Burying power lines costs to emerge

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On Oct. 20, Longboat Key commissioners will know how much it will cost to bury power lines along Gulf of Mexico Drive, according to Town Manager Dave Bullock.

At the Monday night regular commission meeting, Bullock updated commissioners on the work of a hired consultant who is charged with determining the cost not only to bury utility lines and fiber optic cable, but also the cost associated with issuing debt to pay for the multi-million dollar project.

Bullock said at the Oct. 20 workshop, a not-to-exceed cost will be given to the commission, and if they decide to go forward, ballot language will be considered at a special meeting later that day.

And if the commission decides to go forward with the project, a second meeting will be held on Nov. 12 in order to place the question before voters on the ballot in Longboat Key’s election next March.

All of this activity is part of an effort by the commission to determine if voters will support burying power lines which ultimately will allow a comprehensive corridor plan for Gulf of Mexico Drive that could include landscaping, better use of sidewalks and bike lanes as well as meeting the core suggestion by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) that beautifying the main thoroughfare should be a top priority.

Bullock said that he will have photos and renderings of what the roadway will look like under different scenarios, as well as a menu of the costs. He also said there will be a dollar amount included for street lighting depending on how extensive the commission wants. Bullock said any dollar amount the commission accepts at the Oct. 20 meeting will have to be “not to exceed” numbers. Bullock assured the commission can always reduce the cost, but for referendum language purposes the cost cannot be increased.

Commissioner Terry Gans was not completely happy with the manager’s update.

“I am very concerned about the haste with which this is moving,” said Gans. “Getting reasoned public input when we have not even had the opportunity to react bothers me. I have been a voice against this since the beginning, but I am not trying to throw a wrench in this.”

Bullock responded saying that by Nov. 12 he was comfortable the commission would have a “very reliable number” and that by Oct. 20 the commission “will have a number adequate to cover the options.”

Commissioner Lynn Larson disagreed with Gans, “We will not approve this. If voters want it, it will happen. And

if not, it will not happen. I think we have to allow our voters to do that.”

Larson then continued and said that Florida Power and Light had provided the town with false information.

“We were looking at haste when FPL was pushing us and said we needed to answer now because they said they were putting light poles in August. And then the numbers that they told us were totally false and I can tell you they were false because I made calls and found out they were false…but this needs to be said, fiber optic cable will help cell service and wireless service. We need to get the facts and put them in front of the voters,” said Larson.

Commissioner Gans said he was not trying to stall and he wanted to put facts in front of the voters.

Gans said, “It is the same problem I had with the village; when you tend to wrap something up in too many arguments, you tend to underwhelm your case. If we decide to go ahead with a referendum, let’s go forward, I’m not going to stand in the way of the citizens making a decision. If it is an irresponsible figure, then that is something we have to come to grips with. There are niceties and then there are necessities.”

On Oct. 20, the commission will consider the not-to-exceed numbers and decide if it wants to move forward with the project.


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