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The majority of the seven commissioners believes burying Gulf of Mexico Drive power poles at a cost of $10 million isn’t worth the expense.
Longboat Key Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2014 3 years ago

Power pole debate goes dark

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A costly option to bury Longboat Key’s power poles keeps rising to the surface, but the debate itself was likely buried for good Monday night.

Commissioner Pat Zunz, an opponent of the Key’s overhead power lines Key-wide, brought the topic up again at Monday’s regular meeting at Town Hall, two weeks after the commission chose not to move forward with a feasible study to bury the power lines that would cost taxpayers $189,000.

It’s estimated it would cost $10 million to bury the power lines along Gulf of Mexico Drive. It would cost $21 million to bury all the remaining overhead power lines Key-wide.

Zunz asked the commission to consider adding another discussion about burying Florida Power and Light Co. (FPL) power poles to its June 16 regular workshop.

“We failed to ask a lot of questions and don’t have as many answers as we should,” said Zunz, who also sent an email to Longbeach Village President Michael Drake this past week asking for community support to hold another discussion about the power lines. “We talk about this being a premier destination, but I don’t think so as long as we don’t do something about those wires.”

With Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) planning in August to replace at its own cost the town’s poles with sturdier ones — known as the “hardening” of its four power feeders — it brought a question May 19 to the Longboat Key Town Commission regular workshop, asking if commissioners would like the idea of burying all of the Key’s cables underground, once and for all. The topic has bubbled to the surface every so often during discussions, for instance, about ways to enhance Gulf of Mexico Drive.

The cost of such a project has always tabled the discussion, but Town Manager Dave Bullock said it was likely the last chance to consider the costly option before FPL begins its hardening project in August.

The town could stick with the current plan and change its mind later, but FPL would have to apply the value of the new poles it’s paying for on its own toward any future underground project.

Commissioner Terry Gans said the commission is “misleading the citizens if we continue to make it look like we will continue to entertain the underground option.”

While Zunz attained the support of Brown and Larson to discuss the topic at the workshop, the rest of the commission raised their hands in support of ending the discussion.

Gans, Vice Mayor Jack Duncan and Commissioners Phill Younger and Irwin Pastor made up the majority vote to end the discussion.

“The numbers on this thing are so far out of balance, I can’t see going anywhere with this,” said Younger.

Gans urged the commission to focus on what he perceives as far more pressing issues.

“Underground poles don’t trump the beach, the pension expenses, a sewer line underneath the bay or the myriad of other things we have to do,” Gans said.

For more informatiom, pick up a copy of tomorrow's Longboat Observer.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]



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