Gulf Stream: Town agrees to sue AT&T to finish underground work

Plastic netting surrounds the historic Australian pine trees that line A1A in Gulf Stream to ensure that workers installing a water main do not damage the roots. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett

The town will ask a federal judge to order AT&T to finish putting its lines underground after the telecommunications giant walked off the job in May.
The contract dispute could add another year to the overall project, which started in 2013. AT&T wants more than $1 million to complete the job; Gulf Stream says it owes only $400,000.
Joanne O’Connor, an attorney for the town, showed town commissioners a draft lawsuit at their June 12 meeting. Commissioners unanimously agreed to file suit.
“I don’t think we have any alternative but to follow this advice and get a lawsuit filed as soon as possible,” Mayor Scott Morgan said.
Robert Wright, a Tallahassee lawyer who specializes in utilities, will assist the legal action. O’Connor said the lawsuit will be filed in the U.S. District Court in part to get action more quickly.
“We can’t get the lawsuit done over the summer. But compared to being in state court where this could take three to five years, if we file imminently … generally they set trial dates one year out,” O’Connor said.
Wright agreed to discount his legal fees to $250 an hour.
Town officials, surprised by AT&T’s demand for more money, are continuing to ask the company for more details to explain the higher cost. Comcast, which also put its lines underground, said it encountered nothing in the field to make its job more costly, Assistant Town Attorney Trey Nazzaro said.
Morgan said AT&T put its lines underground in the southern half of town for $160,000 and now wants $1.2 million for the northern half, “a striking difference,” he said.

In other business:
• Foster Marine Contractors began installing a new water main along State Road A1A on June 8. The $1.9 million project will force traffic detours into town at times. Residents close to the work will receive an informational flyer 24 hours ahead of time and can call 888-267-0321 with concerns.
• Commissioners gave Chet Snavely permission to demolish the decrepit house at 2775 Avenue Au Soleil and sod the lot. Snavely, who is also president of the Place Au Soleil Homeowners Association, bought the house for $400,000 after the heirs of deceased homeowner Richard Lavoie paid Gulf Stream $125,000 in code enforcement liens. Ú

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