Study: $163M to bury Tahoe Donner utilities | SierraSun.com

Study: $163M to bury Tahoe Donner utilities

David Bunker

It would cost approximately $163 million to bury all of the utility lines in Tahoe Donner, according to a study backed by the neighborhood’s association.The 6,400-lot subdivision’s association used $150,000 to study the possibility of removing all of the power poles and overhead wiring in Truckee’s largest neighborhood to enhance views and reduce power outages. The money came out of a special road maintenance fund the town set up for Tahoe Donner.The Tahoe Donner Association is now weighing whether to pursue an assessment district to fund the project. Burying all of the utilities would cost each homeowner approximately $25,000, according to the report. If the project is financed with a bond, that total would rise to nearly $39,000 per property. That figure does not include each homeowner’s responsibility to extend the utilities from the edge of their property to their home, which would likely cost between $5,000 and $10,000 per home, according to a representative of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.”It’s a very large undergrounding project to undertake,” said Jerry Witkowski, a consultant with CVO Electrical Systems, the group that worked on the report. “We expect construction to take six to seven years, and most likely seven years.”The projected cost of the project was a turnoff for many Tahoe Donner residents who attended the meeting. Others predicted the cost to each property would be made up in a spike to property values once the utilities go underground.Tahoe Donner Association Board President Cheryl Genin said Tahoe Donner residents will likely have to fund the entire $163 million if the project moves forward.”It doesn’t seem to me, from the research [the consultants] did, that there are significant public funds available for this project,” said Genin.Since the electrical system has about 40 years of life left in it, and the cable television and telephone systems have up to 20 years of life, the improvements to the subdivision after undergrounding would be mostly aesthetic. The project could reduce power outages and maintenance costs to the electrical system, said Sanna Schlosser, electrical engineer with the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.The first thing the association board will do with the report is get the information out to all Tahoe Donner members, said Darren Shaw, general manager of the homeowners association.The information will be sent by a special mailer to property owners in March. The board will then survey association members to see what they think about the new information. Shaw expects responses to the survey to be much higher than the survey that polled property owners on whether they supported the study to examine the costs of burying the neighborhood’s utilities. In that survey, approximately one of every six property owners responded.”This is a pretty hot issue,” Shaw said. By the NumbersEstimated total cost of undergrounding utilities – $163.2 millionEstimated cost to each Tahoe Donner property owner – $39,000 (includes financing charge)Approximate number of lots in Tahoe Donner – 6,400Current annual association fees paid by Tahoe Donner properties – $1,043