Feb 23 2016

OPINION: Taxpayer Cost for Private Undergrounding District Estimated at $1,806,845

I estimate that taxpayer expenditures total $1,806,845   (taxpayer cost estimate updated on Feb. 26, 2016 to $1,640,000 -see comment below) directly related to the Piedmont Hills Undergrounding District (“PHUD”). This is public money for private benefit as Appeal Courts have found in other cases. As litigation is concluded, it seems appropriate to close the undergrounding debacle with transparency and not bury it in bedrock. I base my total on the following direct expenses and credits:

  •  Nov. 16, 2009, taxpayer cost to repair Crest Road: $275,000
  • Dec. 12, 2009, Council gives $1,004,832
  • Feb. 6, 2010, Council gives $1,127,013
  • Litigation expense up to Sept. 30, 2012 is $118,739
  • I estimate additional litigation cost at $298,260 to Feb. 2016.

I put a letter in to City Council asking for the total litigation cost with no response. I speculate the $417,000 Harris settlement covers litigation cost. Credits include $917,000 litigation settlements and PHUD offered to contribute $100,000.

$616,491.50 cost for another private underground district –

Additionally there is $300,000 in City litigation cost plus $316,491.50 settlement cost for $616,491.50 total taxpayer expense for the neighboring Sea View Undergrounding District that fortunately did not go forward. How many millions more would we have spent excavating bedrock next to PHUD had Bert and Deborah Kurtin not brought suit to stop that District?

A Feb. 6, 2010, City Council Resolution states: “WHEREAS, while the City Council requests that any funds expended by the City for completion of the construction project that are not recovered from legal actions against responsible parties be contributed by residents of the District.”

There is no action on or acknowledgement of this resolution.

This June a 30% higher parcel tax will be put before voters.

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

3 Responses to “OPINION: Taxpayer Cost for Private Undergrounding District Estimated at $1,806,845”

  1. 2/26/2016

    In conversation with City Clerk John Tulloch I have been advised that legal fees to Feb. 16, 2016 are about $225,000 for attorney fees and about $25,000 for other costs including expert depositions. My legal cost estimate above is high and the final taxpayer cost is more likely reduced by $167,000 to about $1,640,000. There is also the additional cost of the Hills-Sea View Undergrounding District litigation of about $616,000.

  2. It would be totally appropriate for residents of the PHUUD neighborhood who voted in favor of undergrounding to come forward and pay the remaining cost of this project. While city oversight was clearly substandard, staff did expedite the implementation of the undergrounding process at the request of PHUUD steering committee members. Citing the failure of the Central undergrounding district due to increased cost estimates, PHUUD representatives came to Council requesting certain procedural steps be waived and the City complied. It would serve the community to have PHUUD collectively contribute to the remaining cost, but individual property owners certainly can take action.

  3. The City subsequently admitted the money to repair Crest Road should not have been taken from the taxpayer funded Sewer Fund. The money was repaid into the Sewer Fund from the taxpayer funded General Fund. Think of a pickpocket taking money out of your left pocket and then replacing it with money taken out of your right pocket.

    There is no question by the events, facts and subsequent City action that the Crest Road repair, ultimately $275,000, should be paid for by PHUD residents and not taxpayers. This is in addition to the other losses after litigation costs and settlements.

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