Because of what a Sarasota County Public Works manager characterized as a “game-changing letter from the state,” and the project’s bearing on north county neighborhoods, the Sarasota County Commission agreed March 13 to delay a discussion of a contract amendment regarding the Siesta Key Master Pump Station and Sewer Force Main Project.
The commissioners voted unanimously to take up the matter the morning of March 28. Specifically, they will be evaluating the feasibility of using Red Bug Slough Park as an alternative location for the project’s wastewater-flow metering station. Public Works staff originally had proposed the station be placed on a lot the county had purchased at the southeast corner of the Ashton Road/Lockwood Ridge Road intersection.
However, residents of the affected neighborhoods have complained about the project, even though all the sewer lines will be underground.
Greg Rouse, capital services engineering manager in the Public Works Department, pointed out March 13 that the county had received a letter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, dated Feb. 17, regarding a preliminary review of the county’s proposal to locate the sewer cutoff and diversion facility on the Red Bug Slough property.
In that letter, Grant Gelhardt, environmental administrator for FDEP, wrote, “There appears to be a viable alternative location for this facility. It is our understanding that the county purchased a lot to the south of Red Bug Slough … to construct the meter assembly. Therefore, it appears that the proposal to locate the facility on the Red Bug Slough does not meet our rule requirement … which states that no reasonable alternative exists.”
While Gelhardt added that the county could continue to pursue the matter and that it could “provide an official request and supporting information … at this point in time with the information available, staff would recommend denial of this request.”
Rouse told the commissioners the Florida Communities Trust also had raised concerns about the project.
A March 2 memo from Theresa A. Connor, the county’s director of environmental utilities, to County Administrator Randall Reid, pointed out that the county had purchased the Red Bug Slough site with funds from a Florida Communities Trust grant, which was administered through FDEP.
The sewer project has been necessitated by the deterioration of the Siesta Key Utilities Authority plant on the island. In 2010, county staff worked out an agreement with FDEP to allow the plant to continue operating until 2013.
In a Dec. 15 email to a Sarasota County resident, Commissioner Nora Patterson responded to criticism that has been voiced by Ashton Lakes residents. The sewer project was necessary, she said, “because the (SKUA) plant is in such poor condition and piping the sewage to a newer and fully functioning plant on the mainland is about $10 million cheaper than a redo of the existing plant.”
Moving the metering assembly, she added, “would only cure a potential visual impact, which would not be large since a bit of fencing and landscaping would conceal the metering assembly entirely, regardless of where it is located.”
Sewer work proceeding in stages
The County Commission awarded Stantec Consulting Services Inc. of Sarasota a $265,950 contract April 13, 2010, for preliminary design and permitting work for the Siesta Key Master Pump Station and Force Main Project, which has been planned to pipe sewage from Siesta Key to a regional treatment facility.
The commission then approved a $673,804 contract with Stantec Jan. 25, 2011, for the firm to undertake the final design, permitting, bidding and construction management services for the project.
After residents in Ashton Lakes and Lockwood Ridge Road neighborhoods protested the path of the sewer force main line through their community, Public Works staff last December presented the County Commission an alternative tie-in route and metering assembly location in Red Bug Slough. The park borders Lockwood Ridge Road.
A staff memo suggested that alternative location if the cost of the change did not exceed $50,000. The $36,442 Stantec contract amendment, which was included on the commission’s March 13 agenda, called for the firm to communicate and coordinate the proposed change in plans with residents of the Lockwood Ridge/Ashton Road neighborhoods and people living near the Red Bug Slough Preserve.
Additionally, the contract amendment calls for Stantec to perform geotechnical services.