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Siesta Key Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 5 years ago

Standoff for improvements survives

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

The mechanical drill boring into the site of recently demolished housing on Beach Road is a local example of a construction market comeback and economic recovery.

The recovery is good news for many. But, it could be bad news for the Siesta Key public beach improvements — the estimated $21 million project that would swell in price when construction costs recover.

At the final workshop before Sarasota County commissioners approve the 2013 fiscal year budget, Commissioner Joe Barbetta reiterated his plea to start work on Siesta Beach improvements as soon as possible and condense the project’s four phases to, one allowing the county to lock in lower building costs now.

Sarasota County has the renovations, which include four new pavilions and a $2.8 million facelift for the current pavilion, on track for completion in 2024, with phase one of construction starting in 2014. The project is a little more than one-third funded, but stakeholders are eager to get construction started, through financial means or by eliminating unnecessary planned features.

Sarasota County Chief Financial Officer Steve Botelho said by looking at project funding the same way, Sarasota County could save $250,000 by taking advantage of the Federal Reserve’s loose-money policy. That will afford low interest rates for the county to issue bonds to cover part of, or the entire, improvement price tag.

Another delayed project, the $1.13 million Beach Road drainage improvements, would save Sarasota County about $100,000 if combined with the larger beach renovation, said Sarasota County Public Works manager Carolyn Eastwood — that’s 2% worth of savings if paired with Botelho’s borrowing scenario.

Further, the beach-improvement requirements for fill material will cut the 26,000 cubic yards of earth displaced when machines expand a retention pond for the drainage project 28% if the plans are bundled, Eastwood said. That will reduce the amount of land waste expected to pile adjacent to Beach Road, and eliminate 1,500 dump truck trips along narrow Siesta roads.

On the back end, Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mark Smith, a local architect, and other island organization leaders continue to brainstorm ways to chip away overall project prices. He told members of the Siesta Key Association during an August meeting that he met with the architect behind the original design.

When Smith received an itemized list of expenses for the beach improvements more than a month after requesting it from the county, the format proved too difficult to form a recommendation, he explained in an email to the Pelican Press.

Patterson met with Smith, Siesta Key Village Association President Russell Matthes and SKVA board member Cheryl Gaddie the evening following the budget workshop. The Siesta civic leaders requested county staff present the information the same way it was organized for a presentation last year, so a time-series analysis could show why the cost has multiplied four times since originally proposed.

“That’s going to cost someone a lot of time,” Patterson said after the Aug. 21 meeting.

Botelho and Smith are seemingly working toward the same outcome, a renovation that would expand parking at the America’s No. 1 Beach, as named by Dr. Stephen Leatherman. But, the county finance department can’t determine alternative funding options for the project until a final plan is submitted.

“This could still go as a single-phase project,” Botelho said.

But, it could be more than six months until a proposal for alternative funding is brought to commissioners.

“Nothing’s worse than seven or eight years of disruption on Siesta Key — our No. 1 tourist attraction — versus the ability to get this project done all at once,” Barbetta said. “I want to make sure the public knows we haven’t given up on that option.”

Notable expenses in Siesta Key public beach improvements
Description: Cost
Historic Pavilion and concessions expansion: $2,775,000
East concessions and restroom building: $2,000,000
Esplanade enhancements: $1,209,450
Palm trees (795): $596,250
Way finding signage: $250,000
(Courtesy of Sarasota County)


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