Target 8: Live, underground high voltage cable sits near Pinellas homes on sidewalk

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A high voltage, electric underground cable lies on a sidewalk at the Sunny Acres mobile home park in Pinellas County.  It’s been there for five months.

Duke Energy won’t pay to bury it, because the power company insists it does not own the wiring.  Electricians argue the wiring at Sunny Acres is only used by power companies.

The Florida Public Service Commission flip-flopped on the issue.  It first stated Duke is responsible for burying the cable, then stated the wiring was privately owned by the mobile home park.

The atmosphere at Sunny Acres is just electric.  People living there are amped about a high voltage, electric underground cable running across their sidewalk and behind their homes.

“It”s not safe at all,” explained Katherine Rogers.

“I can’t go out my back door without tripping over an electric wire. And they tell me to make sure that nobody hits that with anything sharp,” said Francis Dorsey.

What’s the underground cable doing on top of the ground?

In September, rains from hurricane Hermine soaked, then short-circuited the buried power line.

Duke Energy installed a high voltage wire that runs the length of the park and another one around the perimeter.

“It’s dangerous, you know dangerous,”  stated Dorsey.

According to Dorsey, Duke claims it is up to the park to pay to bury the line. That sparked a disagreement.

“It’s up to us to pay an electrician to fix it, well yeah, from the meters to the trailers, that’s understandable,” said Dorsey.  “But, the electric line to the meters?  No, that’s always been the power company’s place to do it.”

In an email, Duke Energy spokesperson Ana Gibbs wrote, “Sunny Acres owns electrical equipment at its mobile home park, including underground wires providing power to the mobile homes.  In September 2016, Duke Energy provided, as a courtesy, a small, temporary fix to ensure service would continue.  Duke requested that a permanent repair be installed.”

“You just don’t leave something that is creating a huge liability, where somebody could trip over it or a lawn guy could accidentally hit it with machinery. You could get electrocuted,” said Rogers.

Duke points out that in January, a larger problem occurred which will require the customer-owned portion of the underground wiring be replaced.  Duke set up a temporary source of power and requested a permanent repair within two weeks.

Hoping to diffuse the situation, Target 8 contacted the Florida Public Service Commission.

In an email Cynthia Muir, director of the Office of Consumer Assistance and Outreach wrote, “It is the utility’s responsibility to rebury the line.  While we have not received a complaint about this, if you can provide the address, we will make sure the exposed line gets buried properly by Duke.”

More than an hour later, the PSC made a complete reversal.  Muir sent another email including more information pulled together by PSC staff.  The information consisted of the exact statement, word for word, that Duke Energy provided to Target 8 hours earlier.

When asked what sort proof the PSC requested from Duke to prove the power company’s assertion that the wiring was owned by the customer, the PSC suggested Target 8 ask Duke Energy.

Duke provided an easement map that it claims shows it does not own wiring in Sunny Acres.

Two electrical contractors examined the wiring at Sunny Acres Friday.  They told Target 8 electrical contractors do not use the size wiring installed at Sunny Acres, only power companies do.

Burying the high voltage cable will be an expensive proposition, as there are several utilities buried in the area.

“You know, they should step up and own it,” said Rogers.  “We’re their customers.”

If you have a problem that you think needs to be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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