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Who Foots The Bill For Utility Relocations?

Caitie Switalski

In a recovering economy, some Florida cities are looking to expand roads and other infrastructure. A Republican Senator’s proposal would change who pays for the expansion.

Who foots the bill to move power lines when a road gets widened? Miami Senator Anitere Flores says local governments should pay for utility relocation costs, instead of the utility company and its users. Flores says the matter boils down to property rights, that is, limiting the area in which counties can construct utility lines.

“Nobody should be able to come in and just take away my property right whether I’m a private entity or public entity or whoever I am, and be able to just take it away without compensation,” she said.

But critics of the bill say the plans could short-circuit existing projects. Cape Coral Commissioner Jim Burch says his city was ground zero for the housing crisis, and they’re only now getting back on their feet.

“We’re in what we call capital catch up, we’re still trying to catch up and put wheels on our police cars,” he said.

But others say cities should pay for their own growth and expansion. Umatilla Republican Senator Alan Hays says utility customers in one city shouldn’t be charged when another city widens its roads.

“I’m sorry sir, you know if you want to dance you got to pay the fiddler yourself. Don’t ask me to pay for it,” he said.

Senator Flores’ bill would clarify boundaries of the right of way, and charge the government for relocation costs along public roads. The bill heads to the floor, after passing in the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee Thursday. Its House companion has not had a hearing.