The subject of each e-mail from 37 Key residents to town commissioners last week was the same: We want white sand. Only two e-mails advocated darker sand.
Residents were responding to a memo Town Manager Bruce St. Denis issued May 27 to all residents asking them for their input in the town’s sand-selection process for its beach project.
Apparently, the residents’ messages weren’t clear enough.
At its June 7 regular meeting, the commission chose both types of sand for its 2011 beach renourishment project.
The commission was conflicted over whether to spend $40 million to $50 million for fine, white sand for the Key’s beaches.
The caveat is that if the commission decided not to use the slightly darker, coarser sand, the town would not be eligible for a reimbursement of up to $5 million from Port Dolphin LLC.
Port Dolphin, which has plans to lay a liquefied natural-gas pipeline in the Gulf and connect it to Port Manatee, has agreed to pay the town up to $5 million if it takes (by June 2012) the slightly darker sand that now lies in the pipeline’s future corridor.
Sands Point resident Todd Stern was upset with commissioners for even considering the darker sand option.
“There is no question from the input you received that everyone wants this white sandy beach and people are willing to pay for it,” Stern said. “The community wants the white sugary sand and that’s what we should get.”
L’Ambiance resident Bob White agreed.
“The whiter, finer sand is what people want,” White said.
But the majority of the commission couldn’t let go of the $5 million reimbursement incentive.
Commissioner Robert Siekmann voiced support for using the white sand, while using the slightly darker sand in high-erosion areas.
“I don’t want to lose the chance to be reimbursed by Port Dolphin,” Siekmann said. “Those guys owe us. “
The cost of using both types of sand for the project is expected to cost approximately $40 million to $50 million — the same cost for using white sand only.
But Town Manager Bruce St. Denis noted that the town will be eligible for the $5 million reimbursement by using both types of sand.
Although Mayor George Spoll urged his fellow commissioners to vote for what residents asked for, there was not a consensus for using white sand island-wide.
Commissioner Phillip Younger called the difference in sand “minute in color.”
And Commissioner David Brenner worried about the beach’s cost.
By comparison, St. Denis said that the slightly darker option that would be used for this beach project is not as dark as what was placed on the beach in 2006.
When Commissioner Lynn Larson made a motion for the whitest sand island-wide, only Spoll supported her motion.
Vice Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioners Hal Lenobel, Younger, Larson and Siekmann eventually voted for using both types of sand. Spoll and Brenner did not support the option.
The slightly darker sand, St. Denis said, will mostly be used on the north end of the island from North Shore Road just south of Broadway because the sand will hold there longer.
The rest of the island, for the most part, will receive the whiter sand.
David Miller, a Village resident and the owner of Cannons Marina, was disappointed to learn the north end will get darker sand.
“The white sand is what it’s all about out here,” Miller said. “But I’m glad this option won’t be near as dark as what’s sitting out there now.”
Dave Reploeg, a 33-year resident of Longbeach condominiums, says he is less concerned with the color of the sand.
“White is always nice,” Reploeg said. “But, at this point, I just want a beach back behind my property.”
But not everyone feels that way.
In an e-mail sent to St. Denis on Monday, north-end residents Jim and Gail Sherer wrote: “We believe the town owes the people of the north end of the island the white sand that was promised after the last renourishment.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com