TREASURE ISLAND — After deciding burying utility lines along south Gulf Boulevard exceeds their budget, city commissioners this week decided to go ahead with undergrounding lines and installing street lights on the northern end of the road.
Duke Energy has given the city a $1.16 million estimate for undergrounding its lines along Gulf Boulevard from 119th Avenue to 127th Avenue. Other costs involved are expected to raise the total price of the project to between $2.6 million to $2.8 million.
The city has $1.125 million for the utility project, money from the county's Penny for Pinellas funding, which will be available in October. Each year the city receives about $370,000 from the fund.
Commissioners, on the advice of City Manager Reid Silverboard, decided to look into acquiring a tax-exempt loan or line of credit from a bank to cover the remaining costs.
The state Department of Transportation is planning to resurface the northern section of Gulf Boulevard beginning January 2015. By moving ahead with installing utility lines underground at the same time, city officials hope to save money in repaving costs.
Commissioner Carol Coward objected to the fact that all the financial information about the project such as the loan interest is not known and voted not to proceed.
"Why can't we borrow city money and save the interest?" she asked.
But Silverboard said the city has less than $2 million unencumbered in its general fund, not enough to cover the amount needed.
Commissioner Alan Bildz, who previously pushed for details on undergrounding lines along south Gulf Boulevard, said new information shows "it is probably a $6 million project and we just don't have the money to do it."
The south end is a more complicated area with 81 utility poles and more easement required.
Duke Energy estimated $3.9 million for burying lines from 104th Avenue to Blind Pass Bridge, but other costs like burying lines for Bright House Networks and Verizon, acquiring easements, hookups to customers and restoration expenses were not included.
"This far exceeds the money we have available," Silverboard said.
The project, which is expected to start in January, would take about six months, he said.