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Sheldon Road project gets more costly

The best way to describe the Sheldon Road widening project is "costly," county officials say. But they aren't talking about the road work itself. They mean moving 17 of 37 steel electric poles erected in June 1989. The cost: between $340,000 and $680,000.

The news came Wednesday night during a public meeting for northwest Hillsborough residents interested in finding out about the four-lane widening project between W Hillsborough Avenue and Linebaugh Avenue.

The meeting drew more than 100 people.

Under current plans, contractors will take 18 months to complete the $9.2-million road project.

Bob Gordon, county projects manager, said Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) poles must be moved eight feet west of Sheldon Road so contractors can begin widening the two-lane street in spring 1991.

Installation of the poles was a "big mistake," said John Bretz, a county design manager.

Company spokesman Mike Mahoney said TECO and the county had discussed the widening before the poles were erected. But county officials had not bought right-of-way for the utility to put up its poles at the time they were erected.

"So we got the use of private easements and put up the poles," Mahoney said. The electric lines feed Tampa International Airport and communities around Westshore Boulevard.

Gordon said it will cost the county "anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 to move each pole."

TECO officials say they aren't sure how many poles will need to be moved. "We're examining all 37 poles to see whether they can be left or moved or what," Mahoney said.

Cost of moving the poles may be shared by TECO and the county, Gordon and Mahoney said.

Several residents said they were not happy about the cost of moving the poles. Others said they were hesitant about the project in general.

Diane M. Boyd, vice president of a business in the Sweetwater Landing shopping plaza, said she doesn't want to lose a center turn lane. Widening plans would eliminate the lane.

"Not to have a turn lane anywhere is impossible. That is the only shopping center on Sheldon Road right now," said Boyd, who complained that her business, Celebration Center Inc., would suffer.

Bretz said that although a turn lane is there now, it is responsible for accidents.

Kitty Bright, whose home is on Old Memorial Highway near its intersection of Sheldon Road, opposes the construction project because Sheldon will no longer connect with Memorial. It will intersect with Hillsborough.

The county's plans would force Bright to take a detour to get to and from her home.

"That really upsets me," Bright said. "I've lived here 18 years, and I've never had trouble getting around."

- Staff writer Kevin E. Washington contributed to this report.