Target 8: Duke Energy hitting Pinellas County homeowners where it hurts

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The lights are flickering and the power is fading on and off in some Pinellas County mobile home parks.

When aging electric cables feeding these communities began to fail, they used to turn to their power company for help.

Now that Duke Energy is running the show, Target 8 has found people are told, unless they can produce documents that might be 40, 50, even 60 years old, pay for it yourselves.

South Gate Mobile Home Park in Clearwater is more than 50 years old.  It’s beginning to lose its spark. Electric lines need replacing.

According to South Gate board president Ken Wade, Duke Energy told them, it’s not the power company’s problem.

“Anything that costs money, they don’t want to pay for it, that’s all there is to it,” said Wade.

Attorney Jonathan Damonte represents about 40 mobile home parks.

He claims that traditionally, Florida Power Corporation, then Progress Energy, took care of electric lines lines running through parks. That changed when Duke Energy took over.

“They’ve pretty consistently taken the position that the mobile home park owner, or the homeowners association, is responsible for everything inside the boundaries of the park,” explained Damonte.

Duke did just that at South Gate and also at Sunny Acres, a Pinellas mobile home park that Target 8 profiled about two weeks ago.

An underground cable at Sunny Acres shorted in September.  As a courtesy, Duke laid power cables through Sunny Acres. It won’t pay to bury them, claiming the park owns the underground cable.

Homeowner Frances Dorsey is in a bind.

“I don’t know where we’re going to get the money to fix it, we can’t keep it like that,” stated Dorsey.

“They’re all concerned, all the parks are concerned, because this represents a significant amount of money,” added Damonte.   “Almost all of [our residents] are 55 and older, mostly retirees, mostly living on a fixed income. So this is a huge expense to them. It hits them in the wallet pretty hard.”

At Sunny Acres, Duke left a high voltage cable winding along a sidewalk.  Another runs the length of the park.  If someone hits or cuts into one of these, they could die.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Damonte said as he looked at pictures of the cables lying on the ground.

Even a 1969 agreement on file at the county, which shows that Florida Power, now Duke, will operate and maintain all facilities necessary to provide electric service to South Gate, is still not enough.

Duke is now quibbling with South Gate over an electric line serving six or seven houses that the power company contends it did not install, and for which it is not obligated to pay for repair or replacement.

Duke Energy provided the following statement, “Duke Energy takes customer comments and concerns very seriously. We are continuing to work on a resolution. Duke Energy will continue to provide temporary service until a final resolution is determined.”

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

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