Chevy Chase power line prices have potential to shock -- Gazette.Net


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If the town of Chevy Chase wants its power lines underground, it should expect the bill to run well over $60 million, according to a cost estimate from PEPCO.

The town has been looking into burying its power lines in an effort to improve reliability and safety.

Last fall, in the early stages of estimating costs, a Town Council subcommittee said burying power lines could cost anywhere from $313,000 to $2.4 million per mile, The Gazette reported.

In February, PEPCO said the cost would probably be closer to $5 million per mile, for a total of $50 million, according to a letter from PEPCO to the town. Each customer could also expect to spend $5,000 to $15,000 for meter box upgrades, burying service wires and internal electrical upgrades.

The estimates do not account for costs to bury the wires from other utilities, such as cable and telephone companies, or installing new street lights.

After getting the $50 million figure, the Town Council voted to form a task force of residents to look into other power reliability strategies, according to minutes from the Feb. 12 meeting. The council also asked staff to work with PEPCO to refine the estimates.

PEPCO’s revised estimate of $60,650,000 does not include some other costs, such as a 15 percent contingency the utility company generally adds, according to a March 7 email from PEPCO. The email also mentions a 29.82 percent additional charge to cover taxes, but suggests trying to get that waived. Street lights would cost about $4,000 each, the email said.

To move ahead with the process of putting wires underground, the town would also have to pay for a detailed engineering estimate, which costs $50,000, according to the email. That cost would be reimbursed if the town went ahead with putting cables underground.

The town’s budget this year allots about $2.8 million to operating expenses and less than $633,000 to capital spending. The town also has an $8 million-plus reserve fund.

ewaibel@gazette.net