MARCO ISLAND — To the surprise of some councilors, Peoples Gas System, a division of Tampa Electric Company, is queued up and ready to bring natural gas onto Marco Island. Marco Island’s City Council learned of the gas line’s presence while exploring a franchise agreement with the company at Monday’s meeting.
Tim Pinter, public works director, explained he had been working on an agreement with TECO for about a year. During that time, the company buried lines along S.R. 951/Collier Boulevard and extended a line under the Marco River. The line was stubbed on the island just south of the Judge S.S. Jolly Bridge.
Council was asked to approve an ordinance on first reading to allow the company to continue the line in the city’s right-of-way down Collier Boulevard to the Marco Hilton. The company would need a 6-inch high pressure line to serve the 75 customers it hopes would use its service along the route.
The ordinance would set future terms for the franchise agreement including monthly payments to the city. Leroy Sullivan, Jr., TECO regional manager, explained the city would receive six percent of gross revenues, less expenses, on all sales of natural gas to customers inside city limits.
The franchise agreement was prepared by TECO and reviewed by Burt Saunders, city attorney. Council agreed that having natural gas available on the island would offer another type of utility for commercial customers.
“The intent is to focus on commercial customers,” Sullivan said, but he did not rule out residential customers in the future.
Councilors were concerned about liabilities with the gas line and construction damage or annoyances. Pinter pointed out the franchise indemnified the city from liability and required TECO to have enough insurance coverage to protect the city. The city could also take remedial action if TECO failed to correct damages it might cause.
Councilor Chuck Kiester, concerned about traffic issues during the winter months, asked how long installation might take.
TECO representatives explained the company was currently negotiating with Heritage Propane to take over its line already under Collier Boulevard. Sullivan said, if the two parties reach agreement, TECO would run 6,000 feet of line from the bridge to Bald Eagle Drive and connect to the Heritage pipes there.
“In a perfect world,” he said, “that would take about 38 days at about 150 feet per day. It’s difficult construction because it’s (the right-of-way) filled with utilities.”
If no agreement with Heritage is reached, TECO would install the line and would complete the work by the end of November.
Council Vice Chairman Joe Batte expressed disappointment that he had not received an earlier heads-up on the project.
“I’m uneasy that this matter has been going on for about a year now, and I have no staff opinion and nobody has mentioned it to council and it’s already come into the area,” he said in council comments.
Councilor Frank Recker moved the ordinance be approved on first reading. The motion passed with a vote of 7-0. Second reading was scheduled for council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m., April 16, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.