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Longboat Key Friday, Oct. 23, 2020 1 year ago

Underground electricity coming soon to Longboat

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First switch to new power lines expected by mid-November.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The town’s $49.1 million underground utilities project is on schedule and nearing a milestone in November.

James Linkogle, the town's project manager, and consultant Mark Porter said recently the electricity could be flowing through underground cables to homes on the south end of the island by mid-November.

“Has the champagne been staged for that day?” Mayor Ken Schneier joked at a recent Town Commission workshop.

“When it’s over,” Porter said.

Sept. 11 marked the beginning of the switch-order process with Florida Power & Light for phase one of the four-phase project.  Phase one extends from the southern end of the island to the Country Club Shores neighborhood and the Longboat Key Club.

Linkogle said the switch order is an incremental process.

Longboat Key project manager James Linkogle demonstrates how homes in the Country Club Shores IV North neighborhood will use the undergrounding work for utilities. Eventually, FPL will remove its poles throughout the town.

“As these pieces of equipment get energized, there’s [a] different variety of testing levels that are conducted,” Linkogle said.

FPL is in the final review of contractor Wilco Electrical LLC’s work for phase one, which is set to be done by the end of October.

Linkogle and Porter also provided commissioners with an update on the projects' funding.

“We are on schedule and not used any contingency funds to date,” Linkogle said.

Porter said the negotiations with FPL have actually come in under budget so far. It’s unclear how much.

“We are currently working in phase four with FPL to get the final design initiated and we’ll be able to get the costs from that,” Porter said. “When we do get that in the coming months, that’ll actually be able to solidify the actual final number from FPL.”

Porter said the town’s negotiations with Frontier and Comcast have come in at $185,294.22 under budget to similarly install underground cable and communications cables in separate but parallel conduits.

“In phase one, we are trying to finalize the appeal with Frontier,” Porter said. “We expect that amount to go actually even better on the credit.”

Phase one of the project is set to be finished in November or December. Remaining phase one work includes Comcast setting vaults and pulling fiber along Gulf of Mexico Drive, Wilco and FPL completing switch orders, final conversions and connections to FPL meters and FPL pole removals.

Town street lights for phase one are ordered and installation will happen around the same time as the FPL pole removals by the end of December.

The town’s street light project plans to improve the quality of light and pole aesthetics and were the subject of deep scrutiny in 2019 determining design and height. The poles are also “smart capable” for potential wireless and cell phone carrier enhancement. They also plan to replace streetlights on existing FPL poles.

Town Manager Tom Harmer has confirmed the town has had conversations with private companies that could use Longboat Key’s new infrastructure to offer its services, though no firm deals have been made.

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

Wilco’s installation of town fiber conduit within phase 1 neighborhoods is complete.

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.

“As soon as we obtain our permits for phase two from FDOT, we will start the Comcast and fiber-enhanced street light circuits in the GMD corridor,” Linkogle said.

Phase three work is set to start in November and goes from Country Club Shores to the county line.

Linkogle said the town plans to work on phases two and three of the project simultaneously.

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

The town’s plan is to have the underground utilities 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.

See All Articles by Mark

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