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Election 2017 Question of the week: Should electric lines be underground instead of overhead?

September 15, 2017
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. As you review the races, please note that Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide elections. This means all registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.

The 10th Question of the Week is: Should electric lines be underground instead of overhead? If you are in favor of "undergrounding," how should the cost be funded?


- Joe Coviello: Underground electric lines give our city a more attractive look. The probability of maintaining electrical service is increased when events such as Hurricane Irma hit. However, the cost of six to eight thousand dollars per household is substantial. This is why I'm not in favor of undergrounding. Recently 67% of our residents in NW Cape Coral voted not to approve undergrounding in their area. The cost of undergrounding should be part of the negotiations with LCEC and the Franchise Agreement.

* * *

- Derrick Donnell: I am not in favor of undergrounding utilities. 90+% of all studies are definitive in concluding that the cost, which runs 2 to 3 times more, is prohibitive. If implemented, this cost would be yet another responsibility of every taxpayer. I do, however, support options such as smart grid technology and the strategic replacement of wooden poles with concrete poles.

Fact Box


The Primary Election for the Cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers in accordance with an Executive Order issued by Governor Rick Scott on Sept. 15, has been rescheduled and will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

Early Voting will be held Thursday, Sept. 28, through Saturday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. 6 p.m. A voter may use any available Early Voting site, during early voting hours, prior to Election Day.

For more information about elections, candidates, voter registration, early voting, vote-by-mail requests, precinct locations, poll workers, and Community Education Services events, please visit our website or call LEE VOTE (533-8683).

Source: Supervisor of Elections


* * *

- Rana Erbrick: The pros for undergrounding include, but are not limited to improved community aesthetics, reliability during storms, enhanced public safety and almost doubling the life expectancy of the system. On the con side isolating failures becomes more problematic, the system is fixed so any reconfigurations of the grid become complicated, areas prone to flood are more likely to see outages and the biggest is the cost to convert to an underground power grid. This is a community value decision that would need to be supported by the taxpayers. I would support a referendum question to gauge support.

* * *

- April Freeman: Taking into consideration that much of Cape Coral is still without power after Irma, I believe that upgrading existing lines and expansion plans to underground is a necessity that will provide reliable service to our residents, business owners and visitors.

The upgrade will also increase property value, while protecting us from downed wires.

Home and business owners should be responsible for the cost, while additional funding relief for such upgrades is likely available through state and federal resources.

* * *

- Michael D. Hollow: The topic of underground has surfaced previously. There are negatives and positives associated with burying the lines. The biggest downfall is the cost. We need to stop reaching into the pockets of the taxpayers. LCEC has done a great job maintaining/improving what we have. Additionally, if a line breaks while it's underground, it's much more labor intensive/costly to fix. Great idea, but not on the backs of the taxpayers.

* * *

- Kevin Koch: This is one of those questions where everyone would like to see the same result (underground) but no one wants to or can pay for it. The cost of putting power lines underground is 10 times more expensive than overhead. That means that there is currently no way we can bury all of our power lines. What we can do, however, is minimize damage to the overhead lines during storms such as keeping trees away from the lines and making sure that LCEC and the City of Cape Coral have effective lines of communication before, during, and after storms.

* * *

- Daniel James Sheppard III: Implement new code. All new construction, underground only. And new service upgrades. When starting with no electric, the difference between overhead and underground is not dramatic in cost. Implement a incentive program for existing homes to put their service wire underground from home to pole. This is safer for the homeowner no dangling wires in storms. Some homes have no electric because tree limbs hit their wires. My home cost $400 to convert. These are things we can implement to slowly put our wires underground. It's better to start a trend then to force an assessment.



- Jim Burch (Incumbent): Mr. Burch has withdrawn from the race; he is no longer running.

* * *

- James Frederick Foraker: With the cost of 5 times more for underground utilities it is not economicly feasable. Florida has some of the most hurricane resistant requirements in utilities construction. Most of the city should be back up by Friday. While I have concerns about our hurricane preparedness, LCEC is not one of them.

* * *

- John Gunter: I'm in favor of having the lines underground. I wish they had done it initially. We would have to see what the cost would be. I feel a more in-depth study would have to be made to see whether it's financially feasible to go back after the fact and run them underground. I would be in favor of any future projects in the city, if possible, be underground.

* * *

- Graham Madison Morris: There are pros and cons on both sides of this and cost is surely a GIANT factor. Undergrounding is less susceptible to outages but subject to potentially longer restoration times. Right-of-way considerations and potential complications from utility easements grow with undergrounding as construction occurs beneath property. I'm not one who is quick to say "impossible" on any idea for the future; however, would I broadly insist all should be undergrounded? The price and other factors for doing so such as design cost, time to install, time to repair, or what complications regarding property rights might arise would likely prove to be a negative in any cost to benefit analysis or possibly cost prohibitive altogether.



- Jeffrey Alan Jones: No response due to Hurricane Irma. Response will be posted online when received.

* * *

- Richard Leon (Incumbent): There are many benefits to having underground electric wires including wires not being blown down during a hurricane. I think we should leave it up to the neighborhoods if they want to have them underground or not. A vote can be held like the one that took place in the Northwest Cape in determining if a neighborhood wants them. If they do, I think the residents that want them should pay for them in a special assessment.

* * *

- Jennifer I. Nelson: Electric lines underground seem more efficient from an operational, safety, and aesthetic perspective. Due to storms, lines would be protected underground preventing large power outages provided they can be repaired with the same or better accuracy than our current, above ground system. The cost to achieve this is approximately three times higher. Even with adding the expense of linemen currently to perform repairs, I understand the cost is still lower than changing to an underground system. I would recommend our city staff perform a cost benefit analysis with a return on investment timeframe for underground wiring versus our current system and have our residents vote their preference as they would most likely absorb the majority the cost.


DISTRICT 5 (General Election ballot only)

- James Schneider: After Irma, may seem needed, but we need to remember, that there are still overhead lines, leading to the neighborhoods with underground lines. Large subdivisions that I represented and sold elsewhere had this same dilemma. If the entire area is to get lines from over to under, which is an enormous infrastructure program, then we need to research where the federal government has grants to pay for such. Our community already is up at arms every time the public water/sewer comes near their homes, because of cost. We need our experienced negotiators on council to address these issues immediately.

* * *

- Dave Stokes: I do not agree with taking existing traditional power poles in established residential neighborhoods and putting the electric lines underground. The cost to put existing power lines on power poles to an underground system is very expensive, costing residents many thousands of dollars. Many of our residents cannot afford this unnecessary expense.


DISTRICT 6 (General Election ballot only)

- John Karcher: Cons: The cost for underground utilities for the UEP 2 area was estimated to be an average of $9,500 per home. The residents said no due to the cost.

Underground lines take much longer to repair the damage. Technology is leaping forward at high-speed.

Moving forward:

All new "developments" should include underground utilities and price accordingly.

Seriously look into completely outsourcing the balance of the next UEPs to lower the cost significantly and offset utilities undergrounding.

Look into low cost bonds now to make both more palatable.

Retrofitting existing lines may be cost prohibitive unless we can get some outside federal dollars.

* * *

- Rick Williams (Incumbent): I would love to see electric power, cable and internet undergrounded particularly in Cape Coral's residential neighborhoods, as it does a lot to improve city appearance and improve property values. It would be a major undertaking and be very expensive, and the city and its taxpayers cannot afford to pay for undergrounding. I think we need to work together with LCEC to drastically lower the projected costs involved and find ways to make it more affordable for property owners. Then it should be put on a referendum for voter approval.


Important dates

PRIMARY, Oct. 3, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes - Closed Aug. 14

* Early Voting (primary election) -Sept 28-30;

- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

- Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

- GENERAL, Nov. 7, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

* Voter Registration Book Closes, Oct. 10

* Early Voting (general election), Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1-4

- Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3

- Cape Coral Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace

- Voter registration:

Applications are available online at, at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place Unit 3 A full list is available at



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