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Longboat Key Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2020 1 year ago

Phase one of Longboat Key's undergrounding project is near completion

The town’s plan is to have the $49.1 million undergrounding project finished by the end of 2022.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The first of four phases of Longboat Key’s $49.1 million undergrounding project is nearing completion.

Wilco Electrical is finalizing its utility undergrounding construction of conduits in the neighborhood streets in the Country Club Shores IV North neighborhood. 

“The next real milestone is securing what we call the switch orders through the FPL administration to actually go out and start energizing all of the installed undergrounding work,” Longboat Key projects manager James Linkogle said. “And then after that’s accomplished, we start going back through the streets and doing the final conversions of all those properties that are completely aerial that need to be converted from that aerial drop to the meter to the undergrounding service that we have installed.”

Work began on phase one of the voter-approved project in summer 2019 at the southern end of the island. Phase-one work extends north to include Country Club Shores and the Longboat Key Club.

Linkogle said the town plans to reach out to residents to let them know of a brief disruption in power service as the town finishes the conversions. The town is working from south to north within the first phase, he said.

“Phase one been kind of the learning curve for us through a lot of these issues,” Linkogle said. “I think as we settle the dust on some of them, we're going to make really good progress.”

Once the underground conversions are made, FPL will have to remove its poles.

Work also moved back to Gulf of Mexico Drive to install fiber, Comcast, highway and street-lighting circuits.

Comcast and Frontier are the two primary internet providers in Longboat Key. Town Manager Tom Harmer said private companies have reached out to Longboat Key about a public-private partnership for the fiber network. No agreement between the town and a private company has been reached as workers continue to focus on undergrounding work.

“We are communicating behind the scenes informally with a couple of private companies just to get a sense of their interest in our infrastructure and then we’ll have to decide if there is serious interest there, how we would proceed,” Harmer said.

A private company would have the opportunity to use the town’s infrastructure to offer its services.

“I think if we had high-tech streaming capacity on the island, then you may have people interested in living here or coming here on a regular basis to access that either to operate their business remotely or to be able to communicate digitally,” Harmer said.

Increased levels of technology benefit Longboat Key residents and businesses, Harmer said.

Linkogle said the town is looking for a private company to partner with the town. Plus, he said there is a less expensive upfront cost for a private company as the underground infrastructure gets put into place.

“How can [a private company] come on board and utilize as much of that infrastructure to the benefit of your company and the town citizens? Linkogle said. “And hopefully, [a public-private partnership could ] share some of the revenue to help offset the cost of placing that infrastructure.”

Phase two of the project extends from the northern tip of the island to Dream Island Road. Crews have built conduit and feeder lines along Gulf of Mexico Drive. It’s expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Phase three goes from Country Club Shores to the county line.

Moving forward, Linkogle said it’s very likely the town will work on phases two and three of the project at the same time.

“The obvious challenges are just getting in some of the tighter sports and working with some of the individual residents that may have a little more of an impact because they’re a complete conversion property versus ones that are already underground,” Linkogle said. 

Phase four goes from Dream Island Road south to the county line.

“We’re on schedule and moving incrementally through the island as we thought we would,” Harmer said.

The town’s plan is to have the undergrounding project complete by the end of 2022.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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