Ordinance would require underground utilities downtown

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— An ordinance before the Steamboat Springs City Council would require developers and property owners to bury electric, phone and cable lines for any new building or redevelopment downtown.

The ordinance would add between $2,500 and $30,000 to the cost of building downtown, according to city estimates. City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord said the ordinance would help defray the city's costs when it begins an eight-year project in 2006 to bury all utility lines in the downtown area.

On Dec. 16, the city council approved the first reading of the ordinance with little public comment. The second reading and final approval of the ordinance is scheduled for Jan. 6.

By requiring utility lines to be placed underground during building or remodeling, the city will not have to return to the site in a few years to dig for underground lines and redo the electrical system.

"Why should the taxpayers have to pay to put utilities underground when they are already developing?" DuBord asked.

The ordinance would not have an impact on existing buildings that do not undergo additions or remodels prior to the start of the project in 2006. The city will bear the exterior cost of putting utility lines underground for those properties once the project begins. Any upgrades required inside the building will be the responsibility of the downtown property owner.

A property owner would be required to underground utilities for any project that changes the utility services, which includes renovations, remodels and additions, DuBord said.

The land encompassed by the ordinance is from Third to 13th streets and between Oak and Yampa Streets.

Currently, the city does not require builders to underground utility lines. If passed, the ordinance would be applied when a building permit is issued and enforced by the Routt County Regional Building Department.

In a memo to the city, Larry Covillo, general manager of Yampa Valley Electric Association, said undergrounding lines for a single phase installation project is about $3,000, or $2,500 more than what an above ground line would cost.

A small three-phase installation project would cost around $12,000, which is $8,500 more than an above ground line.

A large three-phase service could cost as much as $30,000, DuBord said.

In his memo to the city, Covillo said one advantaged to undergrounding lines during development is not having to pay for rewiring costs that could come in the future when the city does convert from overhead to underground lines.

The city had planned to start the undergrounding project in 2005, but budget constraints caused the council to push the start year back to 2006. The $4 million project has four phases stretched through 2012. A YVEA 1 percent franchise fee will fund the project, but DuBord said it would take years before enough money is raised to cover the cost of the project.

The city has agreed to fund the project upfront and continue collecting the money from the franchise fee.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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