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FPL commits to finish utilities undergrounding project by end of 2024

Existing electrical poles on Longboat Key are scheduled to be removed by Dec. 31.

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Florida Power & Light committed to Longboat Key staff that the undergrounding project will finish in 2024, as long as the storm season doesn’t present any setbacks. 

At the town commission’s June 17 workshop, Director of Public Works Isaac Brownman said that FPL committed to a timeline that includes electrical conversions being completed in early October and existing electrical poles removed by Dec. 31. 

“Basically, the commission challenged us as a project team at the last meeting to really tighten up, develop a final completion timeframe that makes sense and is reasonable and deliver on that,” Brownman said at the start of his presentation. 

When the project first started, the original completion date was the end of 2022.

Brownman told commissioners that FPL has stepped up in its efforts to wrap up the project. According to his recent talks with the company, Longboat Key switching orders now can bypass other areas. Additionally, the switching orders can be approved in larger groups, and FPL now has a dedicated staff member for the Longboat Key project. 

Those efforts, Brownman said, demonstrate FPL’s commitment to get the job done. 

“So, in other words, FPL has assured the town, the commission and us, that they're doing business differently to get our project done,” Brownman said. 

The goal is to complete electrical conversions by Oct. 1, but Brownman said FPL was hesitant to set a specific date in October. But, Brownman told commissioners that pressure will be on FPL to get those done earlier in October rather than later. 

In addition, Brownman said he and the project team will provide monthly updates to commissioners from now until the end of the project. 

There will also be updates for residents as to when their properties are scheduled to be energized, according to Brownman. 

While FPL committed to the timelines, Brownman said the energy company stipulated that it depends on storm season. Now almost a month into an anticipated highly-hurricane season, major storms could lead to setbacks in the timeline. 

Brownman said when a storm hits Florida, FPL’s resources are diverted to the affected area. That also includes Wilco Electrical since it is an FPL-qualified contractor. 

Last hurricane season, major flooding from Hurricane Idalia caused new underground transformers to fail in certain areas. 

After FPL’s forensic investigation found that the transformers failed due to saltwater intrusion, the company decided to raise the underground transformers in the areas that failed. 

Starting in mid-July, those transformers will be raised from 6-inch platforms to 24-inch pads. This part of the construction will last about a month, Brownman said. 

FPL will then see how well those perform and assess whether more mitigation measures are necessary. 

Brownman shared more good news with commissioners that the project is about $6 million under budget. That estimated surplus is after accounting for the backlit street signs that the town purchased as an extension of the project.



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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