Underground Utility Districts Program is estimated to cost $2 billion
By Terry Miller
No action was taken Monday by Pasadena council regarding the underground utility program to clear our streets of the thousands of power poles and lines that adorn Pasadena neighborhoods.
As you may recall, infamous Danny Wooten embezzled funds from that very program and subsequently is now behind bars for the massive embezzlement scheme that went undetected for years.
On March 14, 2016, Pasadena city staff presented a recommendation to the City Council to discontinue the Underground Utility Districts Program upon completion of the Hill Avenue and Alpine Street Underground Utility Districts and suspend collection of the Underground Surtax. These recommendations were based on the program’s high cost and extremely long project timeframe. Completing the Underground Utility Districts Program is estimated to cost $2 billion, or about $90,000 per converted service, and it will take approximately 300 to 400 years to fund and build. Even upon completion, over 70 miles of utility lines would still remain overhead. Technology changes will render the Underground Utility Districts Program obsolete long before its completion.
Following staff’s presentation, the City Council took no action on staffs’ recommendation and directed staff to collect community input prior to making a determination on the future of the Underground Utility Districts Program and Underground Surtax. Subsequent to public outreach and input from the community, staff now recommends that collection of the Underground Surtax and work on the Underground Utility Districts Program continue into the future. Funding for Underground Utility District projects (that is, conversion of all overhead utilities to underground utilities and removing associated above-ground infrastructure) is one of the many allowed uses of the Underground Surtax.