The Coastal Star

Gulf Stream: Underground utilities project sees further delay

By Tim O’Meilia
    Check your calendar, Gulf Stream residents, and move the start of that long-promised utilities project  back another three or four months.
    How about Labor Day?
    The town will begin seeking bids on the $5.4 million project until mid-May and contracts will not be awarded until two months later, pushing the start of construction to August or September, said the town’s engineering consultant, Danny Brannon.
    The town has banked prepaid assessments made by residents for two years to put power, telephone and cable lines underground. In fact, the town plans to borrow against the assessments to install new street lights.
    The town is awaiting the plans from Comcast and AT&T, which have had to adjust their drawings after Florida Power & Light submitted its design in mid-February.
    “We are running behind due to the response of the utilities,” Brannon told the Town Commission April 12.
    Brannon also said the town is working on obtaining 37 easements from landowners, mostly along State Road A1A, to bury the utility lines.
    Construction was originally to have started in May 2012. The new delay will push completion of the two-phase project to December 2014 or January 2015.
    “Seems like every month takes longer than the previous month,” Brannon said.
    Residents have mumbled for months about the delays, which prompted the town to file a complaint with the state Public Service Commission about FPL’s delay in submitting design plans.
    “There is a lot of feeling in this town that we’ve let a lot of people down,” said Town Commissioner Bob Ganger. “People gave money a long time ago and we’ve had no action.”
    In other business:
    n Mayor Joan Orthwein and Vice Mayor Tom Stanley were unanimously reappointed to their posts for another year.
n Commissioners prohibited the use of the Town Hall facilities to outside groups until the town adopts a new policy. Although neighboring condominium homeowner associations often use the town commission chambers for meetings, none are scheduled through the end of the year. The policy review was prompted by an inquiry by resident Martin O’Boyle to use the chambers for a corporate event. Commissioner Mert Anderson opposed the interim ban.
n Commissioners unanimously voted to ban donations from private entities to establish memorials on town property. The commission feared that once a donation was accepted for one memorial, others could not be denied. “Once you accept a memorial from anyone, you’re opening a Pandora’s box,” said Town Attorney John Randolph. As a result, only town-sponsored memorials will be approved.
n Commissioners voted to support a Gulf Stream Civic Association effort to urge AT&T to improve cell phone service on the barrier island. A civic association survey of 223 residents found that 60 percent said they had weak or no service inside their homes. But commissioners don’t want a cell tower in town. “We’re speaking out of both sides of our mouths. We want it, but we don’t want the pole,” said Mayor Joan Orthwein.
    n An example of the proposed six-sided lantern-style street light being considered by the commission is scheduled to be installed at the Town Hall for examination by town residents  by May.
The estimated $380,000 project would be paid for by increasing property taxes slightly the next two years. Fifty-three lights would be installed on interior streets and 35 cobra-head lights along State Road A1A. All would be long-life LED lights.

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