The Sarasota County Commission Tuesday unanimously approved a $1,377,421.85 contract for design and permitting services that sets the stage for the Siesta Beach improvements to be completed by the end of 2014 — 10 years earlier than the original timeline.
However, the commission asked James Harriott Jr., executive director of public works, and other staff to provide detailed information about how freeing up funding for a fast-track beach project would affect other construction plans, including the planned new Gulf Gate Library. Harriott said he would make such a presentation in January or February.
Harriott said he was optimistic staff would be able to find sufficient funding options.
Chairwoman Nora Patterson also asked for tweaking of the parking plans in the compressed construction schedule.
“It looks to me like (in) 2014, during high season, you’re going to have more of a deficit of parking than you actually have today,” she said. “That needs a little work. … I can hear the screams now.”
Patterson also asked whether the county would be losing money by approving the permitting services aspect of the contract Tuesday, if staff could not work out a funding plan for a 14-month or 16-month timeline.
“The contract is predicated on the idea that we would be making the run (in a shorter time), and we would need all those permits,” said Project Manager Curtis Smith.
However, if the compressed timetable did not work, Smith said he would return to the commission to make adjustments in the contract with the firm Kimley-Horn and Associates.
Harriott added: “The permitting work … would be more expensive if we didn’t plan for the 14-month construction time frame and had to redo these plans to get there.”
In his presentation on the new proposed project phases, Smith said the stormwater drainage work is set to begin in the summer of 2012 and be completed by fall. The Southwest Florida Water Management District was willing to work with staff on extending a $990,000 grant to cover about half the cost of that work, Project Manager Spencer Anderson reported last week.
Phase 1 of the beach improvements would start after Easter in 2013, Smith said. It would include renovations of the eastern area of the parking lot and the playground/picnic area. A temporary picnic area would be placed on the beach, approximately at the midpoint in the length of the beach park.
During public comments before the discussion, former Siesta Key Association President Lourdes Ramirez said the picnic/playground area was a key component of the layout for the annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sandsculpting Competition, held in November. When Patterson asked if Smith had considered the Crystal Classic in the planning, he said staff had not done so.
“We will make sure we come up with a workable solution,” Smith said.
That first phase also would include the construction of the new tennis courts and maintenance facility; the current tennis courts would not be demolished until the new ones were ready for use, Smith said.
The new restrooms and concession area on the eastern side of the park would be built in that phase as well.
Phase 2, which would start in the fall of 2013, would focus on the middle of the main parking lot, Smith said. The work would be finished in the spring of 2014.
The third phase, with work under way from the spring to the fall of 2014, would include the last parking lot renovations and the restoration of the beach pavilion, along with the construction of a new concession area and the new public safety facility, Smith said.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta made the motion to approve the design and permitting services contract.