The town of Longboat Key’s taxpayers have agreed to pay for their own beach projects for years. Those beach projects were performed island-wide every six to eight years without fail.
The Longboat Key Town Commission and its town manager are rethinking future projects, when they need to be performed and how they are funded.
At the Town Commission’s Monday, June 17 workshop, Town Manager Dave Bullock needed and received direction from his seven commissioners to nix a summer beach project that was 40% more than town staff expected. That project came with a price tag of $13,290,525.50.
Bullock explained that the demand to rebuild the Northeast’s coastline from Superstorm Sandy’s destruction in October, among other variables, led to the lack of bids and the one overpriced bid.
“The only bidder told us he would leave the Northeast for six to eight weeks to do our project, but we would have to pay $5 million to move the dredge down here,” Bullock said. “It’s hard to spend $13 million on something that was supposed to be $8 million or $9 million.”
Commissioners agreed with Bullock’s plan to re-bid a beach project next year that could also use approximately $8 million in federal reimbursement dollars the town received last month from sand losses from Tropical Storm Debby.
It could end up being a much larger project than the one originally slated for this summer.
“Our plan is to combine two (beach) projects with Debby money and perhaps add the north-end structures and give you one larger beach project,” Bullock said.
Translation: A beach project that was once supposed to put sand at the Broadway beach access to Gulfside Road, and from The Islander condominiums to the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort could also include plans for up to three groin structures that would help hold sand on the sand-starved north end of the Key.
On Monday, Bullock and Public Works Director Juan Florensa reported that the state of Florida could approve permits for groins on the north end this summer.
“We are making progress for a permit,” Bullock said.
Bullock also reported Monday he plans to bring back a multiyear strategy for commissioners within the next year that proposes the town be considered for federal money for future beach projects.
The proposal, to which commissioners are open, is a dramatic shift in the town’s beach policy.
Since the 1980s, the town has paid for its own beach projects through beach bonds approved through referendums to get the quality of sand it wants, while not having to wait for federal dollars to come through for beach projects.
Bullock noted that communities all around Longboat Key have access to federal dollars. Anna Maria Island is receiving sand this summer from federal dollars and the city of Sarasota will use federal money for future Lido Beach projects.
“It just makes sense to look into this,” said Mayor Jim Brown.
Florensa also showed commissioners a review of the shoreline both before and after Tropical Storm Andrea hit the shoreline earlier this month. The pictures showed that the storm actually caused sand to accrete in certain sand-starved areas that include the area just south of The Islander Club groins.
Town staff and the town’s beach engineer have reviewed the Key’s coastline and determined that much of the shoreline is in good shape. The assessment of the shoreline is also a shift from past town policy, which called for sand for much of the Key’s shoreline every six to eight years no matter how much sand the shoreline lost.
It’s the town manager’s intent to have town staff prepare a bid next year that allows the town to use the $8,610,483.70 in federal funds the town received from Tropical Storm Debby’s sand losses and add some other sand- borrow options that dredge companies can use to grab sand next year.
“During the first half of next year, we will bid again and, hopefully, receive more competitive bids,” Bullock said.
Commissioners will also review an option at their July regular meeting to consider assessing a beach millage for taxpayers in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget. Taxpayers already approved a beach project for up to $16 million in March 2012 and commissioners are debating whether or not to start assessing taxpayers now or later for the project. The town held off on assessing the beach millage during summer budget discussions last year.