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Date of Issue: August 13, 2008

TECO late to the Bradenton Beach starting gate

Tampa Electric Company officials have been planning to construct a natural gas pipeline from the mainland to Anna Maria Island for the past year and have already received approval from Manatee County.

All well and good, said Bradenton Beach City Commissioner John Shaughnessy when TECO officials approached the city commission at its Aug. 7 meeting to discuss a franchise agreement. Except that the company might be a bit late approaching the city to meet its proposed completion date of Sept. 29, he observed.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m a little upset with TECO” for waiting this long, Shaughnessy said to Leroy Sullivan of TECO.

TECO came to the city for an agreement when it had only seven weeks before its “drop dead” completion date of Sept. 29. That’s when the Anna Maria Island Bridge will close for 45 days for bridge repair. If the pipeline is not installed by that date, TECO can’t continue working on the bridge and will have to wait until it reopens, costing the company a large chunk of change.

The company’s delay in approaching Bradenton Beach has left Shaughnessy with a “negative” feeling toward the company, and he said giving TECO a 30-year franchise agreement would be “a bit much” for a company new to the city.

In addition, the city now has to rush all the paperwork and permits through its staff and back to the commission to get TECO approved.

“It’s a bit much,” reiterated Shaughnessy.

Sullivan apologized for not coming to the city sooner.

Time is short, said Sullivan. He asked that the issue be placed on the commission’s next agenda for approval, but that request was proving to be difficult.

City attorney Ricinda Perry had a number of concerns about the franchise agreement, particularly with regards to city liability, obligations and the lack of a provision for litigation. She also noted that a TECO subsidiary, People’s Gas, will actually sign the contract.

What happens if People’s Gas, which appears to be a shell company, closes up, she asked? Does the liability go back to TECO? Those issues are not addressed in the agreement, she said.

 Perry added that it will take some time to iron out these issues with TECO lawyers, but the agreement would have had to be completed Aug. 8 to meet the 10-day advance advertising requirement for a first reading before the commission on Aug. 21.

TECO, however, can take a chance and obtain its building permits in anticipation of a franchise agreement, Perry noted.

Agreed, said city building official Steve Gilbert. “Permits and franchise agreements are separate,” he said.

Sullivan elected the option to seek permits now, saying that TECO and the city “will have an agreement eventually.”

Perry will confer with TECO attorneys to get an agreement ready for a first reading on Sept. 4 and a final reading Sept. 18.

In the interim, Mark Rubin of TECO, the company’s construction supervisor for the project. He pledged to get the project completed before the high volume of seasonal traffic returns to the Island for the winter.

“That’s what I said,” observed Shaughnessy. “If you had just come to us months ago instead of two weeks, this would all have been over and done.”

The commission consensus was to consider a 15-year agreement with TECO, not a 30-year franchise as the company suggested.

TECO has also been to Holmes Beach to obtain a franchise agreement, and similar issues have surfaced in that city. The company has not approached Anna Maria for an agreement.