Emergency Lido Key renourishment project expected to begin by Nov. 15, city manager tells commission

Barwin authorized to sign contract with dredging firm after contract completed

(Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 7 to correct information about the contractor chosen for the project.)

Sandbags line the Lido Key shoreline in June. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

With unanimous support from the Sarasota City Commission, a short-term renourishment project on South Lido Key is expected to get underway by Nov. 15, based on information provided this week by City Manager Tom Barwin.

The city’s Purchasing Department staff had not had time to vet the two bids for the project, which were opened at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 — the same day of the City Commission meeting — City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw told the board members. However, she assured the commissioners that the city has sufficient funds to cover the Lido project even if the lower bid is not deemed “the most responsive and responsible,” in accord with local government procurement language for awarding contracts to firms.

DavisShaw pointed out that Coastal Dredging Co. of Hammond, La., had submitted the lower bid: $3,943,000. The second bid was from Weeks Marine Inc., whose corporate headquarters is in Cranford, N.J. Weeks Marine’s bid was for $4,825,000, DavisShaw said.

Although staff normally would be bringing a contract to the board for approval after the bids were vetted, she explained, because of the emergency situation on Lido, staff was hoping the commission would approve a motion authorizing City Manager Tom Barwin to execute the contract after the review of the bids was completed.

“We need to get the beach stabilized and protected,” Barwin pointed out.

In late May, Barwin declared a State of Emergency on South Lido and worked with staff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to allow residents and businesses to use sandbags to protect property on the shoreline, which has seen severe erosion over the past couple of years.

On April 2, the City Commission approved spending $390,094.50 on a contract with APTIM of Boca Raton to handle the consulting work for the short-term Lido project, which will use sand from New Pass.

A graphic shows part of the design specifications for the renourishment project. Image courtesy FDEP

In early March, DavisShaw toldThe Sarasota News Leader she estimated the total cost of the undertaking would be between $2 million and $3 million. However, she explained that the expense would depend on the volume of sand to be dredged, so the figure would be refined later.

A city document provided to the FDEP in early June put the expense of the emergency project at $3.5 million, with the city and FDEP each expected to pay $1,350,000.

On Sept. 17, when Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie asked how long the bid review would take, DavisShaw responded that the work usually can be completed within a week to a week-and-a-half.

“We’ve already started that process,” David Boswell, general manager of the Purchasing Department, explained. After APTIM has reviewed the scope of work to ensure it conforms to the city’s plans and staff verifies that Coastal Dredging has met all the necessary qualifications — including demonstration that its licenses are all up-to-date — then the city has to post a notice of the proposed award for three days, in the event the losing bidder wants to protest the city decision, he added.

When Freeland Eddie asked whether the board could wait until its first meeting in October to approve the bid, DavisShaw explained that the deadline for getting items on that agenda had passed. Thus, staff would have to wait until the regular meeting on Oct. 15.

“We’ve expedited agenda items before,” Freeland Eddie replied. “This is a multi-million-dollar contract.”

Divvying up the dollars

‘Trap bags,’ which are larger versions of sandbags, have been allowed on Lido Key Beach to protect property, thanks to city intercessions with FDEP. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota in June

In response to another question from Freeland Eddie, DavisShaw said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the short-term project as a work assignment for the city, so FEMA will pay about $800,000 of the expense. Another $1 million was expected from Sarasota County, DavisShaw continued, as part of a final agreement with the city to conclude a two-and-a-half-year dispute regarding a final payment city staff asserted the county should have put into the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Trust Fund.

(The County Commission incorporated all facets of the CRA settlement with the city into its tentative budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which the commission approved on first reading on Sept. 12. In May, the county board agreed to almost all of the terms city and county staff members had negotiated. The $1 million will come out of Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue set aside for county beach renourishment projects.)

The City Commission was scheduled to vote on the CRA settlement that night, DavisShaw reminded the commissioners during the Sept. 17 discussion. (It did approve the settlement on another unanimous vote. See the related story in this issue.)

Finally, FDEP would pay half of the remainder of the expense for the Lido project, she said, matching the city’s investment in the work. The city funds will come out of a beach maintenance and renourishment account containing county Tourist Development Tax revenue set aside for the city.

A graphic in material the City of Sarasota submitted in August to FDEP includes this information about the New Pass borrow area. Image courtesy FDEP

When Commissioner Hagen Brody questioned the reliability of the funding from FEMA, DavisShaw replied, “We’ve always been reimbursed [by the agency]” in situations when it has approved a project as a work assignment. It had given the emergency Lido project that status, she added.

Commissioner Willie Shaw finally made the motion to authorize City Manager Barwin to sign the contract with the company determined by city staff review to be the more responsive and responsible bidder. Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch seconded the motion.

“So the amount’s just open?” Freeland Eddie asked.

DavisShaw told her that if a problem arose with Coastal Dredging, then the contract would be awarded to Weeks Marine.

“The only piece of information that I have [about this]” is the $1 million that was mentioned in the backup agenda material, Commissioner Brody said.

DavisShaw reiterated that that amount was expected from the county. “The other funding sources we’ve already identified and locked in.”

When Mayor Liz Alpert called for the vote, the motion then passed unanimously.