NORTH REDINGTON BEACH — The utilities undergrounding project that began with former Mayor Harold Radcliffe in 2000 is still in progress today, with current Mayor Bill Queen expecting a completion date of 2025. A discussion of the mammoth undergrounding project of the entire town was the centerpiece of the commission meeting Feb. 11.

Queen began the discussion with a timeline of the project. In 2000-2004 the undergrounding of the residential streets was self-funded by the town at a cost of $1.9 million. From 2010-2019, undergrounding the east side of Gulf Boulevard was funded by Pinellas County at a cost of $1.1 million.

Undergrounding the west side of Gulf Boulevard is the final phase of the project, running from 2020-2025. The estimated cost of $2 million for the west side of Gulf Boulevard is funded by both the county and the town. The county funds the lion’s share, but the town will use its reserves for payment of costs over Penny-for-Pinellas funding of $1.6 million.

Commissioner Gary Curtis asked why undergrounding one side of Gulf Blvd. cost more than the other. The mayor explained that the west side or gulf side has substantially more gear boxes and transformers than the east side.

The commission discussed some of the benefits of completing Gulf Boulevard undergrounding. The town’s utilities will be completely underground, the neighborhood grid will be protected, and gear boxes and switches will be better protected on the ground.

The mayor said he would personally go out to get all the necessary easements signed. Additionally, he felt there were financial advantages to having Duke Energy in the forefront. “I am trying to get Duke to do the entire project,” said Queen.

Emergency Services Complex updates

The old public works building is slated to be replaced with a new Emergency Services Complex that will be shared by all three Redington towns. The building will include a fire substation, sewer lift station, records retention area, break room and meeting rooms.

Pinellas County is covering $3 million of the cost. The three towns, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores and Redington Beach, will split the remaining cost of $400,000 based upon each town’s usage percentage.

According to the mayor, this project will take several years to complete. During construction a back parking lot, two Conex containers/trailers, a retention area, and a rear entrance to town hall will need to be accommodated on the east side of town hall.

Short-term rental legislation concerns

The commission unanimously agreed that their constituents need to be advised that Florida Senate Bill 522 and House Bill 219 are currently under consideration. Passage of these bills would allow short-term rentals such as Home Away and Airbnb to exist in any area and the legislation would infringe on home rule.

“It’s not just the noise and parking we would have to contend with,” said Queen. “It would do away with zoning and destroy neighborhoods.”