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UTILITY BOARD TABLES ELECTRIC EXTENSION AGREEMENT WITH NO NAME KEY PROPERTY OWNERS

01/13/2011 ~ The Utility Board moved to table the electric extension agreement with the No Name Key Property Owners Association, Inc. (NNKPOA) at a regular meeting on Wednesday, January 12th. The Board moved to table the item until the second Utility Board meeting in March (March 23rd), or when the County files their request for Declaratory Judgment.

This motion was made after the Board heard the advice of their counsel, Board attorney Nathan Eden, that the action should be tabled until which time the contents of the Declaratory Judgment are known and the issue more fully framed. Board Counsel indicated he had been in contact with County legal staff and believes the request will be forthcoming in the very near future.

The wording of the motion takes into consideration that the bids which Keys Energy Services (KEYS) sought for the construction of the extension for residential power to No Name Key are set to expire on March 31st. Re-bidding the project could add additional costs to the project as well as approximately two-months to the timeline, the tabling motion allows the Board to have the item come back before them prior to the expiration of the bids if it has not yet returned in the wake of the filing of the Declaratory Judgment. The motion was made by Board member Charlie Bradford and was unanimously approved by all five Board members.

As a result of the item being tabled, those in attendance who wished to offer public input were not able to do so as once an item is tabled it can not be discussed again until it is officially brought back before the Board. Approximately 13 people had signed up to address the Board up until the point the item was tabled.

No Name Key is an island within KEYS’ service area that currently has no grid-tied electric power. In December the NNKPOA, representing some of the 43 homeowners on the island, requested that the Utility Board consider approving extending service to the existing homes/lots of interested residents during their January 12th meeting. KEYS’ staff normally handles line extension agreements without going before the Board for approval, however, No Name Key has a special set of circumstances which needed to be addressed and thus required going before the Board.

The general duties of a public utility outlined in Florida Statute 366.03 state that, “each public utility shall furnish to each person applying therefore reasonably sufficient, adequate, and efficient service upon terms as required by the commission.” Additionally, KEYS’ Franchise Agreement with Monroe County states that, “they City of Key West, Florida has requested the Board of County Commissioners of Monroe County, Florida to grant easements on and over the public streets, roads, bridges and/or highways under said Board’s jurisdiction and control.”

Given the controversial nature of electrifying No Name Key, and the protected habitats that encompass much of the island, KEYS sought out the opinion of the United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In a October 15, 2010, opinion the FWS stated, “the Service concurs with your view that the proposed extension of electrical service to No Name key is not likely to adversely affect the key deer, Lower Keys marsh rabbit, silver rice rat, eastern indigo snake, Stock Island tree snail, Key tree cactus, or Garber’s spurge and formal consultation is not required.”

In order to extend grid-tied electric power to No Name Key, KEYS would have to cross the No Name Key bridge and sought out the opinion of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). In a November 5, 2010, opinion the FDOT stated, “our engineering staff reviewed the proposed conduit attachment from KEYS to the No Name Key bridge as per your request. We have no additional comments that will prevent the release of the project to construction.”

On December 15, 2010, the Monroe Board of County Commissioners 1) denied KEYS request for four easements across four County-owned lots, 2) denied any amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations to allow the extension of utility services to Coastal Barrier Resource System units and/or private development on No Name Key, and 3) moved to file an action for Declaratory Judgment regarding whether Bimini and Tortuga lanes constitute rights-of-way, upon which KEYS does not need a county permit to construct poles and to determine the county’s responsibility regarding issuance of building permits for connections between utility lines in rights-of-ways and structures on private property.

Highlights of the line extension agreement include:

- Remitting payment of $660,384.63 at the time of executing the line extension agreement.

- Placing responsibility for litigation, permitting, construction overruns, construction delays and contractor mobilization on NNKPOA.

- Requiring NNKPOA to provide for an on-site biologist to oversee initial construction.

- Placing responsibility for deconstruction costs on NNKPOA if the project is stopped.

- Allowing for homes that do not initially participate in the Line Extension Agreement to connect and pay a portion of the total costs back to NNKPOA (less 15-percent administrative costs for KEYS).

- Having NNKPOA develop an appropriate tree trimming training program to address the “Stock Island Tree Snail and Garber’s Spurge Impact Avoidance Procedures Plan.”

- Acknowledging that parts of No Name Key are within the Coastal Barrier Resources Act and requiring a $50,000 escrow account held by KEYS to cover repairs to the system that are typically covered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

- Establishing that each customer, prior to signing up for service, must file a “Notice and Agreement Regarding Provision of Electric Service to No Name Key” as public record with Monroe County.

The regular meeting of the Utility Board took place at 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 12th, in the Louis Carbonell Board Room of the William Arnold Service Building, at 1001 James Street, Key West.

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