Lakewood Ranch Herald

IDA to manage new transponder changeover for Lakewood Ranch residents, but cost is still uncertain

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Although the phase-in of new, high-tech transponder replacements was approved last month by three Lakewood Ranch country club community development districts, the cost is still in question.

Last month, the boards were informed new transponders would cost $50 each and replacements would cost $50, since they can't be refurbished and reissued as could the old ones.

The costs, however, are still being considered under the transponder policy following analysis by Inter-District Authority Chief Financial Officer Steven Zielinski.

A presentation of anticipated revenues and expenditures associated with the transponder upgrade was given to the boards of community development districts 2, 5, and 6 during a joint agenda review workshop Tuesday at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

"There is a general feeling that several of the models are less expensive and that the prices should come down. We took a look at all transponder costs and services and then worked up an analysis. There are a lot of moving parts to this project. This is a snapshot in time," said Eva Rey, IDA executive director.

That analysis shows community development districts 2, 5, and 6 have already invested in capital improvements such as software expenses and Internet connectivity for their gates through Brighthouse Networks, so annual expenses have increased overall. Adding the cost of staff to manage the transponders is also a consideration, so the analysis covers more than the cost of the transponders, IDA officials said.

"We had to work with some reference point to determine revenues and expenditures. There is a potential for the distribution of 4,500 transponders. The IDA will

have to pay for those transponders. What are our costs relative to replacing the old transponders? That's where the analysis comes from and our justification for charging $50," Zielinski said.

Community Development District 5 Supervisor Alan Silverglat said he took exception with the analysis.

"Our residents paid the $85,000 price for the new improvements and technology upgrades at the gate house. I wish the new cost of the transponder could be half so they could see the benefit of those improvements," Silverglat said.

The new transponders will be introduced when phase one of the communication and connectivity upgrades is completed to enhance Country Club gate house operations. Stickers, rather than hand-held devices, will allow residents direct access through the three gates of community development districts 2, 5, and 6.

The new transponders are about the size of a credit card, which can be placed on a car windshield or a headlight bumper if the card cannot be read through the windshield. The transponder testing area in front of Lakewood Ranch Town Hall will be used to ensure stickers can be read when residents access the gates.

Transponder replacements will be phased in over time, unless a resident buys a new car or their old transponder no longer works. Otherwise, their current transponder, which activates gates and other barriers in their respective communities, will remain operative, but there is no longer a $20 refund available since the new transponders can't be refurbished.

All three district boards will vote Thursday on a joint resolution authorizing the IDA administration of the transponder/remote policy, which will cede control of the inventory, management and distribution of the new transponders, but not the rules and regulations of the policy. The transference of responsibility from Community Development District 5 originally to the IDA to buy and issue gate transponders was agreed upon during the fiscal year 2015 budget cycle.

The joint board also asked the policy be changed to incorporate inappropriate use of transponders by residents, which could result in deactivation. It also is considering the criteria and process used to distribute new transponders to vendors hired privately by residents.

Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.