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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 7 years ago

Will taxpayers fund a $70 million beach?

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Town Manager Bruce St. Denis will be looking for some sand direction from the Longboat Key Town Commission this week.

In short, he wants commissioners to make a decision on what type of sand the town should use for its 2011-12 beach-renourishment project.

The town’s last beach renourishment project in 2005-06 cost $21 million and included a dual-layer beach of white sand and larger grain gray sand in some areas of the beach, which upset some residents.

But if residents want white sand Key-wide for the town’s next beach project, St. Denis has been told by the town’s beach engineer the project could cost approximately $68 million, or almost $50 million more than the last project.

At its 2 p.m. Thursday, March 25 regular workshop, the commission will receive a beach update from St. Denis and the town’s beach engineering firm, Coastal Planning & Engineering.

Samples of sand under consideration will be available for viewing and inspection by both the Town Commission and the public at Town Hall (see page 2A).

The most expensive sand option is a fine white sand that’s 0.18 millimeters, followed by a medium-grain sand that’s less white and 0.25 millimeters in size. The third and darkest option is a coarse gray sand that’s 0.45 millimeters.

The fine white sand is more expensive, St. Denis says, because the town needs to buy more of it initially and it disappears more quickly than a heavier sand.

In his memo, St. Denis said that the finer white sand that Longboaters prefer could significantly increase the cost of the upcoming project when compared to past projects.

Wrote St. Denis: “The greater cost calls into question whether a referendum for funding a project that is significantly more expensive than what has occurred in the past will be approved.”

St. Denis said that a referendum question for the beach project’s funding will occur next March, with the project beginning in November 2011.

St. Denis says the commission could also approve a different kind of question for next year’s ballot, which would ask voters directly if they prefer a more expensive project for sand that is whiter and finer.

If that question failed, St. Denis says voters could also vote on a lower-cost, sand-project option.

It’s important for the commission to select one of the three sand options at the workshop, St. Denis says, because the town must stay on schedule for its renourishment project. The next beach project was moved up one year to November 2011, in order for the town to qualify for a $5 million reimbursement from Port Dolphin LLC, the company that’s building a natural-gas pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico that’s impacting town sand resources.

Contact Kurt Schulteis at [email protected].

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