Coral Gables, FPL At Odds As Thousands Remain Without Power

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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – On day 10 after Irma, thousands remained without power in Miami-Dade and Broward as of midafternoon.

A Pinecrest wife and mother, whose family was still without power, asked that only her maiden name be used for fear, she said, of retaliation from FPL.

“It’s been terrible. You know it’s been really hard, especially for my mother who has been in a shelter at Baptist Hospital, and she’s the last person there,” said Lucy Rodriguez.

Her husband said the family slept “in lawn chairs in the front yard” Monday night to escape the heat of their powerless home.

When FPL fell short on its promise to have everyone’s power back by Sunday night, the village of Pinecrest voted to sue.

Coral Gables has been issuing citations and fines to FPL since Monday for what it calls a failure to prepare for and respond to Irma’s tropical storm force winds.

FPL lashed out at the Gables in a statement Monday night, saying, in part, “Frivolous lawsuits and ludicrous code violations… will not work.” FPL accused Coral Gables of using legal tactics in an effort to obtain preferential treatment for power restoration.

The company blamed the Gables for not cutting back trees around power lines, saying the city is now “paying the price… due to hundreds of trees that have fallen into our lines.”

Coral Gables said that claim is preposterous.

“FPL has the duty, the right and the duty, to cut back those trees.  The city is not allowed to trim trees around power lines,” said City Attorney Craig Leen.

FPL declined to respond to the tree cutting issue, beyond Monday night’s statement that called the Gables’ actions frivolous and ludicrous.

Alys Daly, in a voicemail left for CBS4 News, said, “Now that we are in litigation, all we’re able to talk to, to talk about, is in the statement.”

Coral Gables intends to sue FPL, not for money the city says, but to make sure the company maintains a system that can hold up in a storm and respond more quickly to outages.

The city has already cited the power company and could pay up to $15,000 per day for the next two days. After that, there is no limit to the fine.

“All fines imposed to FPL would be donated to charity for Hurricane Irma disaster relief,” said city officials in a statement.

The Gables attorney said it and other cities have contracts with FPL to provide reliable power, and that storms don’t negate that contractual obligation.

“Other cities could also be helped by this action that we’re doing.  We’re hoping to help all of South Florida get better infrastructure for power,” said Leen.

Coral Gables expects other cities to join in its lawsuit.

Pinecrest has left legal action open as an option as it still “works with FPL” to resolve issues, according to Michelle Hammontree, a village spokesperson.

A class action suit, on behalf of FPL customers, has already been filed.

 

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