Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Longboat Key requests funding help from Manatee for sewer line project

The request came during Wednesday's meeting with the Longboat Key Town Commission and the Manatee County Commission.

  • By
  • | 5:48 p.m. December 1, 2021
Crews began water-sample testing on July 1, 2020, near the site of the sewage spill. Photo courtesy of
Crews began water-sample testing on July 1, 2020, near the site of the sewage spill. Photo courtesy of
  • Longboat Key
  • News
  • Share

Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer recalls what his predecessor Dave Bullock told him when the former county administrator agreed to work for Longboat Key in 2017.

“(Bullock said), ‘The one thing I lose sleep over at night is this wastewater line that goes across the bay,'” Harmer said.

Harmer said he, too, has had nightmares about the town’s wastewater pipeline, which was built in 1973 and broke in 2020, spilling millions of gallons of raw sewage on the Manatee County side about a football field away from the bayshore.

“The fact that we have one, single line that is almost 50 years old, that transports all of our waste to the mainland 24/7, is something you lose sleep over if you’re a manager,” Harmer said.

In response to the June 2020 break and spill, the town is satisfying a state consent order and moving forward with plans to build a parallel pipeline, and the town has asked Manatee County officials to help pay for it. 

“The analysis is still going on as to what the correct fix is, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, we’re going to have to put a plan together and start work and start putting contracts out,” Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier said during Wednesday’s joint meeting between the Town Commission and Manatee County Commission.

Records show the town is planning to spend $21,713,473 on a parallel pipeline by the end of fiscal year 2026:

  • Fiscal year 2022 including carryover: $13,473
  • Fiscal year 2023: $0
  • Fiscal year 2024: $1.4 million
  • Fiscal year 2025: $20.3 million
  • Fiscal year 2026: $0

“Right now we have $21 million that has been identified for the project,” Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said. “Obviously, we’re looking to refine that, and we plan to refine that lower as we get closer, as opposed to higher.”

Brownman cited the town’s increased utility rates to help fund the advancing the redundant pipeline project.

“We’re connected together,” Harmer told Manatee leaders. “I think the pipe is clearly the town’s, but we work together on managing that.”

As part of the state consent order, the town continues work on bypassing, cleaning, repairing and lining a wet well at Master Lift Station D on Gulf Bay Road, which will cost about $182,000. The town plans to spend another $100,000 to replace a 2006 backup generator at the lift station.

Town leaders opted for the projects, which had to be approved by FDEP, instead of paying less --  $188,382 -- in civil penalties and costs.

On Wednesday, Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge asked town leaders how much money they want the county to contribute.

In the short term, Longboat Key requested Manatee County match the town for an appropriation request worth $800,000 total.

“We’re taking this incrementally, kind of like trying to eat the elephant one bite at a time,” Harmer said.

In the coming weeks, the Manatee County Commission will decide whether to match the town’s appropriation request.

Harmer said the town is looking at improving the mainland portion of the pipe, which is adjacent to the Manatee County Golf Course in Bradenton.

“There may be…some options (as) to how we may do that,” Harmer said. “One of the options we’re looking at is potentially lining the pipe where it’d be hard to line the pipe under the bay because it’s too long.” 

Manatee County At-Large Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she wanted a caveat added to any agreement.

“I would want a deal in place that says, ‘If you ever secede, you have to pay us back,’” Whitmore said.

Whitmore’s comments came as part of a larger discussion Wednesday about a state report that outlined the pros and cons if Longboat Key were to move from its current configuration as a two-county municipality to one county. A move into Sarasota County would likely mean lower county property taxes for the town's residents who live now in Manatee County.

The town is due to receive approximately $3.65 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Harmer said the town plans to use a portion of the ARPA funding toward the pipeline project. 


Related Articles