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Undergrounding: A critical but common sense choice

BOB GAULT
Guest Columnist
gault@lbknews.com

Given the fact that we are in the formative years of the 21st Century, which will surely be the most high tech in human history, LBK Voters will, on March 15, have a chance to make a critical, common sense choice.  This, to make sure that Longboat Key will be a desirable and competitive Community in which to live for years to come.

As we all know, last November, LBK voters smartly and overwhelmingly voted to underground the electric utility supply lines including a state of the art fiber optic cable along GMD. This to block FPL from installing taller, bigger and more unsightly utility poles to survive hurricanes.  The next logical and common sense step is to underground the existing 1950’s electric utilities in all LBK neighborhoods. The Town Commission and staff have been working diligently with experts and FPL for two years with many public hearings to get the planning to this point and it still will be a few years more to accomplish the project.

Why now?  Why at all?

There are many very impactful, common sense reasons to underground all neighborhoods and now as follows:

• Doing the neighborhood work in coordination with the work on GMD is cost effective as Contractor mobilization, crews and equipment are already in place.

• FPL will subsidize 25% of the project cost.

• This will avoid having an additional 84 feeder utility poles being installed at every neighborhood / GMD intersection. (This to bring power from underground on GMD to above ground neighborhood poles.)

• Increased reliability during thunder, tropical and hurricane storms.

• Increased Safety with no hot wires flying around during and after storms.

• Obviously much more aesthetically pleasing for quality of tropical island living and to ensure LBK’s future real estate market is competitive.

• Fiber Optic cable cost savings when combined with utility under grounding project.

• Neighborhood street light improvement opportunities.

Regarding the Fiber Optic, “Black Cable”, a big benefit to even already undergrounded neighborhoods, will be to provide for police, fire and emergency services communication upgrades. Also, Wi-fi service and cellular phone service upgrades to all neighborhoods in the future.  Given the velocity of new technologies coming on line LBK will be in the position to take advantage of whatever comes along in the future.

Regarding assessments for each property, they were established on a cost vs. benefit basis as fairly as possible using a very detailed and complex methodology successfully implemented by other communities in Florida.  Assessments can be paid up front to avoid bond interest or amortize them over 30 years to ease any cash flow burden. Some have suggested this project be done neighborhood by neighborhood in separate assessment districts and referendums.  This would be an extremely onerous, complex, costly and risk of failure process for each neighborhood.  The common sense objective to enjoy the entire island with underground utilities would not be accomplished.  As an aside, the leadership of all five Country Club Shores neighborhoods enthusiastically supports a “YES” vote on this referendum.

Fellow neighbors, this is a huge opportunity to make a critical but common sense choice for the good of all on Longboat Key now and in the future. Let us not “snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory”.

Let’s vote “YES” on getting rid of these unsightly, dangerous above ground neighborhood electric lines once and for all and move LBK into the Twenty First Century.

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