The price tag to bury Gulf of Mexico Drive power lines gave the town commissioners a jolt.
The mere mention of the $70 million to $100 million ballpark figure at the Monday, Dec. 10, regular workshop left it doubtful that the Longboat Key Town Commission will ponder the idea again.
“It’s an extremely high number,” said Mayor Jim Brown, who recalled the cost reaching close to $70 million the last time the issue was raised a few years ago.
Florida Power & Light Co. representatives attended the workshop to discuss the possibility of burying the lines and present costs.
To perform the work, FPL would replace every nine to 10 electrical poles with an 8-foot green power box, with the possibility of 50 to 75 such boxes being placed along Gulf of Mexico Drive in place of the power poles that run along an 11.5-mile stretch of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Commissioner Lynn Larson and Vice Mayor David Brenner had asked for the cost estimates, calling the overhead power lines ugly and unbecoming of Longboat Key.
Even if the town were interested in burying the lines, a referendum would have to be put to the voters to see if they would be interested in footing such a bill. FPL charges residents for such a service through a special assessment on tax bills, establishing a municipal service taxing unit or establishing an incremental payment system.
FPL representatives also explained that it would be difficult to get service back online after a hurricane passed through because the power lines would still be flooded days after a storm surge.
Advantages to underground power lines include better reliability in poor weather, fewer power interruptions and no poles or wires overhead.
Disadvantages include longer duration of outages when power goes out, making the underground facilities more susceptible to water, longer repairs and a shorter expectancy than overhead services.