County stormwater engineer offers more details on drainage project for Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue; SKA gets county permission to undertake beach trash collection program; SKA has a new board member; and the SKA is encouraging members to pay renewal dues online
As he had two days earlier before the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA), Sarasota County stormwater engineer Ben Quartermaine presented details about an upcoming drainage project to about 25 members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) on Dec. 3.
This time, however, one of the residents in the affected area, Paul Chadwell, challenged Quartermaine on one assertion and complained that county staff had not given adequate attention to the problem until after Chadwell himself called a local TV station when heavy rainfall in September 2013 produced flooding in Chadwell’s yard up to his thighs.
As he had explained to the SKVA members on Dec. 1, Quartermaine pointed out that the drainage project has been planned to alleviate problems created by the inability of stormwater to drain into the Gulf of Mexico from an area close to the Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue intersection, including the south side of Ocean that drivers see as they head to and from Siesta Village. The accretion of sand and dunes on the north end of the island, Quartermaine said, keep stormwater from flowing out of Lake Banan — west of Higel and south of Ocean — and Fiddler’s Bayou — north of Ocean, which was the normal pattern in the past.
Therefore, Quartermaine continued, county staff has applied to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to obtain a permit that would allow excessive stormwater to drain into the Grand Canal on the east side of Higel.
The plan calls for laying pipes in the ditches between Reid Street and Ocean Boulevard on the west side Higel and on the south side of Ocean.
The drainage system also would be enlarged along Lotus Lane, he added, which is east of Higel, adjacent to the Grand Canal.
The pipes will be covered by bioswales, he continued, which will have landscaping — plants that grow well in sandy soil. Further, Quartermaine noted, the pipes will contain boxes to catch sediment that will filter out of the water, and they will have baskets to catch floatable garbage, which then will be retrieved by county equipment.
In September 2013, he told the SKA members, “We were close to having Ocean [Boulevard] go underwater,” because rainfall was so heavy that month.
SKA President Michael Shay sought clarification about the timing of the work, as he had heard the presentation during the SKVA meeting. “So you’re not ready to go yet?”
“No,” Quartermaine replied. The design of the project has to be completed, and the County Commission has to approve a construction contract, Quartermaine added.
Staff also is pursuing its planning with an eye to concerns about parent pick-up and drop-off of students at The Out-of-Door Academy, he noted. Staff can stipulate that the contractor cease work during those periods if school is in session, Quartermaine added. “I understand that traffic is a very big issue.”
The Out-of-Door Academy (ODA) is located at the intersection of Higel and Reid.
On Dec. 7, I learned, Scott Schroyer, the county’s public works director, sent an email to the County Commission explaining the project details. As for the timeline: Schroyer wrote that the estimated starting date will be in July 2016. He continued that in communicating with ODA’s administrative personnel, county staff members learned that ODA holds summer educational programs, “but these programs generate less traffic than when the regular school year is in full session.” He acknowledged that the SKVA members last week asked that the project not begin before early September 2016, because the tourist season has continued to be busy through Labor Day in recent years. “Therefore,” he wrote, “the optimal time for the construction activities (3 weeks) along Ocean Blvd. and Higel Ave. appears to be late summer, prior to school being in full session. If the project is not ready to be performed during July 2016, consideration will be given to rescheduling the project to July 2017.”
During the SKA meeting, in response to a question about why county staff proposed that the ditch remain in place on Higel south of Ocean, Quartermaine said residents who live along the stretch of road between the Ocean and Reid intersections like the ditch “because it prevents parents from parking there.”
He was referring to people with children in school at The Out-of-Door Academy.
In response to a question about why county staff proposed that the ditch remain in place on Higel south of Ocean, Quartermaine said residents who live along the stretch of road between the Ocean and Reid intersections like the ditch “because it prevents parents from parking there.”
He was referring to people with children in school at The Out-of-Door Academy.
Moreover, Quartermaine noted, stormwater engineers like drainage ditches “because they allow a lot more percolation than pipes do.” He added, “It’s actually a benefit to have an open swale versus a pipe.”
When Quartermaine then pointed out that Lake Banan has a pipe that drains to Ocean Boulevard, Chadwell interjected that water from that pipe flows toward Siesta Village.
“It’s a 12-inch pipe; it drains into Ocean,” Quartermaine responded.
County employees who recently visited the site did not know where the water went, Chadwell stressed, so he tried to show them where the outfall is.
“We have surveyed it now,” Quartermaine responded, referring to that pipe.
The goal is to have the new piping system along Ocean lower than the elevation of the pipe already there but higher than the high-tide mark, Quartermaine continued. The current pipe, he noted, “causes you more harm than good right now.”
After the project is completed, Lake Banan will drain as it should, Quartermaine added. The goal of the new system, he pointed out, “is to make sure the lake doesn’t fill up and stay filled.”
The real benefit of the lake, he noted, is that it can store excessive stormwater.
“What about standing water on Banan [Place] 90 percent of the year?” Chadwell asked. “My house is known as ‘Look for the water.’”
Quartermaine reiterated his earlier remark that the plan calls for the elevation of pipes to the Grand Canal to be lower than the level of Lake Banan.
The runoff into the lake is coming from ODA and Siesta Key Chapel [close to the school], “because they keep building” at ODA, Chadwell pointed out. With less open land into which stormwater can drain, Chadwell noted, the water goes right to his street.
“You’ve described it better than I did,” Quartermaine told him.
Shay suggested Chadwell get Quartermaine’s business card so the two could talk later.
Then SKA board member Deet Jonker asked how the stormwater flowing into the Grand Canal will affect the level of that body of water.
“We’re going to bring it there a little faster, but the volume is not changing,” Quartermaine said of the stormwater.
In response to concerns about trash that collects in the ditches, Quartermaine pointed out that county staff will determine how frequently the baskets will need to be cleaned after the new pipes have been installed. In similar systems, he added, monthly garbage retrieval is necessary. “We have the funding and we have the manpower to do it as often as we need to.”
When Chadwell then asserted that tourists’ needs seem to take top county priority over residents’ problems, Quartermaine replied, “The project was started based on the issues at Banan [Place] and Reid.”
Quartermaine added, “I certainly can spend time in the field with you” to discuss any other concerns about the flooding and the project.
Beach trash collection
SKA President Michael Shay announced during the Dec. 3 meeting that the organization has received permission from the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department to undertake a trial trash collection program at Beach Access 7.
“We have to work closely with them on anything we design,” he explained of county staff members.
The pilot program proposal grew out of SKA meeting discussions regarding regular beachgoers who already collect trash on the beach. The plan is to erect some type of dispenser at Beach Access 7 so people can take bags from it to use as they pick up debris on the beach, he continued.
Board member Joe Volpe has a friend with a design background who came up with a potential poster to accompany the dispenser, Shay added, holding up a sheet with two drawings. One side says, “Enjoy it …” and shows a picnic hamper brimming with food. The second side has the heading, “Remove it,” under which sits the image of a neatly tied garbage bag.
“We have not run this past the county yet for their approval,” Shay told the audience.
Second, he continued, Secretary Joyce Kouba suggested using recycled milk jugs to hold the bags. Shay held one up and pulled a small plastic grocery bag from it. Having spent 30 years in the recycling industry, he pointed out, “This is the kind of idea that I love …”
Because Publix grocery stores have containers where people can return plastic bags, Shay said, “we can get a ready supply” of bags from Publix.
“Again, none of this has been approved yet,” he stressed. “I wanted to throw it out here first and then set up a meeting with Parks and Rec.”
To Volpe, he added, “Nice job, Joe.”
New SKA board member
During the Dec. 3 SKA meeting, Secretary Joyce Kouba introduced a new board member: Dan Lundy.
A New Jersey native, he has been a full-time Siesta resident for the past three years, she added.
Membership drive and annual meeting
In yet another announcement during the Dec. 3 SKA meeting, President Michael Shay said the organization’s annual breakfast gathering will be held on Saturday, March 5, at St. Boniface Episcopal Church.
Sarasota County Commission Chair Al Maio will be the keynote speaker, Shay added.
In the meantime, the organization’s membership drive is under way. Deet Jonker, who heads up that effort, urged members and newcomers to the SKA to pay their 2016 dues through the SKA website. “You will find that you can join online very easily,” he said.
In early 2016, he continued, the organization will send a mailing to all households on the island without a member, with the hope more people will be interested in joining the SKA.
The online payment or renewal of dues “saves us a lot of money in mailing costs,” board member Joe Volpe pointed out.
“And it saves our treasurer a lot of angst in having to handle checks,” Shay noted, adding that he is the primary person taking care of the organization’s funds right now.