Frequently Asked Questions about Converting from Overhead to Underground

 
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Below, you will find some frequently asked questions about JEA's process for converting neighborhoods from overhead to underground electricity.

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Closed Title:How does a neighborhood get a project approved?
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JEA staff will consult with interested neighborhood representatives or groups to explain the program.  JEA will make a preliminary inspection/survey of the neighborhood electric system to identify a feasible physical project from an electric system operations standpoint.  JEA will also consult with other utilities including AT&T and Comcast to review their systems for conversion boundaries. 

The preliminary study data, including boundaries and preliminary costs, will be provided to the designated neighborhood representative. The neighborhood representative will be responsible for talking with the property owners to gain required participation levels.  JEA representatives will attend neighborhood meetings as requested to explain the conversion process and special assessment process and may be accompanied by representatives from the City or other utilities as needed. JEA, The City of Jacksonville, and/or the other utilities will not market or be responsible for seeking the required neighborhood participation.  JEA will assist in providing information and project guidance.

The neighborhood representative(s) will take the preliminary study information back to the property owners within a selected area and work to get the required level of commitment before a project can move forward for more detailed review. When the neighborhood finds general support for the project area and sufficient participation, a certified estimate will be prepared outlining more refined project costs.  

Once the certified estimates are provided to a neighborhood, the owners may reconsider their commitment based on the certified costs. Two-thirds (2/3) of the benefited property owners must sign a petition to agree to a special assessment for the costs before the petition is submitted to the Jacksonville City Council for formal consideration.  The petition should be submitted to JEA with a check for the petition fee made payable to the Duval County Tax Collector.  The petition fee is currently $10 per lot, parcel or other unit of property currently found at www.coj.net/fees.  An additional fee for required advertisement of a public hearing will be required with submittal of the petition to the City’s Legislative Services, the amount to be calculated with petition submittal. If approved by the Council, 100% of benefited property owners will be assessed actual costs of the completed project on a pro-rata basis.  Other costs may include costs of estimates requested by JEA of other utilities such as AT&T and Comcast and should be paid to JEA when filing the petition.

The program is currently available only in the City of Jacksonville and may be available in other JEA service areas at a future date.

To learn how a neighborhood can initiate a project to have power lines moved underground, please read the Guidelines for Overhead and Underground Conversion

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Closed Title:What is a special assessment?
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 A special assessment is a legally imposed assessment on a property that may be approved by the Jacksonville City Council after petition from interested property owners. Generally, a certain percentage of owners within a project area must request and agree to an assessment (by signing a petition) asking for a capital project to be constructed and financed over time that will benefit the property owners.  If approved by the City Council (only after the required level of participation by petition is demonstrated and the Council agrees), an annual assessment is added to each owner’s property tax bill for a benefited property for all pro rata costs of the project including financing costs for a period of years as specified in the approved assessment. The assessment is billed on the property tax bill until paid in full by each benefited owner.  

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Closed Title:Does a benefited property owner have the option to pay their pro rata assessment costs up front?
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An owner may choose to pay the full cost up front (at the end of the project but before the actual assessment) or may pay off the current remaining balance in the special assessment at some future point.   

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Closed Title:Can the conversion costs for other utilities (such as cable or telephone) be financed through the special assessment?
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Yes, the special assessment will include the cost to convert all overhead utility distribution lines within the public rights of way (generally except for major feeders).  If there are exceptions to this general policy, the neighborhood will be informed on a project specific basis.  All costs of the conversion of any of the utilities will be repaid by the property owners in the neighborhood. 

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Closed Title:Are individual service conversions to underground required?
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Individual service conversions are not required by JEA from the right of way to the structure.  In electing to retain overhead service, a riser pole will be placed or remain at an appropriate location in the public right of way to support the overhead service.

Owners may elect to convert at their own additional expense by hiring a private electrician during the project conversion or at some future point.  If opted during project construction, service conversion costs may be financed as a separate portion of the assessment. 

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Closed Title:While JEA may not require individual service conversions, do other utilities require it?
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Generally telephone and cable utilities will include full conversion costs in their estimates, including up to the structure. JEA suggests that the neighborhood or individual owners seek conversion costs estimates from licensed electricians for service conversions. JEA will not use its contractor(s) to perform any individual service conversion work. Other utilities may use approved contractors to do their work and costs will typically be included in those utilities’ project cost estimates.  

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Closed Title:Can the conversion costs for individual services be financed through the special assessment?
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The conversion costs for individual services may be financed through the special assessment process as a separate item if the owner so elects during the petition process. The City and JEA reserve the right to reject individual service conversion financing through the special assessment if the work is not done by a licensed electrician or if the work is not permitted. No interior wiring or upgrades will be included in the conversion costs that can be financed.

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Closed Title:Why is there a 7% fee added to the annual special assessment?
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The City of Jacksonville’s Tax Collector’s Office charges a 2.0% fee and the Property Appraiser a 1.5% fee to cover their administrative costs. Special assessments are billed and collected through the property tax bill.  Since all items on a property tax bill are eligible for early payment discounts based on the month paid before March each year, the full funding advanced by JEA should be recovered.  The average payment discount across property owners is 3.6% based on information provided by the Tax Collector’s office. JEA uses an average of 3.5% to cover early payment discount recovery. 

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Closed Title:When 2/3 of the neighborhood has agreed to participate by petition, what are the next steps?
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The proposed project petition will be submitted on behalf of the requesting customers by JEA for consideration by City Council.  The Council will schedule a public hearing that will be advertised for four consecutive weeks before the hearing. If the City Council passes the Ordinance, a copy of the full petition with a list of included real estate identification numbers will be publicly recorded with the Duval County Clerk of Court in order to provide notice of the pending assessment while the project is being constructed.  Design and construction of the project will begin soon after the Ordinance is passed.  Once the project is complete and the actual costs have been approved for the special assessment roll by the City Council, the assessments will commence during the soonest following tax cycle.

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Closed Title:Is underground electric distribution service more reliable than overhead?
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In many cases customers experience fewer outages with underground distribution lines because they are not exposed to wind, animals, trees or tree limbs.  In neighborhoods with heavy tree cover and desire to limit tree trimming, underground systems can provide for fewer outages.  However, when outages do occur on underground lines, problems are not as visible to the repair workers and outages may take longer to restore/repair because the problem must be located before repairs can be made to underground lines or facilities.

Overhead electric distribution feeders and other overhead lines typically connect to supply electric power to general areas of development or adjacent neighborhoods. Most conversion projects will be within well-defined neighborhood limits.  There will continue to be overhead lines beyond a selected project area, thus not eliminating all overhead exposure. 

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Closed Title:What happens if the ordinance is passed and the property transfers ownership, who will assume the remaining assessment?
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The special assessment will be noticed through the petition recording noted in item 9 above or as a special assessment line item on the real estate tax assessment. A property owner selling property can pay the assessment in full or the buyer can assume the assessment. This will be a decision that is made between the buyer and seller prior to the transfer of ownership.

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Closed Title:Will the construction cause a lot of digging and inconvenience?
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Generally, the projects will be accomplished by directional boring or drilling underground conduit lines for the various utilities to pull their respective wire or cable types.  Each utility’s lines must go in a separate pipe or conduit. There will be required minimum separations between various conduits in some cases.  

Directional drilling, trenching, and/or digging will be required in order to install connection points, pull boxes for installing the wires or cables and manholes for access in the future.  

Where digging or trenching is required, the neighborhood paving and landscaping will be restored during the project to a similar condition as before the project began.  Specialized materials or elaborate landscaping or hardscaping installed within the existing City right of way by adjacent property owners as an extension of their yards may only be replaced by City standard materials (paving and landscaping). 

Prior to construction start, property owners may wish to temporarily remove specialized materials for reinstallation after project completion.

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Closed Title:Will there be a significant impact to trees in the right of way?
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All utilities will make a great effort to minimize impacts to the neighborhood and to minimize impact to existing trees in the public rights of way.  However, some trees may be impacted during construction and no obligation exists to replace trees except as required in the City landscape code and mitigation requirements.  Also, some trees may already be at risk given their age and/or condition and no responsibility is assumed for such trees.

Comcast will bore under trees and will try not to exceed the tree drip line when possible.

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Closed Title:Will all equipment in the right of way be placed underground?
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No. All utilities will have infrastructure elements that will be installed or remain above ground.  This will include all equipment boxes such as transformers, switch cabinets and connection boxes for all utilities. Any of Comcast’s existing power supply locations will need to remain where they are. Comcast will be required to install one communication box for every two homes within the utility corridor or City right-of-way.  

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Contact JEA Project Outreach for more information about the program: