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Undergrounding: We need a more community friendly way

GENE JALESKI
Guest Columnist
jaleski@lbknews.com

Let’s be honest. The way the town commission has gone about funding their underground power line project has been a more divisive process than any other endeavor in the history of our island. The reason I have been opposed to the funding means being employed by the town commission is that I, and many others, believe there is a more community friendly way to pay for the project. Many property owners feel that the town commission should at least make the effort to see if the community would be amenable to a single flat assessment, rather than their two tier assessment scheme that has some residents paying up to $11,500, while others pay $3,600.

The history of the underground project has been a mystery for many residents. First the commission decided to split the underground project into two parts, GMD and the neighborhoods. Then the commission applied a different assessment rational to each project.

Originally the property owners were told that those already undergrounded would only participate in the GMD project and be assessed $2476.

After the first referendum passed, the town commission decided to add a second $1,150 assessment on all the properties that are currently undergrounded, even though they had not mentioned this in any previous commission meetings. This constitutes a 50% assessment increase.

After the passage of the first referendum, the town commission decided to add all the already undergrounded properties to the voter pool for the second referendum. By doing so, the town commission created a hybrid electorate, consisting of 30% voting on whether to tax themselves up to $8,500 for underground power lines, and 70% of the voters being asked if they want to underground the entire island for $500. For many of the property owners in the 30% group, the way the town commission has constructed the voter pool for the second referendum feels like the sword of Damocles.

All along the way various people, and groups of property owners, have appealed to the town commission to find a better and more equitable way to fund the commission’s underground project. This group includes George Spool, Lenny Landou, Armondo Linde, Phil Younger, Pat Zunz, David Brenner, the residents of the village, the residents of Spanish Main and numerous other individuals.

I am appealing to those voters who represent the 70% faction of the voter pool who already have underground power lines, and are being asked by the town commission to burden their neighbors with up to $11,500 in debt. I am asking these voters to vote NO on the second referendum so that we, as a community, might rethink what the town commission is proposing and perhaps find a better way to accomplish our goals as a united community.

If you are part of the 70% voter pool currently with underground power lines, you may want to think about the amount of money you are being asked to contribute to the undergroiunding project.

$2476  – assessment resulting from the GMD referndum

$ 675   – assessment for dark fiber in your neighborhood

$ 518   – assessment to contribute to the neighborhood underground project

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$3669  – total assessment

George Spoll, Commissioner Zunz and others have proposed another way to bury power lines throughout the island in what they feel is a more equitable and fair manner.

Their plan asks each property owner to contribute $4,300 to the project, as opposed to 70% of the property owners paying $3669, and the other 30% paying between $9,500 and $11,500.

For those currently with underground power lines, the differential between your current assessment and the alternative funding method is $631, an additional $36 a year on your assessment.

Ask yourself if you are willing to contribute an additional $36 a year to heal our community. If so, vote NO on the second referendum and then insist that the town commission look at alternatives for undergrounding power lines on Longboat Key.

 

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1 Response for “Undergrounding: We need a more community friendly way”

  1. L. D. Chickle says:

    It’s most unfortunate that the only plan in front of the voters is a complicated, confusing scheme that just doesn’t make sense. Mr. Jaleski can explain his plan in seconds, and it is logical and elegant.

    Whether the voters decide to send the official plan back is anybody’s guess but I hope they do so. I’ve gotten a good look at the present poles while sitting in traffic jams all season, the poles won’t drive down our property values as much as the dangerous congestion that chokes the community and sends would-be guests and home buyers away, never to return.

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