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Longboat Key Friday, Jan. 21, 2022 4 months ago

Longboat Key adjusts plan to move up capital projects

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Longboat Key is due to spend $120,000 this year to replace fencing at the Public Tennis Center.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key’s amended five-year capital improvement plan will look a bit different than planned.

Town Manager Tom Harmer explained the reasoning to make changes.

“We knew we had some funding in the general fund that was unencumbered,” Harmer said. “It was above the reserve levels, and we had a capital plan and some capital needs, so that was during the (Oct. 18, 2021,) retreat a point of discussion to say, we can allocate this money for these things.”

During the retreat, Town Commissioners indicated how they would like the town to use the $3,654,228 it is due to receive as part of the $350 billion in COVID-19 relief funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The town plans to allocate ARPA funding toward the sewer line that runs under Sarasota Bay to a mainland treatment plant. Photo provided by the town of Longboat Key.

Commissioners said they would like the town to allocate funding toward the sewer line that runs under Sarasota Bay to a mainland treatment plant, and sea-level rise and stormwater management. Harmer said the town planned to do a stormwater assessment for the Buttonwood Harbour and the Sleepy Lagoon neighborhoods. Town staff plans to present budget amendments for these projects at a later time, according to a memo from Finance Director Sue Smith.

After the retreat, town leaders also decided that the unassigned fund balance in excess of 60 days was at about $651,000, which would be used to move up certain projects in the five-year CIP plan. Since the retreat, the town’s unaudited unassigned fund balance in excess of 60 days has grown to $1,009,989.

“You had instructed us to go back and look at the capital plan and look for ways that we could expedite some projects to fiscal (year) 2022, and actually use some of those fund balance reserves that we have built up greater than the 60 days,” Smith told commissioners.

The Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department is due to receive a new fire truck in fiscal year 2025. File photo

Changes approved by the Town Commission include:

  • Reducing the cost of a new fire truck in fiscal year 2025 by $250,000. The town had requested a ladder truck, but it was changed to a regular truck. It would maintain the town’s current capabilities of two ladder trucks and one fire engine.
  • The $140,000 cost for the Longboat Police Department and Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department mobile data terminals and mobile tablets are getting moved to the Infrastructure Surtax Program instead of being ad valorem funded.
  • Tennis fencing is getting moved up to fiscal year 2022 from fiscal years 2025-2026. The town also added $110,000 to the existing $10,000 budget.
  • The $149,000 cost of the Fire Station 91 roof replacement at 5490 Gulf of Mexico Drive is moved from Sarasota County Surtax funding to Manatee County Surtax funding. 
  • Badge security system at door entrances began in 2018 and was scheduled to continue through fiscal year 2026. The town is due to spend $90,000 to complete the project this fiscal year, and install police station security cameras.
  • Moving up $55,000 for network infrastructure to make improvements to town facilities, including the Town Center and cyber security enhancements.

“This was really (town staff) returning back to the commission to say, ‘Here’s our recommended plan,’” Harmer said.

District 2 Commissioner Penny Gold asked whether the town would consider changing the town vehicles to electric vehicles.

“Right now, we have funding in place for the regular-scheduled replacement of our fleet,” Smith said. “Whether we buy an EV or not, is still yet to be determined and which ones (are) still be determined.”

Smith estimated the town could address Gold’s question about EVs during the fiscal year 2023 budget.

District 5 Commissioner Maureen Merrigan asked why the allocation of $120,000 toward replacing fencing at the Public Tennis Center took priority compared to the town’s other needs.

“We obviously don’t want to replace something that still has a useful life left to it,” Smith said.

Smith also said the Tennis Center’s fencing is in “terrible shape in certain places.”

Federal eligibility rules offer four categories for the ARPA funds: 

  • Replacing lost public sector revenue for government services
  • Negative economic impacts of COVID-19
  • Premium pay for essential workers
  • Improvements in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure

In September 2021, Longboat Key has received about $1.83 million of the total. The town is expected to receive the other half in September 2022.

While the town has until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend the money from the federal government, it must allocate the funds by Dec. 31, 2024.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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