Commission approves $1.2-million contract with AECOM Technical Services of Venice for construction
With shovels lined up behind him for the groundbreaking of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail, in an open area off Ashton Road, Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines reflected on the past, talked of the present and offered hope about the future.
“When I was a child,” Hines said, “there really was a difference between North and South County. They were totally disconnected in many, many ways.”
Thanks to more than 70% of voters in November 2018 approving up to $65 million in county bonds, a 10-mile biking and running corridor that opened in Venice in 2008 will extend to downtown Sarasota within a couple of years and connect to North Port, as well, Hines noted.
“This Trail is going to bring our community together as a whole,” he said.
If anyone had told him when he was a child, that such an opportunity would come about, Hines added, he would not have believed it. “[The fact that] children and other folks [will] be able to hop on a bike” in coming years, and ride all the way from North Port to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota, he continued, “is absolutely incredible.”
Just after 10:30 a.m. on July 9, Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR), addressed commissioners, county staff, representatives of the Friends of the Legacy Trail — and past Commissioner Jon Thaxton, who, like Hines, grew up in South County.
“Welcome to the future Ashton Road Trailhead!” she announced. “This is a wonderful day for Sarasota County as we continue our race to completion.”
Two days earlier, on July 7, as part of its approval of its Consent Agenda of routine business items, the commission unanimously awarded a $1,160,055.46 contract to AECOM Technical Services Inc. of Venice “for construction of all segments of the Legacy Trail Extension,” as noted in a county staff memo.
The vote also increased the amount of county money going to Jon F. Swift Inc. of Sarasota, which is providing construction oversight services for all segments of the North Extension. The first stretch, on which ground was broken this week, will run from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street.
Among its responsibilities, Swift also will handle debris removal, metal recycling, mowing, clearing, encroachment removal, and surveying for all the Extension segments, the staff memo explained.
The first stretch from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street is scheduled for completion in April 2021, the staff memo said. Contract amendments for Segments 2 and 3 of the North Extension, as well as for the North Port Connector, “will be brought to the Board for consideration at upcoming Board meetings,” the memo added.
During a June 25 Zoom update on the Trail, Rissler of PRNR said she expected those amendments to be ready in September.
The commission’s July 7 action gave Swift another $410,632 for its part of the latest initiative, raising the total award to the company to $7,497,492.
The County Commission awarded the original contract to Jon F. Swift on Sept. 10, 2019.
The county issued $37 million in bonds last year to finance the acquisition of the remaining CSX Transportation corridor for the North Extension, as well as improvements necessary to create the new Trail route. Then, on Feb. 25, the county issued another $28,580,000 for the planned projects.
The July 7 staff memo also pointed out that the North Extension from Culverhouse Nature Park to Payne Park will add 8 miles to the Trail. Another 4.5 miles of connections and improvements will “enhance the City of North Port’s connectivity to the Legacy Trail,” the memo said.
During the July 9 groundbreaking event, Rissler of PRNR pointed out that when The Legacy Trail opened in 2008, it stretched from Venice to Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch. This year, she said, staff expects more than 300,000 people to use the amenity. “It has become a part of our Sarasota County identity,” she added. “Sarasota County staff has worked tirelessly — and I do mean tirelessly — to bring this Legacy Trail Extension to life.”
After the new connections are complete, Rissler continued, the public will have nearly 30 continuous miles of non-motorized trail. Altogether, she noted, 48 schools will be within 2 linear miles of the corridor.
When commission Chair Michael Moran addressed the groundbreaking audience, he called the Trail “a unique and beautiful amenity for people of all walks of life. … This is a legacy project, in every sense of the word,” Moran added.
Moran offered thanks to the members of the Friends of the Legacy Trail, a nonprofit organization that has been a long-time, steadfast supporter and benefactor of the corridor.
Louis Kosiba of Lakewood Ranch, the organization’s new president, also addressed the audience during the ceremony. Then he presented a sculpture to each county commissioner. “It’s actually a rail spike,” he said of the focal point of the artwork. Kosiba added that each spike was taken from the CSX corridor the county purchased for the North Extension.
After he concluded his remarks, Rissler extended her appreciation to the nonprofit, as well, noting the passion of the hundreds of volunteers who have provided their support to The Legacy Trail over the years. Although she has tried, she said with a smile, she did not believe she could quite match their level of enthusiasm.
With the comments completed, Commissioners Moran, Hines and Alan Maio, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, Rissler and Jon Swift of his eponymous company picked up their shovels, dug into the ground and moved the first dirt to make way for Segment 1.