By Steve Plunkett
More than one snafu marred the straw poll on Gulf Stream’s underground utility project and the proposed referendum on annexing the county pocket.
A couple dozen straw ballots, including the one to Gulf Stream Civic Association President Bob Ganger, were chewed up in the mailing process and delivered in shreds in a plastic bag.
Town police officers were pressed into service to deliver reprinted ballots.
And some part-time residents’ forwarding addresses had expired so ballots were returned as undeliverable. Ganger said it was 16 of 50 at one condo.
Residents seemed hungry to learn more about the plan to bury electric, phone and cable TV lines. A crowd of 50 to 60 people attended an informational meeting put on by the Civic Association at the Gulf Stream School. At the Town Commission meeting two days later, extra seats had to be brought in.
“This isn’t a new thing, this discussion on underground power,’’ Mayor William Koch Jr. told the packed commission chambers. “It really started about 50 years ago when Bob Reed developed Place au Soleil. … He was the first person to put underground wiring in.’’
Koch said the rest of Gulf Stream wanted underground lines, but were put off by the expense. But technology changes have brought the cost down. The average fee for a single-family residence in Gulf Stream is $15,218, town consultants said, while pointing out that similar projects in Jupiter Island and Jupiter Inlet Colony came in well under budget.
“Now more people here see the value of undergrounding, and that’s why we’re bringing this to the voters to make this decision,’’ Koch said.
No residents spoke at the commission meeting. At the Civic Association meeting, condo residents asked why they should pay the same as a single-family home when the wiring in front of their building served more than one family. The consultants said their formula treated each dwelling unit equally regardless of size.
Another resident asked why the cost shown on her ballot did not include a yearly breakdown. After the project is approved, the town can negotiate 10- or 20-year payment plans, the consultants said.
And one resident wondered if the project is worth it if power lines in Briny Breezes and Delray Beach are still overhead.
On the proposed annexation, town officials discovered that the usual precinct for county pocket residents had been chained shut and that four of the 90 registered voters on the county’s list are dead.
“The polling place that they had had over on Federal seems to be deserted,’’ Town Clerk Rita Taylor told commissioners before they gave initial approval to an annexation ordinance.
Taylor said she would divide the commission chambers to make polling stations for both the town’s precinct
and the county pocket’s voters. Straw ballots on the underground utility project were due back at Town Hall by 2 p.m. Feb. 7. Go to www.thecoastalstar.com for updates.