Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Town hires legal team for rights-of-way matters

Tampa firm could help guid town in negotiations for new sewer line project.

  • By
  • | 7:00 p.m. May 5, 2021
  • Longboat Key
  • News
  • Share

Longboat Key has hired the Tampa law firm of Gaylord, Merlin, Ludovici & Diaz as the town considers projects that could involve right-of-way acquisitions.

“Obviously, one of those is the wastewater line,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said of a proposed project to build a second sewer pipe from Longboat Key, across Sarasota Bay and western Manatee County to a treatment plant near Conquistador Parkway. 

The project, estimated at $16 million, is accounted for in anticipated spending though land acquisition needs aren't clear. 

“Anytime you need to have an agreement either over public or private property, what does it take to negotiate that?” Harmer said. “What are the considerations that go into that? And, how do we best put it in the right form?”

Harmer mentioned the different types of access the town could need as it continues to deal with the fallout from the June 2020 sewage break that resulted in millions of gallons spilling from an underground pipeline. In April, commissioners approved a pair of environmental projects to satisfy a state consent order.

The state must still review and approve the projects, which include improvements to the wet well at Master Lift Station D on Gulf Bay Road and replacing a backup generator.

Mayor Ken Schneier said he is a proponent of trying to solve any rights-of-way issues without having to buy land.

“With some of the issues in front us, I think it’s important to, as a first step, try to work with this counsel to take advantage of opportunities we have with our existing rights-of-way without looking at acquisition of rights-of-way,” Mayor Ken Schneier said. “Acquisition would be only as a last resort of what we have [if] already is insufficient under whatever our plans may be.”

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney wrote in her memo to town commissioners that the law firm specializes in right-of-way acquisitions.

Mooney and Harmer interviewed the lawyers with the firm: Blake Gaylord, Andrew Diaz, Cary Gaylord, Lorena Hart Ludovici and Kimbel Merlin.

Gaylord, Merlin, Ludovici & Diaz will charge Longboat Key $300 an hour for attorney services and $125 per hour for paralegal services. The rates are less expensive than what the firm typically charges.

“It’s just like we’ve brought in litigation counsel before for a very specific item because that's an expertise that maybe doesn’t sit within the town attorney’s firm,” Harmer said. “And so this right-of-way acquisition is similar to that.”

Last month, the Town Commission agreed to hire Sarasota-based law firm GarciaDell to help evaluate the possibility of filing litigation after the June 2020 sewage break. Commissioners also agreed to hire Jennifer Cowan with the Tampa-based law firm of Bryant Miller Olive to fill in for Mooney as it pertains to the  public hearings connected to final approvals for construction of the Residences at the St. Regis Longboat Key. 


Related Articles