City seeking about $30 million in state loans to proceed with final phases of Lift Station 87 project

Osprey Avenue could reopen to traffic as early as July

A rendering shows the design of Lift Station 87 in Luke Wood Park. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

As the City of Sarasota’s Utilities Department director put it: “We’ve been saying December of 2020; we’re still looking at December of 2020.”

Mitt Tidwell was speaking of the timeline for completing the Lift Station 87 project, which will include the construction of a new facility in Luke Wood Park near downtown Sarasota.

As for the related reopening of Osprey Avenue to traffic: July is the anticipated timeframe for that, Tony Centurione, the water resources, utilities and environmental engineer in the Utilities Department, told the city commissioners on March 6.

The old microtunnel shaft had to be removed to enable a crew to install the new shaft. The contractor excavated inside the old shaft and removed the bottom slab. Photo and information courtesy City of Sarasota

“The shaft we have at Mound [Street] and Osprey [Avenue] is probably the last thing that we finish,” Tidwell explained. “So as long as we still have that large hole in the middle of the road, we will not want to reopen Osprey back to full traffic.”

On March 6, the City Commission took two unanimous votes to keep the lift station project on schedule. It adopted resolutions calling for the city to use state loans to cover the bulk of the remaining project costs — and at very low interest rates, as Tidwell pointed out.

The first loan application the board approved is for $1,623,199 from the state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program, with an anticipated fixed 20-year interest rate of 1.18%. The annual debt service payments will be about $91,152, Tidwell said.

The money would be used for new drinking water lines in the neighborhoods where the city also will be installing new sewer lines for the lift station project, City Manager Tom Barwin explained, indicating it made sense to undertake both projects concurrently.

The lines will be along Alta Vista Street, Pomelo Avenue and Pomelo Place, Tidwell added.

Project details are provided on the City of Sarasota’s webpage dedicated to Lift Station 87. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The second application will be for $28,577,830 from the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, with an expected interest rate of 0.289%, also for a period of 20 years, Tidwell noted. The annual debt payment on that loan will be approximately $1,470,756, based on a memo Tidwell provided the board in advance of the meeting.

The funds will be used for the construction of the wastewater and reclaimed water facilities that comprise most of Phases II and III of the project, the memo notes.

Angie Brewer. Image from LinkedIn

Because of changes in the state program, a borrowing cap of $25 million has been established for that type of loan, Angie Brewer, CEO of Angie Brewer & Associates of Bradenton — a consultant to the city — explained to the commission. However, she pointed out, the city was first on the funding list this year and, she has been told it will have the same position next year. Therefore, she said, the full $28 million should be covered. “It’s effectively all approved,” Brewer added.

Step by step

During his March 6 presentation, Tidwell noted that the microtunneling under Hudson Bayou was completed a few weeks ago, on Feb. 7. The rest of the microtunneling is expected to be finished by June 26, with restoration of the affected areas completed by July 26.

The $7.8-million expense is being covered by revenue received for the city’s utilities services.

“Everything has gone as planned,” Barwin added. “The [Osprey Avenue] bridge, which is monitored carefully, hasn’t fluctuated a millionth. … This was the big linchpin.”

At Barwin’s behest, Centurione explained to the board that the sewer line under the bayou is enclosed in steel casing that measures 60 inches in diameter. The pipeline itself is made of PVC, Centurione added, and it has been encapsulated by concrete within the casing.

“It probably won’t be able to fail,” Barwin noted of the line.

The microtunneling machine has a powerful cutting head. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

As Barwin pointed out, the city is still in litigation with the firm that previously handled the project, AECOM. “There is clear evidence … the project suffered from faulty engineering by AECOM,” he said of the original microtunneling plan.

In regard to the litigation, Barwin continued, “We’re very confident that we should recover every bit of the cost expended on the first, false start.”

If AECOM had proceeded with its plan as designed, he added, the microtunneling would have dug into the bridge and the pipes would have ended up in Hudson Bayou.

Phase II of the Lift Station 87 project will entail the construction of the concrete building in the park, Tidwell continued. The specifications for it have been completed, he added, and they are expected to be advertised for bids by early April. If all goes as planned, he said, the proposed bid award should come before the commissioners in July.

The construction work is expected to take 30 months, he said, ending in December 2019.

Commissioner Suzanne Atwell. File photo

Phase III involves the laying of the new water, wastewater and reclaimed water lines along Osprey Avenue, Alta Vista Street, Pomelo Avenue and Pomelo Place, Tidwell noted. That segment of the project has reached the 90% design mark, he added. The estimated cost of that segment of work is $5 million.

Given the 12-month timeline for Phase III, he noted, the project should be finished in December 2020.

“You’re doing such a great job,” Commissioner Suzanne Atwell told Tidwell and his staff. “This is phenomenal, what we are doing. … It’s been fraught with a lot, but, boy, it’s coming together beautifully.”

After the new lift station and all the related infrastructure has been completed, wastewater flow will be redirected to it from the city’s Lift Station 7, the project website explains. The latter aging facility repeatedly spilled wastewater into the bayou years ago, leading to the city’s agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to replace Lift Station 7.