By John Bozzo
For Hometown News
Skies will be a little clearer and the prospect of preventing electric, phone and cable television disruptions better in Ormond Beach and Holly Hill as both cities pursue projects to put utility lines underground.
Holly Hill's effort got underway on March 12 when the City Commission approved a $5 million bond issue to put utility lines underground and beautify the streetscape.
Phase one will begin at Mason and Ridgewood avenues, running along Ridgewood to Fifth Street. Also, phase one will put utilities from Riverside Drive to Ridgewood along Second Street underground.
Ultimately Holly Hill officials hope to put utility lines underground the entire length of Ridgewood in the city.
On April 8, the City Commission approved spending $22,368 to pay for engineering the Florida Power & Light lines. AT&T and Bright House also will submit engineering bids.
"We talked with FPL many times and finally got them to agree to let us put the lines down in the median instead of off to the side, so there's not as much paving torn up and less repaving, which is what costs so much," said Holly Hill Mayor Roy Johnson, who is retired from FPL.
After the hurricanes in 2004, Holly Hill officials at that time expressed frustration at the length of time it took to restore electric power to the city.
"If you have underground utilities you won't be affected by a storm because the lines are up there on poles," Mayor Johnson said.
Little to no maintenance is required for underground utility lines, he said.
The Holly Hill mayor said he put utility lines at his home underground in the 1970s and hasn't had any problems.
Ormond Beach's effort is further along to move utilities underground on Granada Boulevard from Beach Street to U.S. 1 in the city's downtown.
Design work began in June 2012 and staff is in the final stages of obtaining easements for the FPL lines, AT&T lines, Bright House lines and fiber optic lines of Suneys and Level 3.
Along with removal of overhead utility lines along Granada, the project will replace lights, which will come down with the old utility poles, with new streetlights.
Construction cost in Ormond Beach is anticipated to reach about $2.7 million.
"I believe we made a mistake in '93 and '94 when we didn't agree to spend the extra money to underground utilities when we widened Granada Boulevard," Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley said. "The cost would have been minuscule then with FPL contributing."
Mayor Kelley said it made sense to put utilities underground as part of the current streetscape beautification downtown.
The project will improve the aesthetics downtown by removing overhead lines, remove any danger of crashing into utility poles and provide better assurance of maintaining electric, phone and cable television service in the event of a storm, the Ormond Beach mayor said.
Although the Ormond Beach streetscape work has proceeded at night, drivers are constantly reminded of the work because the temporary paving is lower than brick pavers at intersections, leaving bumps at every intersection. Mayor Kelley said he's also frustrated by the bumps and disappointed the brick pavers weren't removed and replaced with stamped concrete at the same level of the paved street.
"Brick pavers -- why are we trying to make our city look like it's the 19th century with cobblestone streets," he said.
The mayor noted that after complaints from city commissioners, construction crews added some angled asphalt patches trying to minimize the bumps at intersections along the Granada construction site.