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Date of Issue: January 14, 2009

Gas line to get tested

Bradenton Beach city commissioners gave Tampa Electric Company/Peoples Gas permission to test a new natural gas line this week as they neared finalization of a franchise agreement.

During a meeting Jan. 8, commissioners continued to show frustration with how the company handled the process — a rush to install the line but long delays in negotiating a franchise agreement.

But commissioners, along with city attorney Ricinda Perry and TECO representative Leroy Sullivan also indicated an eagerness to conclude the process.

The commission approved a first reading of an ordinance on a franchise agreement last week and planned to hold a second reading during a 1 p.m. meeting Jan. 22.

Perry said minor changes still were needed.

“I’m pleased to let everybody know we worked out pretty much every issue,” she said.

Still to be ironed out is TECO/Peoples’ request that some information about gas customers be confidential. Perry said the city, in the agreement, must meet its obligations under the Public Records Act.

“But on the whole, the ordinance is ready to go,” she said.

The TECO/Peoples Gas project, which has involved the construction of a 4-inch gas line from 75th Street in Bradenton along Manatee Avenue to the Island and then on rights of way in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, had problems from its start in mid-June.

With permits from the Florida Department of Transportation, TECO/Peoples Gas was ready to begin installation of the pipeline along Gulf Drive, a state road, but officials in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach had not yet heard of the project.

Bradenton Beach commissioners did not stop the installation of the gas line in the city, but they did require the negotiation of a franchise agreement and prohibited TECO from connecting customers until the agreement is signed.

The commission held to that requirement Jan. 8 after Sullivan requested that the company be allowed to connect customers before the second reading of the ordinance.

Perry said she didn’t object to a test, but that she was concerned about allowing the gas line to become operational before the final franchise agreement is approved. The agreement contains protections for the city in the event of a problem.

Commissioners agreed.

“I’m not comfortable with this whole thing,” said Commissioner John Shaughnessy. “I haven’t been comfortable from the beginning. I’m not in favor of letting them go ahead until this whole thing is resolved.”

The commissioners, including Shaughnessy, however, approved the line test.