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Longboat Key Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 1 year ago

Longboat seeks a share of Sarasota county's oil spill restitution

Those funds could come from the county as part of the federal RESTORE act, enacted after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Sarasota County has money that Longboat Key wants — but the town has no way to ask for it.

Town officials made a formal request to Sarasota County last month for money the county is receiving as part of the federal Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act — also known as the RESTORE act — a policy that formalized penalties to BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But Sarasota County doesn’t have a process in place through which municipalities can seek funding, which will total $6.7 million by 2031.

When “our board decides there is a process, Longboat Key was just putting us on notice that they would like to be a part of that,” said Laird Wreford, coastal initiatives manager for Sarasota County.

That process may not come for years, for the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners has allocated what money the county has already received for a project to improve Ted Sperling Park on Lido Key, Wreford said.

The Ted Sperling Park project uses about one-third of the funding the county is receiving over 20 years. That leaves about $4,422,000 unencumbered.

Longboat Key is the first municipality to seek funding from Sarasota County’s RESTORE act allotment, Wreford said.

“I have every confidence that any project that would be suggested by Longboat Key would be a very valuable project,” Wreford said. “We’ll have to see what sorts of projects will be considered, but we certainly will honor their request to keep them in mind.”

The ultimate decision on where to allocate the funding is up to county commissioners. And although that money is earmarked for coastal improvement projects, Wreford said local governments could make a case to get money for most projects.

The town also asked Manatee County for RESTORE act funding, but all the money Manatee County received has been earmarked, said the town’s Public Works Director, Isaac Brownman

Brownman said he thinks the funds would be best used for a beach nourishment project, a costly and regular project for the town.

“The beach renourishments are such big projects, any little bit would help,” Brownman said.

The town of Longboat Key received $967,931.82 in 2015 as part of a separate lawsuit settlement agreement with BP, all of which was used to reduce the town’s pension debt.

The town’s request last month for a share of the BP pie is the second time in recent months it has sought county money. The town in April received $400,000 from Sarasota County to demolish the Amore building in preparation for building an Arts, Cultural and Eduction Center near the Publix on the island.

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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