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Longboat Key Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 5 months ago

Utility says repairs are on the way to Longboat Key beachfront sidewalk

A portion of the sidewalk remains closed on Gulf of Mexico Drive directly in front of the Twin Shores Mobile Home Park.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Al and Dottye Van Iten enjoy the friendships they’ve developed with their Twin Shores neighbors while wintering in Longboat Key.

The couple has spent the past 15 years traveling to the island from Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

In January, the Van Itens arrived in Longboat and immediately noticed how the Gulf of Mexico Drive sidewalk was torn up directly in front of their home.

“(Normally), we look at the Gulf of Mexico here at the dinner table and it’s a nice pleasant look,” Al Van Iten said. “Well, now what do you see? A derelict-looking (view).”

Public Works Projects Manager James Linkogle explained how Frontier Communications needed to repair a copper telephone line set.

“In order to accomplish that repair, they had to tear out a section of the sidewalk and everything,” Linkogle said.

Linkogle said the repair to the telephone line is finished, but said Frontier is responsible for resurfacing the sidewalk. He said the town has been in touch with the company, specifically Frontier Communications Manager John Plott.

Linkogle has also contacted the Van Itens about how the town is working to coordinate with Frontier.

AVP Corporate Communications spokesperson Brigid Smith said in an email to the Observer that Frontier planned to make repairs next week.

On Monday, Jan. 17 Frontier is scheduled to clean up the area. Smith said new concrete would be poured Tuesday, Jan. 18 or Wednesday, Jan. 19.

“This was an air pressure cable repair,” Smith wrote. “I am asking our folks to reach out to the customers to apologize for the delay.”

Since October 2021, a portion of the sidewalk on Gulf of Mexico Drive directly in front of the Twin Shores Mobile Home Park has been closed.

Twin Shores neighbors have told the Van Itens the sidewalk has been closed since October 2021. To avoid the closure, it requires walkers and bikers to traverse along the concrete parking lot area in front of the Van Iten’s home.

Under normal circumstances when the sidewalk is opened, it allows cars traveling on GMD to turn in to the Twin Shores community. The only turn-in now is on Twin Shores Boulevard, which runs east and west.

“My question was, ‘Would (Town) Hall allow that to happen if that was done in their driveway?’” Al Van Iten said. “Would they allow it if it were at one of their golf courses or at Publix, one of their entrances?”

To find a resolution, the Van Itens have tried traveling to Frontier’s office at 1701 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota.

“We went up there,” Dottye Van Iten said. “There’s a sign. As of Dec. 19, there’s nobody (there). It’s closed.”

The Van Itens also said the sand from the repairs frequently blows into their screened-in porch in front of their home.

“The big problem is what we have to deal with right here in front of our kitchen,” Al Van Iten said. “We get sand and our view is screwed up. When you sit at the table, you’re looking at a construction site.

“It’s not what represents Longboat Key.”

Linkogle explained how the work is related to the town’s undergrounding utilities project.

“Our contractor damaged a couple of telephone lines that were unmarked through that section, and so they had to come and do the repair,” Linkogle said. “Those are old copper telephone lines that are in the ground, and (there are) not that many customers on them, but there are some…Obviously, they can’t just transfer them to some other line.”

Al Van Iten also expressed his frustration how the town is due to save $3.7 million in its undergrounding project, but the sidewalk in front of his home is unfixed.

“I’m thinking now, wait a minute. Millions of dollars they’ve charged all these people to put all this stuff in, and then an article comes out that they saved a bunch of money, but yet this has been sitting here not complete,” Al Van Iten said.

For now, flooding remains unlikely given that the Atlantic hurricane season ended Nov. 30, 2021. However, the copper telephone wire remains exposed in the event of heavy rain.

“I just don’t like not getting answers,” Al Van Iten said.

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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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