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Longboat Key Monday, Feb. 22, 2016 3 years ago

Town commission buries self-funding option

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Longboat commissioners denied a handful of communities who hoped to have their assessments reduced by funding their own undergrounding.
by: Jack Short Staff Writer

Longboat Key commissioners buried the possibility of giving some communities the option to underground their own utility lines if voters approve a March 15 referendum at a special meeting today.

Commissioners voted 5-2 in favor of continuing with a plan to bury all island utilities through a town project if approved instead of allowing neighborhoods to contract directly with power and utilities providers to bury lines.

The independent option was of particular interest to a handful of communities including Spanish Main Yacht Club and Club Longboat. Both would require relatively minimal upgrades to meet criteria to be classified as currently having underground utilities, which would translate to lower assessments for owners. That's because the plan on the ballot requires property owners with existing underground utilities to pay 18.5% of the project’s cost and owners with above-ground utilities paying the remaining 81.5%. 

The measure would have allowed property owners met all criteria for being undergrounded by May 2, 2017 to have their assessments re-examined and reduced accordingly.

Don Lewan, who addressed the commission on behalf of Club Longboat, said his condo’s intent was to self-fund its share of the project to bury a single line along the south side of its property that carries power to the clubhouse.

“We can do this for at or less than $60,000,” Lewan said. By comparison, Club Longboat's assessment for the town project will be approximately $380,000 paid over 30 years by property owners.

Though Town Manager Dave Bullock said all additional costs and loss of savings would likely be absorbed, Commissioner Lynn Larson worried that costs from additional engineering and inspections could significantly exceed the projected costs. Additionally, she said, it would be unfair to those who already voted on the undergrounding referendum to make changes that might result in different costs.

Commissioner Phillip Younger, who voted against placing the current undergrounding plan on the March ballot, also opposed the self-funding option as presented.

 “When first voter cast an absentee ballot, that ship sailed,” he said.

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