Four of the seven Longboat Key commissioners tentatively gave the town manager direction to use finer, whiter sand for its beach that could cost taxpayers approximately $40 million to $50 million.
The commission made its decision at its Thursday, May 20 regular workshop, after hearing from its beach engineer that a darker sand option the commission chose last month was no longer a viable option because the sand color might not be consistent.
The finer, whiter sand is also available in a third borrow site from which Manatee County is willing to allow the town to draw sand.
“Clearly this project will be more significant and expensive than what we had in the past,” said St. Denis, referring to the town’s last beach project that cost approximately $25 million.
But Commissioner Robert Siekmann pointed out that residents were not happy with the last beach project and the town should pay more for the sand residents want.
“You have to make a decision on what’s best for community,” Siekmann said. “I would go with fine white because that’s what people say they have wanted for the last seven years.”
Commissioner David Brenner, however, told commissioners he is worried that residents will “march in front of his home” if they spent upwards of $50 million for sand.
“My friends and others are the ones footing the bill for this,” Brenner said.
Siekmann warned the cost-conscious commissioners not to zero in on the project’s cost.
“If we are a high-end community, we ought to be thinking about the best beach possible,” Siekmann said. “I encourage more thought about what kind of community we want to be as opposed to how much money we want to save.”
But others wrestled, however, with the cost of the white sand, which will cost approximately 15% more than sand that is slightly less white and not as fine.
Commissioner Lynn Larson urged the commission they must think about “the estimated bottom line” before she tentatively voted for the most expensive option.
Mayor George Spoll and Commissioners Siekmann, Gene Jaleski and Larson gave St. Denis direction for the whiter sand option.
Vice Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioners Brenner and Hal Lenobel did not support the whiter sand because they wanted more time to think about the two options and poll their constituents.
For a homeowner of a $500,000 house on the west of Gulf of Mexico Drive, his current District A millage cost is $921.90 annually. The fine white sand would cost him $1,060.19, while the less-white sand would cost $783.62 a year.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com.
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