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Utility undergrounding moves forward on Key

After months of debate and cost analysis, the Longboat Key Town Commission moved forward in 2015 with a plan to underground power lines on Gulf of Mexico Drive. The issue was put to a vote in November and more than 62 percent said ‘yes’ to allowing the town to bond up to $25.25 million for the GMD project.  The approval will also bring fiber optic cable and new decorative street lighting as well as the opportunity to re-landscape the GMD corridor. The bonds will be repaid through special assessments on each parcel of property on the key at a cost of slightly more than $2,500 per parcel. Over the 30 years it will take to pay the bond the average property owner will pay between $150 – $185 per year depending on the bond term and interest rate. The amount paid by each property owner remained relatively equal in the calculation because the town’s consultant found that the benefit was generally equal since it was a road that is used by everyone to reach their property. There were some variations in cost if additional work was required or if the property bordered GMD.

 

Plan #2 – the neighborhoods

Following the approval by voters in November to underground GMD, the commission embarked on a proposal to underground the remaining side streets and neighborhoods of Longboat Key. The commission met in November and December and decided on a plan to use non-ad valorem assessments to pay for a $23.85 million neighborhood project that will include adding state-of-the-art fiber optic cable throughout the key.

The proposed method to pay for the neighborhoods has been criticized by some in the community due to the disparity in cost depending on whether a property currently has above ground lines or not. Eighty percent of the cost to bury the lines in the neighborhood will be paid by those who do not have their lines currently underground. The majority of Longboat Key residents, including all of Bay Isles and the majority of condominiums on the south end of the key already have buried lines and their benefit is mainly coming through the addition of the fiber optic cable as well as an aesthetic benefit that the consultant calculated. The commission in its final meeting of 2015, voted to move forward with referendum language and the payment methodology of non-ad valorem assessments to underground the neighborhoods. It is slated to hold a final reading of ballot language in January and Longboat Key voters if the commission continues in its current course, will vote on the neighborhood undergrounding in March 2016.

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