Beach renourishment: $17 million. Underground utility lines: maybe $49 million. And now this: As much as $3.5 million for a new fire station. It’s the price for paradise.
You have heard the old line: “Every time you get a nickel ahead, a shoestring breaks.” Or more apropos: “When it rains, it pours.”
So now the 30-year-old Longboat Key south firehouse is crumbling, and that raises the dilemma that often accompanies old buildings:
Can we patch and hold off? Or will we just keep throwing good money after bad? Is the unavoidable now — time to swallow hard and build new?
The way the town staff has laid out the firehouse options, the town can renovate for $2.33 million to $2.64 million, or it can tear down and build new for $3.25 million to $3.53 million.
Doing nothing appears not an option.
This is not the news Longboat Key’s Town Commission and taxpayers wanted, especially knowing what other big expenses are about to hit at the same time. You know the list:
- Issuing up to $16 million more in already approved bonds to renourish the beach. The total price tag for three projects this year is expected to top $17 million.
- Converting Gulf of Mexico Drive aboveground utility lines to underground lines, $25.85 million.
- Maybe converting neighborhood aboveground utility lines to underground lines, $23.85 million.
- Continuing to pay on the town’s outstanding long-term debt, which next year will fall below $13 million (see box above).
Altogether, the town’s outstanding debt has the potential to increase 643% in one year if the second underground referendum passes and the Town Commission opts for a new two-story firehouse.
Suffice it to say Longboat Key property taxes and assessments will be going up. If the town’s base millage rate was 1.636 in 2005 with $21.6 million in long-term debt, you can predict base rates will top 2.2 mills, not to mention the addition of the assessments for the utility lines.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. Longboat Key residents who live in Sarasota County will be asked to approve about $170 million in bonds for new and upgraded county facilities.
All of this will put pressure on current and future commissioners to be wary of other big dreams, like town centers next to Publix. None of us knows, for instance, when that inevitable recession is going to hit.