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Longboat's overhead power lines to be removed in early 2024

With all materials in hand for Phase 2, the utility project team is optimistic about completing final conversions by the end of the calendar year.

A Wilco Electrical LLC employee works on the town's underground utilities project along Gulf of Mexico Drive.
A Wilco Electrical LLC employee works on the town's underground utilities project along Gulf of Mexico Drive.
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The town’s undergrounding project continues to push forward, with major progress potentially coming around the corner. 

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman updated town commissioners at the Dec. 11 workshop that Phase 2 of the town’s undergrounding project is on track to be energized by the end of 2023. 

Florida Power & Light, the island’s only energy provider, leads the project alongside Wilco Electrical LLC, CDM Smith and the town. 

“FPL has everything they can possibly have to finish Phase 2, we're just waiting for them to authorize and turn those around so Wilco can finish,” Browman said. 

Wilco Electrical LLC is optimistic that the Phase 2 conversions will be completed on or before Dec. 31, according to Brownman. This phase is the most complex of the project with the most connections and conversions. 

After the conversions are all completed, Brownman said it is expected the overhead power line and pole removal would follow shortly after, in early first quarter 2024. 

This past summer, Wilco Electrical LLC opened up existing underground transformers on the island to find that those could not be used in the new project. The oversight, combined with supply chain issues, has caused a delay in the project’s timeline. 

The project has been ongoing since July 2019. 

Due to the oversight, 11 transformers need to be replaced in Phase 3, and 13 in Phase 4. Arrival of those transformers is estimated to be in early first quarter 2024, and the timeline for final conversions and pole removal is still to be determined, according to Brownman’s report. 

The way the conversions work, Brownman said, means that Phase 2 needs to be completed before and switching in Phase 4 because of the complexities of switching and load management on the feeders. 

Frontier and Comcast are continuing to work on their undergrounding projects and removal of their overhead facilities. Both are working on finalizing Phase 2. 

Only one more easement is needed for the entire project, which is from Publix. Brownman said this is in progress and Publix is reviewing the easement with FPL. 

After Hurricane Idalia, the storm surge that swept the island caused 20 of the underground transformers to fail. FPL began conducting a forensic investigation, and Brownman said he has yet to hear back from them, though it is still within the 90-day period FPL said it would need to investigate.

The street lights along Gulf of Mexico Drive that are a part of the undergrounding project have been installed, though not all have been activated because they are dependent on the feeders being energized. 

Other good news that Brownman shared is that purchase orders were issued for the backlit street signs along Gulf of Mexico Drive. Those will be replaced as the undergrounding project continues. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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