuse of Municipal authority?

As this surreal situation occurred, the Town Council took on a bizarre and disappointing response. Why didn't any member of the Town Council immediately question what the approval of a Building Permit, of any kind, has whatsoever to do with the "taking of one's private property"?

Why wouldn't our elected Public Servants be incensed that this new Policy that was suddenly enacted meant that the Town was holding property owners hostage! In order to gain approval for various types of Building Permits for private property improvements, the Town is demanding the property owner give up their property rights and, by doing so, leave the property owner vulnerable to liability issues?

Wouldn't you think that our elected Public Servants would see this draconian action by the Town as a Gestapo type action in order to force property owners to relinquish their property for a Utility Easement? Why didn't they question that?

Why is an applicant who has met all the criteria of an application for a permit, being held hostage by a Town that requires that they will not receive approval and be allowed to complete their improvement unless they submit to the ransom of granting a Utility Easement? One thing clearly has nothing to do with the other.

At that August Town Council Meeting, where few were in attendance, Council President Kleid's explanation was, "What we are attempting to do is that everybody is on notice, that when we have these types of applications that an Easement be granted at the time.... for Undergrounding."

When exactly were the Town's people and property owners notified of this OVER REACHING, UNREASONABLE EXACTION? THIS NEW WAY OF FORCING PROPERTY OWNERS TO SURRENDER TO THE TOWN'S DEMANDS IS BOTH ONEROUS AND IT IS AN ABUSE OF MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY!

Yet, the Town is demanding that the victimized property owner relinquish a portion of their property, for nothing, in some sort of distorted "quid pro quo" type action.

The wording that of each motion includes: "....will be granted with the caveat that the owner will provide a Utility Easement, satisfactory to the Town of Palm Beach prior to building permit issuance and find, in support thereof, that all criteria applicable to this application as set forth in section 134-201 (a), items 1-7 have been met."

Instead of the Town Council and Mayor questioning this strong arm dictatorial draconian action or allowing for an advertised public notice, in advance, followed by a Town meeting with resident and property owner input on this possible action by the Town, what occurred instead became the beginning of the Town's new "quid pro quo."

Thus far, this mandatory type Utility Easement "taking" action by the Town in exchange for Building Permit approvals has resulted in 21 Utility Easements being forced upon properties from August through December of 2017.

This is just the beginning of the Town forcing its citizens to submit to its demands, thereby taking advantage of property owners.

This is the Town of Palm Beach's way of unduly putting pressure on unknowing and unwitting property owners to surrender their properties so that the Town, which apparently can not get voluntary Easements for the utility boxes and electrical equipment can otherwise get something for nothing. The Town is subjecting the victimized property owners, who want to go forward with completing their projects and getting Building Permits, to be held up by this Utility Easement ransom.

The Easement agreement states the following: "The undersigned, in consideration of the payment of $1.00 ... which is hereby acknowledged, grant and give to Florida Power & Light Company ("FPL"), Bellsouth Telecommunications, LLC (ATT), Comcast Corporation, and the Town of Palm Beach, together with the affiliates, licensees, agents, successors, and assigns of the above named entities, a non-exclusive easement forever for the construction, operation and maintenance of underground electric utility communications, and cable distribution facilities (including cables, conduits, appurtenant equipment and appurtenant above ground equipment) to be installed from time to time, with the right to reconstruct, improve, add to, enlarge, change the voltage as well as the size of,......within an easement......the right of ingress and egress to the Easement Area at ALL times, the right to clear the land and keep it cleared of all trees, undergrowth and other obstructions within the Easement Area....."

When Mr. Castro first brought up this new drastic and questionable legal "recommendation", the Council and the Mayor never objected, but instead, by continual motions and the vote of each member of the Town Council are complicit in this outrageous "caveat" addition.

The motions and the seconds made by each Council member have become the Town's new standard for approval. This procedure out ranks the original necessity for meeting the Town's criteria codes, as shown by the order of the motion's wording.

It began with that first case on Everglades Ave., when Council member Zeidman, who made the motion, was so anxious to levy this onerous demand upon the property owner that she actually began her motion with the statement that the approval "will be granted with the caveat that the owner will provide the Utility Easement", before even giving the reasons for the approval of the Building Permit.

Clearly, there is an implied threat transparent in the motions made and the actions that they represent!

Over the past 5 months until the end of the year, each Council member took turns repeatedly making motions and seconding them. In fact, coercing property owners who have no alternative but to comply with the Town's unrelated "caveat" addition, if they want approval for their Permit applications, is, the forcing of property owners to give up their property rights, much like a ransom, so that they can get approval for all types of improvements.

Is this an acceptable action for Town elected Public Servants to make?

Some properties need to have multiple motions for the same property. For example, any one property may be applying for a "Special Exception." Such application may be as inane as a change of an awning, or a modification of a pool deck and landscaping, a "Variance" and a "Site Plan Review." However, this will trigger this unnoticed and unknown multiple easement requirement "caveat" for each. The motions on one property were repeated with the demand for a Utility Easement "prior to the Building Permit issuance" to be repeated up to three times on the same property.

It was interesting that for the Everglades Club, which was enlarging a patio and modifying its awning, Council President Kleid insisted that on a large property such as that, a Utility Easement is provided, prior to approval "on all sides of the property".

These Easements were granted in exchange for modifications on pool decks, stairs to the pool, landscaping modifications, additions to single family houses, new construction and Building Permit modifications. All of these Easements were granted on a previously approved Permit that needed renewal because the property owner let the Permit expire.

These Gestapo type demands to surrender property rights in the form of a Utility Easement for the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project are being done in lieu of voluntary Easements and in exchange for Building Permit approval.

Properties such as single family homes, Condo/Co-op Associations, commercial properties, including clubs and hotels that want to make improvements that require such type applications, will fall victim to this same strong arm tactic. They will be forced to grant Utility Easements as well, in exchange for these varied types of Building Permits. Their alternative would be to legally challenge this questionable "taking" caveat type of Utility Easement.

The Palm Beach Mayor and the Town Council have lost sight of the fact that it is their responsibility protect the rights of their constituents.

Using the power of government to coerce its citizens by dangling a Utility Easement in order to get a property owner to comply is the mark of a "Totalitarian Government!"

Property owners are entitled to a Permit if they meet the criteria of the application as set forth in the Town code, section 134-201(a), items 1-7. The Town should not make granting of a Utility Easement to be a requirement or even a "recommendation" for an unrelated issue like approval of a Building Permit.


Property Liens Come With Undergrounding Utilities

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

In addition to the Property Liens, 

the construction hazards & accidents continue.

Town-wide Underground Utilities = Flooding with Property Liens.

Photo by Charles Pepper taken 10-7-17

at Seaspray Ave. on Lake Trail, Palm Beach

(12-20-17)

A little known fact that is most egregious regarding the negative impacts of the Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project fiasco is that the Special Assessment that was passed unanimously by the Town Council at the Public Hearing on July 12, 2017 is, in fact, a "LIEN" on every property affected by the Town's Special Assessment!

A "LIEN" is a cloud over the title of one's property. No property owner ever wants a "LIEN" on their property!

In November, every property owner in Palm Beach County received their Property Tax Bill. Most property owners in the Town of Palm Beach this year had an additional line item for a non-ad valorem Assessment, "Palm Beach Underground Utilities". This Special Assessment which is a non- ad valorem assessment is actually a "LIEN" for 30 years on every Palm Beach property that is included in the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

When the Town Council adopted the final assessment resolution on the evening of July 12, 2017 they, de facto, placed a "LIEN FOR 30 YEARS" on every property in the Town within the Underground Utilities Project. With this action, the Town Council imposed a cloud over the Title of at least 7,680 properties in the Town of Palm Beach.

All of this occurred at the moment this current Town Council unanimously voted to adopt Resolution 100-2017. Upon the passage of this resolution by the Town Council, it automatically "imposes $90,000,000 in special assessments' liens on all non-exempt property in the Town to pay for the Project". (Taken from Court documents of the 15th Judicial Court for Palm Beach County, filed on 12/5/17 RE: Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit vs. Town of Palm Beach, etc. in , "Plaintiffs' Response ...").

It is important to be aware, that due to the lawsuits, all Special Assessment monies associated with the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project will be placed in an escrow account.

The major problem that these Special Assessment "LIENS" bring to each affected property is that the value of each property is diminished by the amount of the "LIEN", or Special Assessment.

Therefore, when a property owner goes to sell his or her property the buyer can say that the property price must be reduced. It is a "LIEN" against the property.

The wording of the Town's Special Assessment "LIEN" resolution will show up on a Title Search. This also discourages buyers. The fact that this Special Assessment "LIEN" exists in the Town of Palm Beach and is publicly known can mean that a prospective buyer may not even look at a property in a Town which has liens on properties since it is an encumbrance.

THIS PLACES A STIGMA ON THE PROPERTY VALUES OF THE ENTIRE TOWN OF PALM BEACH FOR 30 YEARS!

"The Amended Complaint does more than merely allege that special assessments are invalid and should be refunded. Rather, the Amended Complaint alleges that the adoption of the Special Assessments created a lien on all properties that were assessed and seeks to '...mandatorily enjoin the Town to remove the liens of record'..." (12/5/17, Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit, Plaintiffs' Response...)

Most significantly the Response to the Town points out that, "...the existence of such liens materially affects Plaintiffs' rights in their respective properties, including without limitation affecting their ability to sell their properties free and clear of all encumbrances."

Additionally, the fact is that "To the extent that any property owners elect not to pay the invalid special assessments (whether based on principle or financial inability) they will.... be faced with the prospect of losing their homes during the pendency of this action when the Town proceeds to foreclose on the special assessment liens or are being precluded from selling their homes during the pendency of this action due to the assessment lien"!

It is a fact that the current Town Council unanimously voted to take this very action at the duly noticed July 12, 2017 Public Hearing. This Town Council proceeded to do this despite the flood of written objections that came prior to the hearing; despite the fact that in the dead of summer about 200 property owners arrived at the Town Council Chambers at 5pm on the evening of July 12, 2017. The Town Council Chambers and the vestibule right outside the French doors of the chambers were overflowing with property owners who wanted to object to the Special Assessment and Town-wide Underground Utilities Project, as they were legally noticed was acceptable and the point of the Public Hearing on July 12, 2017.

Many objecting property owners, some elderly or with impairments, were kept out of the chambers and told that the room exceeded occupancy limits! In spite of this, about 50 property owners made verbal objection statements to the Mayor and Town Council during the Public Comment period. It is important to realize that these verbal objections took place after the Town Council President, Richard Kleid, warned the residents that no one could in any way be repetitive of another speaker's objections. In addition, Mr. Kleid threatened the audience filled with property owners who had applauded those who made verbal objections when the Public Comments began, that if there was anymore applause, residents would be removed and the hearing would be over.

After these warnings issued by the Town Council President, neither the Mayor nor one Town Council member at that Public Hearing spoke up on behalf of the Town residents that lined up on both sides of the chambers to get their turn to voice their objections. The Town Council and Mayor did not want to hear from the PUBLIC during the Public Hearing.

To further exacerbate the infringement of the rights of every property owner in attendance at this Public Hearing, Town Council President Kleid directed the Town Manager to do the following: summarize the objections voiced by the property owners with their names and repeat the objections. Each objection with the property owner's name that the Town Manager had listed was ridiculed! This was done in order for the Town to diminish the validity of the objections. It was impossible to believe that this Public Hearing was being held in the Town of Palm Beach, in the United States of America!

Throughout this "Kangaroo Court" Mayor Coniglio was silent. Is it not the responsibility of the Mayor to fulfill the role of Ombudsman to defend and to protect the right of each property owner to speak?

Town Officials have brought on a Town-wide Project of such magnitude that they cannot control the cost overruns, constant construction accidents, such as hitting gas pipes and causing leaks, ATT and Comcast outages, with FPL power outages and interruptions, water main pipe breaks, along with the other damages and hazardous situations brought about by the onset of flooding, storms, rising water levels and flood zone areas that will be negatively impacted. There is also the fact that for the majority of Town residents, their quality of life during the 10 years or more of construction will be unbearable!

The last straw for Town residents will be the reality that because of the vote to pass a Special Assessment to pay for the Project, each Town of Palm Beach property in the Town-wide Project area now has a "LIEN" placed on it.

Only the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit can block the disastrous and damaging path that the Town has imposed upon their residents and property owners.

IT IS TIME TO HOLD ANY AND ALL GOVERNING ENTITIES OF THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

What is most incredulous is that the 2017 Town Council members have repeatedly blamed the previous 2014 Town Council for voting unanimously to Underground Utilities Town-wide. These assertions were done to avoid accountability and responsibility for the approval of this Project.

In reality, every member of the current Town Council, on July 12, 2017 at the duly noticed Public Hearing, voted unanimously to approve the Special Assessment "LIEN" which was then followed by their signing of the Contracts to begin the construction of the Project.

WE CAN THANK THIS CURRENT MAYOR AND TOWN COUNCIL FOR THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT DEBACLE!


Wake-Up Palm Beach! Stop Undergrounding Now!!

(12-6-17)

There is an irony in the fact that the Town of Palm Beach's hazardous Town-wide Underground Utilities conversion Project is drowning, before it begins!

It is drowning in cost overruns, dangerous and disruptive incidents that keep occurring. More and more comes to light about this historic flood prone barrier island. It is impacted by Tidal flooding on its western shoreline, storm surge on the ocean side of its barrier island shores, wave heights that are all amplified by the lack of beach protection. Then there is the new knowledge about the "King Tides", which causes sunny day flooding even as recently as this past weekend. So much so, that a marathon, utilizing a route along the Intracoastal Waterway, had to consider alternatives. It ended up changing the time to avoid the onset of the "King Tide" this past Sunday which they expected would bring 4 feet of flooding along Palm Beach's Lake Trail, which was part of the marathon route.

The real irony took place this past week at the Town's Planning and Zoning Board Meeting, when the Town was required to invoke the new standards of the FEMA Flood Maps with its higher elevations for new construction on properties that must be built above the minimum flood plain levels.

Let's use common sense and logic. If a barrier island Town is required to "raise the minimum flood elevation for commercial and residential development above the minimum flood prevention elevation as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Florida", how can this same Town rationalize the fact that they are endangering residents and property owners by burying utilities underground in a Town that is historically flood prone?

Palm Beach Island has an assortment of serious problems due to its high water table, low elevation and the fact that as a barrier island it is surrounded by saltwater because of the Lake Worth and S. Lake Worth (Boynton) Inlet. Add to this, the fact that the major portion of the Town is in the most severe Flood Hazard Zone, (AE), on the FEMA Flood Maps. Add all of that on top of the known and inevitable continual sea level rise and Palm Beach's issues with Tidal flooding!

These factors all create more unreliable, unsafe conditions that need to be dealt with proactively, such as protecting the residents, their properties, the infrastructure and the quality of life that makes Palm Beach so unique.

Yet, Palm Beach's Town Council, their Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) and the Town's Civic leaders, continue to live in some sort of fantasy bubble of, "I want it, so I am going to have it no matter what." It defies logic, rational and wise business practices. It is just mind blowing that Town Officials would even entertain the thought of burying their utilities on this island in the first place!

Now, knowing but deliberately ignoring the facts, this Town continues to plan to bury electrical lines in spite of the fact that they are vulnerable to flooding and salt water intrusion! Even the planned hundreds of utility boxes will be sitting, for the most part, below the flood plain. How can any rational person justify these actions by a Town Council that uses the support of their appointed Underground Utilities Task Force and the leaders of two Civic Associations?

On 11/28/17 a public hearing was held at the Town's Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board meeting. One family of residents sponsored a presentation by Coastal Risk Consulting, who discussed the dire flood hazard zone situation in which the Town of Palm Beach is located.

Casey Ogden and Rajiv Krishman gave a presentation before the board that clearly shows how insane the very idea is that this Town is attempting to force a Town-wide Project upon its residents.

According to the presentation, "Most of the Flagler Museum is classified as the AE high risk." That is the most Severe Flood Hazard Zone within the FEMA Flood Maps.

Rajiv Krishman asked, "What would happen if there was a CAT 5 storm that happened now? The maximum inundation would be 6.2 feet." That flood water would be mingled with saltwater! Furthermore, FPL has openly stated, "water and electricity don't mix!"

At that same P&Z Board Meeting, Board Member Michael Spaziani brought out that storm surge on the ocean side is not our only concern. The "wave heights", as Mr. Spaziani pointed out, will "be as high as 16 to 18 feet!"

Just imagine the catastrophic impact that a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project would have on the Town's infrastructure in the areas of shoreline that have been neglected by the Town. Then, imagine a Town-wide electrical undergrounded system short circuiting because of saltwater intrusion! Major power outages, explosions, loss of internet and television will follow just because an elected Town Council was so determined to remove the poles!

In addition, it was also revealed that most of the Town of Palm Beach is within FEMA's most severe Flood Hazard (AE) Zone. Just as storm surge and wave heights are one of the Town's biggest foes, an even greater threat is the bizarre and irrational efforts by Town Officials to persist in their undergrounding fiasco!

Insurance consultant, Mary Delbecca was a presenter. She said that Florida is "a State with the highest ranked level of national hazards!" Ms. Delbecca then discussed how single family homes on barrier islands need higher and stronger structures.

In accordance with this forecast, why on earth would anyone support Town-wide burying of utilities underground on a sand-based barrier island?

If insurance companies and FEMA think that structures need to be built higher and elevated on this flood-prone barrier island, then, to follow the logic, why has this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project been allowed to proceed this far?

TIME TO WAKE-UP PALM BEACH! STOP UNDERGROUNDING NOW!!


Chaos Arrives In Palm Beach

Photo by Jimmy Shirley

Traffic disruption on South Ocean Blvd.

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

Coming out of the driveway. No safety here!

(11-22-17)

In their feverish attempts to plow forward with an ill-conceived Town-wide Underground Project, Palm Beach Town Officials are proving more and more their inability and ineptness to manage a Project that should never have begun in the first place.

The following statements from Town Officials are just the tip of the iceberg. These Palm Beach Officials are showing through their conduct and actions how inexperienced and unqualified they are to be making decisions regarding financing and construction of this Town-wide Project, the largest the Town has ever undertaken. They are all in "over their heads" but refuse to acknowledge their inability. Their actions are creating chaos and potential financial crisis for the Town and its property owners. In addition, The Palm Beach Underground Utilities Project is affecting the reliability and safety of all the utility services of each Town resident!

When Town Council Members make the following statements, you begin to realize the mismanagement that is underway in this world-renowned municipality! The following statements were made at the 11/14/17 Town Council Meeting during the Town-wide Underground Project agenda item:

Statement 1: In the Underground Utilities (UU) discussion, a Council Member, Julie Araskog, complained about the fact that there is NO financial control over the cost of the Project.

She said that the Project started, "At $90 million. Now it went to $98.6 million and now it's going to $101 million. What is it going to be next week? What is going to be the following week?"

Of course, those are not the real totals. We know from previous information that it was at least $120 million, and this number was before adding the financing costs.

In fact, that was before it became apparent that the Town was playing a financial shell game of moving monies from place to place in order to cover-up the ever growing cost overruns! The Town has been attempting a cover-up by moving the overruns from the Undergrounding budget to the Town budget. This goes to the "out of control" underground conversion financial sinkhole that this Project is creating.

The Town budget is approximately $80 million each year. The total amount of the Underground Project is equivalent to two entire years of the Town's annual fiscal Budget! That is an insane amount of monies to spend on a non-essential, frivolous Town Project.

What is so ironic is that this Town Council Member, who complained about the lack of financial control, is a part of the problem! She does NOT speak out about halting this "runaway train" Project that the Town and the taxpayers can NOT afford, now or in the future!

It is almost comical, but instead, it is actually frightening as to what is happening! Already we are seeing major negative impacts on the "quality of life" in this Town.

For example, it is completely irresponsible that there is no recognition of the fact that the construction has created continuous phone, internet, cable, power outages and surges, including hitting gas lines and shutting off the main water pipes in order to place the conduits at a safe distance as is required by FPL.

Statement 2: Significantly, during the discussion by the Town Council about the AT&T plan, it came out that there are analog systems in the Town, such as security systems and Landline phone lines. Because there is a "Non-Disclosure Agreement", the Town has no right to invade confidentiality or to identify the people who have these analog systems or the number of properties that this applies to. In addition, any property owner must agree voluntarily to conversion. Also, according to Town Council Member, Bobbie Lindsay, this would be done at the owner's expense. Hence, THE TOWN CANNOT FORCE A PROPERTY OWNER TO CONVERT!

Council Member, Lindsay, stated at the conclusion of this new revelation, "THEN WE WILL STILL HAVE POLES!" Council Member, Araskog stated, "There will still be poles in our backyards!"

Is it possible that this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project will still have poles? Where else but in Palm Beach!

The ironic consequence of this is, as was so aptly stated by two Town Council Members, that because some residents didn't like the look of a pole, this Project was forced on ALL the Town's residents! Now, it appears that there will still be poles and there is nothing the Town can do about it!

The stark reality is that the Council is gambling with taxpayer money! However, when and if the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit prevails, the Town will have to pay that money back!

Statement 3: It appears that in the Phase 2 South area, between Sloan's Curve and Southern Blvd., where there is a section already undergrounded, there is a problem! According to ATT those areas are slated to be excluded! This means that fiber network will not be done there. As stated by Council Member, Lindsay, "They are not going to touch that as well!"

That would mean that this situation will also come up in other sections of the Town since we have been told that there are already many other areas that were previously undergrounded.

Statement 4: Another revelation was that ATT and Comcast will only do the fiber optics in single family homes, NOT condos/co-ops and commercial buildings. Council Member Lindsay stated that this would mean, "Different Assessments" because some would have fiber optics and some would not. Then, she expressed fear that the Town would have to "RE-ASSESS EVERYTHING!"

Statement 5: The Mayor of Palm Beach, Gail Coniglio, was quite upset about ATT and said that there is a "Bait and Switch" going on. Apparently, the utility boxes that the Town initially promised for the north end of the Project have been switched out for a larger and more inferior box, like the ones that had already been designated to be installed among the approximately 98 high voltage boxes in the south end of Town. Now, we know the real "Bait and Switch!"

The reason for the objection was obvious. The cheaper quality is less reliable and more unsightly. Not one Council Member or UU Task Force Member or Civic Leader objected to the fact that these "less reliable" Switch Boxes were already scheduled to be installed in the south end!

Statement 6: There was discussion about hiring legal experts to attempt to negotiate these problems. Council Member, Araskog, asked what the limit would be for the cost of this effort? The Town's attorney, John Randolph, answered, "I suggest you just hire them on the basis of their hourly rates!" Again, there is NO LIMIT TO THE COST and again, for an undetermined purpose, the Council and their staff are signing another blank check! Add that to the bottom line and it is abundantly clear that things seem to be constantly shifting and costs are constantly climbing!

Statement 7: When Town Council Member, Lindsay, states, "How can we plan if we don't know?" with regard to information received about the fiber network, there is an obvious and total disconnect by the Council that is deprived of logic and common sense. They appear to not be aware of their pledged fiduciary responsibility to their constituents. This same Town Council Member does not make the connection with the fact that she voted as a member of the Town Council continuously to move forward and to "Put a Shovel in the Ground."

It is inexcusable that this current Council approved an inequitable and biased methodology and a Special Assessment that is actually a Regressive Tax.

Council Member, Lindsay, who made the statement above, continues to ignore the facts that demonstrate that this historically flood-prone barrier island comes with underground peril. She continues to ignore the fact that FPL like other utility companies turns the power off on such barrier islands when there is a possibility of storm surge, flooding issues and hurricanes. This Council Member has asserted that the Town Council doesn't know and doesn't have a plan either! Despite her questions it is a fact that she and her colleagues are an active part of continuing and moving this ill-conceived Project forward. In addition to all its problems this Underground Utilities Project has a strong legal challenge against it which could very well derail it altogether. This Council and their UU Task Force ignore these practical and realistic possibilities.

It is clear that the Town Council and their appointed members of the UU Task Force do not know what they are doing. Instead, they cover up the truth and claim that everyone but themselves are responsible for things going awry!

One Town resident, David Levitt, stood up at this Town Council Meeting and made an interesting observation. He said, "I was a carpenter and builder and I never did anything without a plan! But I realize you must have some reason to do it this way." The implication here is obvious!

IT BECOMES MORE AND MORE APPARENT THAT THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH HAS UNDERTAKEN THE LARGEST TOWN-WIDE PROJECT IN ITS HISTORY WITH A "PLAN-AS-YOU-GO!"


Dire Disruptions In Palm Beach

(11-8-17)

Both past and current Town of Palm Beach Council Members are responsible for leading the Town of Palm Beach with its population of some 8,690 people (2016) and 9,500 properties, down into a financial black hole.

The Town Council and their appointed Underground Utility Task Force (UUTF) members play financial games with the Undergrounding Budget, the Town's Budget and the Town's Reserve funds. Pending Lawsuits are preventing the Town from using Project monies, including Special Assessments that are being held in an Escrow Account.

This financial black hole is being created by the largest Palm Beach Town-wide Project, the Underground Utilities Project, declared "nice but not necessary" by former Town Council President Michael Pucillo.

Even in the beginning stages of construction this Project has been plagued by continuous "accidents" that have placed residents at risk by cutting underground phone and internet lines, breaking water main pipes and gas lines and creating power surges and power losses.

These accidents are already creating dire situations of unreliable service and safety concerns, especially for the overwhelming number of the Town's senior residents.

What makes this Project and the Town's irresponsible actions so incomprehensible is the fact that the Project has been in pre-production for almost two decades and it is questionable as to whether any Town Council Member ever did their Due Diligence in Researching the disadvantages, hazards and financial pitfalls of the largest Project ever undertaken in Palm Beach.

Let's cover one of the many downsides to this unrelenting drive that the present Town Council is taking in this train wreck of a Project.

This past week there was a Town's Contractor "coffee and conversation" meeting with Palm Beach residents. At this meeting, astute residents questioned the Town's Phase 1 Undergrounding Contractor about 1) Whether the Town's Contractor had any previous conversion experience on a barrier island; 2) Whether or not the conduits being placed underground were really "waterproof" as the Town has represented or just "water resistant"; and 3) Why there have been so many accidents involving underground water pipes, gas pipes, phone lines, internet and cable that have disrupted the quality of life and created unsafe situations?

The Town's Contractor acknowledged that this was his first conversion on a barrier island.

He later admitted to one resident that the conduits are not specially made "Submarine Cables" that have no taps, are continuous and made to be "waterproof" under the Intracoastal and ocean floor. The Town's Contractor further admitted to this Palm Beach resident, who questioned him, that the conduits are merely "water resistant." The definition for "water resistant", we know, means that water can penetrate it.

The Town's Contractor then stated that although they have tried to flag underground wires and pipes, they really don't know where things are located! In fact, he acknowledged that the undergrounding contractors and their subs keep hitting and breaking lines that are already undergrounded. THE TOWN'S CONTRACTOR DESCRIBED THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF PIPES AND EQUIPMENT BURIED WHERE THE CONTRACTORS THINK THERE SHOULD NOT BE ANYTHING. HE FURTHER DESCRIBED THAT THERE IS "A MAZE OF STUFF UNDERGROUND, MOSTLY UNMARKED."

Having just begun in the south-end of Palm Beach, the easiest part of the Town because it is a straight run, the Town's Contractor admitted there have been at least 6 accidents in the south-end alone, where the contractors have broken water, electric, cable, internet lines and pipes that have caused extensive dire loss of services.

This is just the beginning of the major utilities disruption to Town residents, the loss of reliability and creation of safety issues. Already, hundreds of residents have lost their telephone service some for 10 days and some for weeks. This is particularly dangerous for seniors.

There have been Town-wide instances with ATT phone and internet loss and, more than once, Comcast lines were cut, including in the south-end, with a loss of those services, all due to the Phase 1 underground construction that has just begun.

It is significant that while ATT was repairing the damage done by the Town's Contractor in the south-end, water had to be continuously pumped out of the trench where the work was ongoing.

In the Town's north-end, the Town's Contractor has struck gas lines. As we all know, this type of accident can cause gas leaks and explosions!

Palm Beach resident and licensed electrical and municipal engineer from New York City, Izak Teller, who is experienced with underground utilities Projects, said ".... that these pipes and lines have been cut and damaged... there will be splices and patches in those areas which will become vulnerable to the saltwater intrusion and flooding that takes place in the most severe Flood Hazard Zone of its FEMA Flood Map area."

There is no justification for the Town Council to ignore the facts that this low lying, high water table, historic flood-prone barrier island has more than 75% of the Town within the Severe Flood Hazard Zone on the FEMA Maps.

Most Palm Beach property owners have received their Property Tax Bills. For Palm Beachers, the non-tax deductible annual Special Assessment is included this year as a separate line item. Property owners should pay this Bill in full. This Special Assessment payment will be held in an Escrow Account due to the pending lawsuits.

Palm Beach property owners should be aware that when and if the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit prevails, the Special Assessment monies plus interest that has been held in an Escrow Account must be returned directly to the property owners as stated in the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

Palm Beach's Town Officials keep attempting to spin information to the public that is in favor of Underground Utilities. They ignore National news and the broadcasts that demonstrate that it is just NOT so, especially on a flood-prone barrier island such as Palm Beach!

The Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that is only in its early stages of a 10 year or more duration is already proving itself to be unreliable and unsafe!

How much more of this Project will Palm Beach residents tolerate?


Palm Beach Residents "Held Hostage" By Town Officials

(10-25-17)

This Topic and Palm Beach now have National News Media Attention

At the October Palm Beach Town Council Meeting, Palm Beach's Mayor and the Town Council President inadvertently acknowledged the truth that Town-wide undergrounding of utilities on a flood prone barrier island is less reliable and less safe than overhead wires!

Palm Beach's Mayor, when faced with the fact that their star neighborhood community, Everglades Island, had a power outage during and after Hurricane Irma, was unable and unwilling to accept or face the truth. Instead, the Mayor said, "All we are doing is BEING HELD HOSTAGE TO OVERHEAD COMMUNITIES"! This was said in reference to off island, West Palm Beach, with its overhead utility lines.

Of course, when the Mayor made that declaration, she was ignoring the fact that in the south end of Town, where there are overhead wires and poles that were unobstructed, there was a grid area where hundreds of apartments did not lose power! The reliability of this south-end overhead wire grid was described in my last article.

To add to the Mayor's irrational statement, the Palm Beach Council President said, "I DON'T THINK WE CAN EVER PROTECT OURSELVES, UNLESS THE ENTIRE COUNTY IS UNDERGROUNDED"!

In making such statements, the Mayor and Town Council President have unwittingly demonstrated that conversion to Town-wide undergrounding of utilities on any flood prone barrier island is UNRELIABLE in any Town, even Palm Beach, where approximately 9,500 property owners will be directly impacted by this unnecessary, detrimental Project.

In a post-Harvey/Irma news article, "For Utilities, Buried Lines No 'Panacea' To Avoid Outages", from Environment & Energy, E&E News, regarding Houston, Texas, it was reported, "In Florida, the debate over placing power lines underground typically showcases two of Florida's particular qualities: BARRIER ISLANDS AND INCOME DISPARITY.

"For example, Palm Beach is highly susceptible to storm surge, which means it likely would require more time for power restoration after a storm that brings in a lot of flooding."

"Yet the town—home to President Trump's Mar-a-Lago—approved placing all power, telephone and cable lines underground in a project that started last month. It will cost abut $90 million and is not without controversy." (a.k.a. the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit).

This E&E News article regarding underground utilities has an explanation by Rick Hartlein, director of Georgia Tech's National Electric Energy Testing Research & Applications Center, "A challenge during a storm could come when a cable comes aboveground and attaches to a transformer.".... "That transformer could get flooded during a storm surge, which could be strong enough to even move the equipment off of its pedestal."..."Buried lines do come with higher maintenance costs and various risks though. These include being chewed on by animals such as gophers and being susceptible to corrosion. You have to be concerned about [these effects] to be able to operate it correctly," said Hartlein. "If you overheat an overhead line, the conductor sags. If you overheat an underground line, you melt the insulation materials." "As Houston showed, flooding can also affect underground electric vaults that could require repairs."

Edison Electric Institute's (EEI), executive director Scott Aaronson said, "Topography, geography and vulnerabilities can all come into play.... Issues in Florida include hurricanes and a high water table...." It appears that they are accurately describing the Town of Palm Beach.

However, the Palm Beach Town Council has defiantly moved forward to start their Town-wide Project, despite lawsuits that challenge it. This action has been initiated by the Town regardless of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit that had previously been filed.

Instead of waiting until the lawsuits were resolved, one way or the other, the Council has gone so far as to use the Town's emergency reserve monies in order to begin this Project and to make it appear that the Project is a fait accompli. To date, any Special Assessments that have been paid for the Project are being held in an Escrow account and have not been spent on the Project Costs due to the outstanding Class-Action Lawsuit and other lawsuits.

It is timely for the Mayor and Town Council to remember what happened at Mecca Farms with Palm Beach County and Scripps. The County began that Project and spent approximately $100 million even though there was a lawsuit challenging them. That Project also appeared a fait accompli, but the Court forced the County to dismantle the Project. This is just one example of a governmental entity moving forward during litigation, thinking they will get the Project done and it will be too late for the litigation to stop the Project.

Many of us saw, during Hurricane Irma, the CNN REPORT THAT SAID, "BARRIER ISLANDS SHOULD NOT BE UNDERGROUNDED!" Also, it was on CNN that, "the boxes were underwater!"

The newsletter from the President of the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo described the clear comparison where the overhead power was restored "methodically", while the new underground utility section was out of power, waiting for the flood waters (storm surge) to recede and was the last to be repaired. The newsletter report said it was necessary to dig up the area to find the problems and fix them before power could be restored.

Interesting that a recent 10/16/17 Miami Herald article, the very same Golden Beach whom Palm Beach recently used as a poster child community for undergrounding, described, "In Golden Beach, where lines were put underground several years ago, FPL data showed ALL 400 customer accounts lost power."

Most significant though is a quote, in the news article, from Golden Beach's Mayor Glenn Singer, who said, "We were disappointed because our investment in undergrounding did not yield the benefits we anticipated."

Another post-Irma news article in the Orlando Sentinel, explained why utility companies like FPL cut off electricity to undergrounded communities vulnerable to flooding and/or storm surge. A spokesman for the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA), Chris Gent, said they had to "CUT OFF ELECTRICITY" TO UNDERGROUNDED COMMUNITIES, that are vulnerable to, or are flooded, because, "ELECTRICITY ENERGIZES WATER AND BECOMES A SAFETY ISSUE."

The Village of Atlantis, off Congress Ave, has been an undergrounded community since development. They are not flood prone, but during Irma, their local community news blog alerted residents that there was at least one explosion in a transformer during the storm. The explosion was heard by a neighbor and caused a power outage for the affected area.

PALM BEACH TOWN COUNCIL, WHY ARE PALM BEACH RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS "BEING HELD HOSTAGE" TO YOUR IRRESPONSIBLE DECISIONS THAT INVOLVE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDING OF UTILITIES?

The Town-wide Underground Utilities Project on the barrier island Town of Palm Beach is UNRELIABLE, UNSAFE and NOT AN AESTHETIC TOWN-WIDE BENEFIT!

When is enough, ENOUGH?


Palm Beach Officials Seek To Bury The Truth

This Underground Utilities Construction site IS BLOCKING ALL VISUAL ACCESS for drivers on A1A! It is impossible for the car driver that is leaving a driveway to see oncoming traffic. It is also not possible for traffic to see vehicles exiting driveways. There are no Police or Safety Personnel on scene both day or night. THIS IS JUST ONE OF MANY HAZARDOUS SITUATIONS THAT HAS BEEN CREATED BY THE TOWN UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES PROJECT.

(10-11-17)

Town of Palm Beach residents are confronting a serious unstable situation following Hurricane Irma and the beginning of Phase 1 in the Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project, a Project that will take at least 10 years to complete.

It is significant that the Town is burying the truth about power outages in other undergrounded municipalities by falsifying the fact that they indeed had power outages, just the same as municipalities with overhead lines. The major difference is that power was able to be restored quickly in areas of flooding that had overhead lines, as compared with extended delays in areas that were undergrounded. In a flooded area, it takes time for the flood waters to recede. Specially trained technicians are also required to repair underground conduits, wires and other equipment.

According to a north end resident who has a home in an undergrounded Palm Beach neighborhood, her experiences with extended power outages has caused "black mold to grow in the house"!

It is a known fact that Palm Beach has had historic flood events from hurricanes and heavy rain storms. For the Town Council to declare that we are only affected by wind events, is burying the truth!

This is why Palm Beach maintains a "pump system"! It is important to note that, according to the Town Manager, the pump system went down during Irma.

Dangerous incidents are occurring and will continue to happen throughout the Project as contractors encounter problems beneath the ground that are unable to be detected.

The following facts are further proof why this conversion Project should never take place. These facts confirm why the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is so essential and must prevail against this "Titanic" fated Project and prevent it from placing Palm Beach residents and their properties at risk and in an irreversible, inequitable financial position for the next 30 years.

The Town Project Contractors in the north end have already had two incidents when they struck gas pipes. Luckily for them, the first two times were minor. After calling the Police, 911 and the Fire Department, the residents on that street and in the surrounding area were spared having to be evacuated.

It is a given that this is just the beginning. Gas leaks, explosions, evacuation and danger will be encountered as a result of the digging and drilling, since there are no exact drawings of where things lie under the earth. For a Project that is "non-essential", this is a HIGH RISK SITUATION.

At the onset of doing "exploratory" work on South Ocean Boulevard in the Right of Way, the Town Project Contractors struck and broke a water main pipe. It took weeks of digging and finally, replacement of the water main pipe before the repair was completed as a result of this incident.

At the very southern part of Town, again on South Ocean Boulevard, when the Town actually initiated the directional drilling for the conduits, as they passed several condos, the Town Project's Contractors struck and broke an underground ATT main landline. The result was hundreds of residents were without service for more than a week.

When residents reported their phones being out, ATT said that the underground cable that holds hundreds of wires was cut. This required digging to find the main connection and then attempt to repair it.

ATT also explained that a problem that will continue to be encountered is that there is coral rock under the surface which also diverts the conduit as it is being pushed through. It then can cut other lines or strike pipes underground and cause damage. The ATT Technician said that this is just the beginning of many more of these incidents.

a) Without phone service, many residents, especially the elderly population which is predominant in the condo/co-ops had no access to emergency calls, such as 911! A tragedy could easily have occurred.

b) I spoke with ATT technicians who were repairing the problem that the Town Project's Contractors caused. They said it was a huge effort because the problem was underground and ATT had to dig down to find the cable and make the repairs as best they could. They said that they had to constantly pump water out of the hole and that now that they had to make splices, the main line will be vulnerable to the saltwater because it will be as if they undergrounded the utilities laying in water.

c) The ATT technician said that when the phone service goes out with overhead lines, they have technology where they can easily find it and repair it. Now, if it is going to be undergrounded, that will no longer exist and all the landline phone companies will have a challenge finding the problem and getting at it.

The Town Project's Contractors are causing hazardous conditions in the residential neighborhoods, because the trucks, mounds of dirt and signs have been placed where it is dangerous to drive in and out of the driveways. The area where work is being done near driveways has no freedom of access to A1A. The situation that the Town and their Project Contractors have created in this residential community is dangerous when using A1A/South Ocean Blvd. Someone will be broadsided because no safety procedures such as traffic police personnel have been instituted by the Town.

At the Underground Utilities Task Force Meeting (UUTF) during a report by Town Staff, that will be repeated at the Tuesday, October 10th Town Council Meeting, mention was made that neighborhood undergrounded areas like Everglades Island, did have a power outage but the power came back on the Tuesday following Irma.

What Town Staff also buried are two other significant facts. Both that took place in the southern part of Town where there are overhead poles and power lines that are not obstructed and entwined by vegetation.

1. In the area of 3475 South Ocean Blvd., where the Town reported that a line went down on Sunday, the downed line was immediately repaired on that same Tuesday, as Everglades Island, and the power was restored to that grid.

2. Most significantly, it was NOT reported by the Town Staff that condo/co-ops at 2600, 2660, 2760, 2770, 2773 and the Ambassador Hotel at 2730 S. Ocean Boulevard, with overhead power, DID NOT HAVE A POWER OUTAGE. They merely had 5 flicker instances during the storm, with 1-2 minute maximum flickers. A couple that remained at 2760, the Regency confirmed that they never lost power during or after the storm and they watched the television, used their landline phone and internet without any problem.

So much for the success of underground utilities in the Town of Palm Beach during Irma!

The Town would suppress these facts rather than let them see the light of day.

Is the reason for the Town to do this Project what UUTF member, Tom Parker, declared at the October meeting? He announced, "...when the process is finished, the primary reason for this was aesthetics."

The primary reason for a Town-wide infrastructure Project should not be about what some perceive as looking "nice", but must be to protect the municipality and keep the residents and their properties safe. That translates, for any responsible individual, to "the fastest restoration of power." Even FPL and all the experts acknowledge that, in flood prone areas, (like the Town of Palm Beach), underground utilities cause longer power outages!

What stands out to the Town's residents is, "Why are Town Officials ignoring the dangers of undergrounding utilities on their flood prone island and willing to risk everything in order to continue on this disastrous path?"

How can any Town Official who has taken the oath of office continue to ignore the life and safety of their community by undertaking a "non-essential" Project for the purpose of perceived "aesthetics"?


Underground Utilities Cause Longer Power Outages!

(9-27-17)

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have supplied us the undeniable proof that undergrounding utilities in flood prone areas, such as barrier islands, is a formula for disaster!

The lessons from hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma can not be ignored. What is paramount here is, "What is the safest, most reliable power system?" IT IS NOT WHAT MAY LOOK NICE. Instead, it is whatever is best for the life and safety of the general population of any community.

In areas like the flood prone, low elevation barrier island of the Town of Palm Beach, the real issue is quick restoration of electric power after heavy rains, flooding, winds, storm surge, rising sea levels and stalled storms take place. The longer the power is out, the more dangerous the situation becomes for health reasons, especially in our tropical, hot, humid environment.

As repeated by the news media, the reason people are "evacuated" is because they are located in areas where they can be at risk for "storm surge" and flooding. It was mandated that residents in the entire Town of Palm Beach were evacuated for Hurricane Irma!

The Town of Palm Beach, which is located on a sandy barrier island, continues to blindly ignore reality by proceeding forward with a "Titanic" type Project by converting their utilities into a Town-wide underground utilities community. Palm Beach is an island with low elevation, high water table and historic flood issues. It does not even require a hurricane in order to be dangerously flooded in a rainstorm. More than 75% of the Town is on the FEMA Flood Maps within the most severe Flood Hazard Zone, AE. Underground conduits are NOT submarine cables and, instead, have connectors at each building making them vulnerable to saltwater penetration, corrosion and explosions.

We are told by scientists that this is just the beginning of these types of storms, so we better get ready and be proactive. Irma spared much of the east coast, like those of us in Palm Beach County, but the exception was the Florida Keys, which Irma hit head on with winds and storm surge.

The following is proof of why this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project must NEVER take place.

On September 18th, I received a detailed email message from a reader of my Condo News articles. The single family homeowner, who lives in Palm Beach, sent me a newsletter with proof about the impacts from Irma upon Ocean Reef, a Key Largo community. Ocean Reef is a community that partly undergrounded their utilities last year and has poles with overhead lines in other areas. It describes the power outage and restoration situation after Irma hit Key Largo.

According to the newsletter, which was verified, electricity was being restored through the overhead power lines "methodically", while the undergrounded area was still without power on September 18th. It was necessary to wait until the flood waters receded in order for this 1 year old underground utility system to have their conduit/wires dug up, find the "breaks" and repair them, prior to restoring the power to the undergrounded utility areas. The newsletter also said that the underground conduits are "the most difficult to fix and the last to be repaired.", because the underground conduit/wires had "breaks".

The longer it takes to restore power, the more of a health and safety risk it becomes for residents. Also, there is the higher risk of mold, which we know is life threatening.

The validated news articles and news media demonstrate the proof of why Palm Beach undergrounding utilities Town-wide is dangerous, unsafe and unreliable and why the Town should instead, upgrade the entire Town with hardened poles, coated wires and smart technology.

• Miami Herald, 9/12/17, "Across Florida... millions are without power after Hurricane Irma lashed the region with winds over 100 miles per hour, heavy rains and destructive storm surge." "... but even if U.S. utilities put all power lines underground, they wouldn't necessarily be safe from hurricanes, which have more than just high winds in their arsenal." "Severe flooding and storm surge can also put the grid out of commission after storms, according to NPR."

• Washington Post, 9/13/17, This article quotes Ted Kury, Director of Energy Studies for Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida, "It's kind of a misstatement when folks say undergrounding power lines protects them from damage. What it really does is insulates them from damage from wind events and flying debris. But it makes them MORE SUSCEPTIBLE to things like FLOODING and things like STORM SURGE. If you are in an area where your biggest risk to the infrastructure is storm surge and flooding, putting the lines underground can actually make them more susceptible to damage and not less."

• CNN, 9/14/17, "....routine repairs to buried lines would TAKE AS MUCH AS 60% LONGER, since problem areas are harder to find and the work requires digging equipment." "...buried lines are expensive, vulnerable to flooding and harder to repair." "Buried lines can pose a flood risk..." "Besides their price tag, buried lines aren't always the best fix in places prone to flooding, including coastal zones threatened by storm surge." The article goes on to say that "Subsurface flooding, particularly by saltwater, can damage underground lines, according to Entergy Corporation, which provides power service in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas."

• The Palm Beach Post, 9/18/17, FPL President & CEO, Eric Silagy said that, "... since Irma began ... through every part of FPL's territory, the hardening efforts have made restoration faster and saved money." With smart technology, "... helps detect problems and restore service faster. That's one reason the lights came back on quicker- because FPL technicians often could rapidly pinpoint the reason for the outage." The hardening and smart technology "allowed for the restoration process to be a lot quicker and a lot safer." "...underground, experts say is no panacea..." "Flooding can damage underground lines, and repairs cannot be made until water recedes. Trees that are uprooted can pull up an underground system, as happened in Homestead, in southern Miami-Dade County during Irma."

• The Palm Beach Post, 9/19/17. The article points out that the disadvantages to undergrounding utilities "...are numerous." According to the Post article, Quanta Technology in a report for Florida's electric utilities found that in general undergrounding electrical systems, "can be more difficult to find where the failure is located. The cable must be dug up for repair." "Buried lines can also result in power failures of longer duration and more customers impacted." The Quanta report significantly states that, "IN FACT, IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT UNDERGROUNDING AN EXISTING OVERHEAD SYSTEM IN A COASTAL AREA MAY RESULT IN MORE HURRICANE DAMAGE AND LONGER RESTORATION TIMES FOR CUSTOMERS."

The Town of Palm Beach identified Jupiter Island, Gulf Stream and Long Boat Key as "success stories" because they have undergrounded. They touted they would have no power outages. I contacted the Town Hall of each of these "success story" Towns. I learned that each undergrounded Town had Town-wide power outages during and after Irma. As of my phone call on the 18th, each Town still had power outages. In conclusion, Palm Beach's acclaimed "success stories" are really "POWER OUTAGE FAILURES"!

The proof of why the Town of Palm Beach needs to STOP this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project NOW is startlingly evident to any reasonable and responsible individual.

THE TOWN COUNCIL AND THEIR STAFF MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE WITH THIS ILL-FATED PROJECT THAT WILL ENDANGER THE FUTURE LIFE AND SAFETY OF PALM BEACH RESIDENTS AND THEIR HOMES!

The Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is the BEST recourse to SUCCESSFULLY counter this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!!


Palm Beach UNDERWATER Utilities Project!!

(8-30-17)

Where would we all be now if the Town of Palm Beach utilities were undergrounded and Harvey had hit Palm Beach instead of Texas?

Headline News has shown that flooding of epic proportions is now wreaking catastrophic disaster upon Texas. A Category 4 Hurricane came on shore and for days on end Harvey, now a slow moving Tropical Storm with historic flooding, is a disaster of enormous magnitude.

With all the scientific data now confirming sea level rise, it appears that the Town of Palm Beach, located on a sandy barrier island, is caught in an "Outer Limits" type "Time-Warp" with their bizarre quest to convert to Town-wide Underground Utilities.

It is inevitable that a Hurricane type Harvey will strike the Town of Palm Beach with flooding and a storm surge sooner rather than later. This is in addition to the rising sea-level, fair weather king tides, the Town's low elevation and high water table.

As anyone from Palm Beach watches the tragedy playing out in Texas, they can't help thinking that if we get a storm a fraction the size of Harvey and Palm Beach Island gets flooded and the Town is converted to Town-wide underground utilities, the Town of Palm Beach will suffer catastrophic losses! Mold damage alone will create uninhabitable residences as the power will be out for weeks or months until they are finally able to begin digging to fix the underground power lines.

When Sandy hit the NY metro area, those within the suburbs with overhead lines had power restored in a week or less, while some of the buildings in New York with their underground power lines were without power for 3-4 weeks.

The question here is why, on a flood-prone barrier island, a Town such as Palm Beach ignores State-of-the-Art modern technology and blindly continues on their ill-fated attempts to convert to underground utilities Town-wide? Will they ever realize that what a few believe to be "aesthetically" pleasing, is certainly NOT more important than life and safety and the inevitable reality of Palm Beach being struck by similar hurricanes because it is right in the most severe FEMA Flood Hazard Zone!

Why would competent leaders of a municipality not step back and recognize that they need to protect constituents throughout the Town. In doing so, Town leaders need to work with FPL to install hardened poles Town-wide that withstand 145 mph winds and flooding. These hardened poles should have coated wires and smart switch technology and will protect all the properties much better than the planned conversion to underground utilities, which would only become "Underwater Utilities" with useless ground-level Utility Boxes and will bring long-term power outages to this flood-prone barrier island!

At the August Town of Palm Beach Retirement Board Meeting, it was unearthed that the Town of Palm Beach is in serious debt to the tune of nearly $100 million in Unfunded Pension Liabilities. With the magnitude of these Unfunded Pension Liabilities why would the Town attempt to undertake the largest infrastructure Project that Palm Beach has ever known? With all this enormous debt accrued, Palm Beach Officials are still planning to move forward with a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that is unnecessary, unsafe and unreliable and will cost over $152 million. Yet, the Town keeps spending for aesthetics purposes.

Now, since July 28th, 2017, the Town of Palm Beach is facing a strong Class-Action Lawsuit, the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit! This Class-Action Lawsuit has a choke hold on the "Special Assessment" that Palm Beach plans to use in order to repay its financial loans and bonds that are necessary to make this Town-wide Underground Utilities multi-million dollar Project come to fruition.

In addition, the Town residents do not realize that the "Special Assessment" monies may not be able to be used to pay back the reserve monies, which the Town borrowed from its Reserve Funds to start Phase 1.

This Town plan to underground utilities began as far back as 2003, when Palm Beach Officials and the current Town Manager, who was at that time the Deputy Town Manager, began plotting to convert to underground utilities on a Town-wide basis. Over the years, it appears there was never any research into the risks involved on a flood-prone barrier island. Officials ignored State-of-the-Art advancements in smart technology and hardened hurricane flood-proof poles, coated wires and smart switches.

The one constant goal was that the Town wanted to convert to underground utilities for aesthetics and have the Project paid for by "Special Assessments."

Town-wide Underground Utilities is clearly not a necessity. It was initiated originally for what some perceived as "aesthetic" perception of "I want it, so let others pay for it." This unnecessary Project is now head-to-head with the most powerful Class-Action Lawsuit, supported by Town property owners that it has ever faced.

Despite the Town's desperate efforts, the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is based on FACTS. This means that even with Town Officials and their attorneys' attempts to dismiss or ignore this lawsuit it is threatening the Town's ability to finance the Project through "Special Assessments."

On top of that, there is the ever growing awareness by its citizenry as to the risks and flaws and inequity of this ill-fated Town-wide Underground Utilities Project and the "Special Assessment Methodology."

The following contains significant information you need to be aware of:

1- Property owners have received in their mail the Proposed Property Tax Notice, which was processed prior to the filing of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit. It shows the Town's planned non-tax deductible "Underground Utilities Assessment." Do not be alarmed, THIS NOTICE IS NOT A BILL!

2- The Prepayment Notices we have been receiving from the Town are NOTICES, NOT BILLS! These notices do not require you to pay them.

a) The Town's warning to hurry and prepay because of a "Deadline Approaching", is just a SCARE TACTIC. The Town has admitted that their deadline is flexible and subject to change! The Town has publicized that "Assessment prepayments will be held in escrow until current litigation is resolved." Therefore, the deadline is misleading. It is set for a Project that may never happen. What benefit does it serve to prepay and keep your monies tied up in an interest free "Escrow Account" that could be difficult to retrieve! During the years of waiting for the litigation to be resolved, you may sell your condo/co-op/house! This means the new owner is then entitled to the monies that you prepaid 30 years in advance for a Project that never took place.

b) The "Escrow Account" makes the monies unavailable for the Town's use!

c) We pay our Property Taxes annually. Property Taxes are tax deductible. They are Ad-Valorem, based on your property value. Special Assessments are NOT tax deductible. I would NEVER think of paying my Property Taxes for 30 years in one lump sum. Who knows where I will be in 30 years, or where I will be living. Therefore, why would I prepay a 30 year lump sum of money on a non-tax deductible Special Assessment?

3- Easements: In Phase 1, the Town is resorting to misinformation and inaccurate statements in order to coerce and gain Easements from property owners.

The Town is misleading Condos/Co-ops who have no guarantees that additional equipment will not be placed in the Right-of-Way, because it is not stipulated in the Easement agreement.

In the south-end with the huge boxes that are to be located in the most severe category of the FEMA Flood Hazard Maps, without adequate height above the Flood Hazard Zone, there will be hazardous and dangerous exposure for the property owners who grant Easements on their properties.

The Town is going to replace perfectly functional Water Main Pipes in the south-end in order to install the electrical conduits in the Right-of-Way along South Ocean Blvd. The replacement of water main pipes has no bearing on whether or not an Easement has been granted by the property owner.

The cost of this will be shifted to the Town property owners. In addition, there will be mishaps which will cause disruptions to drinking, sanitation and irrigation water as result of the Town's unnecessary Project.

This area of the Town is densely populated and has thousands of apartments with thousands of residents who will be placed at risk of life and safety due to an unnecessary Project that the Town is attempting to impose on its residents.

With all the risks involved, I suggest we rename the Project, "TOWN OF PALM BEACH UNDERWATER UTILITIES PROJECT"!!


Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit Major Upset To Palm Beach!

(8-16-17)

The most important recent revelation that the Kosberg/ Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit has caused, IS THAT IT IS CURRENTLY BLOCKING THE PALM BEACH TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDING PROJECT FINANCING METHODS! This is possibly because, due to this litigation, it has the lenders holding back while the lawsuit and the allegations are in effect.

In a statement by the Town of Palm Beach's Town Manager, the Town wants the Court to render a decision sooner rather than later, so it will "....FREE-UP the short-term financing." This means that the Line-of-Credit is currently not available to the Town. That would also apply to the Revenue and General Obligation (GO) Bonds, while this lawsuit is unresolved.

According to the Press Release issued by the law firm, Weiss, Handler & Cornwell, P.A., the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit was filed on Friday, July 28, 2017, to stop the Town of Palm Beach from charging residential and commercial property owners in the Town $90,000,000 in Special Assessments to pay for the controversial Town-wide Underground Utility Project. The lawsuit, filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court, alleges the Special Assessments are an illegal tax and deprive property owners of due process of law under the Florida Constitution. The lawsuit also challenges the legality of short-term financing loans the Town intends to take out initially to pay for the Project.

Let us review the fact that the Town withdrew "Emergency Reserve" monies of approximately $2.5 million in order to put a "shovel in the ground" to begin the Phase 1 north and south construction. Now that the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is challenging the financing and the Special Assessments, there is no guarantee that this amount of Emergency Reserve monies will be reimbursed.

Plus, if with the predicted active hurricane season, there is a major storm with damage, those Emergency Reserve monies which are needed for storm damage will have already been withdrawn in order to pay for the start of the Undergrounding Project, where does that leave us?

Don't be alarmed by the "shovel in the ground." The Town is facing a VERY STRONG LAWSUIT! This Class-Action Lawsuit will prevent the Town from having the funding mechanisms available that would be repayable with Special Assessments. The reality is the Town may start the Project but the question that follows is, what will the source of funding be without the Special Assessments?

In addition, the Proposed Property Tax Notice that is sent out annually in August and that you will soon receive, was prepared prior to the filing of the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit. It is only a "Proposed" Notice, NOT a bill!

It is clear that the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit, by seeking temporary and permanent injunctive relief, has put financial restraints upon the Town of Palm Beach and the progress of their Project.

This is probably the Strongest Lawsuit that has ever challenged the Town of Palm Beach! It should be expected, regardless of the substantiated facts that have been exposed by the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit, that the Town will fight back.

This Class-Action Lawsuit deserves our support and continued confidence in its positive outcome.

Click on the LINK to read the entire Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.

https://sable.godaddy.com/c/97184?id=94159.536.1.e6f5422304e8a79097ca28ceb52634eb

 


New Class-Action Lawsuit Hits Palm Beach!

(8-2-17)

A NEW CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH was filed by the law firm of Weiss, Handler & Cornwell two days after they dropped the referendum lawsuit on behalf of Carol Kosberg.

This Class-Action Lawsuit is striking a multi-arsenal loaded massive blow at Palm Beach's Town-wide Project for Undergrounding Utilities. It is aimed right at the underpinnings of the foundation of this Project.

Class-Action Lawsuit Class Representatives thus far are comprised of two Town property owners, north-end businessman, Michael Scharf and south-end resident, Carol Kosberg. The Class-Action Complaint vs. The Town of Palm Beach, Dorothy Jacks, Palm Beach County Property Appraiser and Anne M. Gannon, Palm Beach County Tax Collector.

In this lawsuit, Kosberg and Scharf's roles as "Class Representatives" are described. Carol Kosberg and Michael Scharf "bring this class action ...... on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated.... ." They represent "...all property owners whose property is or was subject to the Special Assessments and liens imposed by Resolution 100-2017 of the Town of Palm Beach."

The lawsuit declares that Class Representatives Scharf and Kosberg, "...will fairly and adequately protect and represent the interests of each member of the class because their claims are similar or identical to that of each class member, the Class Representatives have no interest which is adverse to any class member; the Class Representatives, as owners of property subject to Special Assessments, have a financial interest in this cause and will litigate vigorously to obtain a successful result for themselves and other similarly situated; and the Class Representatives are aware of the fiduciary duties of a class representative and that the claims of each Class member are entitled to equal dignity with their claims."

THIS IS A "ONE TOWN" "TOWN-WIDE" CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT!

For the Town-wide Undergrounding Utility Project, the Town expects to use Special Assessments to pay for the short-term finance Line-of-Credit, Revenue Bonds and GO Bonds. Block the Special Assessments and you have cut off the life-support for this ill-fated Town-wide Underground Utilities Project!

Any property owner who would now consider granting an Easement to the Town for a Project with this Legal Challenge would be extremely naïve and uninformed. It would mean giving up your property and rights for absolutely no reason because granting an Easement for a Project that will most likely never come to fruition, means that you have given away your property permanently.

Can the Town "put a shovel in the ground"? Possibly! How can the Town assess the property owners in light of this powerful Class-Action Lawsuit? Without Special Assessments, how will the Town pay off the millions of dollars to bring this Town-wide Project to the planned goal of completion?

There are numerous and indisputable grounds cited in this lawsuit. The following are some excerpts from the lawsuit to give you a flavor of the depth and complexity of this strong Legal Challenge:

#1. It challenges "the validity of Special Assessments" "imposed by the Town on property owners..."

It seeks "declaratory and temporary and permanent injunctive relief."

It also challenges that that the Special Assessments do not provide a "special benefit to the assessed properties" and that since the Special Assessments are not "properly apportioned among the assessed properties", therefore it is "...invalid..." and "...an illegal tax."

It requests, "...the Court should declare the Special Assessments, the financing and the Town Council Resolutions on which they are based invalid...... mandatorily enjoin" (instruct) "the Town to remove the liens of record, award the Plaintiffs" (Kosberg, Scharf and all class members) "class damages in the amount of all monies collected pursuant to the charges with interest, and award reasonable attorneys' fees and costs."

#2. "The Property Appraiser is charged with preparing the tax rolls for the property owners/class members. The tax rolls will include the Special Assessments."

#3. "The Tax Collector is the billing and collection agent for the Town in that she will include the Special Assessment for each property owner/class member in the county-wide tax bills."

#4. The lawsuit challenges that the assessment methodology is "arbitrary", that "each parcel of affected property was then arbitrarily assigned safety, reliability and aesthetic..." "special benefit" components. Most significantly, "There does not exist a logical relationship between the Project and the benefit to the assessed properties."

In addition, "The Town Council's legislative determinations were unsupported by competent substantial evidence and were arbitrary."

#5. The lawsuit declares, "....The Town's apportionment methodology is invalid and arbitrary" and the Special Assessments are "unconstitutional."

#6. The lawsuit alleges that "As set forth in the Objections, the properties upon which the Special Assessments were imposed will not receive any actual, physical, material, and quantifiable special benefit from undergrounding. Therefore, the Special Assessments are an improper effort to take Kosberg's and Scharf's properties and the property of each Class member without due process of law under the Florida Constitution, Article I, Section 9, and/or is an illegal tax."

#7. It also states that "Kosberg, Scharf, and the Class members will suffer imminent and irreparable injury ....." "...will be irreparably harmed."

#8. It contains reports by three expert witnesses. One of these witnesses is Dr. Robert Brown, an esteemed qualified expert on the reliability of distribution systems during major weather events. Among his credentials Dr. Brown was hired by ALL of the electrical utilities in the State to do a study on undergrounding in Florida, as previously described by Kosberg/Scharf Class Action Counsel, William Berger.

Within Dr. Brown's extensive 50 page expert report, Dr. Brown stated, "Underground conversion can actually be detrimental in areas subject to storm surge damage." "Underground conversion in areas subject to storm surge actually results in worse reliability as it relates to major weather events."

Under his "Flood Zone Assessment" Chapter, Dr. Brown states, "Much of the Town of Palm Brach is currently categorized by FEMA as Flood Zone A" or (AE). "...the point is that a high percentage of the Town of Palm Beach is subject to storm surge..." "From a reliability perspective, the parts of Palm Beach in Flood Zone A are the worst possible areas to convert overhead distribution utilities to underground."

We know that 75% or more of the Town is within a "Special Flood Hazard Zone". For example, in the south-end along South Ocean Boulevard, the entire area that would be undergrounded with conduits, wires and on-ground utility boxes are completely in FEMA Flood Hazard Zone AE. The majority of the rest of the Town is just as bad and in many cases even worse. For example, Seaspray Ave. closer to Lake Trail is entirely in FEMA Flood Hazard AE, the streets, land and even the homes!

Finally, Palm Beach Property Owners need to thank the two champions who have stepped forward thus far, Carol Kosberg and Michael Scharf who are the Class Representatives in the Town-wide Class-Action Lawsuit.

Sit tight folks and watch the fireworks! Things just started to get interesting and they are about to heat up rather quickly now!


Public Outcry Defies Palm Beach Town Council!

(7-19-17)

It appears that the attempt to hold a Public Hearing in the Town of Palm Beach on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, beginning at 5:01pm in the early evening, with only legally required advertisements, was not enough to keep away the throngs of angry protesting taxpayers in the dead of summer!

What occurred was quite telling in the overflowing MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY of approximately 200 upset and frustrated Palm Beach property owners from the north-end, mid-town and the south-end of the Town, who attended an inconveniently scheduled Public Hearing in the Town Council Chambers.

In fact, the Town Hall Chambers were so packed with Palm Beach property owners that, due to overcapacity, the Police were holding a crowd of Palm Beachers standing in the vestibule and would not allow them entrance.

Every seat in the Council Chambers was filled and property owners were standing by the walls! The Council members appeared disengaged and totally disinterested as the multitude of public comments took place.

This "Kangaroo Court" was created because the Town Council is attempting to quietly railroad through 30 years of non-tax deductible Special Assessments.

Unless these Special Assessments are legally challenged, they will be levied on the property owners and will finance the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

Anyone living in Palm Beach knows that the Town has worked really hard to make it appear that a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is a "fait accompli." The Town Manager went so far as to verbalize, at a Council meeting, that, "As we stand today with our back-up plan, we can not be stopped." The reality is that this statement is a "SCARE TACTIC", NOT FACT! Without the means to finance this multi-million dollar project with Special Assessments, the Project could "put a shovel in the ground" but would NOT have sufficient financing to bring this Underground Utilities Project to reality.

The fact that the Town has retained consultants and contractors does not guarantee anything, especially without having the annual Special Assessments to fund it as would be necessary.

At the Public Hearing, that lasted almost 3 hours, approximately 50 Town property owners lined up during the public comment period and made their objections known. It is important to report here, that the Town Council President ordered the Police to remove a female property owner who during this public comment period, voiced an objection he did not want to hear! The Town Council President threatened that, if the audience applause continues, whoever was clapping would be removed from the Town Council Chambers. This only reaffirmed the opposition by the audience.

One of the most important public comments was made by attorney, William Berger. He spoke on behalf of Palm Beach property owner, Carol Kosberg. Mr. Berger identified himself as an attorney from Weiss, Handler & Cornwell, P.A. and immediately explained how their objections were based on the detailed reports of three qualified experts with impeccable credentials.

We were told that the objections were supported by expert opinions within "Kosberg's Appendix to Objection to Special Assessment."

Mr. Berger explained that the expert reports show that, "undergrounding confers no 'special benefit' on my client's property or the other Assessed Properties."

Kosberg's attorney also said that the "Special Assessment will be an illegal tax and undergrounding will endanger lives and property and make recovery from a storm even more difficult, hazardous and expensive."

Mr. Berger asserts that "... for the Town of Palm Beach, ... burying live electrical conduits in this barrier island community can prove disastrous during a storm and in the efforts to recover from its aftermath."

In the Objection documents submitted, which are now part of the Public Record, it states quite clearly that, "The Special Assessment is invalid as to Kosberg's Property and all other property within the Town subject to the Special Assessments.... for all of the reasons stated in the materials contained in the Appendix to this Objection..... Kosberg also adopts and incorporates by reference all objections to the Special Assessments filed or otherwise submitted by any other property owner."

In my opinion, the Kosberg Objections and Appendix represent a preamble to a lawsuit. They are more than mere objections. In addition, the two attorneys representing Carol Kosberg were present at the Public Hearing as well as their court reporter who was working during the entire Public Hearing proceeding.

It is evident that Kosberg and her attorneys will shortly be filing a NEW LAWSUIT against the Town of Palm Beach. There may also be additional lawsuits filed against the Town. That is what happens when the actions of Town Officials do NOT represent the best interests of all their constituents.

THE TOWN NEVER ALLOWED THE PROPERTY OWNERS TO VOTE ON WHETHER THEY WANTED TO UNDERGROUND UTILITIES TOWN-WIDE OR NOT. The 2016 Referendum vote was to finance the Project ONLY! That is "Taxation without Representation."

The Palm Beach Town Council implemented the Special Assessment process as their approach to finance the Project. Because lawsuits have prevented the Town from issuing General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds, the Town is attempting to implement a short-term financing method, a line of credit, to be paid back with Special Assessments. The Town is also planning to issue Revenue Bonds paid back by Special Assessments to pay off the line of credit and to finance the remainder of the $90 million in case they can't get to the G.O. Bonds. If the Town can eventually issue G.O. Bonds, the Town plans to retire the more expensive Revenue Bonds and to finance the Project with G.O. Bonds paid back by the Special Assessments. Therefore, in order to implement and to finance the Project, 30 years of annual Special Assessment payments will be required to be paid by Palm Beach taxpayers FOR AN UNNECESSARY PROJECT!

FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT AND BE PATIENT.

Regardless of how the Town makes it appear, this matter is NOT OVER. In the words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over until it's over."

The only thing that is "inevitable" is, "MORE LAWSUITS ARE COMING!"

News Flash!

Updated Public Records show Town has been granted ONLY TWO Condo/Co-op Easements, La Palma & Beach Point. These Records contradict claims by Town that MANY South-End Condo/Co-ops have granted Easements to date. Is this misinformation or DELIBERATE DECEPTION by the Town?

 


"Improvement" or "Disaster":

Undergrounding Utilities 

In Palm Beach?

This Utility Box is what will be installed in the south-end. Will 100 of these high voltage boxes be an "Improvement" or a "Disaster"?

(7-5-17)

There are so many issues with Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities Project that to categorize this ill-fated and dangerous project as "An Improvement" is an insult to the intelligence of the Palm Beach Property Owners. In reality, when all the facts are considered, the Town of Palm Beach is planning to implement a Project that could cause the downfall of the Town of Palm Beach!

However, the urgency of all these issues reached the pinnacle of decision-making when all Town of Palm Beach Property Owners were mailed "Notices of Hearing to Impose and Provide for Collection of Non-Ad Valorem Assessments" for 30 year non-tax deductible "annual assessment for the design, acquisition, construction and installation of the Underground Utility Improvement..." In these notices mailed to Palm Beach Property Owners on 6/21/17, the Town changed the name of the Project to be an "Improvement." The Town Public Hearing is to be held on July 12, 2017 at 5:01 pm in the Town Council Chambers for the purpose of public comment.

Also, unclear to many layman in this notice, is the fact that if any Property Owner decides to appeal the Town's decision to levy this assessment and continue to push forward with this Project regardless of any facts proving its disastrous consequences to the community "...you will need a record of the proceeding and may need to ensure that a verbatim record is made including the testimony and evidence upon which the appeal is to be made." Those residents that carefully reviewed this had various angry responses to the Town; one such resident said that "Palm Beach is running a Kangaroo Court."

A Palm Beach Property Owner, who sent in an objection letter for the Town of Palm Beach's Town-wide Underground Utility Project, wrote to the Town: "I object very strongly to this assessment as I consider the project hazardous and a danger to the community, rather than an improvement."

Palm Beach resident, Jere Zenko, wrote to the Town due to her concern over one page of the confusing language in the Notice to the Property Owners. Mrs. Zenko gave me her permission to reveal her question and the response she received from the Town's Manager. Here are excerpts from the email correspondence that show the deliberate misleading and overt manipulation that the Town is engaged in with its Property Owners.

Mrs. Zenko asked, "As to the verbiage to the Line which states 'Initial prepayment' amount.... I did not like the verbiage... INITIAL implies there could be 'a request/demand for more than one payment.~ I asked who insisted that the word 'Initial' be inserted? Answer: 'the lawyers'....It leaves open the possibility that with cost overruns, contract change orders, "add on(s) etc. that the LINE ITEM will? /could be? Increased and that there will more than a 'one time cost'. It is a very large 'COULD'."

As Mrs. Zenko succinctly concluded, "Put another way it leaves those who choose the 'prepayment option' of being stuck for any change orders, cost overruns, etc... Notice also that those who do not want to pre-pay have 'total' at the start of the line item...." It appears that any prepayment to the Town of Palm Beach is like signing a blank check!

In response to the duplicitous language used throughout the notice document, meant to confuse the property owner to the point of complacency, the Town Manager replied that, "The reason it says 'Initial' prepayment amount is because there is the potential for multiple prepayment amounts as the financing process unfolds over time.... the financing sequences can unfold with potentially more expensive prepayment amounts."!

Apparently, the "Initial" prepayment that the Town is attempting to use to entice property owners to pay ahead of time is the "supposed full amount and a discount." There are so many twists and turns to the "Initial", "Adjusted", "Revised Adjusted", "New Adjusted" pre-payments that it is mindboggling!!

It is important to review a few of the facts and negative consequences to this Unnecessary Town-wide Underground Utilities debacle.

There is the little known fact that the Town will exercise its right that anyone who does not pay their special assessment, regardless of their permanent residency, will "... result in a loss of title" which means you will lose your home to the Town of Palm Beach!

The implementation of a 30 year annual non-tax deductible Special Assessment which will be added to your tax bill.

Paying a Town Special Assessment for Undergrounding of Utilities in Palm Beach that will be OBSOLETE before the planned 10 year Project is completed.

Much has been written about the DANGER that will be created by the installation of Underground Utilities on the flood prone barrier island of Palm Beach.

The new FEMA Flood Maps identify 75% of the Town of Palm Beach as a "Special Flood Hazard Area."

The Town of Palm Beach is in a "Special Flood Hazard Area" which will accelerate the CORROSION of both its underground conduits and the equipment contained in the on-ground Utility Boxes. The Underground Conduits are vulnerable to SALTWATER INTRUSION because the conduits have connection splices. This Underground Utilities system will be paid for by special assessments for 30 years which will be beyond the life expectancy of Underground Conduits.

The installation of approximately 100 six feet tall, high voltage, combustible, industrial style Utility Boxes that will be installed on the front lawns of our residential buildings in the south-end, which are within the 4 mile area of South Ocean Boulevard/State Road A1A.

We need to understand the facts and make a visualization of whether converting to an Underground Utilities Project is an "Improvement" or is a disaster that will create an environment which will threaten our safety and quality of life!

 


New FEMA Flood Maps Confront Palm Beach Undergrounding!

New FEMA Flood Maps will mean ELEVATED platform bases for electric utility boxes in the Town of Palm Beach!

(6-21-17)

The Town of Palm Beach faces major issues as they continue on the risky, dangerous path to Town-wide Undergrounding of their Utilities.

The new FEMA FLOOD MAPS and Town Flood Plain Administrator confirmed, at the May 2017 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Town meeting, that "...75% of the Town is in the 'Special Flood Hazard Area'!"

It is time for Palm Beach residents to wake-up and realize the stunning significance of what it means to be in a "Special Flood Hazard Area"!

This new information is overwhelming! It diminishes and defuses any public relations campaign by the Town to make it appear that this Town-wide Undergrounding Project will proceed as planned!

Town Officials' stubborn refusal to recognize the major issues that will arise from being in a 75% flood hazard zone area will result in Palm Beach's electric, cable and telephone utility systems being "Underwater" rather than "Underground" during the 30 years that this outdated, obsolete project will be paid off by Town residents.

FPL's website states, "Following recent hurricanes, we've found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passed. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers."

FEMA in their "Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building Utility Systems", states that utility system replacement or upgrades must "meet floodplain management regulations and building code requirements."

FEMA states in their P-936 7/13 publication, "FULLY SEALING ALL... ELECTRICAL UTILITIES IS NOT POSSIBLE."

FEMA also states, "Unless placed in dry-flood proofed areas or ELEVATED, pad mounted transformers and switch gear... will remain vulnerable to damage from a design flood or weaker flood event..."

The new FEMA FLOOD MAPS PROVE THAT THIS CONVERSION UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT DOES NOT PROTECT THE WIRING OR UTILITY BOXES ON THIS PALM BEACH LOW-ELEVATION FLOOD-PRONE BARRIER ISLAND SURROUNDED BY SALTWATER AND SALT AIR!

The Town Council, Officials and Staff continue to insist that they are NOT required to raise the electric utility boxes the sufficient height above the base flood plain plan and instead, will risk the entire system by placing the boxes on 6" platforms.

These high voltage utility boxes will be flooded and the conduits with the buried wiring, which need "taps" or seams, to offshoot to the buildings and homes which by nature are only water resistant not waterproof. Saltwater and salt air will seep into these utility boxes and conduits and will quickly corrode and create explosion hazards! This combustion produces the possibility for electrocution!

At the 1/7/16 Ordinance, Rules and Standard (ORS) Town meeting, chaired by then Council Member, Penny Townsend and the Town's Flood Plain Administrator and the Town Building Director, William Bucklew made some significant revelations that the Town should be held accountable for.

At this ORS meeting in 2016 regarding the FEMA Flood Zone, prior to the vote on the Referendum, Council member Townsend and Town Administrator Bucklew agreed that "If part of a building is in a flood zone, the building is considered to be in the flood hazard areas." Ms. Townsend then said to Mr. Bucklew, "THIS WILL HAVE IMPACTS ON THE UNDERGROUNDING, BECAUSE THE STANDARDS WILL CHANGE!"

Town Flood Administrator Bucklew responded, "IT WILL CHANGE and the other thing is... again this is an FPL issue, BUT I AM SURE THEY WANT THEIR TRANSFORMER ABOVE THE BASE FLOOD ELEVATION! SO IN THE EVENT WE DO GET SOME FLOODING, THEIR TRANSFORMERS ARE NOT..."

Councilwoman Townsend said, "LOW STREETS WHERE THEIR ELEVATION, I CAN THINK OF SOME OF THE STREETS WHERE I'VE LIVED, WHERE THE ELEVATION OF THE STREET IS 4FT. AND THE TRANSFORMERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE AT A MINIMUM OF 8FT."

Ms. Townsend continued with, "THE BASE OF THAT TRANSFORMER, SO ITS GOING TO HAVE TO BE SITTING ON A 4FT. PEDESTAL!"

Mr. Bucklew replied , "I AGREE AND THAT IS SOMETHING I RAISED AT A COUPLE OF MEETINGS WITH THE UNDERGROUNDING AND WITH MR. PAGE AND MR. BRADFORD. THE ELEVATION OF UTILITIES,... THAT IS A REQUIREMENT OF FEMA."

Subsequently, at the May 2017 Town P&Z meeting a Town resident asked Mr. Bucklew if the utility boxes, which according to Town Officials will all rest on a mere 6" platform on streets and Town areas that are below the base flood plain, are vulnerable and unsafe and will the boxes elevation be raised? Bucklew's response was that utility boxes are excluded from the FEMA requirements that were being discussed and would not be raised in those flood hazard areas anymore than the 6" standard platform.

THE FACTS ARE: FEMA REQUIREMENTS FOR BUILDINGS, AIR-CONDITIONERS, GENERATORS, ETC. ARE MANDATED TO BE ELEVATED ABOVE THE ABOVE THE BASE FLOOD PLAIN. The new FEMA Flood Maps require an increase in this elevation! Water knows NO "exceptions", such as utility boxes and buried utility conduits.

In addition, the question is "If the utility boxes are below the regulation requirements, does this negatively impact the Town's FEMA insurance compliance requirements and will this also have a negative impact on individual property owner's Insurance when companies realize that his equipment was installed without any method of mitigation?"

There also is the dangerous situation being created by Palm Beach in the south end of Town, where Town Officials plan to install almost 100 high voltage, hazardous approximately 6 ft. tall mostly switch boxes, some transformers and capacitors and other on-ground apparatus, concentrated in little more than a 4 mile area on South Ocean Boulevard.

This concentrated number of high voltage boxes that are highly vulnerable to corrosion and combustion makes this entire area of Town comparable to ticking time bombs!

NO CONDO or CO-OP SHOULD AGREE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TO GRANT AN EASEMENT TO THE TOWN.

SINGLE FAMILY HOMEOWNERS SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE GRANTING ANY EASEMENTS.

According to the Easement Agreement document given to a condo/co-op which shows it is for commercial/business for a mere $1. the undersigned is granting FPL, ATT, Comcast, The Town of Palm Beach, "together with the affiliates, licensees, agents, successors and assigns of the above named entities A NON-EXCLUSIVE EASEMENT FOREVER for construction,.......with the right to reconstruct, improve, ADD TO, ENLARGE, CHANGE THE VOLTAGE as well as THE SIZE OF,....within the easement...."

Equally important the Easement Agreement states that, "...the above named entities, and their affiliates, licensees, agents, successors and assigns, to attach or place wires to or within any facilities hereunder and lay cable and conduit within the easement area and to operate the same for communications purposes, THE RIGHT OF INGRESS AND EGRESS TO THE EASEMENT AREA AT ALL TIMES, THE RIGHT TO CLEAR THE LAND AND KEEP IT CLEARED OF ALL TREES, UNDERGROWTH AND OTHER OBSTRUCTIONS WITHIN THE EASEMENT AREA. .....and further grants to the fullest extent the undersigned has the power to grant , if at all, the rights hereinabove granted the Easement Area, over, along, under and across the roads, streets or highways adjoining or through said Easement Area."

FACT: 75% of the Town of Palm Beach is in a "Special Flood Hazard Area"!

No property owner should willingly give an easement to the Town under these conditions.

NO TOWN SHOULD GO FORWARD WITH A TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES PROJECT UNDER THESE CONDITIONS!

 

Town Denial Puts Palm Beach Residents At Risk!

This photo is FACT, NOT FICTION!

Statement of FACT by FPL on their website:

"Underground systems face outages from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers or switch boxes, and/or from tree root systems uprooting buried cable when trees topple."

(6-7-17)

The Palm Beach Town Council needs to separate "fact from fiction" before its willful denial of the negative quality of life impacts from Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities becomes an HISTORIC BLUNDER!

As recently as on May 30th, in NYC, 5 explosions from underground equipment took place on 1st Ave. between 70th to 73rd Streets. Fire was shooting out of manhole covers. A building was evacuated as a precaution.

On March 16, 2017, U.S. News and World Report published that "Authorities say manhole covers were sent flying by explosions resulting from an underground electrical fire in Sioux City, Iowa." The article continued with, "Assistant Fire Chief Dan Cougill says the fire stemmed from a system failure and that a pressure buildup caused the explosions." Power was knocked out in the area.

Izak Teller, a licensed electrical professional engineer with 30 years of experience in municipal engineering and undergrounding, says "Converting to underground utilities on a flood-prone barrier island has great safety risks. Underground wires are subject to corrosion from saltwater intrusion and the gases that form, which put the entire electrical power system at risk." As a result, the equipment degrades quickly and creates explosions, as well as shortening the 30 year life span of these underground utilities.

The South end of the Town of Palm Beach is a densely populated area of multi-story condo/co-ops within about 4 miles. In this area the Project calls for 96 to 98 approximately 6ft. square combustible, high-voltage, (Switch, Capacitor and Transformer) industrial style utility boxes.

It is important to know that the majority of the 96-98 boxes will be Switch boxes, not Transformers. Switch boxes are not permitted to be concealed with landscaping. Only transformer boxes are allowed to have landscaping on three sides. It is impossible to conceal any 6ft. square box. Significant to note that, according to utility requirements, the Switch boxes need up to 20ft by 20ft of space and must be kept clear from landscaping.

The Town is misleading the public with their continual claim that if condos/co-ops grant an easement, then these 6ft. hideous metal eyesores situated on a 20ft. by 20ft. space, will blend in. In fact, according to Mr. Teller, these Switch and Capacitor boxes "can not be blocked or landscaped in the front or back" and need space on the sides.

This experienced municipal electrical engineer, Mr. Teller, further explained that these huge boxes: "Must be totally open for a truck with men to drive up to it and space for a crane to lift and move the equipment." These enormous utility boxes near multi-story buildings can not be sufficiently hidden from view, especially since there are almost 100 within a 4 mile stretch. Regardless of whether there are boxes on the front lawn of one property vs. another, entire segments of Town are at risk and this will devalue everyone’s property values.

Regardless of all the safety issues that are unearthed, the Town continues to ignore the alarming evidence in the nation-wide news of underground utilities causing explosions and electrocution possibilities which create health, safety and welfare issues much greater than anything that has ever existed before. Not only is this perilous but property values will plummet as a result of these dangerous industrial size eyesore utility boxes that will disfigure once beautiful properties.

This is because all of this high voltage hazardous equipment will be on ground level, close to residences and to anyone who walks, cycles or drives by. These boxes will be connected to the buried wiring and conduits that are not that far below the surface and are vulnerable on this flood prone barrier island to salt water.

Mr. Teller explains that with these huge high-voltage utility boxes that need enough electricity to supply these multi-story densely populated residential buildings, "there is only a cover of a thin sheet of metal between this dangerous voltage and the outside environment." He says that it is not at all the same as any equipment within a residential building, which he says is not as high-voltage, because it is only for one building and it is encased in thick cement enclosure. This is not done for outside boxes of electrical equipment.

He also explains that "...the hot humid salty air and saltwater speed up the corrosion process, especially when you are on a barrier island surrounded by saltwater, which heats up the equipment and causes explosions." In the Switch utility boxes, "...the corrosion can cause a system fault overload. Switch gear has killed people when they have come close to it." "You can walk up to or be within the area of any of these three types of utility boxes when this explosion takes place, or just be a victim of the flying shrapnel."

As stated in FPL’s Q&A, "Following recent hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passed. Damage and corrosion of underground electrical systems often shows up days or even months later, causing additional outages and inconvenience to customers."

FPL also states, "Underground systems face outages from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers or switch boxes, and/or from tree root systems uprooting buried cable when trees topple.

"While a neighborhood may be locally served by underground cable, all electric service eventually comes back above-ground and connects to overhead service, either in the surrounding neighborhoods, or further down the street. So, exposure to above-ground electric service from weather, animals and trees is never fully eliminated."

The fact is that where there is standing water, FPL will not come out to do repairs until the water recedes. This has been confirmed over and over again.

Still unknown, within the Town’s planned future phases in Midtown, is what will these various utility boxes look like? 

The midtown area of the Town has an assortment of condo/co-ops, commercial buildings and single family homes.

Also, the number of 6 ft. tall Switch boxes, Capacitors and Transformers that will disfigure Midtown has not been revealed at this time. 

It just takes a little common sense to realize that this project will resemble the undergrounding project of Gulf Stream which their Mayor described in previous interviews as appearing like the "Benghazi Suburbs." It is significant that the Project in Gulf Stream was less than 2 miles. The Project in Palm Beach is over 40 miles and will more than double the estimated length of construction, cost overruns and more, when compared to Gulf Stream.

Are Palm Beach residents prepared for over a decade of traffic delays with construction fatigue, climbing non tax-deductible annual special assessment costs, cost overruns, mishaps and mistakes, which by the time the project and assessments are completed, the underground wiring will have reached its maximum life expectancy of 30 years and have long been obsolete?

Once the residents find out the truth of what will befall them, the damage will be done and it will be too late to object. The Town Council will be long gone and all that will be left will be a blunder of historic proportions!


Palm Beach Ignores

 State-of-the-Art Technology

BEFORE WITH HARDENED POLES & SMART TECHNOLOGY: This is a property with hurricane proof safe and reliable hardened poles and smart technology. The poles blend in as compared to .... 

AFTER WITH UNDERGROUNDED UTILITIES: This is the same property as it would look with those six foot high voltage, combustible, unsightly, ground level boxes, replacing the safety and reliability of hardened poles.

ARE THESE BOXES THAT THE TOWN PLANS TO INSTALL IN PALM BEACH, AN IMPROVEMENT, OR, A DISASTER FOR OUR RESIDENTS AND OUR PROPERTY VALUES?

(5-24-17)

While the Town of Palm Beach seems determined to finance and construct a Town-wide conversion to undergrounding project that is derived from 19th century technology, FPL is proceeding "full speed ahead" to install the new State-of-the-Art Hardened Pole Technology throughout the State of Florida.

On May 5, 2017, the Palm Beach Post featured an article regarding FPL. It stated, "The close to $3 billion Florida Power & Light Co. has spent since 2006 hardening its system against storms and making it more technologically advanced is paying off, FPL's President and CEO Eric Silagy said Thursday at the company's annual storm drill."

The PB Post article further described FPL's recent performance in storms stating, "During Hurricane Matthew in October, automated feeder switches prevented 118,000 outages, and not a single storm strengthened pole failed."

This demonstrates the latest proof of success for FPL's investment in Hardened Pole Technology! It is recognized now that Hardened Poles, Coated Wires and Smart Switch Technology has surpassed the buried wires that take longer to repair and are vulnerable to flooding, deterioration, combustion and safety hazards on any low lying flood-prone barrier island!

****Dominic Difilippo, a Palm Beach resident, who serves as an officer on his condo's Board of Directors, has an impressive background as a Licensed Graduate Electrical Engineer/power option. He has spent 43 years in the utility industry, both on the user (Utility) side, and the manufacturer side. Mr. Difilippo's experience covers a range of abilities and knowledge about the electrical utility industry. These abilities extend from his work in design, manufacture and installation of both overhead and underground electrical apparatus.

Dominic Difilippo drew the following conclusion after reading about FPL's success in having installed the Hardened Pole Technology in its 35 county system. Mr. Difilippo commented:

• "Re FPL's success with storm hardened poles and automated feeder switches during hurricanes Hermine and Matthew."

• "Makes one wonder why the Town would spend almost $100 Million that provides no improvement in reliability, imposes a 10-year construction/traffic nightmare, and degrades our property values with unsightly metal boxes containing high voltage electrical devices."

The facts are that hardened poles will withstand 145 mph winds, flooding and have the smart technology that can easily be updated as technology speedily moves forward.

State-of-the-Art Technology with its hardened overhead poles lasts 50 years, can be easily upgraded and is faster to repair. Underground utilities have a 30 year life span under the best conditions. Experts say, "Water and Electricity don't mix!"

Why, then, is the Town of Palm Beach planning to bury electric wires in a community that is on a flood prone barrier island?

As many residents have pointed out, the hardened poles that FPL would install in the Town of Palm Beach, (which are currently lining S. Ocean Blvd, from south of Lake Worth municipal beach to the Town's southern boundary), are not the monstrosities that the Town and their local paper have communicated to the Palm Beach taxpayers. In fact they are more aesthetically pleasing than their predecessors and blend in well with the landscaping. The equipment is high up and not anything like the ground level huge, dangerous, high voltage utility boxes that are planned to be installed throughout the Town.

Clearly, the Town of Palm Beach is caught in a dangerous, ill-fated underground conversion time warp.

Research shows us that saltwater and salt-air are two elements that are very damaging to underground conduits and on-ground utility boxes. They cause combustion, which is unsafe, unreliable, hazardous and explosive!

For example, one area of Town from Sloan's Curve south to the Town's boundary, is a little more than 4 miles. The Town of Palm Beach plans to install 96-98 approximately 6 ft. high, industrial type, high voltage utility boxes containing hazardous materials, within that residential area of the Town. The Town of Palm Beach is surrounded by saltwater on three sides. Something is dramatically wrong with that picture!

The obvious question here is: Why is the Town caught in this time warp and refusing to get up to speed with the latest State-of-the-Art Hardened Poles, coated wire and smart technology of modern times?

In my last article, "Palm Beach Keeps Explosion News From Residents," 6 underground utility explosions are reported which are just a small microcosm of the large picture that the Town has withheld from all their communications, Town Council Meetings, Underground Task Force Meetings and the local newspaper of the Town's choice.

An employee from The National Grid Utility Company in the northeast said, "Explosions from undergrounding occur somewhere everyday!"

We now know that there are significant negative impacts, such as lack of safety and reliability, which will result from converting to underground utilities if Palm Beach continues on its relentless and blind movement forward with this type of project on a Town-wide basis.

A significant quote taken from a recent Palm Beach Town Council meeting that took place on May 9, 2017 was made by Town Council President Pro-Tem, Dani Moore. She emphatically said, "Safety trumps absolutely everything!" and followed it with, "...that we do everything in our power to protect our residents."

This statement by Town Council President Pro-Tem Moore was made in regard to neighborhood beach access. The question that immediately follows is, "Why has the Town Council never acknowledged the lack of safety that exists with the frequency of explosions that this underground utilities project will impose upon the residents of the Town?"

The most important fact that the Deputy Fire Chief conceded at the 5/9/17 Town Council Meeting and which can not be denied, in regard to the reason that the Town of Palm Beach is having power-outages and incidents in certain areas of the Town:

"Existing Overhead poles need replacement and need to be hardened to make them more reliable."

TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDED UTILITIES IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH WILL NOT BE ABLE TO COMPARE OR BEGIN TO APPROACH THE FAST PACE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES WHICH ARE BEING PROVIDED BY THE SAFETY AND RELIABILITY OF HARDENED POLES, COATED WIRES AND AUTOMATED SMART SWITCHES!

It is now or never, Palm Beach! Change course before it is too late and Palm Beach becomes the second "TITANIC"!!

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Undergrounding in a Flood Zone — Really?

Palm Beach County has doubled required upset heights for new construction in flood zones due to ocean rise. In spite of this, Palm Beach Town wants to burrow below these heights to bury our utilities in the mud.

What kind of thinking drives people to choose this path.

Also the condos of South Ocean Blvd. who are obviously smarter & for a large part against this project, especially south of Sloan’s Curve, are being misrepresented by a citizens association that claims to represent condo owners of South Ocean Blvd. & yet in reality, represents the Town’s undergrounding project.

— Bob Ellsworth

Palm Beach


Palm Beach Keeps Explosion News from Residents

(5-10-17)

The real question is, "Is the perceived aesthetic beauty for a few residents, worth risking life and safety of the majority of property owners?"

Contained in this article are facts and several explosion incidents that the Town of Palm Beach keeps under wraps.

FACT: Undergrounded utility wiring, transformers and all the high voltage equipment it requires are causing unsafe, life threatening explosions!

The Town of Palm Beach has repeatedly stated that a Town-wide Underground Utilities Project will improve the safety, aesthetics (beauty) and reliability of electric power throughout the Town. Let's examine the safety and reliability claims more closely with current events that have not been revealed to Town residents.

SAFETY & RELIABILITY

UNDERGROUNDED UTILITY DANGERS & NEGATIVE IMPACTS:

**** Izak Teller is a Licensed Professional Electrical Engineer with over 30 years of experience with underground utilities in various areas of municipal engineering.

Mr. Teller, a Palm Beach resident and Officer on his condo Board of Directors, says:

• "The salt water on a flood prone barrier island like Palm Beach, with its high water table, will result in accelerated deterioration of the underground conduits, greatly reducing the normal 30 year life expectancy.

• "This includes increased thermal loading of the undergrounded cables during heat waves.

• "Underground wiring with the required taps at each connection to a home/or building, plus, the associated above-ground equipment, will be susceptible to saltwater intrusion, storm surges and flooding issues.

• "This will result in system failures and power outages.

• "Digging up the landscaping, roads etc. to locate the failed components will lead to traffic disruptions and delays.

• "In addition, explosions in the transformers, switch and capacitor boxes, underground conduits/taps and wiring caused by the salt air/saltwater and gases building up/ heat/thermal overload, will deteriorate the boxes/wiring/conduits and result in electrical malfunctions, sparks/ explosions and possibly even electrocution."

As recently as May 1, 2017, Reuters reported that in Toronto, Canada, "Blasts from transformer fire rocks Toronto financial district". The article explains that:

• "Explosions from a transformer fire rocked Toronto's financial district for hours..."

• "A fire in a transformer in an underground electrical vault caused thundering explosions that continued intermittently for hours, Toronto Fire Captain Adrian Ratushniak told Reuters."

• "Previous, similar fires have been caused by water, deteriorating electrical connections or aging transformers, he said."

• "The clouds of smoke that filled the block and adjacent intersections were likely caused by burning plastic or PVC insulation," Ratusniak said, "and the explosions the result of electrical wiring touching something it's not supposed to."

The Associated Press stated further that:

"...high-voltage transformers were to blame." In the Toronto explosions.

On April 28, 2017 South Miami, Fla as reported by Channel WSVN:

• "Officials are investigating an underground explosion in South Miami that left a section of the city without electricity for hours ..."

• "According to South Miami Police, there were reports of an underground explosion and smoke coming from a manhole."

• "Officials said the outage appears to be electrical in nature."

On CBS Miami, it describes:

• "Florida Power & Light and Hazmat crews were called to investigate."

• "Hundreds of FPL customers lost power near the area following the explosion..."

March 31, 2017, CBS, New York, "Manhole Explosions Shatters Windows Of Buildings In East Village"

• "The FDNY said high levels of carbon monoxide prompted evacuations of some nearby buildings, CBS2 reported."

• "The explosions are likely linked to the rainy weather, according to a Con Edison spokesman."

"Anytime you have some sort of salt into our electrical system, it's just not good," said Con Edison spokesman Sidney Alvarez."

• "The salt can make contact with lines and spark, officials explained."

On December 31, 2016, Chicago Tribune article, " No Injuries after underground electrical explosion in Gold Coast"

• "No one was injured, but two underground electrical explosions shook passersby on the Gold Coast on Saturday."

October 8, 2015, Palm Beach Daily News, Palm Beach, Fla article, "Explosion Rocks Sun and Surf Condo"

• "Electrical Blast in Garage Flings Pavers, Leaves Crater."

It was reported by residents of the condo that in the early morning hours, an electrical explosion rocked their condominium buildings. Bricks and pavers flew up from a manhole cover hitting the 7th floor penthouse and roof. A power outage from this electrical underground explosion caused 1,400 residents and business to have a power outage and fear for their lives and safety.

It is questionable why the Town of Palm Beach has never provided the information regarding the cause of the explosion that occurred in a residential building and are refusing to look into any other underground vault explosions.

August 19, 2015, NBC News, NY, on the Today Show, reported, "Why Manhole Explosions Happen In the Summer"

"Cables get extremely hot because of extra volume of electricity running through them because of air condition."

As FPL John Lehr reported in an Underground Utilities Task Force meeting in October 2015, "Underground Utilities takes long to repair since it takes longer to locate the problem."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you decide. Is the perceived beauty for a few, worth the life and safety of thousands that live in the Town of Palm Beach and the devaluation of property values?

(All emphases by Ms. Greenberg)


Palm Beach Violates Town Charter

                                                                                       Photo by Maddy Greenberg

(Above) Just imagine, 98 of these boxes of hazardous materials in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach on Easements or Public Rights of Way!

(4-26-17)

98 boxes of hazardous materials placed on Palm Beach's south end properties violates the Town Charter! The Town charter requires the Mayor and Town Officials to provide, first and foremost, for the safety and protection of all residents of the Town.

At the 4/13/17 Town Council Meeting, the Town Council and Mayor turned a deaf ear and had a total lack of concern when more than a dozen property owners, including Condo/Co-op Presidents, raised safety, reliability and aesthetic concerns when they objected to the "unbridled access", through Easements, that the Town is demanding of Condos and Co-op properties. This will occur through the Town-wide Undergrounding Utility Project if the Town installs dangerous, high voltage, huge, utility boxes along the manicured pristine front lawns of private properties and on the rights of way in the south end along South Ocean Boulevard. The Mayor and Town Council demonstrated a total lack of concern for these issues in the serious impending crisis that they are creating when they voted to continue to move the project forward.

In addition, it is now clear that the ultimate level of hypocrisy has been generated by the Town of Palm Beach's Mayor, Town Council and Town Manager. According to the Palm Beach Daily News (PBDN) 4/21/17, "wireless proposal feared as disaster" article, Town Officials claim that "...giving telecommunication companies unbridled access to public property and public right of way" for antennas and possibly poles would be "AN AESTHETIC DISASTER" in the Town of Palm Beach.

The Palm Beach Mayor insists that with wireless communication antennas "we in essence could have every public right of way marred by a utility we have no control over" which never addresses the 98 dangerous, huge, unsightly utility boxes. Clearly, Town Officials want to ignore that the same lack of control over safety, reliability and aesthetic issues that will occur with their plans to install (98) unsafe, high voltage, huge boxes on front lawns on the boulevard, which is much more serious than any wireless communication antennas on poles.

By installing wireless communication antennas on poles, "Town Officials say it would be an aesthetic calamity for Palm Beach, which relies on strict regulations to preserve its beauty." Yet, Town Officials totally ignore, with outrageous irony, that the Town will be destroying not only the property values in the south end by insisting that huge, high voltage equipment boxes will line the beautiful residential landscapes of South Ocean Boulevard but also, the safety and reliability of utility service.

Let's focus on those concerns raised by Condo/Co-op Presidents and Condo representatives: safety, reliability and aesthetics.

Mr. Izak Teller, Palm Beach resident, Vice-President of 2600 Condo on S. Ocean Blvd, in the south-end of Town, is a licensed professional electrical engineer in NYC and CT with over 30 years of experience of municipal engineering.

He says that "converting to underground utilities on a flood prone barrier island has great safety risks".

Izak Teller says that "the installation of approximately 100 large, mostly around 6 ft. tall, high voltage boxes along the front lawns of S. Ocean Blvd. is both hazardous and unsightly. Underground wires are subject to corrosion from salt water intrusion and gases that form, thereby putting the entire electrical power system at risk."

He explained that "placing electrical equipment on the public right of way exposes the Town and the State, which controls State Road A-1-A, South Ocean Blvd. and possibly including the original property owner, to possible legal liability in the event of injury to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, landscapers, as a result of these obstructions placed in close proximity to the roadway. The same is true if private property owners grant easements as the Town is requesting of them for these same boxes. They will not only be dangerous and unsightly but create liability risks for the original owner."

Mr. Teller explained that "these huge boxes contain combustibles and are subject to the build up of gases." He cites that "this has already occurred at the Sun and Surf Condo in Midtown in October 2015, when gases built up and created an explosion that shot pavers from the ground level up to the 7th floor penthouse." Izak Teller spoke of the fact that "there have been recent electrical explosions from underground electric utilities in NYC at various locations, including one just outside of the ABC building."

He says that the "large industrial style electrical equipment utility boxes besides being dangerous and ugly, will negatively impact property values in the south-end of Palm Beach".

Izak Teller summed it up by explaining that "FPL is currently providing 99.9% reliability to its customers and there is no significant improvement expected to justify an undergrounding project of this magnitude. Town-wide Undergrounding is totally unnecessary when the utility's method of hardened poles, coated wires and smart technology that the State has mandated at no cost, provides 99.9% reliability at less risk to the public."

Palm Beach Official's total disregard for the south end of Town is the height of hypocrisy when they cry foul about placing antennas or poles on rights of way for aesthetic reasons, but give the okay to placing hazardous, huge unsightly electrical boxes along the manicured front lawns of residential condos and co-ops on South Ocean Boulevard at the south end of Town.

As stated by Palm Beach's Town Manager in PBDN 4/21/17 article, "Its just going to be aesthetically horrible. I just couldn't understand how the (sponsoring) legislators could envision getting away with it in their own towns... how they think their cities aren't going to go totally ballistic is beyond me."

Town Officials, we don't understand, how you can't envision what you are trying to get away with, in YOUR OWN Town!

Decide for yourself why installing unsafe, industrial style, high voltage electrical equipment on rights of way, Easements and front lawns in front of pristine residential buildings worth millions of dollars is okay, while high tech antennas is "a disaster for the Town."

Yet, it is terribly wrong, as stated by Mayor Coniglio at the 4/13/17 Town Council meeting, to have, "Those unsightly antennas on the many decorative lights that this Town has spent millions on".

Palm Beach Mayor and Town Council, you are failing to comply with your responsibilities that are outlined in the Town Charter with regard to protecting the safety of all Town residents. The Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project is a gross violation of the Town Charter.

Palm Beach Mayor and Town Council, wake up before it is too late!

* Emphases by Maddy Greenberg


Palm Beach Exposes Residents to Unnecessary Turmoil & Risks!

FPL Capacitor Bank

Nobody VOTED for this!! This photo was taken from the Town of Palm Beach's draft Master Plan of the FPL equipment to be placed on Palm Beach lawns. Palm Beach is planning to install 98 high voltage huge boxes from Sloan's Curve to the southern boundary of the Town on the front lawn of manicured properties. CONCLUSION: PALM BEACH IS DESTROYING PROPERTY VALUES!

(4-12-17)

MADELYN GREENBERG’S ALERT:

Rather than surrendering your property rights, which will permit the Town of Palm Beach to destroy our property values by defacing our manicured front lawns, REFUSE!, RESIST! and DENY granting the Town EASEMENTS which would give the Town and any entity of their choice OWNERSHIP, USE, UNBRIDLED ACCESS and CONTROL OF YOUR PROPERTIES FOREVER!!

Be aware: If the Town attempts to take your property through Eminent Domain for this NON-ESSENTIAL Town Project, IT IS REQUIRED IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA that the Town must pay all legal fees, costs and appraisals related to taking your property from you. The law is on the side of the Property Owners. The Town can push and coerce you to grant them an Easement as much as they want, but the Property Owner has the legal right to say "NO’! It will cost you nothing to refuse the Easement and save your property values from the disfigurement by high voltage boxes to be imposed by the Town in front of your property.

Instead of writing my article this week, I have printed below a very important and revealing communication that was written by Harris S. Fried and sent to me. It concerns the Town of Palm Beach’s proposed Underground Utilities Project. Mr. Fried tells it like it is!

I believe its contents are crucial to understanding critical aspects of where this proposed Town-wide Project currently stands. A few of these critical aspects will be discussed at the Town Council on Thursday, April 13, 2017 starting at 9:30am.

Harris Fried is a Town of Palm Beach resident in the Town’s midtown- north-end area. He is an attorney with a background with financial institutions involved in global infrastructure projects. Also, he is the former Chairman of the Town’s Code Enforcement Board. Mr. Fried has attended Underground Utilities Task Force Meetings for at least a year and a half.

 

The following was written by Harris S. Fried:

(All emphases are Ms. Greenberg’s)

 

On April 13th the Town Council will be asked to consider proceeding with interim financing for the first phase of the undergrounding project. Interim financing is being sought because impending legal actions etc. are preventing the Town from moving forward with the $90 million bond issue originally contemplated.

At a Citizen’s Association forum last week information was revealed that may be instructive. The three main selling points for undergrounding have always been Aesthetics, Reliability and Safety.

On the issue of Aesthetics a clear disconnect exists between what Messrs. Bradford (Town Manager) and Schanen (Town Consulting Engineer, Kimley-Horn) said and what is really going to happen on the ground.

For the most part rather unobtrusive poles will be replaced by 98 electrical equipment boxes scattered the length of South Ocean Blvd. from Sloan’s Curve to the southern end of the Town. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the ground level mega boxes containing highly sensitive electrical equipment would be far more unsightly than the existing poles ever could be.

Regarding Reliability: Mr. Bradford was forced to admit that any improvement in reliability is miniscule in reality. Are we being misled here or is this simply a matter of miscommunication? You decide.

Safety: Here the Town Manager provided NO empirical data to demonstrate that by undergrounding safety would be improved. In reality having so many highly charged electrical boxes at ground level could result in greater safety concerns than less.

Mr. Bradford’s references to a Traffic Management Program really exposed how complicated managing this project will become. Contemplate this: How will traffic be managed when phase 1 begins at the same time that replacement of the southern bridge begins? And if this wasn’t enough further complicating the process will be the regular use by President Trump of Mar-a-Lago as the southern White House. The word "chaos" comes to mind.

 What was particularly disconcerting was the suggestion by Lew Crampton, the president of the Citizen’s Association, that if the residents in the south end wanted sand on their beaches it would behoove them to cooperate on undergrounding. Duplicitous? It would certainly seem so.

Lastly, this was all against the backdrop of neither the Town’s management nor their advisors being able to give a clear indication of what the cost of the project will be.

To validate the Master Plan that Kimley-Horn has produced it has been determined that a "peer review" will be conducted to review the feasibility, phasing, sequencing and engineer’s Opinion of Costs for the project. A second opinion by a nationally recognized firm on the critical issues mentioned is a good idea.

We have been told that a Selection Committee composed of Councilwoman Maggie Zeidman, Susan Gary (Underground Task Force member), Jay Boodeshwar (Deputy Town Manager), Jane Struder (Town Finance Director) and Patricia Strayer (Town Engineer), will choose the firm to perform the peer review. So as to avoid the perception of undue influence, Town Manager Tom Bradford will be a (non-voting) committee member since he supervises several of the committee members.  How objective can these town employees be when their boss is overseeing their every decision? It is imperative that these committee members are free of bias and any undue influence from their supervisors. I’m not sure that what is being done meets the level of impartiality that is required here.

To ensure transparency, the public should have an opportunity to be engaged. Meetings should be announced ahead of time, the public should be invited to attend and the meetings should be recorded so as to preserve a record of the committee’s deliberations. All materials presented should be available for public review. Transparency here is critically important or the peer review will end up being a waste of time and money.

The Civic Association has offered to contribute up to $50,000 to this (peer) review. While this appears generous at first blush, I doubt that they will be a silent observer. As we know, Jeff Smith, the Chairman of the Undergrounding Task Force, is a major contributor to the Civic Association. These interlocking interests should be a red flag to anyone hoping for a rational outcome here.

So back to why the Town Council meeting on April 13th is so important. If the Town Council approves the recommendation of the Town Manager and the task force (no surprise here!) to move forward with some form of interim financing it will enable the project to move forward despite the fact that very serious uncertainties exist and before the aforementioned "peer review" is completed. Suppose the firm conducting the peer review determines that the project is flawed for one reason or another? How can it be stopped once phase 1 has begun? This will be an unholy mess to unravel.

So, with all due respect, my suggestion to the Town Council is to DEFER a decision on interim financing until the peer review has been finalized.

If the Town Council allows this project to move forward with the level of uncertainly that exists here they will own this project and all of the ramifications that flow there from.

Thursday’s Town Council meeting will give the Council an opportunity to introduce the level of oversight that this project demands. To do otherwise will expose the town, and its residents, to an inordinate amount of risk that none of us ever signed up for!


Palm Beach's "Voodoo Economics"!

The Town intends to use these similar type and size of industrial size huge high voltage, high risk, equipment to deface and mar the Town of Palm Beach. Are these monstrosities on landscaped front lawns going to enhance Palm Beach?

Photo submitted by D. Braha

(3-29-17)

Let's summarize what we know for a fact. Clearly, Town-wide Underground Utilities in the Town of Palm Beach is not only an exercise in "Voodoo Economics", but also a fatally flawed Project that is totally unnecessary on a flood prone barrier island. Ultimately, Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities will leave on-ground, industrial style, huge boxes of high voltage equipment to destroy the Town's beautiful scenic vistas forever! Property owners will have lost their property rights and all control over what takes place on the Easements of their parcels of property. So why is the Town of Palm Beach really insisting that they want Underground Utilities?

"VOODOO ECONOMICS"

At the 3/14/17 Town Council Meeting, Town residents enumerated some of the flaws in the Town's plan for the Project. Harris Fried, an attorney said he has dealt with financial institutions involved with infrastructure projects. Ira Smith, a Town resident with legal background, also spoke in this regard.

• Fried: "There are risks that are not being addressed"; "The way costs are being addressed is somewhere between creative accounting and VOODOO ECONOMICS!"

Voodoo Economics is defined as "policy perceived as being unrealistic and ill-advised, especially a policy of maintaining or increasing levels of public spending..." This is a sad and profound description of the Town of Palm Beach's financial practices in this deeply flawed, out of control Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.

• Fried: "You do not reduce the costs of a project...by shifting critical elements like the contingency, reducing the contingency, shifting the whole Easement process, $15 million that we've talked about before and moved that over to the operating budget. That's NOT value engineering. Value Engineering is coming up with creative solutions to the same product that the people are expecting to have the amount of money, more or less, that has been agreed upon without compromising the integrity of the project. Don't see how shifting money from the undergrounding budget, to the Town budget, really accomplishes what should be done."

• Fried ended with cautioning the Town Council that "We are rushing into something. Press the pause button, stop and think about the risk the Town is exposing themselves to."

• Smith: Referring to the Town's Recreation Center Project for which the Town's share is a maximum of $5 million dollar investment; " The Mayor's comment was ....we would not break ground until we had ALL the money in the bank." ; Council member "Lindsay's comment was, we don't really know what the costs are until you get the real on the deal." "So, I ask you, for a $5 million Project, if that's your sensibilities, where is the sensibility on a $185 to $200 million Project? There is a disconnect there."

• Council Members Maggie Zeidman & Julie Araskog: "Our referendum was for us to borrow up to $90 million."; "But our budget was not over $90 million...that the budget the voters were voting on was up to $90 million."

• Council President Richard Kleid's statement: "What they were voting on is to fund it, but they were not voting on what the Project will eventually cost. That's a Town Council Policy question."... "Understand that is all that was voted on, was they would appropriate $90 million."

• Smith: Referring to the referendum language voted on by Town registered voters, "$90 million was the cost" and to his "recollection the verbiage said it was to be used to pay for the utilities, etc. Now when I hear that it is not limited to $90 million, I think it only makes the plaintiffs' lawsuits stronger, not weaker."

PALM BEACH MAYOR'S DISCONNECT WITH REALITY

In the Palm Beach Daily News’ 3/25/17 article regarding "Home Rule", Mayor Coniglio speaks of concerns regarding "Wireless regulation". It appears that the Mayor's concerns about State legislation that would prevent local governments from regulating utility companies' ability to place equipment, "such as wireless antennas within public rights of way", are contradictory! Mayor Coniglio is quoted as saying, "We, in essence, could have every public right of way marred by a utility we have no control over."

Yet, with the Mayor's blessing and the Town Council's promotion, it IS OKAY for the Town to let Utilities put high voltage equipment on Easements from private property owners to disfigure neighborhoods!

However, it is NOT OKAY according to Mayor Coniglio, for the State to tell the Town that Utilities can put equipment such as wireless antennas on public rights of way because it would MAR the rights of way!!! Clearly, the Mayor has a disconnect with her priorities and a total lack of concern when it comes to huge high voltage 5.5' to 6' boxes lining South Ocean Boulevard right of ways and also on private properties.

ARE THE TOWN COUNCIL'S ACTIONS DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP?

Most significantly, it appears that Palm Beach's Town Council has forgotten that their Town is part of the U.S.A. and is governed by a democracy, not by a dictatorship of the Town Council.

1-This is proven by what occurred at the 10/14/14 Town Council Meeting where the Council engaged in a unilateral vote to do Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities, without a Town-wide vote by ALL the Town's residents and property owners.

2- In addition to that flawed decision by the Town Council, Council President Kleid's statement at the 3/14/17 Town Council Meeting that the voters' approval doesn't matter.

Apparently, the Town Council dictates through their self-imposed Town Council Policies in whatever way they decree. That is part of what demonstrates a "dictatorship" rule.

PALM BEACH'S DISCONNECT WITH REALITY

The Town's priorities are so skewed that they have lost sight of protecting their barrier island Town. Instead, they are putting all of their efforts into a high risk, unrealistic, unnecessary, deeply flawed, out of control Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.


Palm Beach Plays Shell Game With Easements!

Photos by Maddy Greenberg

Would you like to have one or more of these on your front lawn?

Is this an aesthetic benefit to your property?

(3-15-17)

Another obstacle that the Town of Palm Beach must get past in this ever growing quagmire of a Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project, is the fact that they need hundreds of Easements from property owners for varied sizes of high voltage on-ground electrical equipment on their private properties.

FPL, ATT & Comcast have no way to complete a viable Project design unless the required number of Easements is acquired by the Town. Ultimately, it could strangle the Project from moving forward!

Easement acquisition for a NON-ESSENTIAL Project of this nature on private properties is a major hurdle for the Town. It is especially so while the Town is struggling with lawsuits that attack the fundamentals to justify the Project and that also withhold financing by GO bonds. In addition, the Project is facing major financial issues such as final costs and cost overruns.

To acquire these Easements the Town has worked out a "plan" or scheme, which constitutes a "SHELL GAME" with the public. The Town Staff or even a Deputy Town Manager visits potential Easement properties to convince, or to improvise a form of intimidation, in order to make the public think that the taking of their property through an Easement in accordance with the Town-wide Undergrounding of Utilities is a "fait accompli". This is, in fact, at this point in time, the furthest from the truth!

We should not be deceived by the number of Easements granted when some may be located on municipal property, not on private property. For example, the total number of Easements required in the south-end will contain municipal properties, such as in Phipps Park, on Ibis Isle and in the City of Lake Worth.

It appears that, at least in the south-end of Town, these site visits by Town Staff and Engineers have been polite. However, the verbal promises and the incomplete details and information given to the Condo/Co-op Officials, is nothing more than unsubstantiated promotional spin with no hard facts to support the verbiage!

Interesting that in the south-end of Town on Condo/Co-op private properties, the Town expects the Boards of Directors to give up parcels of Condo/Co-op properties without providing any proof or details about what they are getting in return. In reality, what they are surrendering will be used for ground level boxes of high voltage equipment which the grantor has no control over once the Easement has been given.

Private property owners are giving away manicured lawns in exchange for unsafe boxes of high voltage equipment that destroy the aesthetics of the entire area! Is this not a "SHELL GAME"?

IT IS CLEAR THAT PALM BEACH OFFICIALS MUST THINK THAT THE PUBLIC IS GULLIBLE AND EASILY MANIPULATED!

The Project has been broken down into Phases. The Town wants to begin in the south-end, where it is "easiest" and where there is a straight run with multifamily high rises. Simultaneously, it will also start at the extreme tip of the north-end where there are more complicated winding streets. According to the March Task Force Meeting, the Town's Request for Property Easements for Phase I of Town-wide Underground Utilities Project is: -North: 48 Easements, 39 have been contacted, 7 completed. -South: 29 Easements (21 properties), 18 contacted, 0 completed.

According to the Town's consultant, 30 switch boxes will be placed in the south end of Town. In essence this translates to giant high voltage ground level boxes of equipment that will line a previously scenic route as you drive down South Ocean Boulevard. This configuration will turn the now attractive south-end into a commercial and industrial looking area with huge ugly boxes that cannot be hidden from the property owners, walkers and drivers along the boulevard.

Certain designated Condo/Co-op properties are slated for one to five huge boxes of electrical high voltage equipment, as tall and as wide as 6 feet, to be placed on their manicured front lawns.

Although the Deputy Town Manager said that the equipment will be hidden from sight and screened by landscaping, unbeknownst to the Condo/Co-op official listening to these machinations, the truth is the opposite of what the "Easement" really states. The Easement parcel of previously private property will now be legally bound according the content stated in the Easement document.

Remember, the "non-exclusive Easement forever" document grants a parcel of your private property for the price of a mere $1.00 paid by the Town to the property owners.

It also grants the legal permission for every possible affiliate, licensee, agent, successor and anyone assigned by FPL, ATT, Comcast and the Town the right to "clear the land and keep it cleared of all trees, undergrowth and other obstructions within the Easement Area."

This doesn't fit the verbal promise the Town staff is making in order to get cooperation to acquire the Easement.

Izak Teller, a Palm Beach Property Owner, who is a professional, licensed electrical engineer, is also a licensed contractor in the City of New York. He has extensive experience in undergrounding utilities.

Mr. Teller reviewed the documentation that was given to two Condo Presidents along S. Ocean Blvd. by Palm Beach Deputy Town Manager, Jay Boodheshwar and a Town retained engineer.

In Mr. Teller's expert opinion, "Transformers will typically be 4 to 5 feet cubes or rectangles. Add to that, the switches may be 6 foot cubes- and capacitors - over 5 foot 4 inches, all without the height of the platforms."

Mr. Teller also points out, "... until the design is completed there is no way of determining the size or type of equipment that will eventually be installed at any given location."

Izak Teller added, "From an engineering point of view, there is no way to determine that what they propose will not wind up much worse."

In addition, according to Izak Teller, from his experience and the wording in the legal Easement Document, "The town is asking the Condos/ Co-ops (and all property owners) to grant essentially unrestricted easements - they may very well come back and say they need bigger easements." Once you have signed away your rights, all bets are off.

The Town's technique for massaging the truth, in order to get property owners to sign away their rights, is highly unconscionable!

Whatever happened to the legendary and world renowned Palm Beach?

Why should a questionable Town-wide Project cause residents to be concerned that Town Officials and Staff will take advantage of them and conceal the truth?

IS IT ACCEPTABLE PRACTICE FOR A MUNICIPALITY TO GET ITS WAY BY PLAYING A "SHELL GAME" WITH THE PUBLIC?

 


Palm Beach Sinks Further Into the Flood Plain While Trying To Underground

Photos submitted by Maddy Greenberg

Photos below: Typical Dimensions of 

Underground Capacitor and Switch Cabinets

(Above) Underground Type Capacitor Bank, Residential/Commercial Areas:

Length: 65"; Width: 65"; Height: 65"; 

Foundation Dimensions: 92" x 92"

(Above) Standard Underground Switch Cabinet, Residential/Commercial Areas:

Length: 67"; Width: 75"; Height: 50"

Foundation - 82" x 90"

Photos above: The Palm Beach of tomorrow? Town photos of the massive electrical equipment & their measurements to go on front lawns of private properties, recently given to a Condo/Co-op Board President. This is why Palm Beach wants easements granted. Can you imagine these huge eyesores on your front lawns? Is this not major devaluation of private property?

Bradley Park, Palm Beach Flooded. Undergrounding Utilities in a flood plain that would be buried underground and underwater in non-waterproof conduits, plus ground level electrical equipment submerged in areas with salt water intrusion. Does this qualify to have aesthetic and safety benefits?

Photo contributed

(3-1-17)

As the Town of Palm Beach attempts to move forward with a Town-wide Project to bury utilities underground, they are sinking further into financial, legal and now FEMA Flood Zone Dangers for this NON-ESSENTIAL PROJECT!

The Palm Beach Daily News (PBDN) article of 2/19/17 informed us that new FEMA rules will put more houses in the flood zone. The critical risks and dangers to undergrounding utilities Town-wide have been unearthed, when reading between the lines. We learn that an historic house in Palm Beach will encounter a "lift and shift" process, so as to "bring it up to current town and federal flood standards that require new homes be built a least 7 feet 6 inches above sea level."

This PBDN article relates that "Historic homes may see changes". It cross-pollinates with another important issue when you read further and learn how it directly impacts the Town’s Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. As I cite the following significant facts from within the article, consider the dangers of the Town’s continual push to bury utility wires and place transformers, switch boxes and other electrical equipment on ground level in denial of FEMA warnings.

According to the article, "Lifting and shifting houses could become more common in town in the coming years as regulators take steps to protect buildings that could be under water." a Town Official said.

"FEMA soon will release regulations, which determine flood risk and insurance rates, that are expected to put more homes in flood zones", said a Town Official with the Planning, Zoning & Building Dept. (P&Z)

The article further states that "A lot of the older homes are below the base floor elevation." The question that follows immediately is, "What happens to adjacent properties when a neighboring house is, ‘Lifted’ to meet FEMA requirements?"

The article acknowledges that Palm Beach needs protection against "...the harsh Florida elements such as hurricanes, storms and rising sea levels…"

According to the P&Z Town Official, John Page, "At our widest point, we’re less than a mile from the ocean to the Intracoastal…I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of homes are in the flood plain."

Most significantly, the article said that the word around Town is, "… The Town may have to plan on maybe 8.5 to 9 feet" elevations above sea-level to conform with the rising FEMA requirements. How does undergrounding utilities, Town-wide, fit in to this scenario?

On the barrier island of Palm Beach, the Town, which already has historic flood issues that include salt water infiltration, it would follow that "… a 3 foot rise in sea level would result in most land north of Worth Avenue and south of Pendleton Ave., between South County Road and Cocoanut Row would be under water."

The anticipated FEMA Report for Palm Beach County will reveal increased Flood Plain levels for the Town of Palm Beach and to serve as a "RED FLAG" to the Town and timely warning to HALT a NON-ESSENTIAL Town-wide Undergrounding Project.

The Town of Palm Beach cannot afford to ignore their responsibility to protect their constituents and acknowledge Scientific Facts!

Why on earth would any municipality facing the enormity of risks due to much of the Town being at such low elevation with rising sea levels, the oncoming and current tidal flooding, rain run-off difficulties and high water table levels, still continue to plow forward despite all the warning signs?

With Project costs spiraling out of control, more than a decade long of estimated construction and inevitable traffic hardships, why does the Town continue to pay experts, use Town staff time and attempt to take private properties for easements?

In the south end, Town Officials have already begun to make calls and visits to Condo/Co-op properties to ask the Officials of those properties to give up their private properties beyond the already existing easements, in order to place major equipment for their underground project. Why have Town Officials not also contacted the Condo/Co-op unit owners with regard to surrendering this private property?

One Condo President said that the Deputy Town Manager and a Town retained engineer came to tell him to give up the Condo property to place THREE huge high voltage utility boxes on their lawn. One box is almost 5’ 4" in height, width and length, without even a concrete foundation. The others are over 4’ high, over 6’ wide and 5’6" in length, without a foundation.

Think about how that is going to appear on private properties as one drives down South Ocean Boulevard. Where is the aesthetic benefit? Those monstrosities will effectively devalue the area and especially those unfortunate Condo/Co-op buildings that have these hideous huge metal eyesores!

Unfortunately, that does not spare any other single family homes throughout the Town, which will have these types of "on ground apparatus" on their properties. With the oncoming, increasing flood zone areas, there will be many of these various equipment boxes raised up as much as 9 feet, in accordance with FEMA requirements.

The document to be signed states, that it is a "non-exclusive easement forever" in exchange for $1.00! This is in exchange for the privilege of devaluing your property and also to have huge unsightly high voltage ground level equipment placed within view on your front lawn!

Along with granting this easement, it states that FPL, Bellsouth Telecommunications, Comcast and the Town, together with the affiliates, licensees, agents, successors and assigns of the above named entities can "add to, enlarge, change the voltage as well as the size" of any thing within the easement. It also says that within the easement, they have the right to "clear the land, remove all trees, undergrowth and obstructions within the Easement area…" This means no shrubs or trees can surround this atrocious eyesore!

The above is in direct contradiction to the promises made by the Town to the property owners prior to the Referendum vote!

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results!

The Town of Palm Beach has been attempting to underground utilities since at least 2003, without ever looking into all the risks and issues surrounding the disadvantages and perils of embarking on such a Project.

NOW FEMA HAS ADDED MORE HAZARDS!

Does that not meet the definition of "insanity"? Or, is this just another example of bizarrely poor and irresponsible governance?

 


Palm Beach Plummets Down The Rabbit Hole!

Photo submitted by Maddy Greenberg

Would you like this box in front of your home, condo or co-op?

(2-15-17)

Come to your senses, Palm Beach Town Council! Scrap this Town-wide Nightmare! Go back to petitions with 80% property owner approval and do a Neighborhood by Neighborhood Project for those that want to underground their utilities!!

The Town of Palm Beach is descending further down the rabbit hole in their grand scheme to bury utility wires in a Town-wide Project. The Town is playing games with the facts as they attempt to cover up and to stop their descent into the largest debacle the Town has ever known.

Project Costs have well exceeded the voter approved Referendum for financing the $90 million Project. Despite the Town’s best attempts to hide all the facts, they recently revealed that the $90 million Referendum limit has been surpassed and has risen as high as approximately $123.6 million.

The facts and some of the harsh realities of this Town-wide Project unfolded at the February 7, 2017 Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) meeting! The Town claims they have lowered the Project’s Costs by shifting them to homeowners and the Town’s budget, which is funded by the taxpayers. These costs have not been eliminated.

The Referendum for Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project stated the Underground Utility Project would be financed with GO Bonds "not exceeding $90 million" payable from full faith and credit ad valorem taxes and non-ad valorem Special Assessments. The lawsuits filed against the Town have put the Town in the position where they cannot issue the GO Bonds as long as the lawsuits are unresolved.

Despite predictions by the Town of having the lawsuits resolved by May or June, reality is that they can easily go on for years. Why is the Town wasting taxpayer dollars, depleting the Town’s budget, using taxpayer funded staff time, paying consultants, instead of holding off and waiting until the lawsuits are decided?

We know this Project has been on the Town’s radar since 2003. The lack of proper planning and due diligence for this Project and Lack of Transparency throughout has and continues to be widespread and obvious.

This was very evident at the UUTF 2-7-17 meeting when the "Current Conceptual Opinion Of Probable Cost of the Undergrounding Program" was unveiled by Kevin Schanen of Kimley-Horn, to be $98.6 million which exceeds the "not exceeding $90 million" financing voter approved 3-15-16 Referendum. After being questioned by the UUTF Chairman, Mr. Schanen revealed that the budget before value engineering was, "Over $120 million."

Tom Parker, UUTF member, asked "What is the total dollar amount of Adjustments?" Kevin Schanen responded, "$25 million." With simple addition, $98.6 million + $25 million = $123.6 million. This amount is well over the $90 million original budget and financing amount approved in the 3-15-16 Referendum!

Perhaps the core of the problem was revealed when Town Manager Bradford responding to a UUTF member’s question, said that he got his original number of $90 million from a consulting engineer who provided a "one pager" budget, without back-up. When he stated, "It was a $90 million one pager…no back-up…" What a revelation that was! This is the source of the $90 million amount in the Referendum.

Let’s touch on a few of the real truths that were revealed.

When UUTF member, Susan Gary acknowledged, "We’re stuck with the $90 million", it can be concluded that the Town is fully aware that they must not exceed the $90 million or they will encounter legal consequences!

The Easement Process is an essential component of this Project. Of the total easements needed for the entire Town-wide Project, 76 are required for Phase 1 North (48) and Phase 1 South (28). To date, only 3 easements have been fully executed and notarized.

We learned that in the south end, where there are already easement areas in front of properties, the Town will be required to take additional easements on Condo/Co-op private properties through either easement acquisition or eminent domain.

As you drive A1A, your view would be of giant transformers and occasionally, massive switch boxes. This would certainly mar your aesthetic view of the Boulevard. Why would any Board of Directors of a condo/co-op be willing to devalue their property with a transformer or switch box?

We also learned that the Citizens’ Association which claims to advocate for the south end of Town, not only supports undergrounding, which was rejected by the majority of south end voters, but it has also given contact information to the Town! In addition, the Citizens’ Association is working with the Town to convince the condos/co-ops to grant permanent easements for equipment to be placed on their private properties. It is possible that legal action may be taken by some of the condos/co-ops.

Items Transferred To Town Budget/Taxpayers. A huge cost, $12.8 million, of asphalt, milling & resurfacing costs has been moved to the Town’s budget. Leaving it unknown when they pave the affected streets. To save another $4.7 million on conduits, all communication cables (ATT, Comcast), as bizarre as it may seem, the wires that go from the conduit that is at the street will be buried without a conduit on private properties.

The Lake Worth Bypass portion in the south end has been removed from the budget, because it can not be bonded. It was mentioned at the meeting that this will be put into the Town’s budget. This means it will come out of the taxpayer’s pocket anyway.

Legal Costs in the current Budget were provided by the Town and are not all inclusive. No "big" legal costs such as eminent domain or construction litigation costs are included in the current budget.

The Project Contingency which originally was 20% is now just under 10% with a soft cost contingency of 5%.

The Estimated Cost of Inflation is 3% per year starting in 2018 for Phase 2. Susan Gary pointed out that "Typical is 3-5% according to Engineering News Record." Is 3% realistic?

Rear Easement Restoration. Tom Bradford said that "…there shouldn’t be foliage in the easement…". 90% of the properties in the Project have an FPL easement in the rear of the property. At the end of the Project, the poles and utility lines will be removed from the FPL easements. Mr. Bradford said, "Utility company employees may cause damage". If any foliage is ruined in the process, Bradford went on to say, "We think the Utility is responsible…. Why would the Town pay to fix foliage on private property?" The Town will also include a $100 allowance per property for general clean-up paid to Town contractors in the Project Budget to clean-up and restore the easements. Mrs. Gary responded, "Now people will get angry".

Interim Financing. The Town’s financial advisor, Jay Glover, said that "draw on a line of credit and it will be higher than the $2.54 million estimate." He suggested putting a "cushion into the assessment…" He also said the "Market is Volatile". He discussed that, "…interest rates could go up and you have to increase the assessments." Most significant was what Mr. Glover said to the Task Force regarding their obvious determination to take out a line of credit, begin to put shovels in the ground and regardless of all the issues swirling around them, begin this project with a $10 million line of credit. Mr. Glover warned officials, "If the lawsuits are not favorably settled, do we want to draw on a line of credit?" He asked them, how they will pay the loan back? UUTF member Donald Gulbrandsen said, "Talk about pitfalls."

In the meantime, with the Project Cost and Easement Process still in flux and still exploring ways to bring the Project into budget, the Final Master Plan with Project Cost is still scheduled to be presented at the April UUTF meeting. The approval of the Assessment Methodology is scheduled for the March 14, 2017 Town Council Meeting which triggers the Public Hearings and approval process for Special Assessment in April and May, with final approval on May 9, 2017.

As previously predicted by the Town Council, there will be legal challenges to the assessment methodology, which will likely prevent assessments from being used as payment for a line of credit. The Town’s mailings of each property owners’ assessments will be like receiving a quote for a product you never purchased.

At the end of the meeting, Anthony Dowell, UUTF member, made an ugly and veiled threat towards the south end. Mr. Dowell said to Tom Bradford, "Do the plaintiffs that filed lawsuits with interest rates trending up know what they are costing us?... The delay? .... Tom, I hope someone tells them….goes hand in hand with sand." The UUTF members all laughed.

AS THE TOWN OF PALM PLUMMETS INTO THE RABBIT HOLE, THE REAL VICTIMS HERE, UNFORTUNATELY, ARE THE TOWN’S RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS!!

 

Transparency Does Not Exist In Palm Beach!

Photo contributed

Photo taken Nov.16th at Bradley Park during high tide further demonstrates that even though the Town of Palm Beach and pro-underground supporters are IGNORING THE RISKS & DISADVANTAGES to converting to underground utilities on a FLOOD-PRONE BARRIER ISLAND, IGNORING THE DISADVANTAGES DOESN’T MAKE THEM ANY LESS POTENT WHEN YOU DO A PROJECT DESPITE ALL THE WARNING SIGNS OTHERWISE. JUST MAKES FOR A SELF-FULFILLING TOWN-WIDE DEBACLE!

(2-1-17)

Lack of transparency by the Town of Palm Beach has reached major proportions when it comes to revealing accurate specifics and facts about the Town-wide conversion Underground Utilities Project. What the residents of Palm Beach are totally unaware of is that keeping them in the dark about the Town’s long term goal to begin this Town-wide conversion to bury utilities, has been surreptitiously occurring for about 15 years.

A blueprint of the conversion Underground Utilities Project was set in motion as early as 2003. However, throughout the nearly 15 years since that time, the Town never sought the approval of the residents to undertake this Town-wide Project.

The vote to proceed with the Project was taken ONLY by the Town Council at the October 14, 2014 Town Council Meeting. At that meeting, the Town Council voted unanimously to proceed with the Underground Utilities Project WITHOUT ANY PRIOR VOTE BY ALL THE RESIDENTS OF PALM BEACH.

The Town Council allowed registered voters only to vote on financing a Project that had already been unanimously approved by the Town Council. There was a Town of Palm Beach Referendum on March 15, 2016 entitled: "Town of Palm Beach, Underground Utilities Project General Obligation Bonds." The Referendum specifically stated, "…shall Town finance burying utility lines…by issuing General Obligation Bonds not exceeding $90,000,000…?"

The Referendum was a vote by registered voters ONLY and ONLY on the financing approach to be used for the not to exceed $90,000,000 or $152,000,000 (principal and interest) Non-Essential, Town-wide Underground Utilities Project. NO PRIOR VOTE BY ALL THE RESIDENTS ON WHETHER OR NOT TO PROCEED WITH THE PROJECT WAS EVER CONDUCTED.

Yet, according to the Draft Comprehensive Plan, "The conversion of the overhead utilities to underground locations will be one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the Town of Palm Beach."

The Project has already gone over budget before it has even begun! At the Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF) meeting on January 5, 2017, a Town retained engineering consultant reluctantly admitted that they have already exceeded the $90 million maximum to Task Force members. Tom Bradford, Town Manager, was forced to confirm that the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project has exceeded the Referendum amount, which was specified to not exceed $90,000,000.

Yet, in this Town there is a transparency problem when it comes to giving all the accurate and specific facts to its constituents. The Town Manager eludes and refuses to answer a direct question by one of the Task Force members as to EXACTLY HOW MUCH THE TOWN HAS EXCEEDED the Referendum maximum amount for the Project.

Since that meeting, there has been a January 12th Town Council Meeting, a Special Task Force Meeting on January 23rd, an update given at the Civic Association also on January 23rd by the Town Manager and still no number or percentage of the amount of cost overruns has been given to the public. How is that good and honest transparent governing?

The Town has now indicated that they plan to use Internet providers to lower the cost of the Project. To do this, the Town has contrived to make a deal with the internet providers. However, this is the only information that the Town is offering to the public. Meanwhile, the Town has touted new wonderful Fibre Optics as a side benefit to undergrounding their utilities. Let us look more closely at that.

While the Town of Palm Beach claims that High Speed Broadband and Fibre Optics are a plus to underground utilities conversion for Town residents, the real facts are once again being kept from the public.

A Forbes Magazine, March 4, 2013 article, "Why High Speed Broadband Fibre Is Becoming Irrelevant", offers the facts as to why the Town of Palm Beach is so out of touch with "state of the art" technology that they are offering to install out of date technology in a Project that will take at least 10 years to construct and 30 years to pay off. According to this article in Forbes Magazine, "But the truth is that fibre based broadband is increasingly becoming an old technology and it’s simply not worth insisting that it be laid across the country. The reason is that wireless broadband is getting much, much better and extremely rapidly too." "We risk entirely wasting the money." "So why would we spend billions (even tens of billions) on a soon to be outdated technology like fibre optic broadband?"

Forbes Magazine says, "… that this is the beginning of the death of wired broadband."

Therefore, why on earth would the Town of Palm Beach plan to have outdated technology installed Town-wide?

Why would the Town install a technology that will be obsolete before it is even completely installed Town-wide and way before the annual non-tax deductible special assessment payments are completed?

How can any thoughtful, reasonable person with common sense consider the Town-wide Underground Utilities Project that the Town of Palm Beach is pursuing undeterred, while gambling with taxpayer dollars, to be a cost effective, sound financial decision?


Palm Beach Faces Financial Chaos!

Photo taken by Palm Beacher, Charles Pepper, 11/16 showing flooding along the walking path of Lake Trial, Palm Beach. Why is Palm Beach CONCEALING THE RISKS in their attempt to underground utilities on this historically flood prone barrier island?

(1-18-17)

The Town of Palm Beach is now facing financial chaos. The Town is determined to do a project that exceeds the $90 millions cost that was voted upon in the March 15, 2016 Referendum.

At the December 2016 meeting of the Underground Utilities Task Force (UUTF), which is advisory to the Town Council, it was decided that, at the January 2017 UUTF meeting Tom Bradford, Town Manager, would present the Master Plan and the Engineer’s Opinion of Cost for the Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project. Neither was presented!

The most important revelation was when Task Force members were told by Mr. Bradford that the Town of Palm Beach, prior to even initiating this Project, has an Engineer’s Opinion of Cost that exceeds $90 million.

As a reminder, the Referendum included the specific language about the costs and financing of the Project: "By issuing general obligation bonds not exceeding $90,000,000…"

The Task Force members were also told by Mr. Bradford, "We can not access the G.O. (bond market) until the lawsuits are settled."

Mr. Bradford said, at the 1/10/17 Town Council meeting, "A number of things happened in December taking us off track, including but not limited to:

- "The Engineer’s Opinion of Cost is in excess of $90 million."

- "… the lawsuits will not be concluded until late May at best… so we can not access G.O. bond financing until the lawsuits are settled."

At this Town Council meeting, Town Council President Michael Pucillo said,

"We have two issues here: One, the cost number, the other is the legal impediment to doing a G.O. bond offering. If you can get the costs in line and you are comfortable that we are at $90 million and no more, or possibly less than $90 million, that takes care of one impediment. The other impediment is G.O. financing.

The Town Manager said, "Construction costs are rising."

Mayor Gail Coniglio asked, "If Tom Bradford is able to square the $90 million number, would we consider a short term financing option to precede a G.O. bond?"

Pucillo raised concern about alternative financing options: "We would be getting away from $90 million in financing.…. Don’t be too anxious to get a shovel in the ground…. We need to be as true to the citizens as we can…. I am uncomfortable with alternative financing options…. Let’s get it right, even if it takes a little longer. The Town has construction fatigue."

Council President Pucillo went on to say, "We did a Referendum because we wanted to do a G.O. Legally we could retreat… but it makes me uncomfortable…it is not what we told the people we wanted to do."

Council Member Bobby Lindsay Buck said, "It doesn’t sound like the lawsuits are going to be resolved, but the biggest elephant in the room may be whether we get the budget resolved! So let’s figure that out…". Bobby Lindsay Buck asked Tom Bradford, "When will you actually have a good number?"

Tom Bradford said, "In 90 days or April 1st is realistic."

The Town Council agreed to have Tom Bradford work on reducing the Project budget (costs) not to exceed $90 million and report back to the Council by April 1st.

What is interesting is that the words spoken by the Council President, such as, "If we win the lawsuit"…… "If you’ve won all the cases" "…You haven’t gone through the trial first, then you really don’t have a strong sense." "You may never be able to do the G.O. and that is the concern I have." "I think these lawsuits when I looked at them were frivolous, but they are still out there." "The reality is, they are there, so."

Then there is Council Member, Richard Kleid, who instead of taking the blame upon himself and his fellow Town Council members for putting property owners in this predicament, instead, verbally attacked the two individuals who brought suit. Kleid also stated that he feels, there will be more lawsuits on this Town-wide Undergrounding Project, and that, "They will go after the assessments and we are going to be plagued by that." Yet, Mr. Kleid is in favor of interim financing and said, "Don’t think now is the time to stop… I’m in favor of proceeding…"

Mayor Coniglio stated, "There is tremendous discontent that we did not have a tight enough handle on this."

Mr. Pucillo said, "In the presence of these lawsuits and the unlikeliness to get them resolved by May…" The Town attorney agreed that the lawsuits won’t be resolved until after May. Mayor Coniglio asked, "I am wondering can we be in lawsuits for 2 to 3 years?" Council President Pucillo said, "We could be and reality is that you could…"

With all of that looming, is it responsible governance to continue to act as if nothing is wrong and spend taxpayer dollars on this threatened non-essential conversion to underground utilities on an historically flood prone, high water table, barrier island?


Why Is Palm Beach Orchestrating A Cover-Up?

Photo taken by Charles Pepper Nov. 16, 2016 at Seaspray Ave. in Palm Beach. What more proof is there than this photo that illustrates that the Town of Palm Beach is on a flood prone, low-lying, high water table. barrier island. where saltwater intrusion occurs on sunny days in high tide? Check out the bench, trash pale, walking path & street, all underwater! How can Town Officials ethically justify a Town-wide Underground Utility Project in a Town that is clearly so vulnerable to coastal flooding like this?

(1-4-17)

Why would a Town set out on a planned path, as far back as 2003, to convert to Underground Utilities throughout the Town and never inform the residents and property owners of the major and numerous disadvantages of embarking on such a Town-wide project?

Why are Town of Palm Beach Officials and their surrogates twisting the truth and concealing the major disadvantages to converting to underground utilities on a low lying flood prone barrier island?

This Town-wide Palm Beach Undergrounding Utilities Project has life and safety concerns that the Town continues to ignore, deny and cover-up!

Let’s review the accurate facts that I researched and revealed in my 2016 news articles. These facts establish that the Town of Palm Beach is determined to move forward with a non-essential, "aesthetic" project that is totally flawed.

The following are the significant facts which are "buried" in the Town’s major cover-up.

FACT 1: Eminent Domain and Easements

If a property owner refuses to allow a transformer or a large switch box and "ground level equipment" on their front yard property for an easement, the Town will invoke a "quick-take condemnation and seizure process" or as stated in the Town’s current Draft Comprehensive Plan, "Eminent Domain" against the property owner. In other words, the Town can obtain possession of the private property without a trial.

The Town’s condemnation of private property will take place unless multiple property owners decide to legally challenge this action, as has been done in other States. Or, after the process, property owners can take legal action against the Town challenging the amount to be paid for the seized property.

These actions can cost the Town time and millions of dollars from the legal fees and judgments incurred against them. The legal fees are going to the law firm with which the Town’s attorney is associated. Thus far, the Town is not getting cooperation from the "noticed" property owners.

FACT 2: Special Assessment Increases

As confirmed in the Town’s current Draft Comprehensive Plan, "Project cost may exceed approved referendum amount." The Town, (as agreed upon by the Town Council), has the right to increase the annual Special Assessment for each property owner at any time during the 30 years of annual non-tax deductible payments.

FACT 3: Foreclosures

If a property owner does not pay any of the Town’s special assessments for the Utilities Undergrounding over the next 30 years of annual payments, the Town will invoke "FORECLOSURE" ON THE PROPERTY, regardless of homesteading status.

FACT 4: Longer Outages

In a September, 2014, PB Post article, listed among the "Potential Disadvantages" for "underground electric systems" are: "environmental damage including soil erosion, habitat disruption; longer duration outages and MORE customers impacted by outages; susceptible to flooding; storm surges and damage during post-storm cleanup; life expectancy is 30 years vs. 50 years for overhead systems."

FACT 5: Conversion Problems

On the FPL website, listed as "DISADVANTAGES" to undergrounding of utilities and conversions in older communities, are: "Longer duration of outages"; "More susceptible to flooding, which delays restoration efforts";

Plus, something NO ONE in the Town of Palm Beach has any idea about: "REPAIRS OF UNDERGROUND LINES MAY REQUIRE PRE-ARRANGED OUTAGES AND EXCAVATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY"!!

FACT 6: Intracoastal Submarine Cable vs. Underground Conduit

An Intracoastal Submarine Cable is very different from an Underground Conduit. The cable under the Intracoastal is a "Submarine" cable which is continuous, without connections, splices ("taps") or transformers. In contrast, the Underground Conduits have "taps" or splices at every four houses to connect to transformers and the transformers are above ground. Each of the transformers has additional "taps" to feed each of the four houses it serves. These "taps" have to be made "accessible" and therefore are more difficult to seal and make water tight. It is virtually impossible to seal all the "taps" for the connections required. EACH CONNECTION IS A POTENTIAL AREA FOR WATER INFILTRATION. THE SUBMARINE CABLES UNDER THE INTRACOASTAL ARE BY DEFINITION WATERPROOF AS COMPARED TO THE UNDERGROUND CONDUITS PLACED UNDERGROUND IN SOIL.

On July 7, 2016, The Daytona Beach News-Journal says, "In case you’re wondering: Why don’t they simply bury the lines?" The Journal quotes Ralph Grant, FPL area manager, who is in charge of Flagler and Volusia counties. FPL’s Grant said, "Buried lines are more susceptible to flooding in coastal and low areas and can be difficult to maintain and repair."

FACT 7: Repair Problems

In the publication, Florida Today, after Hurricane Matthew, FPL President and CEO, Eric Silagy, confirmed that, UNDERGROUNDING "is not a silver bullet". Silagy also said that areas that undergrounded utilities have problems "if repairs need to be made. Underground utilities are more difficult to access than traditional overhead power lines."

FACT 8: Flood Delays

FPL spokesman, Bill Orlove, gave an example of how problematic undergrounded utilities can be. This is a sharp contrast to overhead poles, especially the new upgraded hurricane proof hardened ones. Mr. Orlove referred to the inland community of Wellington, where their utilities are undergrounded. He explained that when Tropical Storm Isaac struck Florida back on August 28, 2012, Wellington was flooded. As a result of the undergrounded utilities, FPL could not restore power in Wellington until the flood waters receded, when they could try to find where the repairs were needed and then proceed to get at them.

Hilton Head Island was touted by Town Official, Thomas Parker as having undergrounded their utilities and fared well following Hurricane Matthew. In contrast to Parker’s inaccurate claims, it was revealed through research that "On Hilton Head Island, thousands remain in the dark." This was reported in a local newspaper, The Island Packet, 10/11/16.

FACT 9: Saltwater Intrusion

A newly published, 11/1/16 scientific study, to "identify sea-level rise impacts on coastal protection….and energy infrastructures.", states, "Expansive areas of low elevation in many….coastal areas are at elevated risk of storm surges and flooding …, as a result of sea-level rise. These phenomena could have catastrophic impacts on coastal communities and result in the destruction of coastal infrastructure…"

"The rise of sea-level is likely to cause saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater systems affecting ….. underground utilities that could be vulnerable to damage when in contact with the saltwater."

FACT 10: Lightning

In "Emergency Information" from "One Call, New Jersey" it states "If a buried electrical line is struck in wet soil/conditions, the ground may become energized for a large area around the strike."

FACT 11: Corrosion

According to FPL, "While underground facilities are not as susceptible to wind and debris-blown damage, they are MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO WATER INTRUSION and local FLOOD DAMAGE, which can make repairs more time consuming and costly." "UNDERGROUND INTERRUPTIONS…typically last longer due to more complex repair requirements. Following …hurricanes, we’ve found that areas that took the longest to repair were generally those served by underground facilities still flooded days after the storm passes. DAMAGE AND CORROSION OF UNDERGROUND ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS OFTEN SHOWS UP DAYS OR EVEN MONTHS LATER, CAUSING ADDITIONAL OUTAGES AND INCONVENIENCE TO CUSTOMERS."

FACT 12: "State of the Art" Technology

It defies logic for the Town to plan to subjugate its residents to a conversion of overhead utilities to underground utilities on a flood prone barrier island when "State of the Art" technology for overhead utilities is available!

October 10, 2016, The Wall Street Journal says, "From 2008 through 2017, the U.S. government and utilities are expected to spend more than $32 Billion on smart-grid and storm-hardening technology, according to a federal report. That includes systems designed to resist wind, flying debris and FLOODING- and allow power providers to identify damage and restore electric service more quickly."

FPL in their "2015 Electric System Improvements in Palm Beach County" said that that they "are committed to building a stronger and smarter grid to deliver electricity customers can count on in good weather and bad." FPL said that "Smart grid switches automatically re-energize- improving the self-healing capabilities of the grid. e.g. when a tree branch or palm frond touches an overhead line, it can create a momentary outage or ‘flicker’ for customers." "If this occurs, the switch will open and de-energize the line to isolate the issue, ensuring fewer customers experience the outage."

WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH?


Palm Beach’s Misinformation Campaign

FPL Energy News

Areas in blue & yellow show flood areas in Palm Beach. Source: FAU Center for Environmental Studies, Keren Bolter, PhD; Underground utilities are susceptible to flooding! If Palm Beach undergrounds Town-wide, get ready for long power outages!

Photo taken by Charles Pepper, 11/16/16 shows flooded walking path and partially submerged bench, on a sunny day in Palm Beach. How can Officials justify Town-wide Underground Utilities in a low lying barrier island Town that is this flood prone?

(12-31-19)

 

Why does a municipality like the Town of Palm Beach find it necessary to use misinformation in their multi-media pro-undergrounding utilities campaign? Town Officials that condone through their silence, or participate in this public relations misinformation campaign, become complicit in this unsafe, unreliable boondoggle that is an insult to the intelligence of their Palm Beach constituents!

The Town Officials and their large scale public relations campaign, sponsored with taxpayer dollars, are in full throttle in order to spin what they claim to be "facts" so as to convince property owners that Palm Beach needs to underground their utilities.

To use the slim passage of a referendum, that only dealt with a method of financing as a means of justification so as to continue to spend monies and attempt to initiate this ill fated disastrous project, is a cop-out for Town Officials. It does not remove them from their responsibility to constituents and property owners’ quality of life as well as safety and reliability of utility power, Town-wide.

Town e-blasts, brochures, automated phone calls, Town Undergrounding Task Force Meetings, local newspaper articles and editorials written in the local newspaper by biased public officials, are fully focused on the same end goal. All make different pro-undergrounding claims.

Every month, FPL sends its bills to Palm Beach customers. Enclosed with each bill is the "Energy News" published by FPL. This month’s copy is shown in photo (top right). FPL advises to keep all utilities clear of vegetation in order to avoid debris falling on transformers and power lines. According to property owners in the north end, the Town does not do any trimming. If called upon by a municipality, FPL will do the trimming when vegetation has been allowed to get too close to the power lines.

As viewed while driving on N. Lake Way in Palm Beach, a main artery in the north-end of Town, trees and massive shrubbery are encircling the utility poles and wires and the trees are encroaching on the utility poles. Two things are evident in what you will observe: 1- Vegetation, trees, huge shrubbery and vines are growing wildly into the easements and areas of the utility poles and wires that line the street. 2- The utility poles and wires have not been upgraded, due to Town Officials wanting to convert to underground utilities since as far back as 2003. North-end residents have repeatedly told me that the problems are happening because tree limbs and other vegetation are so close and are hitting and falling into the power lines!

EVIDENTLY, THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH’S CLAIMED POWER OUTAGE ISSUES ARE THE RESULT OF THE TOWN’S OWN NEGLIGENCE!

I have contacted the municipalities running from Juno Beach down to Highland Beach. Out of 9 municipalities north and south of Palm Beach, there was NOT ONE that claims to be having these power issues, whether they are completely overhead utility power lines or a mixture of overhead and some underground.

In Juno Beach, I spoke with Andrea Dobbins, Town Project Coordinator and Risk Manager. Ms. Dobbins said that "really nobody lost power" during and after Matthew. She told me that the Juno Beach’s utility power is mixed with mostly "Hardened poles running through the Town and also along the streets in areas that have flood issues." When I asked, she said, "There is one area that floods even with a heavy rain and we have hardened poles installed there." One area in the municipality, known as "the Ridge" is undergrounded. Ms. Dobbins explained that "the Ridge" is at a much higher elevation. The Town’s Risk Manager made it abundantly clear that they find the hardened poles work extremely well. Apparently, Juno Beach, especially in flood prone areas, decided to install hardened pole smart technology as the most reliable source of power.

In addition, the municipality of Juno Beach, like the other municipalities that I spoke with, takes on the responsibility themselves of "aggressively and pro-actively, not reactively, trimming vegetation throughout the Town!", so that they "take care of it even before it becomes an issue." Ms. Dobbins said, "that since the municipality does aggressive proactive trimming themselves, they rarely need FPL to come in."

Every one of the municipality personnel that I spoke with, north and south along the coastline, said they didn’t have power outage issues.

In fact, in Highland Beach, Public Works Ed Soper, was proud to proclaim to me that they have NO POWER OUTAGE PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER, BECAUSE HIGHLAND BEACH HAVE INSTALLED HARDENED POLE SMART TECHNOLOGY TOWN-WIDE! In addition, Mr. Soper stated that Highland Beach keeps all trees, branches and vegetation well trimmed so not to obstruct in any way.

The real fact is that the problems that exist in the Town Palm Beach are not the fault of overhead utility power, but caused by neglect of overgrown and dangerously close proximity of giant hedges, trees and their branches. In addition, the lack of allowing upgrades to the utility poles, like hardened poles and smart technology, are contributors to the power issues the Town is experiencing in those areas.

Another repeated misinformation campaign claim came from PB Task Force Member, Tom Parker. He stated at the Task Force Meeting and then later in a letter to the editor of the Town’s local paper, that Hilton Head Island was undergrounded and fared better than areas with overhead utilities during Hurricane Matthew. He implied that they had no power outages during Hurricane Matthew. This is not an accurate statement. The real fact is that during and following Hurricane Matthew, "On Hilton Head Island, thousands remain in the dark." as reported in the local newspaper, The Island Packet, on October 11th.

Obviously, undergrounding utilities didn’t stop the island from suffering power outages, nor would it in The Town of Palm Beach!!!


Is Palm Beach Gambling With Taxpayer Money?

Photo contributed

Photo taken at Bradley Park, Palm Beach, by the Intracoastal on 11/16/16, begs the question: Why would Palm Beach convert to undergrounded utilities which is documented to be susceptible to flooding and salt water intrusion, when they are presently, even during a sunny day and full moon, ALREADY UNDERWATER? Salty water, at that! Despite Town claims otherwise, certainly, NOT a responsible move by Palm Beach Town Officials.

(12-7-16)

Why is the Town of Palm Beach continuing to ignore the accurate facts and instead, proceed to twist the truth in order to "sell" undergrounding, while it expends taxpayer dollars for a new public relations campaign to promote an unsafe and unreliable Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project? This is clearly a situation in which the Town is using taxpayer dollars on a gamble.

The fact is that the Town of Palm Beach obviously knows the truth and instead of doing their due diligence, they are spending taxpayer monies on project design, public relations and engineering consultants. If the lawsuits against the Town prevail, those taxpayer monies which amount thus far to well over $2M, are wasted.

As incomprehensible as it may seem, the Town of Palm Beach seems to be spending taxpayer dollars well after the March 15th Referendum on Undergrounding Utilities is over, just to impose a new campaign of inaccurate information. Clearly, this is being done in order to make their residents believe what they want them to believe.

It is possible that the Condo News with its widespread circulation has contributed to the Town’s panic as is demonstrated by its stream of e-mail blasts, postcards, pro-undergrounding forums, arranged news articles in the local paper promoting the project, a pre-recorded phone message from the Town and more. Recently, the Town sent a four page brochure entitled, "Undergrounding Today For A Better Tomorrow". All of the public relations spin is in full throttle, for what purpose, one would ask?

Let’s review some of the misleading and out of context statements that the Town has made to its residents and analyze their accuracy. In order to claim success, the Town of Palm Beach has been comparing their Undergrounding Utilities project with tiny municipalities that have fewer property owners and are not in flood prone areas as compared with the Town of Palm Beach that consists of 9,500 property owners on a low lying flood prone barrier island. Jupiter Inlet Colony, which has some 240 homes, claims that their newly installed undergrounding is proof of better reliability, without even a severe rain event, flooding or similar conditions. How does this compare with the Town of Palm Beach that is located on a low-lying flood prone barrier island with 9,500 property units? The comparison is ridiculous and is intended to mislead the public. Their Mayor’s report of no outages during Hurricane Matthew, which missed his tiny Town, is neither valid nor a reliable source of proof of anything but a defensive attitude by someone who is rationalizing the Undergrounding expenditure by his Town.

The Town Manager of Jupiter Island, another source cited by the Town of Palm Beach, says that they had no flooding and only two inches of rain. That report has no bearing on the fact that Matthew, in these areas, was NOT a flood event. Therefore, whatever occurred in areas of Jupiter Island that were undergrounded, has no bearing on the danger it is to Palm Beach Island. More proof as to the Town of Palm Beach’s arrogance and misdirection in the following:

On the FPL website, listed as "DISADVANTAGES" to undergrounding of utilities and conversions in older communities, are: "Longer duration of outages"; "More susceptible to flooding, which delays restoration efforts"; Plus, something no one in the Town of Palm Beach has any idea about: "REPAIRS OF UNDERGROUND LINES MAY REQUIRE PRE-ARRANGED OUTAGES AND EXCAVATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY"!!

From all of my research on Underground Utilities explained in past articles, we know there are many more risks and disadvantages, including explosions from gases building up in the conduits, among other major problems that will occur at some point in time.

We have an even clearer warning that should not be ignored. On July 7, 2016, in the Daytona Beach News-Journal they describe FPL’s "… hardening project includes replacing wood poles with concrete poles and adding poles to shorten the distances between poles so the system can withstand winds of up to 130 miles per hour close to the beach."

The Daytona Beach News-Journal says, "In case you’re wondering: Why don’t they simply bury the lines?" The Journal quotes Ralph Grant, FPL area manager, who is in charge of Flagler and Volusia counties. FPL’s Grant said, "Buried lines are more susceptible to flooding in coastal and low areas and can be difficult to maintain and repair."

Why would any municipality that is historically flood prone and low lying not keep up with the current times and technology in order to ensure that their residents and property owners have the safest and most reliable utility power, telephone, T.V. and internet services?

The Town of Palm Beach began its journey toward this Undergrounding effort in 2005 and ramped it up in 2006, following Hurricanes Frances, Jean and Wilma. Eventually, the Town Council decided that they could not control the costs of such a project and it disappeared from the agenda of subsequent Town Council Meetings. This is more evidence of the lack of transparency in the Town of Palm Beach.

Not even the general public was aware of what took place at that time, anymore than they were on October 14, 2014 when the Town Council, with no prior education of the public on the advantages and disadvantages, voted, unilaterally, to underground utilities town-wide.

This is a perfect example of how the Officials of the Town of Palm Beach have failed their property owners.


Whatever Happened To The Town of Palm Beach’s Responsibility To Protect Its Property Owners?

A full moon and high tide on a sunny day in the Town of Palm Beach. Just imagine a Town-wide undergrounding of utilities on this low-lying coastal barrier island. Perfectly described in a photo taken on 11/16/16 by Photographer & Palm Beacher, Charles Pepper: "By the way, the water I walked in on the Bike Trail was just to my knees and very salty. My dog, Tapioca was swimming … I have NEVER seen water this high but in the last few years, the tides on the Bike Trail have been getting higher every year…"

(11-23-16)

It is time that the Town of Palm Beach Town Council confront its unanimous decision, by a vote of 5-0 at the October 14, 2014 Town Council Meeting to approve a $90M plus interest, Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities Project, WITHOUT ANY PRIOR INPUT FROM ALL PALM BEACH RESIDENTS.

THERE WERE NO ATTEMPTS, PRIOR TO THEIR DECISION, TO EDUCATE THE PROPERTY OWNERS WITH ACCURATE FACTS THAT INCLUDE ALL THE DISADVANTAGES. Nor were the property owners part of the decision as to whether they wanted to Underground Utilities in a Town-wide project in the first place.

Furthermore, Palm Beach registered Voters ONLY, and not all Property Owners were asked to vote ONLY on the financing mechanism for this project, in the March 2016 Referendum, which was narrowly approved by ONLY 62 votes, out of 4,286 voters.

Instead, the Town of Palm Beach, the world renowned destination, is knowingly and intentionally deceiving its trusting, uninformed residents with misinformation about what it claims to be "improving safety and reliability" by converting, Town-wide, to undergrounding all utilities on their low-lying flood prone barrier island, so as to achieve its irresponsible and misguided objectives!

A new scientific study just published on November 1, 2016 is providing conclusive evidence that the Town of Palm Beach, located on a low-lying flood-prone barrier island, SHOULD NOT embark on a 10 year Town-wide construction project to bury electric, cable and telephone utilities.

The objective of the study, "RESILIENCE OF INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS TO SEA-LEVEL RISE IN COASTAL AREAS; IMPACTS, ADAPTATION MEASURES AND IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES" by B. Azevedo de Almeida and A. Mostafavi, is to "identify sea-level rise impacts on coastal protection….and energy infrastructures."

The study further states, "Sea-level rise is one of the most concerning and costly effects of climate change." "Expansive areas of low elevation in many….coastal areas are at elevated risk of storm surges and flooding …, as a result of sea-level rise. These phenomena could have catastrophic impacts on coastal communities and result in the destruction of coastal infrastructure…"

The Town of Palm Beach needs to recognize that it is surrounded on three sides by water: Lake Worth Inlet to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Lake Worth to the west. The Town’s historic flooding events have been long documented, as well as recalled by many Town residents.

This detailed and well researched study on sea-level rise can not be ignored. For the Town Council to continue to disregard the facts of sea-level rise and flooding, as well as all the major negative impacts and consequences of their decision to convert to underground utilities Town-wide, is both egregious and reckless!

It appears appropriate to address the blind determination of the Town and its supporters of the project to ask, "For what purpose? Is this all for aesthetics? What is really going on here?"

According to this scientific study, sea level rise impacts coastal areas and "Low-lying coastal areas are particularly susceptible to storm surge and flooding from torrential precipitation and the community effects can be catastrophic." "As sea level rises and water tables approach the land surface, the frequency and severity of flooding … will increase. Hence, it no longer takes a strong storm to cause coastal flooding."

"A large number of communities are already exposed to coastal flooding." The Town of Palm Beach is one of those municipalities.

"The rise of sea-level is likely to cause saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater systems affecting ….. underground utilities that could be vulnerable to damage when in contact with the saltwater."

"Rising sea levels will increase the degradation of energy infrastructure materials with corrosion by saltwater intrusion due to inundation…." "…energy equipment is NOT designed to withstand saltwater exposure."

"In particular…the exposure of underground utilities and assets may affect pipelines and equipment." "As sea levels rise and coastlines erode…infrastructure systems start displacing significantly to the point that they become hazards to users."

The Study clearly cites how "protection of energy facilities is achieved by ‘hardening’ the structures, either by building new enhanced infrastructures or upgrading the existing infrastructures. Hardening energy infrastructure across the supply chain is part of the energy industry’s responsibilities to ensure that the existing infrastructures will be able to deliver energy to its customers under extreme weather events. Some industries choose to make physical changes to its infrastructure to make it less likely to be damaged by extreme winds, flooding, or other weather events."

In fact, we know from previous articles, that FPL is succeeding and will place "hardened pole smart technology" throughout the Town of Palm Beach, at no cost to property owners. However, the Town of Palm Beach is refusing to allow these upgrades to be installed. That is in fact a major contributor as to why there are parts of the Town that claim they are having brief power outage issues. The Town has refused the upgrades, which is a major reason for any problems that may exist.

The Study also cites "Entergy Corporations", who "made a study that identified a number of potential hardening measures, such as replacing wooden transmission and distribution poles with steel or concrete …" "In response to more recent storms, such as Hurricane Isaac, Entergy representatives note that the implementation of these adaptive measures has paid off. They have experienced less infrastructure damage and have restored power to their customers more quickly than in previous storms."

This is more proof why the hardened pole technology was developed and is now being implemented in coastal communities and cities to safeguard them from storms and sea level rise!

Now, it appears since the Town Council refuses to stop this ill-fated Town-wide project, that the two lawsuits filed by different plaintiffs, are the only option to force the Town’s leadership to undo this hazardous direction that they are currently directed towards on their flood-prone low-lying barrier island. Instead, the Town should implement hardened pole smart technology Town-wide. Let the areas that still want neighborhood Underground Utilities projects to do so, at their own peril.


Palm Beach Property Owners Speak Out!

(1-9-16)

There was a groundswell of opposition to a conversion to underground utilities in a Town-wide project that occurred at the south fire station in the Town of Palm Beach on Wednesday, November 2nd.

Town officials were swamped with frustrated and angry property owners who have become educated and enlightened, (I was told from articles in the Condo News), about the consequences of the Town-wide undergrounding project. These residents have learned the true facts about all the disadvantages and consequences of converting to underground utilities on a flood prone barrier island.

In a September, 2014, PB Post article, listed among the "Potential Disadvantages" for "underground electric systems" are: environmental damage including soil erosion, habitat disruption; longer duration outages and more customers impacted by outage; susceptible to flooding; storm surges and damage during post-storm cleanup; life expectancy is 30 years vs 50 years for overhead systems."

Steve Weigert, a Palm Beach property owner and resident, attended this forum and said that, "… of the 40 attendees, 2/3rds were property owners with objections to funding an extensive, costly and probably ill-advised $152.4M project to bury Palm Beach’s utilities." Mr. Weigert said, "The Town uses what they cite as ‘FPL’s own data’ to establish their claim that undergrounding performs better than overhead facilities," but he points out that, "…. what is left out of that assertion, is that the data referenced by the Town’s surrogates, offers no statistically significant data for underground conversions in flood-prone areas." He said that the supposed data the Town is referencing is "system-wide" which includes new developments that are not in flood areas, plus overhead poles that have not all been upgraded yet to hardened pole smart technology.

Mr. Weigert said he has done extensive research on the subject and that "the majority of FPL’s underground utilities are within inland new housing developments. FPL admits that there isn’t much experience in conversion of older communities on flood prone areas, especially coastal barrier islands. FPL openly warns of the potential problems with undergrounding in flood-prone areas." He concluded, "The data the Town is supplying to the residents is misleading, and often inaccurate."

Susan Watts, a Palm Beach property owner who resides in midtown, also attended. Mrs. Watts said, "…when property owners expressed their concerns to the Town Manager, they were told that property owners NEVER HAD ANY SAY in the decision made by the Town to convert to underground utilities. They were told that the Town Council made that decision when they voted 5 to 0 to convert to underground utilities. Therefore, Town property owners never had a say in it in the first place." Mrs. Watts emphasized, "… the Town had a ‘bad process’ in this entire endeavor to convert to underground."

Mrs. Watts described the majority of attendees were overwhelmingly against a town-wide undergrounding conversion project and the Town Manager’s revelation appeared to upset the crowd. She described a great deal of "push back" from the property owners at the forum. The residents appeared emboldened by their opposition and expressed a variety of issues that they felt the Town had imposed on them without giving them a say. Mrs. Watts said that regardless of what the Town Officials and their surrogates said to justify the Town’s actions, the audience had objections and were not dissuaded nor convinced by the Town’s justifications.

Susan Watts said, "… property owners expressed their objections that a conversion project to underground utilities was neither safe nor reliable on their flood prone barrier island." They opposed the process taken, the financing methodology with its flaws and the utilization of a special assessment that they felt has no merit. There were objections that property owners were never informed by the Town of the disadvantages of undergrounding on a flood prone barrier island. They had concerns about likely cost overruns. The surge of opposition that was voiced was against the Town’s repeated refusal to allow straw ballots for property owners who are not PB voters, but are impacted and will pay the annual special assessments. Property owners said that, due to the lack of communication by the Town, registered Independents were unaware that they could vote on the Town’s referendum during a Primary Election.

Mrs. Watts said the Town had a "bad process" in this entire endeavor to convert to underground utilities. Mrs. Watts said that beside the unreliable and unsafe power that we will have Town-wide with underground utility conversion, "… the efficacy of using fiber optics, means the Town is using an old technology which will assuredly become obsolete with the cutting edge technology of wireless systems."

Linda Essig, a realtor and property owner in the Town, was present at the forum.

Mrs. Essig said that as a result of all the disadvantages to undergrounding on a flood prone barrier island, plus the 30 year annual special assessment, which are not tax deductible, "As a realtor, full disclosure, which is a legal responsibility, will in many cases definitely make it MORE DIFFICULT FOR PROPERTIES TO MAINTAIN THEIR VALUES!"

Let us not forget that, including 10 years of construction or more, each Palm Beach property owner/taxpayer will be paying a not tax deductible, special assessment annually for 30 years! However, the life expectancy of the outdated underground system is only 30 years, as verified by the Quanta Technology Report for Florida Electric Utilities!

Beyond all other reasons, converting to underground utilities is clearly, neither cost effective nor a safe and reliable endeavor on the flood prone barrier island in the Town of Palm Beach.


Hardened Pole Smart Technology Surpasses Undergrounding, Part 1

Photo taken on 10/16/16 at Lake Trail, near Sanford Ave. This is only high tide in Palm Beach! Imagine undergrounded utilities here after a storm surge. "Water and electricity don’t mix."

 

Photo by Jimmy Shirley

(10-26-16)

According to FPL, major U.S. newspapers, the Insurance Journal and news channels, Hardened Utility Pole Smart technology with Automated Switches is a highly successful technology that surpasses all other methods of electric utility technology. Hardened Pole Smart Technology, mandated by the State of Florida, made restoration of power much more efficient following Hurricane Matthew.

What you will read in my upcoming articles in the Condo News, will further demonstrate that Hardened Pole Smart Technology is the most reliable and the safest method for reducing the number of power outages and providing faster repairs. It has already been proven to be far superior to conversion to undergrounding utilities, ESPECIALLY IN FLOOD PRONE AREAS.

FPL has invested more than $2 Billion to build a stronger, smarter storm resilient grid. It has resulted in fewer outages and faster restoration times!

It is more than likely that property owners’ insurance companies will take note of the Town of Palm Beach’s refusal to incorporate Hardened Pole Smart Technology Town-wide, which is not subject to flood impacts on a flood prone barrier island.

In the October 10, 2016, Wall Street Journal, they explain that, "Hurricane Matthew is stress-testing a costly new effort by utilities and the U.S. government to make the nation’s electric grid more storm-resistant. Early indications: the investment is paying off."

The Wall Street Journal goes on to say, "From 2008 through 2017, the U.S. government and utilities are expected to spend more than $32 Billion on smart-grid and storm-hardening technology, according to a federal report. That includes systems designed to resist wind, flying debris and FLOODING- and allow power providers to identify damage and restore electric service more quickly."

The federal government stimulus monies enabled the utility companies to spend multi-billions of dollars which the companies are investing in this "state of the art" "cutting-edge equipment". We know that utility customers, through FPL billing, are already paying for this investment in the technology for hardening of utility poles with smart equipment throughout FPL’s customer areas, including the Town of Palm Beach. Palm Beach’s FPL customers are paying for this even though the Town is planning to underground utilities at an additional expense to property owners. Regardless of whether the Town continues to reject the hardening pole superior technology for their property owners or not, FPL customers will continue to pay for these upgrades through their bills. In addition, the fact is that our federal government is also pouring our tax dollars into this hardening pole smart technology, which shows their confidence in it, regardless of whether the Town of Palm Beach takes advantage of hardening technology or not.

On October 10, 2016 News 4 JAX, out of Jacksonville, Florida, reported that after Matthew, "Based upon FPL’s assessment from this storm, the company’s investments are making a difference for customers…" "These investments were demonstrated during Matthew."

In fact, News 4, based in severely flooded and wind impacted Jacksonville, said that FPL reported, "NO POLES WITH HARDENED FEEDERS SUSTAINED DAMAGE AS A RESULT OF MATTHEW."

Post Hurricane Matthew, ABC News reported that "Hurricane Matthew caused a storm surge and massive flooding in Jacksonville, Florida along with 100 mph winds."

Let’s not forget, that it was predicted that the coastal areas, including the Town of Palm Beach and north of it, were thought to expect storm surges of up to 6-8 ft. and incredible wave heights along the coastline. What happened to Jacksonville, Florida and other areas like it, including the Carolina’s, could have easily occurred right here on our shorelines, but for a miracle of an eastern "wobble."

This is more proof that conversion to underground utilities is not a sound investment for the coastal Town of Palm Beach. However, the Town of Palm Beach is still attempting to embark on this risky ill-advised endeavor.

One of the most major perils of undergrounding, in flood prone coastal areas like Palm Beach Island, is that undergrounding utilities will be subject to flooding which will cause long term power outages, as well as other disadvantages and issues.

Even after Matthew has proven that Hardened Pole Smart Technology is superior and would best protect the barrier island community, the Town continues to have their local Town newspaper write pro-undergrounding utilities articles. Also, the civic groups that are influenced by the Town are spreading misinformation at their pro-undergrounding forums. In addition, the Town is sending out monthly pro-undergrounding email newsletter blasts to all residents which are designed by a public relations firm retained by the Town paid for with taxpayer dollars. Likewise, Town staff is promoting pro-undergrounding conversion for the entire Town. The Town has hired consultants and engineers to be paid with taxpayer dollars who are already on the job planning and ready to design the undergrounding utilities project.

All of these actions are occurring in Palm Beach, despite the growing opposition from the community, including two lawsuits against the Town, while the rest of the nation has utility companies that are supplemented by federal monies, investing billions of dollars hardening utility poles, coating wires and using smart technology.

News 4 JAX reported that FPL has stated these smart devises show which customers are out of power, eliminating the need for customers to call in their outage and restore power more quickly. Automated switches on poles and wires automatically de-energize when a problem occurs, isolating the issue and then after clearing the problem automatically re-energizes the line. These smart grid switches improve self- healing capabilities of the grid. FPL with hardened pole smart technology installs automated switches on main power lines (feeders) and on smaller power lines (laterals) serving neighborhoods and subdivisions.

It is mind boggling that any flood prone coastal municipality would now be attempting to embark upon a conversion to underground their utilities and refuse the superior, safest and most reliable method of electric power which is hardened overhead utility poles, coated wires and smart switches which will withstand up to 145 mph winds, flying debris and flooding. Besides, it is currently being offered to Town property owners AT NO ADDITIONAL COST.

Yet, that is exactly what is currently taking place in the Town of Palm Beach. The Town is ignoring the facts and the perils of underground conversion, which are many. Their historic flooding issues are major and appear to have conveniently been ignored. This is in addition to all the rest of the boondoggle which includes cost overruns, years of construction and major disruption to the Town, to name a few.

Instead, the Town of Palm Beach, through the misguided determination of their Town Council and some of the Town’s Public Officials, are rejecting the glaring facts of safety and reliability and are blindly marching on with their conversion project at all costs.

All of the overhead Hardened Utility Pole Smart Technology is available to flood prone coastal municipalities like the Town of Palm Beach. Without this new technology being installed throughout the Town the risks are much too high on this flood plain barrier island. Sooner or later the inevitable reality of storm surges, major CAT hurricanes, tropical storms and rising tides from both the Ocean and the Intracoastal are likely occurrences for Palm Beach.

 


We Dodged The Bullet This Time - But What Did We Learn From Matthew?

(10-14-16)

After 11 years of no real major hurricanes here in south east Florida, Matthew came along and shocked us into reality.

We have most certainly "dodged the bullet" this time around, but reasonable and practical minded people should have learned some powerful lessons from listening to the news, which described "catastrophic" conditions including storm surges, intense flooding and the prospect that through these impacts "people will die" as well as other warnings stated by Governor Scott, predicting what was expected here in Palm Beach County to possibly be a direct hit by Hurricane Matthew.

The fact is that the majority of Floridians have been complacent throughout all the years we were spared a hurricane here in south east Florida. We were totally unprepared for a CAT 3, 4 or even a possible 5 hurricane, hitting our shores.

Most of us were shocked to hear the National Hurricane Service prediction for Palm Beach County and north that forecasted flooding, high winds and storm surges of 3-8 ft. This was a warning that we were to expect tsunami-like wave heights pounding the eroded beaches of barrier islands, like Palm Beach, washing over seawalls, flooding roads and properties, forcing power outages and leaving destruction in its path.

We may have "dodged the bullet" this time, but it is inevitable that sooner or later we will be in the direct path of a powerful hurricane with all of its fury. We need to be better prepared than we have been and it is most important in a State that is known to be a "Hurricane Alley", that we should have the most reliable and safest method of utility power, so that we are not victims of long term power outages and their consequences. The "State of the Art" method of utility power is the highly successful hardening of utility poles, coated wires with smart switches that are resistant to as much as 145 mph hurricane winds and not vulnerable to flood events!

Even though we were fortunate that the storm surge never took place and the hurricane turned slightly east and went further north of our shorelines, there were 70 mph strong winds, which did cause some outages in different sections of Palm Beach County.

What is so exceptional in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Palm Beach County is the quick response times and repairs by our local utility, FPL. They did a remarkable job!

WHAT MADE FOR FAR FEWER OUTAGES IN PALM BEACH COUNTY WAS THE FACT THAT WHERE HARDENED POLES, COATED WIRES, SMART SWITCHES THAT WITHSTAND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS WERE INSTALLED, THOSE POLES WERE SUCCESSFUL IN PROTECTING US.

FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said that "the hardened poles have held up very well."

In fact in the Town of Palm Beach, according to FPL’s outage maps, the only area which has been confirmed, where there were absolutely NO OUTAGES, whatsoever, was in the extreme south end of the Town of Palm Beach and south of the Lake Worth Beach, where they have the hardened hurricane proof utility poles. The same is true of the Town of South Palm Beach, which also has hardened poles.

It is a FACT, that although the condos on South Ocean Blvd. in the south end of the Town of Palm Beach do have generators, THE GENERATORS DO NOT POWER the apartments or the entire condominium complexes. These generators are only for the elevator(s), hallway and lobby lights. The Town of Palm Beach erroneously communicated to all of its residents via email that the generators prevented the Town from knowing if there were outages in the south end. That statement by the Town, repeated in their local paper, is totally inaccurate and factually misleading.

There have been residents in the Town of Palm Beach that have contacted me, insisting that they predict, for certain, that the Town will use this avoided catastrophe with the short term, (24 max to 72 hour) power outage in parts of the north end and a few areas in midtown, described by the Town in their #2 hurricane update as "widespread", as a public relations opportunity. One north end resident described what they thought was the reason for our upcoming public relations spin is "to legitimize their incessant intent to underground the Town’s utilities." Then coincidentally, right after the previous statement and predictions of others was said to me, we ironically read in the Town’s local paper, on Saturday, 10/8/16, that PB Town Council President said that the short term outages are "a reminder of why they and others supported the idea of burying the town’s utility lines." If all the predictions are correct, this is the first of a blitz of public relations statements and communications to be directed at property owners, to reaffirm and reinforce the Town’s agenda.

Having been informed by others that have spoken to residents who live in areas like PB Gardens, Tequesta, West Palm Beach, and North Palm Beach communities that these residents all stated that their new "hardened cement poles" made a big difference compared to what they experienced in the past. They also said that where the lines went down due to trees, etc., the reason for the outage was clearly visible and repaired quickly.

Apparently, even where there were outages with overhead poles, whether in the north end or midtown of the Town of Palm Beach, as well as in other communities, FPL did an excellent job because they restored power in a few hours.

When asked in the interview on Sunday, whether undergounding utilities would have prevented power outages in a hurricane, better than the hardened poles, FPL representative Orlove said that undergrounding utilities is "not a silver bullet because water and electricity don’t mix!"

In Florida Today, after Hurricane Matthew, FPL President and CEO, Eric Silagy, confirmed the statement by the FPL spokesman, that undergrounding "is not a silver bullet. Silagy also said that areas that undergrounded utilities have problems "if repairs need to be made. Underground utilities are more difficult to access than traditional overhead power lines."

In Sunday’s Condo News interview with FPL spokesman Bill Orlove, he gave an example of how problematic undergrounded utilities can be. This is a sharp contrast to overhead poles, especially the new upgraded hurricane proof hardened ones. Mr. Orlove referred to the inland community of Wellington, where their utilities are undergrounded. He explained that when Tropical Storm Isaac struck Florida back on August 28, 2012, Wellington was flooded. As a result of the undergrounded utilities, FPL could not restore power in Wellington until the flood waters receded, when they could try to find where the repairs were needed and then proceed to get at them. It took much longer to restore the power there than if there were the overhead poles. It is abundantly clear that there would not have been a problem in Wellington if the flood prone community of Wellington had converted to hardened utility poles instead of underground utility wires.

FPL CEO Silagy by his comment about underground utilities is, in fact, confirming the example that Wellington demonstrates, with his statement in Florida Today, by saying that it takes much longer and is more difficult with undergrounding, "if flooding results in outages in areas where there are underground lines."

The lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew are that in areas that are flood prone, such as the Town of Palm Beach, which is on a flood plain barrier island, the most reliable and safest method of electric utilities is through overhead hardened poles, coated wires and smart switches!

That is clearly the lesson learned from Matthew.

FPL and other Utility Companies in the U.S. have invested billions of dollars to install the tested and proven hardened pole technology to offset the flooding, storm surges and all that is inevitable to occur in our future storms, whether it be a hurricane, tropical storm or just strong rain events.

HARDENED POLES IS UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED AS THE SAFEST UTILITY INSTALLATION TECHNOLOGY TO WITHSTAND FUTURE STORM EVENTS, NOT UNDERGROUND INSTALLATION!


Why Is Palm Beach Ignoring "State of the Art" Electric Utility Reinforcement?

(9-28-16)

It is ironic that the Town of Palm Beach, which is on a barrier island, plans to bury the electric, cable and telephone wires in a Town-wide project! As our readers know from the research and the interviews in the Condo News, conversion to underground utilities, in an older community, is at best a problematic boondoggle with an assortment of issues that will follow!

Two legal challenges, namely the Carol Kosberg and Arthur Goldmacher lawsuits are already hanging over it. In addition, the "State of the Art" technology with its recent successes, forecasts that this conversion project will likely be obsolete before the 10 years or more of this project’s construction period! It is unfortunate that Town Officials have wanted to underground utilities in the Town for so many years that they have ignored "State of the Art" technology, which going forward, after the conversion to undergrounding will be unavailable to them!

FPL acknowledges in their own website that conversion of utilities underground makes it difficult, if not impossible, when conduits are buried to get at the problems or to upgrade the underground equipment. Technology is moving so quickly, why would you bury utilities?

The irony of the determination by Town Officials is that this is happening at the same time that "State of the Art" Utility Reinforcement, with its cutting-edge technology of hardened hurricane proof poles, coated wires and smart switches that can easily be upgraded, are available to property owners at no cost! Instead, the Town of Palm Beach is intent on undergrounding their utilities at a substantial additional private cost to each of the Town’s property owners on a non-tax deductible assessment basis.

In fact all FPL customers, including those in Palm Beach, are already paying for the hardening effort throughout the State on our FPL bills and will continue to do so, regardless of whether Palm Beachers pay an additional special assessment annually for 30 years for the undergrounding utilities project.

As a number of Palm Beachers and others have pointed out to this journalist, the Palm Beach Town-wide project saves FPL a fortune in hardening infrastructure expenses, which have been mandated by the State of Florida for FPL to provide to the Town of Palm Beach.

It has also been pointed out that FPL’s Palm Beach customers would pay all the construction costs for the undergrounding project to the Town. This will therefore relieve FPL not only from the responsibility of hardening the infrastructure, but also from the expenditures that would have been incurred from such construction. Palm Beach’s intended Town-wide Conversion Project is quite a windfall for FPL!

Undergrounding utilities is an older technology! In fact, it was installed in New York City in 1888! However, municipalities have learned that conversion to it is a huge construction and financial undertaking for any municipality. More importantly, it is of major proportions in a municipality, such as Palm Beach, with 45 miles of wiring on a flood plain barrier island, with ground level transformers and switch boxes on the many winding side streets!

It is simply unbelievable that the Town of Palm Beach, with all the issues and major problems in store for their community as a result of pursuing this ill-fated endeavor, are blatantly ignoring that other utilities in other States are spending billions of dollars to harden their infrastructure so as to ensure the most reliable electricity for property owners.

In a February 3, 2016, article in the Insurance Journal, "Sandy Electric Utility Reinforcement Effort Pays Off in Blizzard", readers are informed that "Electric utilities that spent billions of dollars hardening infrastructure after Superstorm Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012 say those upgrades helped keep the lights on during the Jan. 22-24 blizzard."

"Substations that were flooded in Sandy have been raised higher, stronger poles and wiring were installed ….. . The utility also installed smart switch technology like Con Edison, said John O’Connell, (PSPEG Long Island), the company’s vice president of transmission and distribution."

FPL in their "2015 Electric System Improvements in Palm Beach County" said that that they "are committed to building a stronger and smarter grid to deliver electricity customers can count on in good weather and bad." FPL said that "Smart grid switches automatically re-energize- improving the self-healing capabilities of the grid. e.g. when a tree branch or palm frond touches an overhead line, it can create a momentary outage or ‘flicker’ for customers." "If this occurs, the switch will open and de-energize the line to isolate the issue, ensuring fewer customers experience the outage."

"Since the last major hurricane in 2005, FPL has invested more than $2 billion across the areas we serve to make the electric grid stronger and smarter."

Even FPL spokesman, Bill Orlove, as others in FPL have said, "Undergrounding power lines are not a ‘silver bullet’ to prevent outages from occurring, especially during severe weather."

The Town of Palm Beach is in a flood plain and it is a known fact, as FPL has stated, that with undergrounding, "…restoration efforts after storms may be lengthened if underground power lines are located in an area where there is flooding. Water and electricity don’t mix."

The real question is, why did Town Officials’ not follow the state mandate issued to the utility, FPL, which is 99.9% reliable? The cost would have been shared by ALL FPL customers, unlike the undergrounding project, which will special assess each property owner with inconsistent non tax deductible annual payments that extend for 30 years.

Yet, Town Officials appear to be headed into the storm unperturbed! Town Officials deny that there are any real issues or major problems in store for this extremely disruptive conversion project. The Town has re-hired a public relations firm in their effort to convince the growing opposition in Palm Beach that the project will be worth having at least 10 years of "in and out of season" upheaval, traffic delays, increased costs and other hardships.

The question repeated by so many property owners, is, "Why?" and "What is really going on here?"

I will continue to research this issue, interview and keep our readers informed.

 


Palm Beach Needs to Confront the Realities of Their Undergrounding Project

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

Photo taken in April of 2016 following a rain storm on S. Ocean Blvd. between Sloan’s Curve and Widner’s Curve. Undergrounding Utilities on a flood prone barrier island is asking for trouble.

(9-14-16)

The Town of Palm Beach’s Officials and Staff appear to be in denial as their undergrounding utilities project continues to face a multitude of obstacles that are just the tip of the iceberg.

At a recent, 9/6/16 Town Undergrounding Utilities Task Force (UUTF) Meeting, board members appeared to have difficulty accepting the fact that the Town has a plan that is "optimistic and not realistic." The harsh reality of this project’s impending disruption, danger and subsequent debacle for future years is unspoken and ignored!

What they heard was that FPL was not ready with identification of equipment locations nor field verification of major utility elements. In addition, FPL had not determined easement needs and locations. Members of the UUTF seemed surprised and in disbelief that FPL had not complied with their schedule deadlines. Instead, they were told by FPL that, in regard to the deadlines imposed by the Town and their consultant, as far as FPL was concerned, "We never agreed to it in the 1st place."

The Task Force Members were also confronted with the fact that, at the last minute, without prior consent of the Town, FPL retained an "embedded contractor" or private contractor to do some of the work that FPL should already have been working on. Furthermore, the Town was informed by FPL that they will have no contact or influence upon FPL’s contractor!

There was discussion by the Town’s consultant that they needed to identify "joint trench and conduits." As you may recall in my previous article, those joint trench and conduits can be combustible! They discussed the need for ground penetrating radar because as was said, "You don’t know what you are going to find when you start digging." According to the Town’s engineering consultant, "The radar, if it swept the whole area would be hundreds of thousands of dollars." The consultant acknowledged that "Even the radar has a level of uncertainty, like high water tables, soil type conditions, depth…."

There was some mention, briefly, that there are also gas and water pipes in all areas of Town, which makes this project, "…extensively disruptive…" and would "…cripple this island!" This information was swept past and everyone went back into the false reality mode! They barely acknowledge the warnings and insurmountable obstacles that make this conversion project in an older community, on a flood prone barrier island, totally unrealistic!

In May 2016, Danny Brannon, Undergrounding engineering specialist consultant, spoke before this very same Town board. He gave them a detailed account of the standard problematic issues that they will encounter with FPL, Comcast and AT&T in the Palm Beach Town-wide conversion to an underground utilities project. It needs to be mentioned here that Mr. Brannon has extensive experience in such projects as in Gulf Stream.

Mr. Brannon also detailed the unavoidable construction delays, which he explained will undoubtedly extend the length of the project by years. The small Town of Gulf Stream thought that their 2-3 miles of undergrounding conversion would take 3 years, but now that has been extended to at least 6 years! Palm Beach’s almost 45 miles of undergrounding is proposed to take 10 years max according to the Town, which seems unrealistically optimistic.

Brannon also explained to the UTTF members the cost overruns that they should expect. Most importantly, he detailed the lack of experience by contractors and the fact that regardless of what Town Officials might believe, they will have no control over the utility companies!

For a brief moment in time, one UUTF member appeared to recall some of Brannon’s warnings, by saying that she thought that they were beginning to experience some of the FPL issues that Brannon had warned about. The comment seemed to disappear into the mist, just as Mayor Morgan’s description of Gulf Stream’s construction sites, "as resembling the Benghazi suburbs." A false reality took over again!

There is no reason to believe that Palm Beach will be any different from Gulf Stream with their conversion issues. The harsh reality for the Town of Palm Beach is, the same pattern of delays has already begun. There will be, unfinished construction sites, traffic congestion, escalating costs of the project over the years, assessment issues that remain, problems from property owners who do not want transformers or switch boxes on their properties, missteps and mishaps!

The difference is that Palm Beach having been forewarned, has already decided that if a property owner refuses to give an easement for a transformer, or circuit box on their property, the Town will legally take their property with a "quick claim deed", without any recourse possible by the owner. Also, in the event that any property owner does not pay their special assessment, the Town has discussed the fact that they will foreclose!

Last week, on the local TV Fox News, there was a report of how the Atlantic Ocean coastal waters are rising and the water in the Intracoastal is rising as well. They discussed how there is only one place for the water to go, over the banks and to flood areas. Common sense tells us that Palm Beach, which is in the Flood Plain and has serious issues on that front, is going to have more flooding, just from rainwater, let alone tropical waves, storms and hurricanes. Underground utilities with ground level transformers and circuit boxes are vulnerable to outages and flooding. Just as the below ground electrical conduits are not water tight or waterproof, only water resistant! Does a water resistant rain coat keep you dry in heavy rain or storms? In "Emergency Information" from "One Call, New Jersey" it states "If a buried electrical line is struck in wet soil/conditions, the ground may become energized for a large area around the strike." When there is flooding and the electricity goes out, we know that FPL has told us they will not come out to restore electricity until the flood waters completely recede. Also, underground wire problems take longer to locate.

One question by many property owners is, "What is really driving the Town of Palm Beach in their determination to underground utilities?"

Town Officials and their Staff need to rationalize why they are spending over $2.1 Million taxpayer dollars out of the operating budget to move forward with a $154 Million bond undergrounding project that faces many obstacles. Regardless of how the Town is attempting to ignore the lawsuits and move on, the lawsuits are the elephants in the room!

The simple solution to protecting Palm Beach’s utility infrastructure with a proven 99.9% storm protection benefit has been provided in a mandate by the State, requiring FPL to install hurricane proof hardened utility poles and coated wires with smart switches at NO COST TO THE PROPERTY OWNERS OF THE TOWN!

Obviously, there is no benefit to any undergrounding utility projects in the Town of Palm Beach!

The Condo News will continue to keep you informed about this very important issue.


Palm Beach Residents Believe Lawsuits Will Prevent Town-wide Undergrounding Project

(8-31-16)

Opposition to the Town of Palm Beach’s Town-wide conversion to underground utilities has continued to grow. The two lawsuits against the Town’s Undergrounding Utilities referendum by plaintiff, Arthur Goldmacher, (Lawsuit #1) and plaintiff, Carol Kosberg, (Lawsuit # 2) are spearheading this opposition to prevent a Town-wide undergrounding project.

The increasing support throughout the Town for the success of the lawsuits comes from informed Palm Beach residents regarding the magnitude of problems and issues that will ensue if The Town of Palm Beach were to convert to underground utilities in the approximate 45 miles of wiring within its boundaries.

These issues of opposition extend well beyond the legal grounds and complaints, to other concerns. The fact that, regardless of the promises of Town Officials, Staff and Consultants, it is well known that the 10 years of estimated ongoing construction will likely take many more years to complete. In addition, during the construction phases, predictable outages and unforeseen problems will occur which will cause more delays!

As the Town of Gulf Stream is experiencing in their conversion of 2-3 miles of undergrounding utilities project, Palm Beachers are increasingly more opposed to the years of construction delays and cost over-runs.

Finally, there is the financial quagmire for the property owners that increases opposition to this Town-wide project and strengthens support for the two lawsuits.

Just last week, a perfect example of how dangerous this undergrounding of utilities can become, occurred in Providence, Rhode Island. It happened in a commercial shopping mall area that had undergrounded their utilities several years ago.

According to the Providence Journal newspaper article, 8/27/16, entitled "Mall Businesses Disrupted By Outages," Providence Place mall had a rough couple of days with three power outages, "... a 115,000 volt underground cable supplying electricity to three substations started to smolder and burn, National Grid spokesman, David Graves, said Friday afternoon.

"Pressure from gases building up in confined areas, he said, blew the cover off of a manhole on South Main Street, stopping power to the substations…." At the mall, firefighters came to rescue people who were trapped, in darkness.

Another failure followed the next day, Friday, when about 8,300 customers lost power. Later another call was received by the fire department, where a fire in a kitchen of a restaurant attached to the mall began and again there was a power outage.

Apparently, this is not a unique situation when it comes to undergrounding conduits and the gases that build up in them. Last year, in Palm Beach, at the Sun and Surf Condominium garage, there was an explosion that damaged cars. This was also due to gases building up in underground electrical wiring conduits.

Also, on a beach in Narragansett, R.I., last year, a person was hurled from a beach chair because combustion caused by gases built up in the underground cable under the sand and it exploded.

In Long Boat Key, Florida, last year, there was an instance where a large, above ground, electrical transformer circuit box for an undergrounded area, exploded and caught on fire.

As an FPL spokesperson has said, "Water and electricity don’t mix." The Town of Palm Beach is within a flood zone area on a barrier island. This means that the underground conduits and other equipment are even more vulnerable to these problems that will cause long term power outages and potential explosions in flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes.

These facts establish that, beyond the legal reasons to prevent this Town-wide project, there are also life and safety concerns that have been ignored by a Town that seems determined to move forward with a non essential, "aesthetic" project that is totally flawed.

Nobody wants to spend the next 10 years or more of their lives encountering construction zones, traffic delays and power outages with possible escalating assessment costs. No real benefits will result from this project other than questionable aesthetics when it is completed.

The Condo News and I will continue to keep you informed and up to date with the facts about this important issue.

 


Two Lawsuits Against Palm Beach Town-wide Project Move to Trial

(8-17-16)

The attempt by the Town of Palm Beach to dismiss the first of two lawsuits against their Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities conversion project has failed. Both lawsuits continue to move forward to trial. Arthur Goldmacher filed the first lawsuit against the Town in Circuit Court in April of this year. Carol Kosberg, filed the second lawsuit in mid- May.

In previous Condo News articles I have covered in detail this ongoing controversy. 

On August 2nd, Judge Catherine Brunson ruled against Palm Beach’s motion to dismiss the Goldmacher case. Shortly thereafter, Judge Brunson was replaced by Judge Cymonie S. Rowe. On August 9th, Carol Kosberg’s attorneys filed a "Motion to Consolidate" with the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County.

I interviewed Carol Kosberg’s attorneys from the firm of Weiss, Handler & Cornewell. I interviewed the following members of the firm; Henry B. Handler, William J. Berger and David K. Friedman.

Henry Handler, Trial Attorney, answered my question as to whether the Town of Palm Beach had ever filed a motion to dismiss the Kosberg case. Mr. Handler confirmed with me that the Town had never filed a motion to dismiss the Kosberg lawsuit. I can only conclude that the statements made in a local newspaper and by the Town Manager, Tom Bradford and by members of the Undergrounding Utilities Task Force, are totally inaccurate. It is evident that these statements are being made in an effort to diminish the merit and significance of the lawsuit and are erroneous.

William Berger, Trial Attorney, told me that a Motion to Consolidate the Kosberg and Goldmacher cases had been made. He clarified to me that each plaintiff’s case would remain independent in their representation by their own attorneys. They are two individual cases which will take place at the same trial. He confirmed that this Motion has been placed before Judge Rowe, the new judge appointed to both cases.

It is significant that Kosberg and Goldmacher will each be represented by their own attorney in each of their cases. The reason is that although both address some similar counts against the Town, the Kosberg lawsuit which is being represented by Handler and Berger takes their lawsuit much further because it contains additional arguments. In addition to this fact, each of the plaintiff’s attorneys will express their complaints in a different manner, resulting in a different outcome from the Court for their respective lawsuits.

The Town of Palm Beach had passed a resolution in December 2015 to special assess all property owners for 30 years, starting November, 2016. This special assessment was scheduled to appear on the 2016 property tax bills. However, it will not occur!! As reported in the Palm Beach Post, Town of Palm Beach Manager, Tom Bradford, verbally acknowledged that the delay in the special assessment this year is "… in case things don’t turn out the way we want in court." Therefore, one can conclude that the special assessments are not going forward this year because of the pending lawsuits!

It is interesting that the Town continues to ignore the pending lawsuits. The Town is withdrawing money from their operating budget in the amount of $2.1 million to fund the first half of the Undergrounding Utilities project master plan using taxpayer dollars. Is this a responsible governance action undertaken by the Palm Beach Town Council while two lawsuits are pending and may prevail? Are they not gambling with taxpayer money at the risk of a legal outcome which will nullify the entire project?

I will continue to keep you updated as these two lawsuits proceed to trial.


Underground Utilities Update

(7-20-16)

As promised, this is a follow-up to keep you abreast regarding the Town of Palm Beach Undergrounding Utilities Project.

Every time I meet Condo News readers, I am asked if anything is happening with the lawsuits. There were two lawsuits filed by different Palm Beach property owners against the Town of Palm Beach RE: Undergrounding Utilities. Everyone I have met has been cheering for the plaintiffs. All were opposed to town-wide undergrounding. This is probably because my articles articulated the various inevitable major issues, many of which remain unresolved.

The two lawsuits are separate and distinct from each other. The first lawsuit was filed by Arthur Goldmacher and the second lawsuit was filed by Carol Kosberg. While both lawsuits contain some similarities, they stand alone on their own merit. It is important to note that the second lawsuit has additional counts that are significant in differentiating the two cases.

Mrs. Kosberg’s attorneys had requested that the judge appointed to them be changed. The attorneys asked that they would be given to the same judge that was appointed to hear the Goldmacher case. From my research, I have learned that having the same judge has advantages for both the plaintiff and for the defendants when it comes to things like, non-duplication of witnesses and court costs. It appears quite telling that the Town of Palm Beach strenuously objected to Mrs. Kosberg’s attorneys’ request. In fact, at last Thursday’s hearing, the Town showed up with not just the Town attorney, but also two additional attorneys to make their objections to the change. The result of this challenge by the Town was that Kosberg’s attorneys prevailed in their request. Both cases now have the same judge for their individual cases.

In my opinion the Town’s objections indicate that having the same judge is something the Town does not want. Therefore, the success of the plaintiff in getting the same judge is a win for the plaintiff.

Until next time, be well, be careful and stay safe.


Second Lawsuit Threatens to Stop 

Palm Beach Underground Project

Taken on S. Ocean Blvd. in a minor rainstorm. Imagine if underground utilities need repairs on Flood Prone Barrier Island of Palm Beach in a hurricane. Big problems!!

 

Photo by Maddy Greenberg

(6-8-16)

Palm Beach property owners who will pay to have their utility wires undergrounded are now learning through the Condo News that the "Success Stories" used by the Town of Palm Beach prior to the March 15th undergrounding referendum vote, in reality, were a "cover up" of the murky problems they will confront!

The revelations of the debacle that has been happening in the neighboring municipality of Gulf Stream as a result of their Town-wide undergrounding project for 800 property owners was acknowledged at the Palm Beach Public Meeting on May 3rd by the Gulf Stream/ Palm Beach undergrounding engineer consultant! In addition, this consultant, Danny Brannon gave a detailed summary of the troubled path that will be encountered by Palm Beach property owners as their conversion project goes forward.

As the long list of unresolved problems continues to be revealed, the question is why the Town of Palm Beach is still determined to go forward with this undergrounding folly to convert the Town-wide utilities of more than 9,500 property owners on a flood prone barrier island!

Prior to the referendum vote on March 15th, Town Officials had access to all of the information I reveal in my articles. For one thing, Gulf Stream and Palm Beach have the same Town Attorney. How could Palm Beach, which had contact through Town Managers, their Town Attorney and the same consultants that spoke at their public meetings, not have known that Gulf Stream’s 2-3 mile conversion to undergrounding in comparison to Palm Beach’s 45 miles, was riddled with problems that would parallel Palm Beach but on a much larger scale? Plus, add that to the fact that Palm Beach used Gulf Stream as a "Success Story" in their advertisements in order to get a favorable vote on the bond referendum. Now that this has all come to light after the election, one has to wonder why the Town Leaders would still be determined to move forward with their Town-wide project.

As stated in my last article, a second lawsuit was filed against the Town of Palm Beach. The various counts cover reasons that seek to invalidate the vote and halt the Town-wide conversion to underground their utilities.

The lawsuits have been filed by separate plaintiffs. Both plaintiffs are doing a service for the 49.3% of the voters, Town-wide, who constitute those that voted "against" the referendum as well as a countless number of taxpaying non-registered voter property owners. The plaintiff for the first lawsuit, Arthur Goldmacher and the plaintiff for the second lawsuit, Carol Kosberg, showed great courage to take these actions. They are performing a heroic deed for almost half the Town’s voters who opposed this referendum and for those who voted favorably not knowing the financial and physical upheaval in store for them if this project proceeds on a Town-wide basis. Their actions are deserving of support and praise for their efforts to make right what they know is wrong!

In this article, I plan to raise some of the issues included in the second lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Carol Kosberg, Plaintiff vs. the Town of Palm Beach, Defendant.

The lawsuit states the sources and order of payment that the Town shall finance burying overhead utility lines for electric, telephone and cable services "payable from Town’s full faith, credit, ad valorem taxing power and non-ad valorem special assessments" which was the ballot language. This means that the Town must use ad valorem tax revenues First in order to fund the conversion project. Full Faith and Credit ad valorem taxes require the Town to raise taxes as often and as high as needed to pay for project costs. It means that the Town would not run out of money! Therefore, the special assessment would never be needed as a source of payment. Town Officials clearly never had any intent of using ad valorem taxes! Ad Valorem is based on property values and is tax deductible. As stated in the lawsuit, "If the underground utilities were paid in the manner called for in the ballot language, then the owners of higher-valued properties would pay more of their share of the cost through ad valorem taxation, and the owners of lower-valued properties would pay less."

The lawsuit continues, "Given the narrow margin of victory, the misleading language in the ballot was of critical importance, and likely tilted the results in favor of the referendum proponents. As a result of the misleading language of the ballot that did not fairly advise the voters to intelligently cast a ballot, the outcome of the referendum election is illegal and void." "Despite the order of payment set forth in the ballot and the passage of the ballot, the Town has taken steps that indicate that it intends to pay the bonds solely through non-ad valorem special assessments although the bonds will be also payable from the Town’s ad valorem taxing power in the unlikely event that revenue collected from special assessments is insufficient to repay the bonds." "There is an actual, present, bona fide controversy between Plaintiff and the Town as to whether the Town may implement the bond referendum approved by the Town’s voters in a manner inconsistent with the ballot submitted to, and approved by, the voters of the Town." The lawsuit claims that "the Town is obligated to implement the ballot as written and approved by the voters of the Town…." This means that General Obligation (G.O.) bonds can only be paid by ad valorem tax revenues.

According to the lawsuit, the bonds to be issued under a resolution passed on December 8, 2015 by the Town Council violated the Town’s own Code. The lawsuit cites that on March 8, 2016, a week before the election, the Town Council approved an ordinance to amend the Town Code to allow special assessment revenues to also be used to pay G.O. Bonds. It appears that the lawsuit also challenges that the Town could not change or amend their Town Code at the last minute, because the new 2016 ordinance "is not retroactive."

The Town Officials clearly do not want ad valorem for this project!

The lawsuit contends that the "proposed special assessments authorized by Resolution…, and the bond referendum are unconstitutional, illegal and void."

The suit claims that "a special assessment is a compulsory assessment that confers a specific benefit upon the land burdened by the assessment…" The lawsuit brings out that "For a special benefit to exist, the amount by which the property is benefited must be greater than the cost of the improvement assessed against the property." The Town is using the Wildan methodology for the special assessments and the complaint contends it fails to analyze the construction costs. The suit, states that "the Wildan Report is also fatally flawed in that it assumes-without supporting evidence or analysis- that undergrounding of utilities will benefit each parcel and contains no analysis to show how Plaintiff’s property or any other property will actually receive a ‘special benefit’ from the proposed undergrounding (i.e., that any increase in value of the properties being assessed resulting from the proposed construction will be greater than the assessments to be levied against such properties)." In addition, "the Town’s purported distribution of safety/reliability/aesthetics by the Town at 30/30/40 does not appear to have any basis in reality." In a footnote, the lawsuit adds, "There are also significant negatives to undergrounding ignored by the Town such as lack of reliability and safety when a hurricane and flooding occurs…." The lawsuit claims that "The undergrounding of overhead utilities as provided for in the bond referendum will not result in a benefit to Plaintiff’s property greater than the cost of the improvement assessed against the property."

It is the desire of this newspaper and columnist to inform and educate our readership so that this important subject and the lawsuits that have been filed are vetted and understood by the public. Important subjects and issues like this should not be kept undercover, but exposed to the light of day!

 


Palm Beach’s Underground Utility Conversion Financial Pitfall

(5-25-16)

Important update: As of May 13th a second lawsuit was filed by a longtime Town of Palm Beach property owner and voter, Carol Kosberg, against the Town of Palm Beach, Undergrounding Utilities Bond Referendum. This lawsuit cites four counts against the Town. In our next Condo News issue, the details within the lawsuit will be revealed. It is this newspaper and columnist’s intent to keep you, our readers, informed and up to date on this important and ever expansive issue.

Just when we think we know all the murky problems that will befall those property owners who are about to encounter Palm Beach’s conversion to undergrounding utilities, yet another touted "success story" of a completed undergrounding conversion that the Town uses, has a major downside that needs to be aired.

It is very possible that what we know about the debacle in store for Town-wide property owners is just the tip of the iceberg. It is unfortunate that the information below was not revealed to voters and property owners prior to the vote on the undergrounding utilities bond referendum. There are likely major pitfalls for Town property owners that add to the financial burden for Town residents that were never taken into account and should be publicized. The following experience by a property owner, who has gone through underground conversion in the Town of Palm Beach, is astounding and will serve as a reminder for those who are anticipating this project on a town-wide basis.

In 2011, four properties in the Via Fontana area of Palm Beach had completed a neighborhood underground wiring conversion project. Joseph V. Vittoria and his wife own one of the properties in that project area. Their experience with the Town of Palm Beach is both shocking and disturbing. What Mr. Vittoria describes that happened to them, is a warning to all of Palm Beach’s property owners as to what financial pitfalls are likely to befall many other property owners as a result of this Town-wide conversion project.

The Vittoria’s were given special assessment costs in 2010, prior to the project’s installation. After the project’s completion, in 2012 the Vittoria’s were sent a letter from the Town, signed by then Assistant Town Manager, Tom Bradford, which turned out to be 6 times higher than the original cost quoted in 2010. The Vittorias are now obligated to pay a special assessment that is excessively greater than they had originally agreed to and non tax deductible.

The Vittoria’s received a second letter in 2012 a few months after the first letter that same year. Both letters were signed by Bradford. The letter increased the assessment amount even further and it offered them the option to pay the entire amount up front. The Vittorias did not take that option.

In addition to this alarming situation that has occurred, there are two interesting facts that differentiate the Via Fontana undergrounding project from the planned Town-wide conversion project in Palm Beach.

Joseph Vittoria didn’t receive his letter informing him that the payments would begin until after the project was completed. The Town now plans to collect the special assessment payments prior to the project and all during the 10 years or more of construction. The other difference is that in the second letter of 2012 from the Town, they offered the Vittoria’s to pay upfront or prepay the total which came after the project’s completion. The Town of Palm Beach currently plans and has discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 4th, that they will ask property owners to prepay the total prior to the inception and completion of the Town-wide undergrounding project.

The residents of Palm Beach are being expected to sign a blank check without any merchandise, no idea what they are really getting, how much it will cost by the end of the supposed 10 year project. If Gulf Stream is any indication, it could be more like 20 years. Both prior and since the vote, Council and their Undergrounding Task Force have stated that if they run out of monies, they will assess property owners again. A stunning revelation!

According to Joseph Vittoria "I believe this project is an indicator of what can happen for a future undergrounding initiative under the auspices of the Town of Palm Beach." He explains that several years ago he brought his case to the Town Council. He "was told that it was unfortunate that we have been misled, but the Town could do nothing." Since this was a Town neighborhood project, who misled him? Is history going to repeat itself with the town-wide special assessments?

Mr. Vittoria spoke up at an "undergrounding educational meeting" at Bethesda-By-The-Sea on 11/16/15. He "was told that it is always possible that the costs can change given unforeseen problems which come up when the actual work is done." Would that answer have satisfied you, if you found out that your special assessment amount had increased to 6 times more?

Vittoria’s response is apropos to the upcoming project and what will take place for thousands of Palm Beach property owners. At that same meeting, Joseph told the Town Manager "If an error that large can arise with one property, how many might arise when the entire island is done?" Joseph Vittoria said that he received no answer to that question!

Joseph Vittoria told me he "should point out that the estimates provided for the referendum are very similar to the original estimate I received". "If a person reads the experiences of Gulf Stream, one the Town of Palm Beach pointed to as a ‘success story’ in its ‘information campaign’ it would be easy to see that five years into the project, the timeline has doubled and costs have tripled! Before we head down the same path, let’s revisit this ill-conceived and certain to be under budgeted project and do what’s right for all Palm Beachers."

The Vittorias think their experience will be a parallel to what will happen to many other Palm Beachers if the Town moves forward with its Town-wide conversion to underground utilities.

It is unfortunate that all Palm Beach voters were not privy to the Vittoria’s undergrounding utilities conversion experiences prior to the referendum vote. You can be sure that if Palm Beachers had known this, many of those that had voted favorably, would have either reconsidered or thought twice about the way they would cast their ballots.

 


Palm Beach’s Folly Will Be A Conversion To Undergrounding Utilities

(5-11-16)

The road to Undergrounding Utilities continues in a protracted way for the Town of Gulf Stream and a murky path lays ahead for the Town of Palm Beach.

At the 4/13/16 Town of Gulf Stream special meeting on the project, Mayor Morgan & town officials were exasperated with all the obstacles and costs they’ve encountered converting to underground utilities. They discussed the fact that it’s going to get even more frustrating for the Town’s residents. What they thought was a $5.5M project 6 years ago could take 2 more years to complete and is going to cost significantly more. (This, by the way, is the project the Town of Palm Beach Officials lauded as a "success story.")

Confirmation of the debacle and the troubled path to undergrounding utilities conversion that Palm Beach has chosen was evident when Undergrounding engineering specialist consultant Danny Brannon, spoke before the Palm Beach Undergrounding Utility Task Force (UUTF) meeting on May 3rd. He gave a detailed account of the standard problematic issues they will encounter in their Town-wide Undergrounding Utilities conversion project.

Mr. Brannon stressed, "Inflation ends up being an impact that you don’t expect." He explained that the construction bids will be high and there will be cost overruns. UUTF Member and financier Wilbur Ross asked "whether FPL will absorb the cost over runs or not?" Brannon responded, "No. If their costs exceed 10% of the amount, they can bill you that number."

Brannon said "The construction industry has been dormant for several years. Resources have been limited. A lot of people are new, not experienced, not in their budget, not planned for. Therefore, when you are trying to come up with who will work on this, it has been very difficult for them."

Brannon admitted, "The length of the projects typically runs longer than you anticipate." With timing schedule delays, climbing construction costs and the eventual removal of the poles and wires after the undergrounding has been set up, there are undeniable problems that occur.

"Some of the issues in Gulf Stream had to do with the length of time it has taken them to get off the poles down there." For Phase 1, ATT "should be down this week. It was 2014 when we finished building the underground system." He said Comca