While the Town Commission has been kicking the can down the road, avoiding the real work that is intended for giving our beachfront citizenry the sandy vistas they are wishing for and demanding, prices are escalating, prospective contractors are becoming more wary and contributing funds are drying up.
Since 1993 — the onset of the stewardship the town assumed for renourishing the sandy strand that separates our dry land from the Gulf — the cost of a cubic yard of sand has escalated six-fold. The erosion of the newly placed sand has become more frequent and severe and now a return to hard structures has become the costly new vogue.
So far, we have borrowed — and paid back — almost $30 million in bonds. The interest alone on this bonded indebtedness has cost the town in excess of
$5.5 million. Of course, this amount, plus the principal on that small portion of the expense that has actually been bonded, has been borne proportionally by both the beachfront properties and the inland properties — 80% for the beachfront, 20% for the inland. This 80/20 promise was what influenced the original vote and subsequent approvals for additional bonding.
But, this was only a small portion of the actual monies our town expended. The major portion of renourishment costs was spread equally over our entire tax base. These funds either came from other town fiscal accounts or from contributions by other governmental entities. These expenditures also include maintenance, monitoring, engineering and legal costs not directly attributable to actual bonded programs.
As this situation compounds and suitable sand gets more rare and expensive and more hardened structures will be required to satisfy the beachfront properties, the town will be in dire straits. Maybe, in all fairness, the town should now also obligate itself to provide stewardship for our many miles of seawalls, which are also deteriorating, but also stabilizing our island and contributing to the general ambience. Where does it end?
Does it make more sense that longtime Colony Beach & Tennis Resort owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber built his own Makepeace groin that stabilized the Colony’s beach (and defended it against being ripped out in the euphoria surrounding our first “Sand or Seawalls” extravaganza)? Contrast that with the town’s expense in constructing a groin to enhance The Islander’s beach and now being obligated to restore the beaches at Villa di Lancia and En Provence because of the interruption caused by the groin to the normal north to south littoral drift.
If present and future commissioners are so gung-ho about stewarding and manicuring our beach, it might be prudent if in the future we elect only those King (or Queen) Canute wannabes who can demonstrate their proficiency with shovels and wheel barrows. Shoveling sand against the tide is continuing to be an unrewarding activity. Give the beach a chance to recover by itself and let Mother Nature and the owners of beachfront properties recreate the silky white sands we had back in pre-renourishment days.
Bradford Saivetz is a Longboat Key resident.