Will the funding setup for the underground utilities projects bury the proposal?
Concern about the setup grows deeper even as the Longboat Key Town Commission approved a Gulf of Mexico Drive undergrounding referendum question on first reading Monday at a special meeting.
“I believe strongly the present proposal is doomed for failure,” said Islander Club resident and former Vice Mayor David Brenner. “Ballot one is good for me but ballot two is another story.”
Brenner said the real benefit to the entire town is all of the utilities being buried island-wide.
“Should I care what the other neighborhoods decide?” Brenner said. “Yes. The real benefit to me is having a single community (with buried utilities).”
Brenner suggested it should be one island-wide referendum question and not two separate questions.
The town had the option of funding the projects through ad valorem (uniform millage rate funded through property taxes like the beach millage districts) or non ad valorem assessments (property owner assessments collected through tax bills).
Non ad valorem assessments are based on the benefit each property receives and a methodology was performed on the town’s 10,038 properties over the last three months to determine how much each property would pay for the debt over both 20 and 30 years.
Commissioner Pat Zunz was the lone commissioner that failed to gain commissioner support for reconsideration of the current path.
A motion for the referendum on first reading was then passed by a 6-1 vote, with Zunz voting against it. The referendum question now moves forward to a special meeting on June 29. If it’s passed on second reading, the island’s entire electorate will decide in the Nov. 3 election whether to approve a Gulf of Mexico Drive project that now costs $25.25 million when a 20% construction contingency factor is included. The previous estimate for the project last week was $23.4 million.
For the second undergrounding project, which needs voter approval only if the first referendum passes, only property owners that don’t have utilities underground yet will get a ballot to decide if they want to pay their share of the $20.5 million it will cost to bury the rest of the island. The previous estimate for that project was $18.8 million.
For more information, pick up a copy of Wednesday's Longboat Observer.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].