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Fiscal year kicks off several infrastructure projects for Longboat

Preliminary capital expenses include items like interim beach nourishment, subaqueous force main and wrapping up utilities undergrounding.

Aerial view of Gulfside Road in September 2023.
Aerial view of Gulfside Road in September 2023.
Image courtesy of Olsen Associates Inc.
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Longboat Key commissioners met on May 20 for the first budget workshop of fiscal year 2025. 

The workshop focused on capital projects, specifically those that fall into the town's five-year capital improvement plan. 

Town Manager Howard Tipton stated at the start of the presentation that the town is continually looking for ways to save in an environment of rising costs and inflation, and will focus on aligning the budget to the town's strategic planning initiatives. 

“Our success is found in looking at everything we do and getting better, not just the big ticket items," Tipton said. "We prioritize our essential services before looking to add to our plate, we align to our strategic priorities and we focus on maintaining our competitive position with employee wages and benefits and we have to figure out how to absorb the fixed costs that seem to only go up.”

Due to inflation, Tipton said the town expects a $11 million change in capital requests for FY25 - FY28. 

Tipton also shared that real estate values are expected to increase about 8-10% in the region, and the town considered the 8% increase when crafting the preliminary budget. 

Of the projects, utility infrastructure makes up a large chunk of the budget, specifically with the subaqueous force main project, undergrounding and asbestos cement pipe replacement. 

“Utility infrastructure is a huge piece of our budget discussion today, and how we pay for that has some interesting opportunities to look at,” Tipton said. 

The top 10 projects on the priority list starting FY2025 make up 73% of the town's five-year capital improvement plan. From FY25 to FY29, the top 10 projects will cost $108,613. 

The total of the town's five-year capital improvement plan is $148,783,298. 

Of those projects, the top three make up 50% of the five-year plan through FY29. 

Here is a snapshot of the top five projects that will begin in FY25 and have significant portions in the five-year capital improvement plan.  

1. High erosion sand placement 

In FY25, the town plans to use about $299,910 toward interim nourishment at Gulfside Road. 

Director of Public Works Isaac Brownman told commissioners that the area needs to be addressed, and the nourishment will hold the beach until a long-term solution can be determined.

Beach renourishment projects are capital intensive and enhance local tourist attraction. 

This nourishment should rehabilitate a "significant" amount of beach elevation lost in Hurricane Idalia, Brownman said. 

A long-term solution to keep sand in place around Gulfside Road will take time. Brownman said the planning and permitting for a project like that is a lengthy process. 

During the discussion, Mayor Ken Schneier encouraged Brownman to explore more creative solutions for Gulfside Road. 

Over the course of the five-year plan, high-erosion sand placement projects are anticipated to cost $35,499,910. 

2. Subaqueous force main

With an estimated price tag of $31,401,370, the subaqueous force main replacement project is the costliest FY25 project in the town's five-year capital improvement plan. 

Brownman said the town contracted with two companies to get cost estimates and determine a credible range. 

Photograph of the pipe lying on its side at the Town of Longboat Key's Public Works Department. The breach was in the bottom invert of the pipe.
Courtesy image

Though the price is significant, Brownman emphasized that this is a long-lasting project for the town. It's estimated that this force main should last up to 75 years. 

The project will replace the force main that is underneath Sarasota Bay, which carries wastewater from Longboat Key to the mainland. A leak was found in the old pipeline in 2020 and caused about 14 million gallons of effluent to leak out. 

The town already has $1.8 million secured in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and another $3 million from an Omnibus Community Grant. 

That leaves about $26.6 million to be accounted for. Brownman said his department is working to seek more grants and appropriations to contribute to the project. 

The utility rate increase schedule passed in 2021 will also help pay back the cost of this project, Brownman said. 

3. Undergrounding

Brownman said that the construction work and funding for the utilities undergrounding project should be done in FY25, with about $10,405,700 remaining. 

That includes $483,000 to go toward the installation of 40 new backlit street signs along Gulf of Mexico Drive. 

A Wilco Electrical LLC employee works on the town's underground utilities project along Gulf of Mexico Drive.
File image

But Brownman said he made it clear that the crews should not deviate from the switching and energizing of the underground utilities — that should be the priority, he said. 

Longboat Key embarked on the underground utilities project in 2019, and since then the project has experienced several delays to the estimated completion date. 

When finished, the town's overhead power lines will be removed. 

4. Asbestos Cement Pipe Replacement

The asbestos cement pipe replacement project is already underway, and $8,652,267 is expected to be used in FY25. 

The entire project is expected to cost about $9.5 million. Now, Phases 1 and 2 are underway, which accounts for about $5-6 million of the entire project cost, according to Brownman. 

Photo by Carter Weinhofer

The town received a state appropriation for $1.5 million, which means about $8 million is still needed. 

In terms of utility projects, the price of the subaqueous force main overshadows the asbestos cement pipe replacement project, but it's just as important according to Tipton. 

“The subaqueous force main leads the way, but the asbestos pipe replacement in Country Club Shore is no small project,” Tipton said.

County Club Shores was using an outdated material called asbestos cement for its water pipes, which will be replaced with new polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. 

Phases 1 and 2 are the largest and most complex phases of the project, with about 15,000 linear feet of piping. 

5. Flood Mitigation & Resiliency 

The town is pursuing projects to address flooding issues in low-lying areas of Buttonwood, Sleepy Lagoon and the Village. 

In FY25, there's $5,401,011 marked for use toward these projects

Chris Udermann captured pictures of flooding in the Village following a weather event in April 2024.
Courtesy image

For the entire project, cost estimates are $5 million for Buttonwood and $8.5 million for Sleepy Lagoon, while costs for the Village are still to be determined. 

Elements like road elevation and additional drainage structures are common among all areas, but the Village will be a more in-depth project that looks at how to reconfigure that area's whole drainage system. 

Brownman told commissioners that there are many grants available for construction, like the Hazard Mitigation Grants the town already applied for through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

But, grants to go toward design are limited, Brownman said. That's why it's important to use funds for design so the projects are more appealing for future grants. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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