The House of Representatives (Friday, June 27) approved legislation introduced by Senator Don White that would close a loophole in existing law that drives up the costs incurred by government entities for public infrastructure improvement projects, which is ultimately borne by taxpayers and ratepayers.
Senate Bill 1096, which clarifies language in existing law related to the limited reimbursement of appraisal, attorney and engineering fees, is now headed to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law. Current law allows property owners challenging a right of way or easement acquisition to seek reimbursement up to $4,000 per owner of the property, as opposed to per property.
“In cases where there are multiple owners listed on a deed, that loophole can be exploited by enterprising professional service companies to exponentially increase the costs of settling right-of-way and easement agreements that are charged to the government entity seeking the right of access. That has happened previously, especially in cases where infrastructure improvements and/or expansions to drinking water and sewage projects are necessary or mandated by the Department of Environmental Protection. As a result, the increased reimbursements have led to higher project costs, which ultimately result in increased rates for customers,” Senator White said.
“My bill sets reimbursement rates at $4,000 per property for services associated with right of way acquisitions and $1,000 per property for easements related to underground piping for water or sewer infrastructure,” Senator White continued. “I believe this was the intent of the original law and SB 1096 will bring greater certainty and lower costs to these very important projects which benefit the general public.