Underground power bill shock increase

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE deputy mayor of a Perth council says Western Power needs to improve its process for estimating the cost of delivering underground power.

It comes after a monster project to install underground power to 5000 property owners in Victoria Park and surrounding suburbs blew out to $32 million, leaving the Town of Victoria Park scrambling for solutions to foot its portion of the bill.

Deputy mayor Bronwyn Ife said she was shocked by the huge increase and used a metaphor to highlight the unsatisfactory options presented to councillors.

“When we have our annual Boxing Day barbecue at our house we always get a big box of Favourites chocolates and they are raided by millions of children,” she said.

“When they finally get to me I look into the bowl and there is only a few left and they’re not the ones that I especially like.

“That’s how I feel about the options councillors are faced with for underground power.

“We all want underground power. We all like chocolate. But someone took the Cherry Ripe.

“We are now in a situation where we are faced with potentially having to resurvey and therefore the underground power not going ahead or an inequitable subsidy from the Town or us ending up in a substantial amount of debt.

“None of those things is the desirable chocolate.

“But I would prefer to eat the chocolate than leave it. I feel we are left with an unsatisfactory outcome but we have to go down that path anyway.

“I remain shocked and concerned with how significantly different the original estimate for Vic Park West was from the revised estimate.

“I hope Western Power’s estimate process is refined in the future so we are not stuck with a situation like this again.”

Mayor Karen Vernon said residents had been waiting for a considerable amount of time for the State Underground Power Program to come to their area.

“Not having poles and wires makes a real difference to the scenery and aesthetic of the streets,” she said.

“The removal of the poles and wires will allow our verge trees to continue to grow and we will no longer need to raid the Town’s coffers to prune and maintain verges and that will allow our urban tree canopy to expand.

“Victoria Park West is a particularly large project with underground power being delivered to 3000 homes.

“There are contractors ready, willing and able to move in to this project almost immediately as soon as the contracts are signed.”

Earlier this month Western Power manager of underground power projects Graham Downe conceded there had been “intense” challenges getting the projects in Victoria Park and Carlisle over the line and the final costing was unfortunate.

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the three underground projects which will see residents in Carlisle North and Victoria Park East pay just under $4000 per property and Victoria Park West residents fork out $2,089.

The Town will take out a loan of $18m to fund its share of the $32m project.

Property owners will be given the option to extend payment of the service charge over a maximum of seven years.