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Tallahassee utility pole upgrades cause controversy

Residents want changes to proposed project
Posted at 4:29 AM, Apr 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 04:29:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The topic of upgrading power poles across part of Tallahassee got quite a bit of attention at tonight's city commission meeting.

This project, paid for by NextEra Energy, wants to strengthen utility poles to better handle power outages.

Many Tallahassee neighbors are not happy with the idea of seeing towering poles through their backyard.

"My first concern with this project is the negative environmental impact it's going to have on our area. I one hundred percent agree this is not a route that should be taken," said
Jeremy, a concerned resident.

From environmental concerns to loss of property value to construction in this rural part of town neighbors had several concerns at Wednesday's Commission Meeting.

"There's a substantial number of homeowners who are your constituents who are in the path of this project. My firm represents approximately 40 of those right now but it's growing by the day," said Attorney Mike Tomkawitz.

NextEra Energy wants to connect utility stations from Columbia County to Jackson County.

Their transmission project involves upgrading power poles through 14 miles of the Capital City.

"NextEra wants to put 90 foot tall poles, 40 inches in diameter, 17 feet pounded into the ground, every 400 feet in Tram Road," said Donald, a concerned resident.

This project aims to shore up the Panhandle's utility system in anticipation of hurricanes and continued growth.

Commissioners want some changes before moving forward with the project.

"We can't just look at it through one lens, you know we're all neighbors and we want to all work together. We requested staff bring back an agreement for us to approve on," said
Commissioner Jeremy Matlow.

"We want to be a partner. We're looking forward to the co-location because it helps us harden our electric utility infrastructure. But certainly not at the detriment, or the cost, to our neighbors," said
Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

Once the commissioners see the changes they've requested, they can take up the proposal at an upcoming city meeting.

After feedback from neighbors, and about an hour of debating, city commissioners asked NextEra to find a new route through Tallahassee that will make the project work better for everyone.