Coral Gables Set To Sue FPL As Power Still Out For Many Residents

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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – Areas of Coral Gables remain without power and some residents are getting fed up.

“When is my power coming back?” – the universal cry of those without service FPL.

The tree-lined community of Coral Gables is suffering from downed trees and foliage which led to downed power lines that proved difficult to quickly repair.

That’s no excuse if you ask Coral Gables City Attorney Craig Leen, who is set to sue FPL and already has cited the power company.

“We cited FPL,” said Leen. “They have a fine that could be up to $15,000 per day for the next two days and after that there is no limit to the fine. Ultimately its $500 per customer.”

FPL had set a goal to have power completely restored in southeast Florida by Sunday night, which did not happen.

Now it looks like Tuesday and is the reality, and an FPL worker explains why.

“We got into the neighborhoods,” said Richard Gibbs with FPL. “We found out that there was a lot of vegetation impacting both access and actually impacting the lines themselves.”

Which makes restoration in locations like Coral Gables a slow process.

FPL shared video showing that overgrown trees and power lines don’t mix, especially when you put a hurricane into the mix.

The company released a statement on the issue. It read, in part:

“We understand that it’s extremely frustrating for our customers to be without power. That said, frivolous lawsuits and ludicrous code violations that attempt to pressure us into providing preferential treatment for their City will not work. Our focus is on restoring power to all of our customers, and we will not be moved by self-entitled politicians who are looking for someone to blame for the City’s irresponsibly managed tree program. The fact is the city of Coral Gables has for many years resisted FPL’s well-documented efforts to trim trees and harden our electric system. Unfortunately for our customers in that area, they are now paying the price in terms of extended outages due to hundreds of trees that have fallen into our lines.”

Olga Gani and her husband James, who is in hospice at home, had to endure the suffocating heat for nine days.

“We don’t have electricity since last Saturday,” Olga said through tears. “We cannot move him, he’s in hospice. If they move him it would be too much stress and he would probably die. We need help to get electricity but they do nothing.”

Power was finally restored late Monday evening.

“I am very happy, but he did not have to be so miserable. When you are sick you have to make him comfortable and he was not. It was unbelievable,” Olga Gani said.

While the city attorney says 92 percent of the Gables’ power is restored, FPL did not make their Sunday deadline. According to the city attorney, missing that deadline puts FPL in violation of their agreement with the city and could be negligent.

“We’re looking at a potential lawsuit against FPL under our franchise agreement,” Leen said. “This is something we would be doing on behalf of Coral Gables but also on behalf of other cities throughout South Florida. FPL needs to have better infrastructure to be able to deal with hurricanes.”

Additionally, CBS4 has learned that the City of Pinecrest voted on Monday to also sue FPL.

More from Hank Tester
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