Moving wires could be costly

Homeowners along Balboa Boulevard could be required to pay for new electricity connections in the coming years if power lines are moved underground.

At a study session Tuesday afternoon, Newport Beach City Council members considered two possible districts along Balboa Boulevard, where poles supporting electric wires could be taken down.

Both options would line the boulevard between West Coast Highway and 22nd Street, but one stretches farther into the surrounding neighborhood alleyways.

Council members agreed that removing the poles and undergrounding the wires in the smaller proposed district, which affects about 150 homes rather than 225 homes, ought to be pursued.

If the city carries out the project, affected homeowners could each be required to pay around $4,000 to establish a new connection between their homes and the undergrounded main line, said David Webb, the city's public works director.

The Newport Beach municipal code would require residents to make this payment, City Attorney Aaron Harp said.

Still, the removal of poles typically increases property value, he added.

That portion of Balboa Boulevard will look better, staff said, because wires crossing the street will be removed.

The project will largely be funded with monies utility companies pay to cities for use in undergrounding projects. The payments, based on a formula, are required by the state Public Utilities Commission.

An estimated $4.4 million would be needed, according to the staff presentation. Just over $3.9 million will be available from state PUC allocations by 2016, when construction is expected to occur. Most of that, about $3.8 million, could be used to move the main line underground.

Residents would pay for the remaining $600,000 needed for the conversion of the home connections.

A public hearing on the issue will be scheduled for October or November.


ATT U-verse boxes

The council also considered a second issue of aesthetics-versus-utility during the study session, when members heard a presentation from AT&T; U-verse about bringing full service to the city.

To establish the full TV, phone and Internet services, about 80 boxes measuring 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 2 feet deep would need to be installed.

Council members said they believed residents would appreciate having more options, but they expressed concern over the bulky design of the boxes.

"You're doing these all over the country. Why haven't you had them superbly designed?" Mayor Pro Tem Rush Hill asked, noting that they looked like military machines rather than sleek pieces of furniture.

City staff members plan to pursue the installation of the boxes nonetheless.

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