Florida Power & Light wants to replace two dozen aging wooden poles that carry power lines through Biscayne Park with new concrete poles, but some village residents don’t like the look of the new structures.
Village commissioners will decide next month whether to allow the concrete poles, which FPL says are needed to “harden” the area’s power grid against storm-related outages.
Biscayne Park residents spoke out against the concrete poles during a meeting on April 21. FPL is set to begin phase two of a hardening project within the area but residents want alternatives to the concrete poles.
“They’re not in keeping with the look of our village,” resident Randy Davis said. “Why don’t we have a say about the aesthetics of our community? They’re ugly, urban and they don’t fit here.”
According to Aletha Player, an FPL spokeswoman, several studies were conducted in order to determine the best material for the poles, and although the company could replace current deteriorating poles with wood ones or wood/concrete mixes, they wouldn’t be as sturdy as concrete poles.
“We’ve done tests with composite poles and they don’t meet our standards against high winds and other weather related events,” Player said.
The eight-week project would include replacing 22 poles: four along Griffing Boulevard between 119th and 121st streets; seven along Northeast Sixth Avenue between 121st Street and just south of 119th Street; 10 poles on 119th Street between Fifth and Eighth avenues; and one at Seventh Avenue and 119th Street. Of these 22 poles, FPL identified 10 that could be replaced by wooden poles while maintaining the integrity of the network.
The new poles would support critical buildings such as the North Miami police station along with 2,200 households, 329 of which are in the village. In conjunction with phase one of the hardening project in 2011, during which 101 poles were installed, a total of 1,227 households in the village could be affected by the hardening project.
“This will make the system stronger for the benefit of all customers,” Player said.
Yet many residents feel that FPL is forcing the concrete poles on them. The feeling stems in part from a March 12 incident during which contractors mistakenly installed two poles in the village while they were supposed to be working in neighboring North Miami.
According to Village Manager Heidi Shafran, workers didn’t know they had crossed into the village. When told, they stopped immediately and made repairs, but the poles had to be left in place.
“I moved here about a year ago from Miami Shores and now I might have one of these poles in front of my house. This is not what I came to Biscayne Park for,” Raphael Franquiz said. “I think we want something to maintain the character of Biscayne Park. FPL should have a little more respect for us.”
Other residents, however, said FPL should be permitted to complete its project.
“I think we should let FPL do what is best for hardening the grid,” resident Chuck Ross said.
The other alternative would be for the village to pay $600,000 to put the new wiring underground. Not only would that include FPL, but also the other companies that piggy back on FPL’s infrastructure such as Comcast and AT&T.
FPL applied for its permit on March 10. Commissioners will vote on the permit at the regular meeting at 7 p.m., May 6 at the Ed Burke Recreation Center, 11400 NE Ninth court.
This portion of the hardening project is part of three-year, $460 million plan to harden the infrastructure of customers throughout FPL’s 35-county service area. FPL says the project will translate into faster restoration during major storms and improved everyday reliability.