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Part of the driveway at 49 Beach Road collapsed Oct. 29, after the Gulf of Mexico surf ripped away the eroded ground underneath.
Siesta Key Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 5 years ago

County taps Derr for roadway repair

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Jean Furlong’s job of preparing a Siesta Key property for tourists got more difficult when the road in front of it collapsed Monday, Oct. 29.

Landscapers moved greenery further away from the waterline on the property Furlong oversees, which she hopes will help the new tenants navigate to the building. She placed three cones near another crevasse in the pavement last month to help pedestrians and cyclists avoid it.

“I think the county is just as frustrated,” Furlong said.

The darker parts of pavement on the north end of Beach Road are only a few months old and were considered temporary repairs undertaken by Sarasota County.

The recent collapse has county staff ready to hire a commercial contractor for an extensive fix. But, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection stopped Frederick Derr & Co. from beginning repair work this week. The county is now attempting to secure permits to make both temporary solution and a long-term repair work contiguous, said Sarasota County General Manager of Business Operations Tom Maroney.

“We’re probably going to get a little more aggressive with it at this point,” said Sarasota County General Manager of Business Operations Tom Maroney Oct. 29, in a phone interview.

The DEP issued a permit for temporary repairs, after Tropical Storm Debby aggravated the decaying roadway and seawater poured into adjacent yards. But, county staff delayed talks at that time about a permanent repair due to permitting difficulties and cost.

County Public Works employees met with Frederick Derr & Co. employees the morning after the collapse, which included part of the driveway at 49 Beach Road.

After consulting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the county determined the best course of action would be to combine a solution to clear a path for vehicles to reach some of the properties with a long-term repair to slow erosion. County funding is available, as is reimbursement from FEMA, Maroney said, which could solve both problems that delayed a long-term repair option.

“I think because FEMA is involved, we may have a little more luck in getting a timely permit,” said Fred Derr, owner of the commercial contractor that started planning work at the site Oct. 29, which ended in vain.

The county reached out to Derr’s company about a year-and-a-half ago regarding the threatened roadway, and he pitched a roughly $500,000 fix he employed three times on another barrier island.

Derr designed an oversized staircase made of soil-cement, and his firm placed it off the shore of Casey Key to weaken wave intensity 22 years ago. But, getting permitting from the DEP was so difficult that during one of his three revetments on the island, the governor’s office intervened to overturn the department’s stance.

“Their theory is, ‘Thou shalt not harden the beach’,” Derr said.

“Generally, the step-revetment in some areas along the shoreline has worked quite well,” said Sarasota County Coastal Resources Manager Laird Wreford. But, results can differ by location, and a solution to save infrastructure could create environmental problems at the site or elsewhere.

“It’s a very, very narrow tightrope you have to walk,” Wreford said.

The county sought emergency procurement for Derr to start on the first repair phase, but is still waiting for word from the DEP about the project, Maroney said Oct. 31.

“During the emergency procurement process we grab the best people possible to try for the best possible outcome,” Maroney said.

Derr planned to move the street rubble from the roadway into the Gulf to serve as “wrip-wrap,” which is the term coastal contractors usually apply to boulders placed in threatened areas.

Next, the company would lay a soil-cement path to give property owners and tenants access to adjacent driveways, Derr explained.

Maroney said there is currently no timeline for when the DEP will approve construction plans.

“The first thought I had (when I saw the damage) was, ‘I told you so’,” Derr said.

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