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  • | 5:00 a.m. March 2, 2011
  • Longboat Key
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Big decisions never seem to come easy on Longboat Key. And it always seems reaching those decisions is a excruciatingly painful, frustrating process. People sometimes joke they hope the Longboat Key Town Commission never has to vote on calling the fire department for a five-alarm fire. We’d all be crispy critters by the time the commissioners made a decision.

The truth is, however, much of the commission vetting that taxpayers must endure is a good thing. Hasty decisions often can be bad decisions. It’s better — however painful — to have our town fathers grind through all of the details, options and “what if’s.” That’s their job.

In this vein, the Town Commission did well arriving at the question on the town ballot for next Tuesday’s election. Voters are being asked to approve the issuance of not more than $16 million in general obligation bonds to finance much-needed beach protection on the threatened northwest end of the Key, as well as some ongoing sand replenishment in certain “hot spots.”

They came a long way, baby.

Surely many of you recall when discussions began, the town manager talked about a total renourishment and the construction of structures that could reach $40 million, almost doubling the cost of the previous renourishing in 2005.

This, of course, didn’t go over so swell, especially as Longboaters continued to feel the effects of the recession. Indeed, when Town Manager Bruce St. Denis began making a case for the $40 million beach renourishment and protection program, he actually triggered a good outcome. As most people respond when the doctor advises major surgery, Longboat commissioners and residents asked the obvious questions: Are there less expensive, better alternatives?

What Longboaters learned was valuable:

• There are other less-expensive anti-erosion options than renourishment, but their efficacy for beaches similar to Longboat Key is unproven.

• We also learned that, contrary to what some people believed, Longboat Key has been following a well-thought-out, comprehensive beach-maintenance program since 1993. What’s more, we learned from two of the state’s foremost beach experts that Longboat Key’s maintenance program over the years has been among the most effective in Florida and is regarded to an extent as a model of what to do.

One of those experts, Paden Woodruff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, also told town commissioners that in his three decades of helping Florida’s beach communities with erosion he has seen it all. Every town thinks it can devise a better less-expensive mousetrap, Woodruff said, but none of them ever works. Maintenance and renourishment are the tried and true methods.

We’ll concede that much, although the one alternative we would have liked to have seen tried on Longboat Key is that of Sarasota engineer Fred Derr, the man credited with saving large portions of Casey Key without having to dredge an inch of sand. Maybe another time.

For now, the plan the commission has outlined for this bond issue makes a lot of sense. Assuming the bond issue is approved, here are the steps:

• March 2011 (not contingent on the bond issue) — 133,000 cubic yards of sand will fortify threatened property at the north end of the Key.

• 2011-2012 — Sand will replenish the beach at the hot spots extending from Whitney Beach to Gulfside Drive and from just north of the Islander Club to just south of Seaplace.

• Spring 2012 — Additional sand will be poured a second time at the threatened north end to replenish what beach engineers expect to be eroded over the next 12 months.

• 2013 — Construction will begin on protective structures for the north end, including a terminal groin at the northwest tip of the Key and, in all likelihood, on two permeable groins farther south.

All of this is not the complete comprehensive renourishment and rebuilding the town manager originally wanted. His rationale was that, even though it would have totaled between $36 million and $40 million, that amount would end up being less than a piecemeal effort over several years.

Still, the compromise that ended up on the ballot will accomplish a lot. What’s more, there is a good chance the town may be able to cut its bond borrowing from $16 million to $8 million by using funds from other sources — $5 million from the Port Dolphin project (if it proceeds) and $3 million from the county infrastructure surtax.

Longtime Longboaters know that, if you choose to live on Longboat Key, beach maintenance is a given. How that is accomplished is important. On this year’s bond vote, residents should feel satisfied that the commissioners and town staff came up with a good, rational plan.

We recommend: Vote yes.

+ Commission terms: ‘Yes’
The second question on the Longboat Key ballot may strike voters as odd, perhaps confusing — especially for those who are unfamiliar with its genesis and background.

You might describe it as an “inside-baseball” charter amendment that means more to sitting commissioners than anyone else.

About five years ago, town commissioners found themselves disagreeing over what constitutes a commission term, according to the town charter.

After Commissioners George Spoll, Peter O’Connor and Lee Rothenberg were appointed at various times to fill unfinished terms of other commissioners, questions arose over whether the partial terms served should be counted toward their serving three consecutive two-year terms, which is the town’s legal limit.

The result of all this was that commissioners voted to give Rothenberg the opportunity to run for office in 2010 (he was defeated), even though the town attorney said the charter wasn’t altogether clear on whether he legally had the right to run for office again.

Confused? It’s understandable.

Suffice it to say the ballot question should help resolve the ambiguity that exists in the current charter.
We recommend: Vote yes.

+ Tony Blair will be back
We’re told former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his wife Cherie Booth and their 11-year-old son enjoyed a pleasant holiday at the Longboat Key Club and Resort two weekends ago.

Blair and his family arrived Friday, Feb. 18, and stayed until after he delivered his evening Ringling Library Association Town Hall speech Wednesday, Feb. 22.

It took some coaxing to come here, we’re told. At first, Blair turned down the invitation. When former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice heard Blair said “no,” she called him and urged him to come. Rice spoke here last year and apparently raved about her stay at the Key Club and Sarasota. Judging from Blair’s own comments about the Key Club, don’t be surprised if you see him again. He’ll be the one with the accent.


Shall Longboat Key Beach Erosion Control District A issue not exceeding $16,000,000 general obligation bonds, bearing interest not exceeding the maximum legal rate when sold, maturing in not exceeding 20 annual installments beginning the year after issuance, pledging the district’s full faith, credit and unlimited taxing power, to finance erosion control and sand for the district’s northerly Gulf beaches, pursuant to resolution 2011-02 of the Town Commission, ex officio as governing body of the district?

Shall the charter of the town be amended to provide that a partial term for any commissioner of more than one (1) year shall be counted as a term under the three consecutive term limitation provided for in the town charter?



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