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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2014 3 years ago

My View: Taxpayers deserve due diligence on utility poles

by: Bob Gault

Given the inarguable fact that 100% of the Longboat population says in surveys that preserving the beautiful aesthetics of Longboat Key is their number one or two priority, how can we not do a due-diligence analysis on the real cost-benefit of burying the utility lines Gulf of Mexico Drive rather than just allowing Florida Power & Light Co. to replace the poles with more substantial poles?

But we didn’t.

If Longboaters decide in the future to bury utility lines, the new capital cost to FPL for the more substantial hurricane-proof poles will have to be included in the underground project, making it even more costly.

Due diligence requires a credible cost-benefit analysis, gathering facts for discussion and consideration by the taxpayers. Taxpayers should have answers to:

• The real cost to bury the lines on Gulf of Mexico Drive, all inclusive or on a phased basis;

• Creative options to finance the project and their impact on taxpayers;

• The effect on aesthetics — weighing the potential negative impact on property values because of new, more substantial utility poles;

• The effects on electric service during our many thunderstorms and larger storms.

And more.

Look at the incredible due diligence and discussions we have been having on just one potential cell tower pole over the past five years.

For some reason, our town commissioners chose to discuss the utility issue at a workshop when a vast majority of property owners were away for the summer. No studied facts, no noticed public hearings of said facts, just a 4-2 decision not to pursue further study or discussion and, surprisingly, an approval for FPL to install the hardened poles as soon as possible.

Ostensibly, this was due to the fear of having a hurricane this season. Give us a break!

Citizens must be allowed to be involved in these big decisions and given credible pros and cons and impacts so they can provide guidance to our commissioners.

Burying the utility lines on Gulf of Mexico Drive instead of replacing existing utility poles with larger hurricane-proof poles may be a bad idea or a good idea in the final analysis, but commissioners should do the homework and communicate the results to their constituents when their constituents are in town so they can help make a considered and credible decision.

This is an extremely important decision for Longboat’s future.

Bob Gault is a resident of Longboat Key and former CEO of Universal Studios Orlando.


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