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Officials eye underground utility lines
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TREASURE ISLAND – City officials are considering moving or placing utility lines underground along Paradise Boulevard.

At the last Treasure Island City Commission meeting and workshop Dec.18, Stacie Wakefield, owner of Palmscapes By Design of Lakeland, offered to purchase 36 Canary island Date palm trees that line the median of Paradise Boulevard.

If the commission agreed to sell the tress, Wakefield’s company would pay the city $30,000 for the trees.

Part of the reason Wakefield offered to buy the trees is because they are starting to impede upon power lines that are also in the median. Wakefield has noted that once those trees are trimmed, they are susceptible to disease and would, as a result, die off.

The commission decided to hold off until some background information was gathered, specifically the costs of possibly undergrounding the power lines or moving the lines or even if the trees needed to be trimmed.

At the Jan. 15 workshop during his report, City Manager Reid Silverboard found some answers. He had consulted with officials from Progress Energy, which owns the power lines, to determine what the company’s plans were.

The power lines consist of four lines. Silverboard learned from Progress Energy that a few trees’ fronds were getting in the way of the fourth and lowest line and might have to be trimmed. But, according to Silverboard, Progress Energy said the trimming would be so minimal, that its horticulture specialists have determined it wouldn’t damage the few trees that might need to be trimmed.

Progress Energy also thought that trimming of the trees might not be needed in the foreseeable future, likely until 2009.

Progress Energy also informed Silverboard it would not do anything to the trees pending further studies of what may need to be done to the trees before alerting Silverboard.

Silverboard also received some rough estimates from Progress Energy on undergrounding the power lines along Paradise Boulevard or relocating the lines from the median to a side of the street. Silverboard emphasized the figures were “ballpark” estimates and not quotes.

To place the lines underground would cost the city around $1.8 million “give or take $500,000,” Silverboard said.

To relocate the lines, it would cost anywhere between $150,000 and $310,000. The latter figures, Silverboard said, were even less accurate and “non-binding” because of several factors that Progress Energy would have to ascertain with a more thorough study.

Election debate

Frank McConnell, president of the Treasure Island Voters Watch announced that if the candidates for the two city council seats currently filled by incumbents Alan Bildz and Ed Gayton (who are both running for re-election) agree, there will be a debate between the candidates either Friday, Feb. 22 or Saturday, Feb. 23.

Details are still being worked out.

McConnell noted that if two candidates agree to a debate, it would be one hour for each seat. At the meeting, Gayton announced he would be open to a debate; Bildz did not comment.

Commissioner Bob Minning asked McConnell that if a candidate is not challenged to a debate by his competitor, if McConnell’s organization would be receptive to opening the floor to a question-and-answer session for the candidate who agreed to a debate.

McConnell thought this was a good idea and said if a candidate is unchallenged, or his opponent does not agree to a debate, a half-hour session opening the floor to questions will be held.

The debates will be at City Hall.

Commission may offer video of meetings online

Silverboard noted the city is looking into the possibility of offering video of the commission meetings on the city’s Web site. He didn’t have any specifics and hoped to have some details at a commission meeting soon. Currently video is only available on Bright House Networks digital cable and via purchase from city hall.
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