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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 11, 2019 1 week ago

As Longboat's underground project progresses, so does the list of who pays

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As part of an annual requirement, properties are added to the list of those paying for town's underground utilities project.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

More than a dozen properties will be added to the town’s assessment program for the ongoing underground utilities project, injecting nearly $145,000 into the financing of the islandwide work.

Annually, the town is required to take a look at which properties are assessed and by how much to help repay the nearly $50 million loan taken for the town-financed work to bury the island’s overhead power-transmission and communications cables. Typically, properties that have been built upon or improved over the course of the previous 12 months are added to the list or their assessments altered, but other conditions that warrant changes in a property’s assessment can include:

  • An error in under-assessing the property and the benefits it will derive from underground utilities;
  • An error in omitting a property; and
  • An exemption that has run out.

Last year, about a dozen properties were added to the assessment list.

Homes in Preserve at Longbeach are among those added to the list.

This year, 16 properties appear on the Gulf of Mexico Drive portion of the project and 17 on the neighborhoods portion of the project, each deriving its own set of project benefits. Fifteen of the properties on the GMD project assessment list also appear on the neighborhood list --— only a property at 545 Bay Isles Parkway, owned by Avenue of the Flowers Acquisition Co. LLC, does not. On the neighborhood list, two properties are included because their exemptions no longer apply.

Properties on both GMD and neighborhood lists are assessed between $7,648.60 and $9,189.46.

Owners of those properties were notified by mail in early August and given the opportunity to speak about the assessments at the Town Commission’s meeting Sept. 9. No property owners appeared before the commission, and both annual assessment lists were routinely approved 7-0.

Town Finance Director Sue Smith said there remain variables in how much the utilities project will actually cost, based on interest rate assumptions for the loan and how much is actually paid into the fund by owners of assessed town properties. She told commissioners that once the project is complete and paid, it’s possible there could be some reimbursements.

“After the project is completed, we plan on recalculating everything based on the actual costs,” she said, though property owners who paid as a lump sum are not currently eligible for such an after-the-fact adjustment.

“Those of us who stay here and don’t pay the bill, we have a lottery coming,” Mayor George Spoll said.

Vice Mayor Ed Zunz noted that real estate buyers on the Key have recently created a new closing-cost custom: having the seller pay the entire owed assessment in a lump sum as part of the negotiated price.

Wilco Electrical is the town's underground utilities contractor.

Workers began the underground work in July at the south end of the Key with initial installation of conduit for electrical cables and related equipment. By early September, similar work had begun on the north end. Crews with Wilco Electrical, the town’s contractor for the work, were on the job along Broadway Street late last week

The idea is to converge on the middle of the island with Phases 3, 4 and 5 by 2022.

In November 2015, voters authorized the town to borrow up to $25.25 million to fund the Gulf of Mexico portion of the project, either paid through 30-year assessments or by a lump-sum. 

Four months later in 2016, voters authorized Longboat to borrow up to $23.8 million for the neighborhood portion.

Because of the way the deals were financed, the two funds can’t intermingle.

Poles and other overhead equipment, which are the property of FPL, will come down after the company is satisfied all is well with the installation.

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