The price tag on the Siesta Key public beach improvements could be reduced by as much as $7 million if Sarasota County adopts a design change, pitched by Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chairman and architect Mark Smith.
Smith, acting as a free consultant, in a Nov. 26 letter to Sarasota County commissioners, presented the results of meetings with Kimley-Horn and Associates and Sweet Sparkman Architects about the controversial costs.
The revised design wouldn’t include the west overlook pavilion, a multipurpose building or enhancements to Beach Road, and after Kimley-Horn adjusted for changes in construction costs, the estimate falls to $14.3 million from the most recent $22 million estimate of the project at its 60% design phase. Last year, commissioners approved a $16.7 million construction budget for the project.
Smith thought the $14.3 million estimate was a conservative figure that could still be cut by $1 million.
There would be more than $2.4 million in contingency funds available to cover unforeseen costs or construction price changes as the project moves forward.
Contractors watching the project could bid higher than the market rate for the project if the estimates given by Kimley-Horn, which have reached as high as $22 million, are too conservative, Smith said.
As chairman of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., Smith had the same concern when the county estimated annual Village upkeep funding to cost more than $200,000.
Commissioners will hear a comprehensive presentation from staff about the beach project Dec. 11.
“There’s a certain rhythm to a project, from the programming through the public input, the design and, finally, the construction,” Smith said. “When you drag it out like (the county) has, you lose momentum — you lose that rhythm.”
Smith also criticized the $1.7 million earmarked for construction engineering inspections and $800,000 for county staff management as redundant.
“If you don’t trust the people you hire, then don’t hire them,” Smith said.
County staff presented Kimley-Horn’s designs without its employees at commission meetings throughout the process. It was at one of those meetings County Engineer Jim Harriott mentioned the $27 million cost estimate that drew rebuke from commissioners after it was reported to the public.
County Administrator Randall Reid said in an email to commissioners that he would have Deputy County Administrator Thomas Harmer prepare a presentation based on Alachua County’s method for completing complex capital projects on time. That method doesn’t allow for continued modifications of designs.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in the room,” Smith said. “You can’t design everything by consensus.”