Siesta Seen

Demolition of former water reclamation facility structures set to begin late this month; county sewer pipeline project scheduled to begin in August; County Commission to vote in late August on A-frame sign change in zoning regulations; U.S. Lifesaving Association cancels Siesta event; and plovers still struggling with nesting

A graphic shows the site of the Siesta Key Master Pump Station and equipment that functioned as a water reclamation facility until April 2018. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With the unanimous approval of its July 7 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the Sarasota County Commission authorized a $1,101,998.75 contract with Cross Construction Services Inc. of Lutz for the demolition of structures at the site of the former Siesta Key Water Reclamation Facility, located on Oakmont Place.

That total includes a 5% contingency, the contract notes, “for unanticipated work within the scope of the project,” and the county must authorize any such expenses.

The initiative is expected to get underway late this month, with substantial completion in November, “weather permitting,” a county staff memo said. Another 30 days will be accorded to the Cross Construction for completion of “punch list” items, the contract points out.

Ethan Tyler Lillibridge, vice president of the company, signed the contract on June 25, the county document shows.

“Residents in the immediate area will be notified by postcard of upcoming demolition activities at least two weeks prior to the start of work,” a staff memo added. The public will be able to see updates by searching on the county website ( for the regular Construction — One Week Look Ahead Report.

Additionally, the memo said, the undertaking is featured on the Projects In My Neighborhood webpage on the county website.

The equipment in the area shaded in pink is to be demolished. Image courtesy Sarasota County

That July 7 staff memo explained, “With the decommissioning of [the water reclamation facility], formerly known as the Siesta Key Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, and construction of the new Siesta Key Master Pump Station, the majority of the remaining infrastructure on the plant site is no longer needed and can be demolished.”

The project will include the removal and demolition of tanks, buildings and aboveground structures “that were associated with the wastewater treatment plant,” the memo added.

The Siesta Key Master Pump Station began sending wastewater to the mainland on April 10, 2018. At that time, county staff members reported that they hoped to advertise the demolition work for bid by early 2019.

The contract the commission approved on July 7 calls for minor improvements to the site, as well, the staff memo continued: construction of new fencing at the entrance to the facility, a new asphalt driveway and sodding of the area after the demolition has been completed.

The expense will be covered by utility rate payments, the memo said. The funding already has been allocated.

On Feb. 17, the memo noted, staff advertised for bids for the initiative. A Procurement Department document provided in the July 7 meeting packet says two other firms besides Cross Construction bid on the job. They were Environmental Holdings Group LLC of Tampa ($1,303,410.28) and Forristall Enterprises Inc. of Bradenton ($1,844,732).

A public meeting about the plans was conducted on Jan. 16 at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, the memo noted.

Another pending project on the Key

A second item on the County Commission’s July 7 Consent Agenda also dealt with an upcoming project on the Key.

The board unanimously approved a $145,721.18 contract with Insituform Technologies LLC to “rehabilitate the gravity main in the Mangrove Point Basin by lining the existing vitrified clay pipe (VCP) using the Cured-in-Place (CIPP) methodology,” a staff memo said. The fee covers all the labor, equipment and materials, the memo added.

A graphic shows the area of the upcoming pipeline rehabilitation project on Siesta. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The trenchless process will be used for the work, the memo said. The initiative is set to begin in August, with completion anticipated in November, the memo pointed out.

In this case, according to the contract, company would be fined $100 per day for failing to reach the “substantial completion” of the initiative within 120 days of starting work. “Substantial completion” refers to finishing up work except for “punch list” items.

Insituform is to line approximately 1,968 linear feet of pipeline with a diameter of 8 inches, plus 1,850 linear feet of vitrified clay pipe of 10-inch diameter.

The work will satisfy the requirements of in-kind penalties imposed on the county in conjunction with a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Consent Order the County Commission agreed to last summer. That order dealt with measures designed to improve the operations of infrastructure associated with the county’s three water reclamation facilities, the memo also noted. The primary goal is to reduce the level of nutrients entering county waterways, as nitrogen, especially, is a source of food for the red tide algae.

After the Mangrove Point basin work has been completed, the memo noted, the life of the pipelines will be increased by more than 50 years.

The basin encompasses property on the east and west sides of Higel Avenue, starting just north of the Little Pond Lane intersection. It also includes a section of Boyd Park, which stands in the triangular intersection of Higel Avenue and Midnight Pass Road. The contract shows an expense of $2,644.50 for Insituform staff to ensure that traffic flow can proceed smoothly while the project is underway. That contract notes that Higel is a major route on Siesta Key.

Two smaller phases of the initiative will run along North Shell road and Cedar Park Circle.

“Residents and businesses in the immediate area will be notified by postcard of upcoming construction at least two weeks prior to the start of work,” the staff memo pointed out. “Further, the contractor is responsible for providing door hangers on affected streets 2-5 days prior to construction,” the memo continued. Construction updates will be provided via the Construction — One Week Look Ahead Report, which is posted on the county website.

The county has hired Insituform for past projects of this nature, including several on the Key. The company’s headquarters is in Missouri.

The company says on its website that it has more than 45 years of experience in rehabilitating pipelines “all around the world using its flagship cured-in-place pipe.”

The work restores structural integrity, reduces infiltration of rainwater, eliminates leaking joints, improves water quality and increases pipeline flow capacity, the website points out.

A-frame parking signs one step closer to approval

A valet service sign stands outside the Lobster Pot at the four-way intersection in Siesta Village. File photo

Yet a third item of business on the County Commission’s July 7 agenda that involved Siesta pertained to a proposed amendment to the county’s Unified Development Code (UDC). That document combines all the county’s land development and zoning regulations.

As county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson explained it, the amendment would enable merchants to erect A-frame signs to direct visitors to available parking locations, either at businesses or those handled by valets. The modification would apply only to the Siesta Key Overlay District, which governs all the zoning issues on the island.

Regular readers may recall that, last year, architect Mark Smith, a long-time leader of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, proposed the private amendment, as allowed during the regular, annual cycle for County Commission consideration of changes to the UDC.

Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson. File photo

Smith sent Thompson a letter from the Chamber in August 2019. In his correspondence, he wrote, “Parking is at a premium on Siesta Key. Visitors to Siesta Key need help finding both parking spaces and valets. These [A-frame] signs would be an aid in navigation and a public service to help get drivers off the road and safely parked. There are plenty of ‘No Parking, Tow Away’ signs on Siesta Key. We need positive signs that help visitors.”

The staff memo provided to the commission in advance of the July 7 meeting said, “The signs will contain no advertising messages.” Reinforcing what Smith wrote in his August 2019 letter, the memo added, “The signs are to serve as wayfinding for visitors to readily know where parking is available. Staff supports this proposed amendment.”

During Thompson’s July 7 presentation, she noted that the UDC went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. On Nov. 6, 2019, she continued, staff presented the commissioners a summary of proposed amendments, which included four that had been privately initiated.

No board vote was required this week, Thompson added. A second public hearing has been planned on Aug. 27, she said. Then, the commissioners will decide whether to approve the proposed A-frame sign amendment.

Another ‘victim’ of the pandemic

Last week, the News Leader learned that another installment of U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA) competitions had been scheduled to take place on Siesta Public Beach this month. It was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara Nealeigh, the media relations officer for the county’s Emergency Services Department, explained that the decision was a collaborative one, involving Sarasota County Lifeguard Operations, the U.S. Lifesaving Association and the Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association.

The USLA events afford an opportunity for camaraderie as well as participation in a variety of events that showcase the skills of lifeguards. Sarasota County team members have proven victors in more than a few events over the years.

The last time the USLA conducted its Southeast Region Lifeguard Championships on Siesta was in July 2016, the News Leader learned, based on online reports. The event also was held on the island in July 2011.

However, the event planned on Siesta this year was the Florida State Surf Lifesaving Championships. On June 23, the USLA Southeast Region posted an announcement on its Facebook page about the decision to cancel that competition, “in light of the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations.” It added, “[W]e believe it would’ve been impossible to host a safe event.”

This is an image from the USLA Facebook page. Image courtesy USLA

One person who commented on the post wrote, “It’s hard to run with your mask on. Stay safe, everyone!”

Mike Holderness, who owns Siesta Beach Resorts and Suites in Siesta Village, copied the News Leader on a June 23 email he sent to County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, complaining about the cancellation. Holderness noted that county representatives had been working on the planning for the event for more than a year. His employees, he added, were counting on the reservations of participants to provide a boost amid the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.

The USLA “is America’s nonprofit professional association of beach lifeguards and open water rescuers,” its website explains. “The USLA works to reduce the incidence of death and injury in the aquatic environment through public education, national lifeguard standards, training programs, promotion of high levels of lifeguard readiness, and other means,” the website adds.

More woes for the plovers

A snowy plover stands over eggs in a nest on Siesta in late June. Photo courtesy Kylie Wilson

In the course of her past three updates, Kylie Wilson, coordinator of the Audubon Florida Bird Monitoring & Stewardship Program, has offered more of a mix of good and bad news regarding the nesting efforts of Siesta’s snowy plovers.

On June 21, Wilson pointed out that two pairs of plovers were still attempting to nest on the beach. “One female was looking particularly gravid last week and this week she finally laid an egg! It was a one-egg nest as of Friday.”

“Gravid” is to a bird what “pregnant” is to a human female.

Then Wilson wrote that a recent initiative had been aimed at tackling the continuing issue of dog owners allowing their pets on the beach, in spite of a county ordinance that forbids such activity — because dogs threaten the beach-nesting birds and prompt plovers, especially, to abandon nests even if eggs may be close to hatching.

“This past week,” Wilson noted in that June 21 update, “I did notice fewer dog tracks along the beach! Hopefully these efforts will continue to educate the community about the rules regarding dogs on the beach.”

In her next update, on June 28, Wilson noted, “Our fabulous Snowy Plover momma is still tending to her nest near Access 10! The first egg she laid was likely predated but she re-nested in a new scrape very near the original and has been on her two eggs for nearly week now!”

A male snowy plover scrapes a new nest on Siesta in mid-June. Photo courtesy Kylie Wilson

Literally, the birds scrape the beach to create an indentation where the female lays eggs.

“She still has a ways to go,” Wilson continued, as it typically takes 25 to 28 days for eggs to hatch.

Then, in her July 6 report, the news took a different turn: “Sadly, the plover nest on Siesta failed earlier in the week.”

In reviewing footage from a camera set up to record activity around a nest, Wilson added, she saw crows perched near the nest; shortly after that, the plover stopped incubating the eggs.

Nonetheless, Wilson wrote, “The plover pair was still present in the same area over the weekend and may try again to renest.”