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The complaint with undergrounding…

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Undergrounding Longboat Key’s power lines is on its way — at least on Gulf of Mexico Drive. 

For numerous residents the idea of burying power poles being will modernize the Key and add an aesthetic boost. Perhaps it will remove a distraction from Longboat Key’s innate beauty and charm. 

But the second part of the equation — undergrounding the neighborhoods — has been met with bitterness and resentment. 

Many are upset that the Town Commission is using a method that allows the majority who will pay a fraction of the cost to dictate the outcome via vote. They say it will force an economic burden. 

Others say it is fair that those who receive the most pay the most and anyone who is paying gets a vote — it is the way it works. 

For longtime Village resident Gene Jaleski it is simply unfair. Jaleski has been a Longboat Key commissioner, tireless political watchdog and will also see his home assessed about $10,000 for undergrounding. He is fighting the Town in letters and in conversations with neighbors and legal complains. 

Jalseki spoke with Longboat Key News about the issue; here is what he had to say:

 

What do you see as unfair?

The number one job of local government is to form policies that increase everyone’s property values. Because undergrounding will increase property values, it should be tied in a more equitable way.

At the last Commission Workshop, the Town Manager presented the Magellan Report and in his power point the study showed that just the fiber optic component of the undergrounding plan alone increased property values more than 3%. It is a scientifically based valid study.

That brings us to the Gulf of Mexico Drive undergrounding plan wherein the Town is assessing everyone the same amount. But they are undergrounding in front of homes on GMD. I don’t live on GMD. It is inequitable to say that those who live on GMD will not benefit financially more than I will. Yet, when they moved to the neighborhoods, those in the neighborhoods are paying for what those on GMD are getting at a flat rate.

Electrical service is broken into two distinct functions. There are four main feeder lines that bring power to everyone on the island. That element of undergrounding should be assessed equally. However, everything but that should be attributed to homes on GMD just as they are in the neighborhoods. That would have lowered the cost of those not on GMD.

 

So that is in reference to the GMD burying plan, which has been voted on and approved. What do you take issue with on the neighborhood plan which will be voted on in March?

My beef is that prior to the first referendum, the Commission said that we would have a second referendum voted on solely by those who are in the neighborhoods. They now have included the rest of the Key who will be paying a fraction of the cost and they can impose on the minority who are paying the lion’s share. On this issue, Commissioner Phill Younger sees the light of day and the unfairness involved. There is no way that is fair.

 

What have you done to fight this?

I filed a complaint on the first referndum with the State Election Commission. It is thousand and one shot. The Election Commission has not sent back word. I have filed based on when the commission pulled down the cost data on the second referendum from its Website. There is a statute that says an elected body cannot do that if it could influence the outcome and was done with that in mind. It comes down to whether a reasonable person looking at what the Commission did would perceive it that way. They took it down because they said they thought it could jeopardize the passage of he first referendum. That is influencing an election and they are not allowed to do that. Also, They took it down with a consensus, but the information was posted as part of a formal motion. My contention is s reasonable person would believe they tried to influence the outcome of the election.  If 300 people had voted another way it would not have passed.

 

What are your neighbors saying about the coming vote?

They all hate it.  One organization on the North end told me,  “They (the Commission) hate us.”  Think of this: if George Spoll, Ed Zunz,  Armando Linde and such a wide range of people think it is unfair, their must be something to it.

 

Will the neighborhood undergrounding pass in March?

The neighborhood project will absolutely pass. It will cost the majority pocket change and their value will increase and it will enhance the island. But I will not vote for it. The power lines go down the back of my property and it is not worth that level of cost increase.

 

Is this a specific issue you are having with Town Hall or is it symptomatic?

I believe the town changed during the Key Club battle. The Key Club bought a government and installed those who are in power. It is hard to tell what they care about. The beaches are a tattered mess. This project is their ego. The means do not justify the ends. They missed the boat by not saying, “This will make your house worth more” and approaching the undergrounding from that standpoint.

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