Longboat Key taxpayer warning: The upcoming beach project isn’t going to be cheap.
In fact, the price tag of the project, which will cost up to $40 million, might cause some controversy, according to Town Manager Bruce St. Denis.
St. Denis warned approximately 30 people in attendance at the Saturday, Oct. 16 Federation of Longboat Key Condominium Association meeting at Bayport Beach & Tennis Club that the town’s upcoming 2011-12 island-wide beach project will most likely cost twice as much as the last beach project.
The last beach project, which was completed in 2006, cost $21 million. The possible $40 million project will start in November 2011.
“The sand the Town Commission chose is a high-quality sand people associate with having a great Longboat Key beach,” said St. Denis, who explained that the cheaper, coarser gray sand the town
previously chose wasn’t popular with residents.
“The problem is we will need to pay for more white sand because it blows away and washes away quicker,” St. Denis said.
The state will also not pay for 22% of the project cost, as it has done for the town’s last two beach projects.
“The state’s broke, and we will not get any reimbursements to help us this time,” said St. Denis.
St. Denis did note that the town will receive $5 million from Port Dolphin LLC, a pipeline company, if it retrieves some of the white sand before the company lays a natural-gas pipeline on the bottom of the Gulf.
The town manager said he expects controversy and more discussion island-wide regarding the beach project, especially when project bids are revealed next year.
“What I hope people understand is if we are going to have a beach, we have to have a regular maintenance program to keep this beach,” St. Denis said. “Every year we lose sand. If we defer the project, we lose 250,000 yards of sand a year. Every year you defer it, the more the project will cost.”
St. Denis said he and members of his staff are planning to attend local condominium and community meetings early next year to alert people about the project before the town’s residents vote for the beach project on the town’s March ballot.
“We need to have a great beach and people want the fine, white sand,” St. Denis said. “We have some hard decisions to make, but the past, present and future of the Key includes the beach and how we want this island to look aesthetically in the future.”
Town manager update
Also at the Oct. 16 Federation of Longboat Key Condominium Association meeting, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis made the following statements:
“We are planning another Citizens Academy every Wednesday in January. We had good attendance at the last one, and it helps residents understand what your town is all about. I hope you all attend.”
“We are having our first triathlon next week. So your public works director and police chief leaned on FDOT and they agreed to get all the bike lanes done by next Sunday. It’s their main paving priority on the south end of the Key right now.”
“We have breathed some new life and energy into our departments. We hired Chief Paul Dezzi as your new fire chief and made some recent promotions. We have a new three-year contract with the police officers now. Hopefully, we can get past some issues with the fire department to create a contract. The fire department does a great job, and we are still talking with them and hope to work the issues out.”
“The town has appointed a subcommittee that brought some local people to come in and take a look at our departments. They are making some excellent suggestions and, as I expected, I think, for the most part, they are very impressed with our operations here.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.