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What’s first?: Colony rising from the ground or power lines getting buried?

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Government is so painful and deliberate when it sets out on a mission that it makes inchworms look reckless with abandon.

It seems every time on Longboat Key we are on the cusp of accomplishing something in the public sector, instead of moving forward with a decision and achieving an end, we make another study, go back to residents for another round of input and then make the bold move of hiring a consultant.

Take the burying of utility lines on Gulf of Mexico Drive. That can already has a few sizable dents from being punted into our collective future.

Earlier in the year, the Commission was on the cusp of allowing voters to decide if they wanted to underground Gulf of Mexico Drive using ad valorum taxes. And while the Commission unanimously wanted to see that happen, some commissioners were not ready to allow the residents to vote. They were afraid a mob of angry Villagers would ruin the chance of GMD being approved if a plan for undergrounding the entire island was not offered as well.

In a three to three vote,  (Commissioner Irwin Pastor was absent) the Commission decided to wait and not put the issue to a vote in March.

Simply said, they needed more time. More time to allow a Chinese menu of cost options.

 

Zen and the art of nothingness

After a couple of months, our town manager, who is very capable, returned this week with a wok full of various methods for the Commission to consider. There was option A and B and C and D. And then the Commission asked about making an option E with varios other subsets and declensions.

The Commission listened and instead of deciding on what is basically a philosophical policy decision: what is the correct and fair way to pay for undergrounding, found a way to put another dent in the can and punt further down the road as more information is gathered by a consultant.

Meanwhile, Longboat erodes. Our patience erodes.  And meanwhile we die. Die of boredom or die literally. And the still living find other pursuits that happen more decisively like watching the trees bend toward the sun in the backyard.

 

The only fair way to pay…

The fact is, only one method meets the fairness test: if you want to bury all of the above-ground utility lines on the entire island, a special assessment based on the benefit to each property is the fairest way to pay.

Those who already have buried lines will pay far less than those who currently have above ground lines and stand to gain the most from the project.  And the cost of burying Gulf of Mexico Drive would be paid evenly since it feeds the entire community and we all share the roadway.

In this scenario — if we want the entire Key to be undergrounded — we ought to ask one questions to all of the voters that is worded more or less:

“Do you favor the burial of all existing above ground electric power lines and installation of Fiber Optic telecommunication cable throughout the Town of Longboat Key through the issuance of bonds in an amount not to exceed $43 million by the Town of Longboat Key to be repaid by an annual assessment made on each property according to the property’s calculated and proportional benefit from the undergrounding.”

If the effort to underground our entire Key fails to pass, than we can always ask voters about undergrounding only Gulf of Mexico Drive using ad valorum taxes. But that should be a fallback vote.

 

How to get it done…

The real goal is to achieve a major improvement to our Key. The real goal is to add value through beautification, increased safety and the ability to recover from a storm faster. And in reality, a major benefit is we will continue to evolve our Key’s real estate values, which is exactly what the Commission should be focused on achieving.

Anything less is a sad compromise. And to say that a special assessment is not a good idea because it is not tax deductable misses the point. It is the only fair and equitable way to pay for the project. Any other method of trying to underground the entire Key than holding one vote of all of the voters for undergrounding the entire Key using non-ad valorum assessments will not get the entire Key done.

Sorry to say, time will prove this a fact.

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6 Responses for “What’s first?: Colony rising from the ground or power lines getting buried?”

  1. ghostrider says:

    Who will pay for “it” and HOW MUCH?

  2. Non resident property owner. says:

    I agree in theory with your proposed fairness allocation of costs. I am curious if the basis for each property will be equitable or penalize non-residents as is the practice in Florida. I would like to see that addressed in your next proposal so there is full understanding of the per household cost.

  3. Ross P. Alander says:

    I guess what I am trying to say it’s kind of like “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” in that we need to take care of the basics (traffic, sewer, pension costs, employees, etc.) first before moving on.
    Ross

  4. Georgie McFarland says:

    You are absolutely right Ross. This Commission is continually sweeping the Town’s liabilities under a rug. They think there is no need to get the House of Longboat in order and instead focus their energy on undergrounding utilities, and building a Mausoleum(TOWN CENTER) that the taxpayers have voted down twice previously.

  5. Ross says:

    Yea all well and good but what about all of our pending and future expenses, i.e., funding pensions, sewer pipe issues, traffic issues, employee wages and retention, etc.. Question is how to pay for these basic items before we “nice to have” underground utilities. We need to make sure we have funding for the basics without continually raising the taxes. If you put it to a vote you need to explain how we will pay for all of the current and pending challenges.
    Ross

  6. Lynn Larson says:

    The latest vote by the town commission will not delay the vote on underground utilities; last November’s commission action delayed the voter the chance to be heard on their wishes on the issue. The most recent decision asks for a fact based analysis of how much individual property owners should pay for the project, whatever the project may be. Unless we have a special election, the earliest voters could see the issue is November. The commission must take a stand in June when the information is returned, fairest way to pay, in order to make the November ballot.

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