Undergrounding Longboat Key: Bullock’s brave new world

Beyond undergrounding, Dave Bullock is also in charge of bringing much needed sand to the island’s depleted beaches as well as shepherding the construction of a new Bayfront Park. Longboat Key News spoke at length with the manager about where the town stands on these prevailing issues.


What’s next in the undergrounding project for the neighborhoods?

The commission’s approval Monday night puts the issue on the March ballot asking voters if they will allow the issuance of up to $23.85 million in bonds to be paid by non-ad valorem assessments. If voters approve that, it will give the town the authority to bond for the project. In the weeks leading up to the vote, we will be doing two other things. We will file with the court to validate the bonds we will issue for the other project, Gulf of Mexico Drive, and we will start the survey work for the Gulf of Mexico Drive project. All we have done relative to the neighborhood project is we have developed an approved language for the referendum.


Many residents have sought other funding methodologies or wished to see the cost allocation shifted. Can that still be changed within the confines of this week’s vote by the commission?

The commission simply voted on ballot language for non-ad valorem assessments to pay for a project not to exceed the stated amount. That being said, we have a truth in lending obligation to talk about and disclose the funding methodology behind the vote. That methodology though, is not formally adopted until after the vote.


So you have stated that you will be holding several information sessions in the community to explain the process to interested voters. Are you ready to do that and when will that start?

I will have one more discussion with the town commission at their meeting on Jan. 19, to make sure we are all on the same page.


How did you arrive at allocating 18.5 percent of the cost to underground neighborhoods to those who already have their power lines buried?

We found there was a benefit in eliminating 84 poles that connect from GMD to the side streets. That benefit is in both aesthetics and reliability.


In your years working in Sarasota County, did you witness any battles over assessments?

Absolutely. The county implemented in the mid-1990s to address storm water runoff and it based what properties would pay on the amount and quality of impervious surface. That validation was challenged and went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the county. The way it works is the initial validation hearing for the bonds is held in a lower court where the Judge will say whether or not the bonds are for a valid public purpose and are justifiable. If the Judge says they are valid, it goes forward. I believe in our case, the bonds will be validated, but understand it is a court proceeding.


Many have said that it would only be $150 per parcel if the entire cost to underground the neighborhoods was paid equally by everyone. Have you entertained that proposition?

The only way you can have an equal pay method is if the benefits are the same. On Longboat Key, the benefits are site specific and some are general. The fact that some are site specific means that they are  not all the same.


What are some of the other aspects of the neighborhood project in addition to the undergrounding of the utility lines and the burying of the fiber optic cable?

There will be an opportunity for neighborhoods to enhance or define what kind of lighting they would like to see. There will also be significant landscaping that can also be defined and this would be the opportunity to do that.


Where does the town stand on the beach? More specifically, the plan to renourish the south end?

We notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that we have no issues with the draft permit they have granted us, and now we are waiting for the final permit. Once we get that permit in hand, it will take three to four months to get contractors and mobilize. That is when the sand will start being placed onto the beach. As for truck hauling that will bring sand to the mid-key beaches, we met this week with several companies and on April 4 is the start date when that sand will start being placed. We already have the permit and there are three or four potential sand sources. As far as the north end, we are waiting still for the Longboat Pass permit.


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