Biscayne Park residents will be getting 22 new all-concrete poles as part of a Florida Power and Light project to make the electric grid more resistant to storms. Work is scheduled to begin May 19.
According to Mayor David Coviello, FPL has the legal right to replace the wooden poles under the company’s franchise agreement with the village. Therefore, the discussion on the dais during their meeting on May 6 was whether or not to go with all concrete poles or a concrete/ wood hybrid pole. Commissioners voted 4-1 for the concrete, with Vice Mayor Barbara Watts dissenting.
But Commissioner Roxanna Ross said she wanted the most reliable option.
“I’m really not in favor of having that mix that would only bring us to the minimum requirement. We should try to have the highest level of protection installed,” Ross said.
Several residents had already expressed their concerns over the concrete poles, saying they would take away from the overall look of the village. At a previous meeting, Coviello asked FPL to research the possibility of wooden poles or the hybrid. After conducting their studies, FPL said they would rather go with all concrete.
“The analysis that we ran indicates that 10 of the 22 poles can be wooden. However, with the wooden poles two concrete poles would have to be strategically placed to ensure that we meet the 145-mph wind standard,” said Aletha Player, an FPL spokeswoman.
Considering safety and aesthetics, Coviello changed his original position and agreed with installing the concrete.
“Although I had initial concerns with the appearance of concrete poles and their impact on the character of our community, that concern has lessened somewhat after walking the village and comparing the wood with the concrete,” Coviello said. “I recognize, however, that the appearance of the poles is subjective and I certainly appreciate that some may still have concerns with aesthetics. In the end, I supported the project because the ‘hardening’ of the power grid is paramount and will positively impact the community.”
Aside from the aesthetics, residents complained that property values could go down as a result of installing the concrete poles.
“The only person I heard of that I would consider an expert in this kind of matter is a Realtor, actually someone who lives in Biscayne Park. He says that it’s his judgment that because of the appearance of concrete poles and the fact that they strengthen the network, he believes they’ll actually increase property values,” said Commissioner Fred Jonas.
“I couldn’t disagree with you more,” said Watts. “I think the way property values are assessed has nothing to do with the outside of the house. We’re paying for the city of North Miami Police Department to be fortified. We know they have a generator and could go a week or so without power. I think it would be a grave mistake to just accept concrete all over the place.”
The 22 poles include: four along Griffing Boulevard between 119th and 121st streets; seven along Sixth Avenue between 121st and 119th streets; 10 on 119th Street between Fifth and Eighth avenues; and one pole at Seventh Avenue and 119th Street. They will be anywhere from 30 to 40 feet high with a diameter of 17 inches as opposed to the 12-inch wooden poles.
The new infrastructure will reinforce 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 will be affected by the hardening project.
In other news, Coviello, Ross and Jonas voted in favor of outsourcing sanitation services, with Watts and Commissioner Bob Anderson dissenting. The issue will go before the commission for final approval at a special commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. on May 21 at the Ed Burke Recreation Center, 11400 NE Ninth Ave.
Currently, village manager Heidi Shafran is in negotiations with Waste Pro, the new sanitation company, to finalize the contract.
The next regular commission will be held at 7 p.m. on June 3 at the Ed Burke Recreation Center.