of So. Ocean Blvd.
from Intracoastal at Lake Worth Bridge
by Jimmy Shirley
Legislation Trades One Risk For Another!
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.
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.
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.
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."
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
us dissect these two pitfalls for residents within the State of
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?"
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."
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."
article states, "People feared the wind, they are terrified of
the wind, the last thing they were thinking about were flood
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
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."
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"!
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.
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
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!
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.
real question is, WHY WERE THE FACTS IGNORED THAT ARE IN FPL’S
WEBSITES REGARDING THE PROBLEMS AND PITFALLS TO UNDERGROUNDING?
WERE THESE LEGISLATIVE BILLS RUSHED THROUGH BY THE LEGISLATURE OF
THE STATE OF FLORIDA?
Gains While Ratepayers Lose In New Legislation
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!
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."
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
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!
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!
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!
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!
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."
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
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!
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.
is significant to note that FPL covers at least half of the power in
the State of Florida!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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…."
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…"
should be noted that in Florida, as I was told by an FPL
representative, EACH MUNICIPALITY PAYS DIFFERENT UTILITY RATES.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
Requires Elevated Infrastructure
is here in Palm Beach! It can not be denied.
taken by Charles Pepper on 3/21/19.
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!
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.
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!
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
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."
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
specifically, USC Expert Energy Analyst McNamara strongly stated
that, "UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES IN SEA
RISE FLOOD AREAS HAS A HIGH RISK OF FAILURE."
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!"
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!
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!
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.
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!
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."
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."
McNamara stressed how critical it is "To build a resilient and
reliable system, for today and for the future."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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!"
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."
also stressed how essential it is to, "MINIMIZE THE TIME OF
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."
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.
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!
McNamara explained that when you have or convert to underground
utilities infrastructure projects it should, be "A
LOCATION SPECIFIC CONSIDERATION."
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!
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.
CLASHES With Undergrounding!
IS increasing! Lake Trail, Palm Beach.
taken March 21, 2019, by Charles Pepper, Palm Beach.
impacts from Sea-Rise have arrived!
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.
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."
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.
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!"
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.
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
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!
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!
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!
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!
has confirmed this fact to the Town Council and Town Officials.
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!
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
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.
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
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
addition, I spoke with Highland Beach's leader of the opposition,
Highland Beach resident, John Ross.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
Babij also said that the proposed Projects, such as the Town-wide
undergrounding utilities Project, "...clearly had no bottom
line in cost!"
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.
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
Babij said that either way, whether ad valorem or a special
assessment, it is a tax and will devalue property values!
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.
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!"
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."
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!
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
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.
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!
In Governing Will Drown Palm Beach!
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!
was it because to bury utilities on a flood prone barrier island
would have been considered irrational and unthinkable?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
this Coastal Vulnerability Assessment, DOES NOT DEAL WITH ANOTHER
MAJOR CAUSE OF FLOODING, WHICH IS FLOODING FROM RAIN EVENTS!
consultant’s response to flooding from rain events was that they
are "NOT DOING LOCAL RAIN THAT CAUSES
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.
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…"
Palm Beach Vulnerability Assessment is little more than a joke at
this point in time. IT IS TOO LITTLE TOO LATE!
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!
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
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."
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.
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
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
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,
Town Council member, Ms. Lindsay said, "Being on a barrier
island… we had flooding here when I was a
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
THE TOWN COUNCIL’S POOR DECISIONS AND NEGLIGENCE IN GOVERNING WILL
DESTROY THE PROPERTY VALUES OF PALM BEACH!
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!
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!
A Fait Accompli
Palm Beach Project!
TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IS NOT A FAIT ACCOMPLI!
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!
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.
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.
follows what the Town’s attorneys said at both the January 11th
and February 13th court proceedings for Class Certification of the
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!
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!
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!
PALM BEACH DELIBERATELY DID WILL DEMONSTRATE THAT THEY GAMBLED WITH
TAXPAYER DOLLARS AND SHOULD NOT BE EXCUSED OR TOLERATED!
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.
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."
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.
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!
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…."
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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
TAXPAYERS! THE TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IS NOT A FAIT
Utility Poles For 5G In Palm Beach!
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!
State-of-the-Art "Ultrafast" 5G Technology will change our
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
will also shorten or eliminate the lag in time delays and will
people with more devices should be able to communicate at the same
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!
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
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!
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!
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."
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
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.
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
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!
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
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?
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."
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!
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!
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!
does that spell out to investors and property owners on the most
severe FEMA Special Flood Hazard Zone barrier island Town?
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!
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!
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.
BEACH WILL BE TOTALLY WITHOUT ACCESS TO THE ADVANCES AND BENEFITS OF
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
ACCESS IS ESSENTIAL IN THE RACE TO DEPLOY FAST 5G WIRELESS
TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE, WHICH RELIES ON SMALL CELLS.
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!
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!
Conduct In Palm Beach!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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…".
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."
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.
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.
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.
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"!
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.
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!
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
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.
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
appears currently that in Phase 1 South, FPL HAS NOT APPROVED OF THE
PLACEMENT OF A NUMBER OF UTILITY BOXES, mostly the large switch
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!
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
one condo property spokesperson told me, what the Town is attempting
to do, is nothing less than "EXTORTION"!
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
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
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
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!
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?
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!
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 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".
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!
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
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!
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?
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!
BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS
are invited to attend the Closing
of Class-Certification for the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Beach County Courthouse,
N. Dixie Hwy.,
COURT JUDGE: James Nutt
Lawsuit Brings Packed House!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
the hearing, Mr. Berger also said that the Referendum DID NOT
approve the Project; only the $90 million financing.
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.
Town’s attorney, Robert Wilkins, said that the Town has already
spent $30 million on the Project.
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
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.
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.
Berger stated that the Plaintiffs are not asking to reallocate the
Special Assessments or for the Project to be paid for through ad
was brought out during Mr. Berger’s Cross Examination of Jane La
Clanche that the Town does have the choice of other alternatives.
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.
owner Mr. Scharf said he will represent the entire class. Mrs.
Kosberg also testified to the same thing.
information and the Judge’s decision become available, it will be
announced to our readers.
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
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!
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,
PALM BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS AND RESIDENTS SHOULD ATTEND SINCE THEY
ARE REPRESENTED BY THIS CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT.
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.
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.
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
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?"
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."
important was the former Council President’s emphatic declaration,
"I believe the council should stop the project now, when
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
Bucklew in his presentation repeated twice that we "Can’t
talk about flood prevention unless you talk about hurricanes."
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."
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."
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)
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!"
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
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?"
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.
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
Bucklew talked about Palm Beach’s Seawalls and said that, "The
Seawalls in Town are NOT FEMA certified Seawalls"!
Bucklew’s statements as a Flood Plain Administrator need to be
brought out to the public and linked to the Town-wide Underground
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.
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!
Risk For Failure"
rain with Sea-Rise cause Palm Beach Midtown flooding- photo
with High Tide cause sunny day flooding at Seaspray Ave. & Lake
Trail, Palm Beach. Photo taken by
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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,"
McNamara made another extremely important statement when she said, regarding
underground utilities, "IF THEY ARE SUBMERGED, UNDERGROUND
WIRES GET DAMAGED OR CORRODED."
is also significant that, as stated by Ms. McNamara,
"SALTWATER INCREASES THE CHALLENGE AND MAKES IT MUCH
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."
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
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.
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?
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."
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."
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!
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."
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."
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."
also said that, "What we ask is that THESE INVESTMENTS LAST A
LIFETIME OF SAFETY."
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."
explained that, "HARDENED POLES HAVE SHORTER OUTAGES, SHORTER
RECOVERY TIMES AND ARE MUCH FASTER TO REPAIR." That is a known
Energy Analyst Julie McNamara did discuss the benefit of
"elevating equipment." She said, "It might be
standing 10-15 feet above ground."
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!
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!"
McNamara also explained to me that it is so important to "Minimize
the time of power outages."
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
States FACTS About Undergrounding Utilities
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
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
following are the FPL questions and answers as taken from
FPL/Reliability/ Underground Conversion FAQs:
What are the different strengths and weaknesses of overhead and
underground service that affect performance and reliability?
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.
What are some of the impacts associated with converting an older
overhead system to new underground?
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.
What are some examples of instances where proposed
overhead-to-underground conversions would not be feasible?
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
THE TOWN STILL IGNORES, DENIES AND REFUSES TO ACCEPT THE FACTS AND,
INSTEAD, CLAIMS THAT ANY FACT-BASED INFORMATION IS NOTHING MORE THAN
FACT, IT IS THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH WHICH CONTINUES TO PERPETRATE
"MISINFORMATION" TO THE DANGER AND DETRIMENT OF THEIR
RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY OWNERS!
view the FPL WEBSITE CLICK ON the following link) https://www.fpl.com/reliability/underground-conversions/faq.html
TITANIC Of Palm Beach
in Palm Beach brings flooding. 2018
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:
Town Hall appears engaged in an effort to hide problems by canceling
the monthly Underground Utilities Task Force meetings as problems
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
Gary went on to state, "We continue to exceed the $90 million
estimate that was approved by voters for financing."
acknowledges, "Unfortunately, the underground program has ‘hit
the rocks’ and threatens to sink in a chaos of mismanagement and
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."
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
costs keep escalating." "The bad news is that we have
another six phases to complete."
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!
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!
new name for this disaster should be THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH
brings me to another major issue facing this Town-wide Underground
is already a known FACT that when it comes to flooding and sea rise,
FLORIDA IS "GROUND ZERO"!
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
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!
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!
Washington Post article goes on to say that, "Records
like these may only be the beginning…"
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.
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."
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."
especially salt water flooding, is the enemy of buried energy
infrastructure and utilities. That is an UNDENIABLE FACT!
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
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."
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."
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!
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!
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
the Town of Palm Beach is immersed in a dangerous, unreliable
Project to bury their Energy Infrastructure and Utilities Town-wide.
conclusion is especially so, when all these major and significant
warnings are clearly amplified for high water table and vulnerable
flood prone coastal areas.
is essential that protective, safe and reliable Utilities Projects
be initiated to replace the current Town-wide Underground Utilities
"New Reality" is the "New Normal"!
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.
of the above is for perceived superficial beautification!
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!
New Reality Confronts Palm Beach
Tide during sunny day flooding in
Palm Beach on Lake Trial.
taken on 10-27-18 by Charles Pepper
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
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.
facts and logical conclusions revealed by Erin Deady related to
"Cities (Towns) and counties are on the front lines of this
of us living in Florida are going to have to confront this reality
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?"
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."
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Deady in her Post article explains, that, "the saltwater
king tides, (and other flood events are currently and will be)
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.
confirms the danger that the Town of Palm Beach will encounter.
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!
Beach is refusing to accommodate, mitigate and protect its property
owners from the New Reality!
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.
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."
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.
IS THE UNENDING COST OF THE LOSS OF QUALITY OF LIFE, PROPERTY VALUES
AND THE LACK OF SAFETY AND RELIABILITY OF POWER TRANSMISSION
one should conclude that this ill conceived and hazardous decision
by Palm Beach Town Leaders is a "fait accompli".
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!
Rise Contradicts Undergrounding Utilities!
Tide & Sea Rise cause over one foot of flooding on Lake Trail in
Palm Beach. Photo taken by Charles Pepper, October 2016
and Sea Rise cause flooding in midtown Palm Beach. Photo taken
summer 2018. Contributed
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
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."
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
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."
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!
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!
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.
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."
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!"
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!
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.
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
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?
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
"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
Lastly, Obeysekera said "…. Many scientists agree that we
can expect storms to be more intense, which could mean higher storm
surges and more rainfall."
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.
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
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
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.
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
IS A FACT THAT UNDERGROUND UTILITIES IN FLOODED AREAS FAIL!
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!
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:
there is no vision, people perish…."
To Change Course, Palm Beach!
by Maddy Greenberg
Summer rain with flooding in Palm Beach.
photo was taken on S. Ocean Blvd., just north of Sloan's Curve.
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."
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"
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
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.
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!
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."
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."
the Palm Beach Town Council acts AS IF they have NO flood issues
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!
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?
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
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 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'."
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..."
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.
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
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."
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.
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
does the low elevation, historic flood prone Town of Palm Beach
think they are immune to these facts and forecasts?
do they continue with a doomed Town-wide Project that is unsafe,
unreliable and downright hazardous?
is it that Palm Beach is not investing ad valorem tax monies to
protect their threatened barrier island Town?
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!
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!
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?
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?
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."
Project Dangerous For Palm Beach!
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.
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
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!
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."
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!
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!
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
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!
know now that coastal areas, especially barrier islands, are
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
know now that underground utilities are NOT accessible when in
need of repairs, all of which causes much longer power outages.
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.
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!
know now, as reported in articles, "And the rise in sea levels,
experts say, is making the storm surge worse."
know now that "Sea level rise can also affect the severity of
hurricanes", said William Sweet, oceanographer at the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
after article, expert after expert, and even utility companies
themselves HAVE CONFIRMED THESE FACTS.
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...’
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."
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."
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."
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
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?
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.
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."
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
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
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."
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.
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."
is important to review that, in 2014, the Palm Beach Town Council
voted, unilaterally, to underground utilities Town-wide!
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
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
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!
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
time is now for the Kosberg/Scharf
Class-Action Lawsuit to go forward! It is scheduled in the coming
taken by Maddy Greenberg, 4/16.
and chronic flood area along S. Ocean Blvd.,
south of Southern Blvd.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
research suggests that there is an "URGENCY OF DEVELOPING
MITIGATION STRATEGIES AND ALTERNATIVE INFRASTRUCTURE..."
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!
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!
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!
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!
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
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."
HUMIDITY AND ICE HAVE LONG BEEN RECOGNIZED AS THREATS TO FIBER OPTIC
STRANDS AND CONDUIT."
study declares that the starting point for their work is that these
conduits are NOT DESIGNED TO BE SURROUNDED BY OR UNDER WATER!
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."
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."
study says that SALTWATER INCURSION is most vulnerable in
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!
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
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.
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."
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!
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?
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!
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.
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?
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!
question becomes, WHO ARE THE BENEFICIARIES WHEN IT IS
"LIGHTS OUT IN PALM BEACH!"
Utilities Fail In Flooded & Sea Level Rise Areas
Palm Beach Flooding, AGAIN! Photo taken July, 2018
Town of Palm Beach needs to find solutions for current and future
flood and sea level rise issues.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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
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
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."
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."
same article states, "The victims of this careless disregard of
climate change planning are homeowners, renters, entrepreneurs,
corporate entities and just plain ordinary people...."
lenders and credit agencies are not ready for the consumer and
financial implications of intruding salt waters."
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."
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."
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
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
IS THE COMMON SENSE?
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
IS REALLY GOING ON IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH?"
Beach Gambles With Taxpayer Dollars
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
The Power On In Palm Beach
water in Palm Beach? This was ONLY a rain event!
taken on 7/22/18 at Peruvian Ave. in Town.
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!
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!
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.
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.
situation is occurring simultaneously with the financial crisis that
has been presented by the Town’s unfunded pension liabilities
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"!
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
THE TAXPAYERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY THIS UNCONFIRMED COST OF
$150- 250 MILLION OR MORE PROJECT, THROUGH SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS!
IS IN ADDITION TO THE PAYMENT BY THE TAXPAYERS OF THE TOWN’S
UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY DEFICIT!
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
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.
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
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."
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".
significantly, the article points out that these
facts have "...real financial implications"!
Florida’s economy is predominantly driven by real estate values.
The Town of Palm Beach is, historically, a prime example.
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.
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
article further points out that "credit
ratings agencies and insurers will influence investors’
decisions." PALM BEACH CANNOT HIDE THEIR FLOODING ISSUES MUCH
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
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."
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
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
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.
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.’ "
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
7/16/18 article states, that the study by the Union of Concerned
Scientists "found that sea-level rise aggravates storm surge…"
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."
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."
articles have a prophetic warning that applies to Palm Beach’s
Town-wide Underground Utilities Project perfectly.
declare, "… South Florida can’t
just bury its vulnerabilities."
CAN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH!
Utilities is NOT the answer in THIS UNDERWATER SITUATION!
TO PALM BEACH TOWN COUNCIL:
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.
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.
Turmoil In Palm Beach
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
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.
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!"
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".
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!
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!
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."
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.
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.
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
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."
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."
information plus the undergrounding quagmire does not build
financial confidence for residents and investors in the Town of Palm
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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."
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."
How can a Council member think that inaccurate intimidation is the
manner in which an elected official should conduct themselves?
addition, Mr. Crampton brought up, "Those Vista Switches that
we've talked about..... (Vista Switchgear utility boxes). Are they
located in low-lying areas?"
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
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
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!"
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."
ONE COUNCIL MEMBER APPEARED INTERESTED IN INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS TO
PROTECT AGAINST SEA-RISE AND FLOODING ISSUES THAT ALREADY EXIST!
MOLD AND MORE MOLD TO BE THE TRADEMARK OF THE UNDERGROUNDING PROJECT
IN PALM BEACH?
& Sea Rise Impact Real Estate Values
submitted by Maddy Greenberg
waters of Lake Worth invade Bradley Park and Palm Beach
a high tide!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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."
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..."
does the Town of Palm Beach justify their pursuit of a frivolous,
unnecessary, "aesthetic" Undergrounding Utilities Project
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
much more time should be granted to a defiant municipality to pursue
this hazardous, dangerous and reckless Project?
answer is there is NO time for further delay!
choice to confront flooding issues and sea rise is NOW!
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.
question is what is the REAL purpose behind this Town-wide Project?
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."
addition, they say "And hundreds of US COASTAL COMMUNITIES
WILL SOON FACE CHRONIC DISRUPTIVE FLOODING THAT DIRECTLY AFFECTS
PEOPLE’S HOMES, LIVES, AND PROPERTIES."
enough, the report also says, "And most homeowners,
communities, and investors are NOT AWARE OF THE FINANCIAL LOSSES
THEY MAY SOON FACE."
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.
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."
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.
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!
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.
is the common sense in that?
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!
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!
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.
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!
safety, reliability of power, quality of life and property values,
THIS TOWN-WIDE PROJECT MUST BE HALTED!
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!
Intrusion And Power Outages
by Palm Beach resident, Charles Pepper, October, 2017
above is Lake Trial, Palm Beach, UNDERWATER!
more proof needed to show FLOODING IN PALM BEACH?
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?
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"!
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?
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.
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!
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."
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!
decorative bench and the adjacent grounds are completely flooded in
the photo accompanying the article.
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
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
know for a FACT THAT SALTWATER IS HIGHLY CORROSIVE, CAN MAKE
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT FAIL AND BE COMBUSTIBLE!
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
article also states, "IT'S A SALTWATER INVASION THAT IS
EXPECTED TO GET WORSE."
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!
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!
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
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
significantly, the study states, "The rising sea levels
threaten energy infrastructure systems and pose a risk to the energy
assets located in coastal regions."
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."
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."
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 ..."
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
RISING SEA, FLOODING AND BURIED UTILITIES IS THE PERFECT FORMULA TO
CREATE POWER OUTAGES AND LOWER PROPERTY VALUES!
TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT IN THE MOST SEVERE FLOOD
ZONE TOWN OF PALM BEACH IS JUST PLAIN IRRESPONSIBLE!
Rep Says Undergrounding
NOT Work If It Is Underwater"!
by Maddy Greenberg
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!
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
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!
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
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
FPL's REPRESENTATIVE STUNNED THE AUDIENCE WHEN HE SAID THAT
UNDERGROUND UTILITIES "DO NOT WORK IF THE THEY ARE
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.
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
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.
copy of this article was recently sent to me by a resident.
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.
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."
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
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."
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,
Town fire-rescue spokesman said, "THERE WERE SEVERAL PEOPLE
TRAPPED IN THEIR CARS IN HIGH WATER."
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."
Town Council President Pucillo said "they got stuck in 30
inches of water on Barton Avenue."
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
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...."
then Town Manager Elwell said that the pumps "got more rain
than our system can handle"
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."
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
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
can elected officials justify their vote to bury electrical
responsibility for voting for this dangerous Project remains with
every Town Council Member from October 2014 to the present.
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.
FACT THAT THE TOWN'S LEADERS ARE IGNORING THE FACTS AND DENYING
REALITY IS NOT ONLY RECKLESS, BUT OUTRAGEOUSLY DANGEROUS FOR EVERY
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!
Town Council of Palm Beach is putting the safety of their residents
and properties at risk.
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.
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.
Town of Palm Beach, an historic world renowned place to live, has NO
choice. IT MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACTS OR ACCEPT FUTURE CHAOS!
it prudent for a barrier island Town, such as Palm Beach, to gamble
on flooding and sea-level rise?
Rising Sea vs. Underground Utilities
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.
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.
is fine to install in inland communities in Florida that are NOT
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.
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.
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!
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."
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."
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."
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
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!"
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."
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."
Keenan said, king tide flooding is making people more wary of living
in those areas."
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
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.
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
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!
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."
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."
"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…"
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
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!
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
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!
values in coastal communities that have Underground Utilities will
be adversely affected as has already been demonstrated in Miami-Dade
Beach Officials need to wake-up now, not when water is in the living
room of single family homes!
the farce of undergrounding before it is submerged in saltwater!
PROACTIVE APPROACH TO SEA-LEVEL RISE IS THE STRONG KOSBERG/SCHARF
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
damage to your home and depreciation of one's property value, Mold
can cause a variety of health issues!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
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
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
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."
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
PALM BEACH UNDERGROUNDS THEIR UTILITIES TOWN-WIDE, RESIDENTS WILL BE
COMPLETELY VULNERABLE TO UNSAFE AND UNRELIABLE CONDITIONS!
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
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?
OWNERS OF PALM BEACH ARE AT A CROSSROAD!!
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!
Flood Hazard Zone Ignored By Palm Beach
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).
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!
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.
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!
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!
is the Town concealing these facts?
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
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
FPL and every expert have declared that "water and electricity
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.
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!
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
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."
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
have spoken with FPL and they acknowledged that each Municipality
pays different electric rates. Do the math: 1 + 1 = electric utility
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?
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
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
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!
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.
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!
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
Supervisor Says "(The Town Council) They Have No Common
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
this work ended at the southern boundary of the Town of Palm Beach.
is mindboggling that the Town of Palm Beach plans to remove all
Hardened Poles and replace them with a LESS RELIABLE UNDERGROUND
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.
told him that their plan is to underground utilities Town-wide and
remove ALL poles, including those that were already Hardened, and
response of this experienced Utilities Supervisor veteran was, "IF
THEY ARE DOING THAT, THEY (THE TOWN COUNCIL) HAVE NO COMMON
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
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!
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
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."
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".
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!
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."
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
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".
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.
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.
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.
IS A FACT THAT THIS TOWN-WIDE PROJECT IS IN A FINANCIAL QUAGMIRE
THAT IS CHAOTIC AND OUT OF CONTROL!
Beach property owners and residents are now left with one
alternative, the Legal System!
Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is the BEST and ONLY recourse to
SUCCESSFULLY counter this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities
& Defiance In Palm Beach
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!
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.
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
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.
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!
the March 20, 2018 Town Council Meeting the following demonstrates
why there is no other choice but the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action
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!
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
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,
the March 20, 2018 Town Council Meeting, the following quotes say it
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
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
Underground Project Manager Stern: "Each phase requires
(negotiating) with ATT & Comcast, absolutely."
this the Town Council turned around and unanimously passed
Resolution #35-2018, which made a commitment by the Town to bury 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
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
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."
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!
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
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
Strayer: " … The $120 million was never presented and not a
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.
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
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!
Beach’s Town leaders are clearly placing the Town’s finances,
the taxpayers and the Town itself into CHAOS!
Pole Technology More Reliable Than Undergrounded Utilities!
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
Utilities Engineer, Alan Boaz responded without hesitation, "My
personal opinion is HARDENED LINES ARE MORE
RELIABLE THAN UNDERGROUND UTILITIES ON PALM BEACH ISLAND!"
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?"
Boaz’s response, "Yes, absolutely!"
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
summarize the critical facts that Alan Boaz included in his
interview and in his article, "Why Aren’t More Utilities
"Shorter lifespan for cables that are underground"
"One of the main problems is locating faults."
"Underground Utilities take almost 60% longer to fix."
"Saltwater intrusion causes corrosion and damages the conduits
"…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."
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!
needs to be HALTED, in whatever way it can as soon as possible!
best chance these residents have is the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action
Lawsuit, which is moving forward in the discovery stage towards
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
Project despite the rush to do construction is not a "fait
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!
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.
same is true with Palm Beach and their mad drive to make it appear
that they are unstoppable. IT IS JUST NOT
Games And Deception
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
should be noted here that all of this can be halted if the Kosberg/Scharf
Class-Action Lawsuit prevails.
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?"
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."
ground level Utility box in Palm Beach, will have this Warning Sign-
KEEP OUT! HAZARDOUS VOLTAGE INSIDE: Can SHOCK, BURN, or CAUSE DEATH;
Clearance....from Fences, Shrubs and Structures; STOP!: ELECTRICAL
CABLE BURIED BELOW: 48 Hours before you Dig.
NO Overhead Utility Pole, Hardened with Smart Switch Technology or
not, has any required warning.
is racing at the speed of light!
NEED TO ASK OURSELVES, WHY IS AN UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT
HAPPENING IN PALM BEACH? WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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??
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
is today's "Cutting-Edge Technology", not that of the
real clincher is, the Tesla Powerwall battery can power a house for
7 days, WITHOUT BEING CONNECTED TO THE ELECTRIC UTILITY!
is Tesla Technology today! There are already Tesla energy autonomous
houses out there. This Technology is called a "Smart
Ecosystem" or, "Smart House Technology."
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.
"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
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.
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!
wires are manageable and accessible vs. wires buried in underground
and underwater conduits where you have to dig things up to find the
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.
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
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."
the negatives presented here make Town-wide Underground Utilities an
extremely bad investment. IT IS HAZARDOUS AND UNRELIABLE ON 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.
Beach’s Risky Financial
Town Council is taking a financial and reliability gamble, leaving
Palm Beach property owners at risk!
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?
it because financially, the Palm Beach Town-wide Underground
Utilities Project is a WIN-WIN for FPL?
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.
WIN-WIN for FPL assures them the best financial and profitable
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.
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!
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
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.
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."
will be RATE HIKES and clearly this is a WIN-WIN for FPL and a
LOSE-LOSE for PALM BEACH FPL CUSTOMERS!!
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!
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
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.
a poor investment for Palm Beach property owners but a great profit
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.
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.
solar roofs and home batteries have just become AVAILABLE. How much
will they proliferate in TEN years?
would this Town insist on pursuing this soon to be obsolete
electrical system of distribution?
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
"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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
Unraveling Of Palm Beach's Town-Wide Underground Utilities Project
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".
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".
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
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!
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.
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!
are a few of the facts showing the unraveling of Town Officials and
their Town-wide Underground Utilities Project.
"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
"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
"Peer Review" also states that the "Process is
complicated by lack of electrical details, schematic drawings"
.... and that it "Requires system inventory."
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.
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
quotes taken from the December Town Council meeting must be
PRESIDENT RICHARD KLEID SAID, "WE REALLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THIS
THING IS GOING TO COST."!!
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
did the Town initiate this disastrous Project and risky investment
in the first place?
President Kleid went on to say to Mr. Fried: "Harris, do you
think we should stop the Project?"
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."
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."
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.
utilities in this most severe flood hazard zone Town is unwarranted,
unnecessary and an unwise investment!
Permits Require Utility Easements In Palm Beach
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.
your seatbelts because THIS REVELATION WILL BE A STUNNER!!!
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.
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 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.
this new Town Policy not an excessive abuse of Municipal authority?
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
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?
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?
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.
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."
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!
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.
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."
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
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.
is just the beginning of the Town forcing its citizens to submit to
its demands, thereby taking advantage of property owners.
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.
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....."
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
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.
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
there is an implied threat transparent in the motions made and the
actions that they represent!
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.
this an acceptable action for Town elected Public Servants to make?
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Palm Beach Mayor and the Town Council have lost sight of the fact
that it is their responsibility protect the rights of their
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
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.
Liens Come With Undergrounding Utilities
by Maddy Greenberg
addition to the Property Liens,
construction hazards & accidents continue.
Underground Utilities = Flooding with Property Liens.
by Charles Pepper taken 10-7-17
Seaspray Ave. on Lake Trail, Palm Beach
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
"LIEN" is a cloud over the title of one's property. No
property owner ever wants a "LIEN" on their property!
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.
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
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 ...").
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.
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
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.
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.
PLACES A STIGMA ON THE PROPERTY VALUES OF THE ENTIRE TOWN OF PALM
BEACH FOR 30 YEARS!
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,
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
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"!
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.
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.
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
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!
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?
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!
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.
the Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit can block the disastrous and
damaging path that the Town has imposed upon their residents and
IS TIME TO HOLD ANY AND ALL GOVERNING ENTITIES OF THE TOWN OF PALM
BEACH ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.
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.
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.
CAN THANK THIS CURRENT MAYOR AND TOWN COUNCIL FOR THE TOWN-WIDE
UNDERGROUND UTILITIES PROJECT DEBACLE!
Palm Beach! Stop Undergrounding Now!!
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!"
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!
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!
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.
accordance with this forecast, why on earth would anyone support
Town-wide burying of utilities underground on a sand-based barrier
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?
TO WAKE-UP PALM BEACH! STOP UNDERGROUNDING NOW!!
Arrives In Palm Beach
by Jimmy Shirley
disruption on South Ocean Blvd.
by Maddy Greenberg
out of the driveway. No safety here!
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!"
it possible that this Town-wide Underground Utilities Project will
still have poles? Where else but in Palm Beach!
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!
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!
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!"
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.
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
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!"
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!
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!
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
is inexcusable that this current Council approved an inequitable and
biased methodology and a Special Assessment that is actually a
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.
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!
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!
BECOMES MORE AND MORE APPARENT THAT THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH HAS
UNDERTAKEN THE LARGEST TOWN-WIDE PROJECT IN ITS HISTORY WITH A
Disruptions In Palm Beach
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
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.
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
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.
accidents are already creating dire situations of unreliable service
and safety concerns, especially for the overwhelming number of the
Town's senior residents.
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.
cover one of the many downsides to this unrelenting drive that the
present Town Council is taking in this train wreck of a Project.
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?
Town's Contractor acknowledged that this was his first conversion on
a barrier island.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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
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
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!
much more of this Project will Palm Beach residents tolerate?
Beach Residents "Held Hostage" By Town Officials
Topic and Palm Beach now have National News Media Attention
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!
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
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.
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"!
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.
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
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."
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).
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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."
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
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."
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
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?
Town-wide Underground Utilities Project on the barrier island Town
of Palm Beach is UNRELIABLE, UNSAFE and NOT AN AESTHETIC TOWN-WIDE
is enough, ENOUGH?
Beach Officials Seek To Bury The Truth
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.
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.
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.
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"!
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!
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.
incidents are occurring and will continue to happen throughout the
Project as contractors encounter problems beneath the ground that
are unable to be detected.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
much for the success of underground utilities in the Town of Palm
Beach during Irma!
Town would suppress these facts rather than let them see the light
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
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!
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?"
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
Utilities Cause Longer Power Outages!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
following is proof of why this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground
Utilities Project must NEVER take place.
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.
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".
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.
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
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
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.
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!
Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit is the BEST recourse to
SUCCESSFULLY counter this Palm Beach Town-wide Underground Utilities
Beach UNDERWATER Utilities Project!!
would we all be now if the Town of Palm Beach utilities were
undergrounded and Harvey had hit Palm Beach instead of Texas?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
one constant goal was that the Town wanted to convert to underground
utilities for aesthetics and have the Project paid for by
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
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
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
following contains significant information you need to be aware of:
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!
The Prepayment Notices we have been receiving from the Town are
NOTICES, NOT BILLS! These notices do not require you to pay them.
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.
The "Escrow Account" makes the monies unavailable for the
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?
Easements: In Phase 1, the Town is resorting to misinformation and
inaccurate statements in order to coerce and gain Easements from
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.
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
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.
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
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.
all the risks involved, I suggest we rename the Project, "TOWN
OF PALM BEACH UNDERWATER UTILITIES PROJECT"!!
Class-Action Lawsuit Major Upset To Palm Beach!
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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!
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
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.
Class-Action Lawsuit deserves our support and continued confidence
in its positive outcome.
on the LINK to read the entire Kosberg/Scharf Class-Action Lawsuit.
Class-Action Lawsuit Hits Palm Beach!
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
IS A "ONE TOWN" "TOWN-WIDE" CLASS-ACTION
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!
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.
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?
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:
It challenges "the validity of Special Assessments"
"imposed by the Town on property owners..."
seeks "declaratory and temporary and permanent injunctive
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."
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."
"The Property Appraiser is charged with preparing the tax rolls
for the property owners/class members. The tax rolls will include
the Special Assessments."
"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."
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
addition, "The Town Council's legislative determinations were
unsupported by competent substantial evidence and were
The lawsuit declares, "....The Town's apportionment methodology
is invalid and arbitrary" and the Special Assessments are
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
It also states that "Kosberg, Scharf, and the Class members
will suffer imminent and irreparable injury ....."
"...will be irreparably harmed."
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.
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."
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."
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!
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.
tight folks and watch the fireworks! Things just started to get
interesting and they are about to heat up rather quickly now!
Outcry Defies Palm Beach Town Council!
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!
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
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
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
"Kangaroo Court" was created because the Town Council is
attempting to quietly railroad through 30 years of non-tax
deductible Special Assessments.
these Special Assessments are legally challenged, they will be
levied on the property owners and will finance the Town-wide
Underground Utilities Project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
were told that the objections were supported by expert opinions
within "Kosberg's Appendix to Objection to Special
Berger explained that the expert reports show that, "undergrounding
confers no 'special benefit' on my client's property or the other
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
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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!
YOUR SEAT BELT AND BE PATIENT.
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."
only thing that is "inevitable" is, "MORE LAWSUITS
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?
Utility Box is what will be installed in the south-end. Will 100 of
these high voltage boxes be an "Improvement" or a
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!
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.
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
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."
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.
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'."
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!
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."!
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!!
is important to review a few of the facts and negative consequences
to this Unnecessary Town-wide Underground Utilities debacle.
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
implementation of a 30 year annual non-tax deductible Special
Assessment which will be added to your tax bill.
a Town Special Assessment for Undergrounding of Utilities in Palm
Beach that will be OBSOLETE before the planned 10 year Project is
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.
new FEMA Flood Maps identify 75% of the Town of Palm Beach as a
"Special Flood Hazard Area."
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.
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
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!
FEMA Flood Maps Confront Palm Beach Undergrounding!
FEMA Flood Maps will mean ELEVATED platform bases for electric
utility boxes in the Town of Palm Beach!
Town of Palm Beach faces major issues as they continue on the risky,
dangerous path to Town-wide Undergrounding of their Utilities.
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
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
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!
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.
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."
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
states in their P-936 7/13 publication, "FULLY
SEALING ALL... ELECTRICAL UTILITIES IS NOT POSSIBLE."
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..."
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!
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.
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!
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
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
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..."
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."
Townsend continued with, "THE BASE OF
THAT TRANSFORMER, SO ITS GOING TO HAVE TO BE SITTING ON A 4FT.
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."
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.
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.
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?"
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
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!
CONDO or CO-OP SHOULD AGREE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TO GRANT AN
EASEMENT TO THE TOWN.
FAMILY HOMEOWNERS SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE GRANTING ANY EASEMENTS.
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...."
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."
75% of the Town of Palm Beach is in a "Special Flood Hazard
property owner should willingly give an easement to the Town under
TOWN SHOULD GO FORWARD WITH A TOWN-WIDE UNDERGROUNDING UTILITIES
PROJECT UNDER THESE CONDITIONS!
Denial Puts Palm Beach Residents At Risk!
photo is FACT, NOT FICTION!
of FACT by FPL on their website:
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."
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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
unknown, within the Town’s planned future phases in Midtown, is
what will these various utility boxes look like?
midtown area of the Town has an assortment of condo/co-ops,
commercial buildings and single family homes.
the number of 6 ft. tall Switch boxes, Capacitors and Transformers
that will disfigure Midtown has not been revealed at this
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.
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?
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!
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 ....
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
THESE BOXES THAT THE TOWN PLANS TO INSTALL IN PALM BEACH, AN
IMPROVEMENT, OR, A DISASTER FOR OUR RESIDENTS AND OUR PROPERTY
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.
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."
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."
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!
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.
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."
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.
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!"
then, is the Town of Palm Beach planning to bury electric wires in a
community that is on a flood prone barrier island?
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.
the Town of Palm Beach is caught in a dangerous, ill-fated
underground conversion time warp.
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
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!
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?
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
employee from The National Grid Utility Company in the northeast
said, "Explosions from undergrounding occur somewhere
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
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."
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?"
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:
Overhead poles need replacement and need to be hardened to make them
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!
is now or never, Palm Beach! Change course before it is too late and
Palm Beach becomes the second "TITANIC"!!
TO THE EDITOR
in a Flood Zone — Really?
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
kind of thinking drives people to choose this path.
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.
Beach Keeps Explosion News from Residents
real question is, "Is the perceived aesthetic beauty for a few
residents, worth risking life and safety of the majority of property
in this article are facts and several explosion incidents that the
Town of Palm Beach keeps under wraps.
Undergrounded utility wiring, transformers and all the high voltage
equipment it requires are causing unsafe, life threatening
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.
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.
Teller, a Palm Beach resident and Officer on his condo Board of
"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
"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
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
"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
Associated Press stated further that:
"...high-voltage transformers were to blame." In
the Toronto explosions.
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
CBS Miami, it describes:
"Florida Power & Light and Hazmat crews were called to
"Hundreds of FPL customers lost power near the area following
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
"The salt can make contact with lines and spark, officials
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."
8, 2015, Palm Beach Daily News, Palm
Beach, Fla article, "Explosion Rocks Sun and Surf Condo"
"Electrical Blast in Garage Flings Pavers, Leaves Crater."
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.
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.
19, 2015, NBC News, NY, on the
Today Show, reported, "Why Manhole Explosions Happen In the
get extremely hot because of extra volume of electricity running
through them because of air condition."
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."
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?
emphases by Ms.
Beach Violates Town Charter
Photo by Maddy Greenberg
98 of these boxes of hazardous materials in
the south end of the Town of Palm Beach on Easements or Public Rights
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
focus on those concerns raised by Condo/Co-op Presidents and Condo
representatives: safety, reliability and aesthetics.
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.
says that "converting to underground utilities on a flood
prone barrier island has great safety risks".
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
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
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."
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
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."
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.
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
Officials, we don't understand, how you can't envision what you are
trying to get away with, in YOUR OWN Town!
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."
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".
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
Beach Mayor and Town Council, wake up before it is too late!
Emphases by Maddy Greenberg
Beach Exposes Residents to Unnecessary Turmoil & Risks!
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
following was written by Harris S. Fried:
emphases are Ms. Greenberg’s)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Beach's "Voodoo Economics"!
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?
submitted by D. Braha
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
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
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."
BEACH MAYOR'S DISCONNECT WITH REALITY
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."
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!
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.
THE TOWN COUNCIL'S ACTIONS DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP?
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.
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.
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.
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.
BEACH'S DISCONNECT WITH REALITY
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.
Beach Plays Shell Game With Easements!
by Maddy Greenberg
you like to have one or more of these on your front lawn?
this an aesthetic benefit to your property?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
IS CLEAR THAT PALM BEACH OFFICIALS MUST THINK THAT THE PUBLIC IS
GULLIBLE AND EASILY MANIPULATED!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
doesn't fit the verbal promise the Town staff is making in order
to get cooperation to acquire the Easement.
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
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.
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."
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."
Teller added, "From an engineering point of view, there is no
way to determine that what they propose will not wind up much
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.
Town's technique for massaging the truth, in order to get property
owners to sign away their rights, is highly unconscionable!
happened to the legendary and world renowned Palm Beach?
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?
IT ACCEPTABLE PRACTICE FOR A MUNICIPALITY TO GET ITS WAY BY
PLAYING A "SHELL GAME" WITH THE PUBLIC?
Beach Sinks Further Into the Flood Plain While Trying To
submitted by Maddy Greenberg
below: Typical Dimensions of
Capacitor and Switch Cabinets
Underground Type Capacitor Bank, Residential/Commercial Areas:
65"; Width: 65"; Height: 65";
Dimensions: 92" x 92"
Standard Underground Switch Cabinet, Residential/Commercial Areas:
67"; Width: 75"; Height: 50"
- 82" x 90"
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?
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
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!
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
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.
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
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)
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?"
article acknowledges that Palm Beach needs protection against
"...the harsh Florida elements such as hurricanes, storms and
rising sea levels…"
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."
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?
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."
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.
Town of Palm Beach cannot afford to ignore their responsibility to
protect their constituents and acknowledge Scientific Facts!
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!
above is in direct contradiction to the promises made by the Town to the
property owners prior to the Referendum vote!
paraphrase Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is repeating
the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results!
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.
FEMA HAS ADDED MORE HAZARDS!
that not meet the definition of "insanity"? Or, is this just
another example of bizarrely poor and irresponsible governance?
Beach Plummets Down The Rabbit Hole!
submitted by Maddy Greenberg
you like this box in front of your home, condo or co-op?
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!!
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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!
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.
touch on a few of the real truths that were revealed.
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!
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
Project Contingency which originally
was 20% is now just under 10% with a soft cost contingency of 5%.
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?
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
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."
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.
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
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.
THE TOWN OF PALM PLUMMETS INTO THE RABBIT HOLE, THE REAL VICTIMS
HERE, UNFORTUNATELY, ARE THE TOWN’S RESIDENTS AND PROPERTY
Does Not Exist In Palm Beach!
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?"
Magazine says, "… that this is the beginning of the death
of wired broadband."
why on earth would the Town of Palm Beach plan to have outdated
technology installed Town-wide?
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
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?
Beach Faces Financial Chaos!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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…"
Task Force members were also told by Mr. Bradford, "We can not
access the G.O. (bond market) until the lawsuits are settled."
Bradford said, at the 1/10/17 Town Council meeting, "A number of
things happened in December taking us off track, including but not
"The Engineer’s Opinion of Cost is in excess of $90
"… the lawsuits will not be concluded until late May at best…
so we can not access G.O. bond financing until the lawsuits are
this Town Council meeting, Town Council President Michael Pucillo said,
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.
Town Manager said, "Construction costs are rising."
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?"
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
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."
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?"
Bradford said, "In 90 days or April 1st is realistic."
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.
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."
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
Coniglio stated, "There is tremendous discontent that we did not
have a tight enough handle on this."
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…"
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?
Is Palm Beach Orchestrating A Cover-Up?
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?
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?
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?
Town-wide Palm Beach Undergrounding Utilities Project has life and
safety concerns that the Town continues to ignore, deny and
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.
following are the significant facts which are "buried"
in the Town’s major cover-up.
1: Eminent Domain and Easements
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.
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.
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.
2: Special Assessment Increases
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
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
4: Longer Outages
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."
5: Conversion Problems
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";
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"!!
6: Intracoastal Submarine Cable vs. Underground Conduit
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.
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."
7: Repair Problems
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."
8: Flood Delays
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.
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.
9: Saltwater Intrusion
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…"
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
"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."
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."
12: "State of the Art" Technology
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!
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
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."
IS REALLY GOING ON IN THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH?
Beach’s Misinformation Campaign
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!
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?
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!
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
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
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
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.
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!
THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH’S CLAIMED POWER OUTAGE ISSUES ARE THE
RESULT OF THE TOWN’S OWN NEGLIGENCE!
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.
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.
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."
one of the municipality personnel that I spoke with, north and
south along the coastline, said they didn’t have power outage
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.
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.
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
undergrounding utilities didn’t stop the island from suffering
power outages, nor would it in The Town of Palm Beach!!!
Palm Beach Gambling With Taxpayer Money?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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."
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?
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.
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.
is a perfect example of how the Officials of the Town of Palm Beach have
failed their property owners.
Happened To The Town of Palm Beach’s Responsibility To Protect
Its Property Owners?
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…"
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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."
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…"
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.
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!
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?"
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
large number of communities are already exposed to coastal
flooding." The Town of Palm Beach is one of those municipalities.
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."
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
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
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."
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.
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."
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!
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
Beach Property Owners Speak Out!
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.
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
a September, 2014, PB Post article, listed among the "Potential
"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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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
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."
Essig, a realtor and property owner in the Town, was present at
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!"
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
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.
Pole Smart Technology Surpasses Undergrounding, Part 1
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
by Jimmy Shirley
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
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.
has invested more than $2 Billion to build a stronger, smarter
storm resilient grid. It has resulted in fewer outages and faster
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.
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."
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
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.
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."
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."
Hurricane Matthew, ABC News reported that "Hurricane
Matthew caused a storm surge and massive flooding in Jacksonville,
Florida along with 100 mph winds."
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Dodged The Bullet This Time - But What Did We Learn From Matthew?
11 years of no real major hurricanes here in south east Florida,
Matthew came along and shocked us into reality.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
spokesman Bill Orlove said that "the hardened poles have held
up very well."
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!"
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."
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.
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
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!
is clearly the lesson learned from Matthew.
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.
POLES IS UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED AS THE SAFEST UTILITY INSTALLATION
TECHNOLOGY TO WITHSTAND FUTURE STORM EVENTS, NOT UNDERGROUND
Is Palm Beach Ignoring "State of the Art" Electric
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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."
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
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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
question repeated by so many property owners, is, "Why?"
and "What is really going on here?"
will continue to research this issue, interview and keep our
Beach Needs to Confront the Realities of Their Undergrounding
by Maddy Greenberg
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.
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.
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!
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."
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!
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…."
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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!
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.
question by many property owners is, "What is really driving
the Town of Palm Beach in their determination to underground
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!
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!
there is no benefit to any undergrounding utility projects in the
Town of Palm Beach!
Condo News will continue to keep you
informed about this very important issue.
Beach Residents Believe Lawsuits Will Prevent Town-wide
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
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.
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!
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
there is the financial quagmire for the property owners that
increases opposition to this Town-wide project and strengthens
support for the two lawsuits.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Condo News and I will continue to keep
you informed and up to date with the facts about this important
Lawsuits Against Palm Beach Town-wide Project Move to Trial
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.
previous Condo News articles I have covered in detail this
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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?
will continue to keep you updated as these two lawsuits proceed to
promised, this is a follow-up to keep you abreast regarding the
Town of Palm Beach Undergrounding Utilities Project.
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
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.
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
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
next time, be well, be careful and stay safe.
Lawsuit Threatens to Stop
Beach Underground Project
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!!
by Maddy Greenberg
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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
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."
Town Officials clearly do not want ad valorem for this project!
lawsuit contends that the "proposed special assessments
authorized by Resolution…, and the bond referendum are
unconstitutional, illegal and void."
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."
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!
Beach’s Underground Utility Conversion Financial Pitfall
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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?
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?
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!
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."
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.
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
Beach’s Folly Will Be A Conversion To Undergrounding Utilities
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
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.
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