Piedmont Neighborhood News

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Undergrounding is “an emergency?”

Posted by Len Gilbert on December 5, 2009

At Monday’s City Council meeting, the Council will act on an unprecedented “emergency” resolution to subsidize a $2.5 million undergrounding district that benefits 145 homes. Details at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/12-07-09/phu_approp.pdf

The undergrounding was supposed to be paid by the homeowners. Bids ranged from $1.5 to $2.5 million and they went with the low bidder. The “emergency” is that the contractors hit rock, which wasn’t included in the low bid. So our City administrator is recommending that the City commit over $1 million in public funds, roughly one-third of the City’s reserve fund, to cover these unexpected costs. The homeowners have raised $30,000 to date and pledged another $70,000.

Is it really reasonable to spend one-third of the City’s General Fund reserve to provide a subsidy of $6,800 per home on a beautification project that doesn’t really benefit anyone else in the City?

If you care about this expenditure of scarce public dollars, please attend the Council meeting Monday, email the Council (addresses at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/citycouncil/) and circulate this email widely.

Tim Rood

2 Responses to “Undergrounding is “an emergency?””

  1. trood said

    The City Council voted on Monday night to hold off a few days before voting on the $1.04 million appropriation requested by staff to (hopefully) cover the cost overruns on the Piedmont Hills Undergrounding District of 144 homes.
    A special Council session will be held at City Hall this Saturday, Dec. 12, at 2pm to vote on this issue. The Council has asked staff to prepare additional information on possible alternate courses of action, which may be posted on the City’s website by Thursday or Friday. http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/citycouncil/ – see agendas and staff reports.

    This unprecedented appropriation of a third of the City’s general fund reserve for an essentially private benefit, at a time when we don’t have the budget for a police chief, is a travesty of public stewardship.

    There was a lot of talk last night, from both Council members and staff, about “not pointing fingers.” That’s the attitude that got us into this mess. Another word for finger-pointing is accountability – and we need more of it.

    If the appropriation is approved, the remaining work will be managed by the same engineering consultants whom the City is threatening to sue, and the same staff who kept this matter out of public view for weeks after the overruns were known to the district members, Council and staff – and then tried to rush through the $1m appropriation on 3 days notice!

    With only bad choices left at this point, I believe the City should spend the money to put the project on hold and let the undergrounding district members vote on a supplemental assessment to cover the full costs. Rebidding the project would give the City some time to hire new, competent consultants, and if necessary staff, to oversee the process.

    I urge you to make your views known to the Council, and many thanks to those of you who have already spoken out. Over 75 emails were received from all over the City, including many from people who had never written before. Your involvement could help prevent the City from digging more holes to fill with your taxpayer dollars.

    Tim Rood

  2. […] so back in December, the Council approved this emergency resolution to spend a third of their reserve to bail out this underground project. But it doesn’t end […]

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