Sarasota County project managers planned a meeting this week with representatives of the Southwest Florida Water Management District with the hope of saving a $1 million grant planned to cover about half the cost of stormwater drainage improvements at Siesta Key Public Beach.
“They’ve been upfront and said that’s not going to be an easy task,” said Spencer Anderson, program manager in the county’s Environmental Infrastructure Office.
The grant must be used by March 31, he said, or the county will lose the funding. “That date is coming up real quick,” he added, necessitating the request for an extension.
Nonetheless, Anderson said, “We still anticipate beginning construction (of the stormwater project) early next year,” possibly even a bit earlier than that.
Referring to county staff, Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association, had said during her organization’s Nov. 3 meeting: “They are going to miss the Jan. 1 deadline” for beginning work on the new drainage system.
Anderson had hoped to present an update to the County Commission this week on the stormwater project. However, he said staff still was working to pull together design-sequencing options for all the planned beach improvements, including the drainage project. It would be Dec. 13, he said, before the
presentation would be ready.
During a Sept. 14 regular meeting, County Commissioner Joe Barbetta had asked Anderson and other staff to explore possibilities for completing the beach park work in a time frame as compressed as 18 months.
“The construction sequencing is very straightforward,” Anderson said. However, he said, staff was vacillating on the aspects of the design services contract for the project, including costs. “It’s just really (about) being able to put something out for advertisement (for bids),” he added.
Anderson said they would discuss Barbetta’s request Dec. 13.
In the meantime, he said, even though staff had been able to work out an agreement with Gulf & Bay Club condominium residents regarding the placement of the proposed stormwater pond at the beach, a few aspects of the design work for the overall project also were under review. The pond itself will cover about two-and-a-half acres, another county project manager, Curtis Smith, said last month. The original design covered a half-acre, Smith said.
If possible, Anderson said, staff would like to add more features to improve the drainage along Beach Road. The public consensus, he said, is that there are flooding issues on that road.
County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson has told SKA members during numerous meetings over the past five years that she receives email and phone calls from residents during times of heavy rain about standing water on Beach Road. She reminds the public, she has said, that Siesta is a low-lying island; therefore, it takes a while for rainwater to drain from that road.
Luckner did point out to the SKA members one optimistic note about her conversation last week with Anderson.
“(County staff) said they would not need to close off any of the existing parking (for construction of the stormwater project at the beach),” she said.