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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2016 3 years ago

Underground utilities: 10 things to know

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The decision day for a $23.85 million project is March 15.
by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Trump or Rubio?

Clinton or Sanders?

The questions will vary on Tueday's ballot based on your party registration, but there's one question all town voters will face at the polls regardless of their affiliation:

Can the town issue bonds not to exceed $23.85 million to bury utilities on the Key's neighborhood and side streets.

To help voters decide, the Longboat Observer reviews what you need to know before casting your ballot.

1. The project would eliminate all remaining above-ground utilities from the Key. Voters already approved the issuance of bonds for a Gulf of Mexico Drive project in November. The project currently in front of voters covers the remainder of the Key.

2. Most of the Key already has underground utilities. Approximately 70% of utilities Keywide are underground — about 80% on the Sarasota County side and 55% on the Manatee County side. Owners of properties with above-ground utilities will pay 81.5% of costs, while owners of properties with underground utilities will pay the remaining 18.5%.

3. Costs could be as low as $32.16 annually over 30 years at 4.5% interest, or $518.35 upfront— or as high as $722.70 annually under the same financing terms, or $11,649.29 upfront. Assessments vary widely based on whether a property currently has underground utilities, the estimated benefit to the property from burying utilities and other factors. 

4. You can view your estimated assessment, as well as the estimated assessment of any Longboat Key property on the town's website. Visit longboatkey.org and click "Undergrounding project" on the left side of the "home page," followed by "Neighborhood assessment search." Search by business owner/name or partial address.

5. The vote won't affect whether the Gulf of Mexico Drive project proceeds. The town will continue with plans to bury GMD utilities regardless of whether the neighborhood project is approved.

6. The north end will be most impacted by the vote because a greater portion of its utilities are overhead, but if every north-end resident voted against the referendum, it could still pass. That's because the majority of property owners and registered voters are on the south end.

7. Eliminating above-ground utilities would cause fewer outages. Less severe damage and fewer outages during storms are key benefits that supporters tout.

8. The outages that do occur with underground utilities could be longer. When lines are underground, locating the problem can take longer to find and repair. Water must recede after severe weather before damages can be repaired.

9. If voters reject the referendum, communities could still pursue undergrounding independently. Country Club Shores residents, for example, plan to create a special district to fund underground utilities if the referendum fails.

10. Cast your ballot by 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, or it won't count. Sarasota County residents vote at Longboat Key Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road. Manatee County residents vote at Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

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