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Longboat Key Monday, Apr. 12, 2021 9 months ago

Longboat Key still sorting out Tropical Storm Eta repairs

While some repairs after Tropical Storm Eta are complete, others are yet to be completed.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longbeach Village resident Fred Kagi can recall the flooding his home endured during Tropical Storm Eta like it was yesterday.

“When it came in, all the walls, four feet up all the way around, every room, the entire house,” the lifelong Floridian said of the November 2020 storm that caught coastal residents off-guard not with high winds or torrential rains, but devastating tidal surge from the gulf and Sarasota Bay. “All these doors had to be replaced, so basically the whole house was redone because of the toxic-level seawater coming in over the land.”

Fred Kagi demonstrates about how high the stormwater runoff was inside his home during Tropical Storm Eta.

Earlier this month, Kagi and his wife Carol finished about $80,000 worth of repairs to their Russell Street home. Insurance paid for a good portion of the expenses after the couple met their $5,000 deductible.

“It feels like it’s finally over,” Carol Kagi said.

However, the insurance didn’t pay for the storage of their belongings that weren’t damaged because the couple had to move everything out of their home for repairs. Plus, they had to live for two months in a townhouse in Manatee County.

With the Atlantic hurricane season approaching on June 1, Fred Kagi has stocked up on sandbags for his home. Eta took him by surprise considering he’s endured much more severe storms and hurricanes throughout the course of his life.

“If I had had the sandbags sitting right there, I still wouldn’t have done anything with them because this was a little tropical storm,” Fred Kagi said.

Even after the Kagi family drained the pool twice and bought a new pool filter, it still had an oversaturation of saltwater from Tropical Storm Eta in November 2020. Click or tap on the slider tool on the far right side of the above picture to compare and contrast what the Kagi family's pool looked like on Nov. 12, 2020, compared to April 9, 2021.

Village neighbor Ali Claypoole and her family had similar issues. Claypoole lives on Fox Street while her mom is nearby on Russell Street.

“We’ve been staying in my mom’s house and our house, it’s just been a delay after delay,” Claypoole said.

The Claypoole family also stayed in a few rentals while the homes underwent repairs. She said it was hard to find accommodations for five people and two dogs. Like the Kagis, the Claypoole’s insurance didn’t cover living expenses.

“They were like weirdly season rates. A lot of them [are] very expensive,” Claypoole said. “That part isn’t covered. We were lucky. We had homeowners insurance on both [of] our houses.”

Twin Shores residents Mike and Nicki Bergin had to move into their Canadian neighbor’s condominium when Eta destroyed their home. The neighbor was unable to visit Longboat Key because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nicki and I have been overwhelmed with the daily outpouring of kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity by all in our Twin Shores family,” Mike Bergin wrote in an email.

Joan M. Durante Park repairs

Longboat Key residents aren’t the only ones still dealing with repairs from Eta.

Earlier this month, the Town Commission voted to amend the fiscal year 2021 budget to make repairs to damage caused by Tropical Storm Eta at Joan M. Durante Park.

Commissioners voted 6-0 to set aside as much as $167,143 for the work to repair several boardwalks along the eastern part of the park.

A 213-foot section of a boardwalk and an observation deck in Joan M. Durante Park will get converted to composite.

“The staff would like to upgrade the decking from wood to composite, so there’s an additional charge for that,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said.

Longboat Key Streets, Facilities, Parks & Recreation Manager Mark Richardson said a 213-foot section of a boardwalk and an observation deck will get converted to composite.

The town plans to send out a bid for the work this month. After 30 days, it will take between two to four weeks for the town to award the bid. Ultimately, it depends on the selected contractor’s schedule for how soon the boardwalks will get fixed.

The town submitted an insurance claim for the Durante Park repairs. The insurance company reimbursed Longboat Key for $117,143 after the town met its deductible of $1,144.

The town will use an additional $50,000 from the Parks and Recreation Capital Project Fund, which still has $100,781 left.

Harmer said the balance in the Parks and Recreation Capital Project Fund hadn’t been assigned to any projects.

The town will determine the overall cost of the repairs based on the bids it receives. Any leftover will get put back Parks and Recreation Capital Project Fund.

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman explained why the town wants to use composite to repair the boardwalks.

A 213-foot section of a boardwalk and an observation deck in Joan M. Durante Park will get converted to composite.

“The composite decking allows it to be longer lasting rather than wood,” Brownman said. “It’s either going to be wood or composite, and composite just has a longer life cycle, a significantly longer life cycle.”

The town received quotes of $133,486 and $136,814 for the repairs. It also received upcharge quotes for composite decking materials of $7,933 and $15,600. The quotes the town received did not include engineering and permitting costs.

Before Monday’s decision, the difference between the insurance money provided and the estimated cost of the project left a deficit.

The nine wooden boardwalks not damaged by Eta will remain, Richardson said.

Reporter Nat Kaemmerer contributed to this story.

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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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