On March 7, County Commission to be asked to approve another $7.7 million in funding for the initiative
Sarasota County staff’s decision to push back the deadline for bids for the South Siesta Beach Repair Project, in an effort to garner more interest from companies, may not have achieved its goal, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
The county’s Jan. 13 solicitation had set a Feb. 15 deadline for bids to be opened. However, as the News Leader reported in its Feb. 17 issue, the county’s Capital Projects Department staff members pushed back the deadline to March 1 because they had received only one bid as of Feb. 15.
The News Leader filed a public records request around 2:30 p.m. on March 1, when county staff was expected to open the bids. The News Leader asked whether it would be possible for the Procurement Department staff to release information about the number of bids received and their amounts.
On March 2, the Public Records staff sent the following statement to the News Leader from the Procurement Department: “Due to this bid still being in the review process, no information can be provided at this time.”
However, during the March 2 Siesta Key Association meeting, Director Robert Luckner told the members present that it was his understanding that two bids were submitted.
More information about the situation is likely to be available on March 7, during the next regular County Commission meeting. The agenda includes a staff presentation during which the commissioners will be asked to appropriate an extra $7,709,200 for the South Siesta project and then authorize County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to approve a contract for the work that does not exceed $11 million.
A county staff memo in the agenda packet reminds the board members that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management negotiated with county staff a project that would repair storm damage inflicted on the south Siesta shoreline by Hurricane Hermine when she passed through the Gulf of Mexico only about four months after the second renourishment of that area of beach was completed, in late April 2016.
The decision was made to use a truck-haul project for the repairs, with sand from an inland source approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the memo notes. The plan was based on “the high cost for mobilization of sea-going dredge vessels,” as well as the much smaller volume of sand needed for the initiative, compared to the cubic yardage for the 2016 renourishment, as Curtis Smith, the project manager, has told Siesta Key Association (SKA) members.
The 2016 initiative saw 713,563 cubic yards of sand spread over approximately 2.1 miles of the south Siesta shoreline, including Turtle Beach. The repair project calls for about 92,000 cubic yards of sand.
Because this will be the last Hurricane Hermine project for which FEMA will provide funding assistance, Smith said on Dec. 1, 2022, the agency wants to see the project completed before the end of June this year. Previously, staff had been working on a timeline calling for the undertaking in 2024, as the News Leader has reported.
However, as the county memo for the March 7 meeting also points out, “Given concerns about the timing of this project’s construction this spring due to various factors, including but not limited to nearby large-scale construction projects and the milling and resurfacing of Midnight Pass Road north of Stickney Point Road, the County has submitted a fourth time extension request [to FEMA]. Further, the County’s federal legislative delegation members have been involved in obtaining another time extension. The extension sought is April 30, 2024, consistent with the County’s request last year.
“Notwithstanding the possibility of an extension to April 30, 2024,” the memo adds, “the currently authorized period of project performance is until June 30, 2023. Therefore, the County continues to expeditiously advance the project to meet that deadline consistent with our current funding agreement …”
Siesta Key Association members have decried the timing of the repair project, stressing that the expected 100 trucks a day carrying the sand would have to travel to and from the busy southern portion of the Key at the height of tourist season, when traffic congestion is at its worst. SKA leaders have joined residents in questioning whether a contractor could even complete the work before sea turtle nesting season officially begins on May 1. Yet, the Capital Projects staff has emphasized that the shoreline construction has to be finished by that date, to comply with state regulations imposed to protect the turtles and hatchlings.
The project limits extend from “barely up into the Sanderling Club rock revetment system [to] about 250 feet or so south of the last house on the south part of the Key,” Smith of Capital Projects told SKA members on Dec. 1, 2022. The trucks would travel through Turtle Beach Park to reach the beach.
The March 7 county staff memo further explains that the engineer of record for the project, Geosyntec Consultants — which has offices in Tampa, Clearwater and Boca Raton, among other Florida locations — has estimated that the construction cost will be $5.7 million. Nonetheless, the memo continues, recent bids received by the Town of Fort Myers Beach for similar work” ranged from $7,559,840 to $8,797,200.”
The county contract with Geosyntec called for that company to receive $373,248.60.
The March 7 memo does not mention any funding assistance from the state, as county Environmental Protection Division staff originally had anticipated.
The memo adds that the county will use $831,149 from its Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue and that staff is expecting the FEMA Hurricane Hermine Public Assistance fund to pay $6,878,051.
The March 7 commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the R.L. Anderson Administration Center, located at 4000 S. Tamiami Trail in Venice. Based on the structure of the agenda, it is likely the session will conclude by late morning or early afternoon.