Sarasota County staff working to alleviate stormwater flooding issues in part of the area
Thanks to a unanimous April 16 vote of the Sarasota City Commission, Osprey Avenue will be resurfaced between Siesta Drive and Bahia Vista Street, starting sometime in late spring, after the school year ends.
Gator Grading & Paving LLC of Palmetto won the contract with a bid of $1,475,869.05 — the lowest of six that the city received for the project.
The highest bid, according to a staff memo provided to the board for the April 16 meeting, was $2,067,070 from Douglas N. Miggins Inc., which is based in Sarasota County.
The project will be paid for through sales tax and Local Option Fuel Tax revenue, the staff memo said. The project will include milling and resurfacing, pavement restoration, curbing, ramp improvements under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and driveway aprons, the memo noted.
“The project will begin with the segment in front of Southside Elementary School during summer break,” the memo pointed out, “so work will be completed prior to commencement of the new school year.”
The current school year will end on May 24. Classes will begin again on Aug. 13, according to calendars published by the Sarasota County School District.
In response to questions from The Sarasota News Leader, Georges Nicolas, an environmental services engineer for the city who will manage the project, wrote in an April 17 email that city staff had proposed Gator complete the resurfacing in four segments, with the work expected to take about 10 months. Gator may make some adjustments to the segments if that action will prove beneficial to the city, Nicolas added.
The four segments are as follows:
- Segment A: between Rose Street and Boyce Street. This area must be completed during the school district’s summer vacation recess, he noted.
- Segment B: Boyce to Arlington Street.
- Segment C: Siesta Drive to Rose Street.
- Segment D: Arlington Street to Bahia Vista.
This plan was designed “as the best approach with the least impact to Southside Elementary and [the] Hillview Business District during [tourist] season,” Nicolas pointed out.
“I must also stress that public and private (residential and business) accesses are to be maintained at all times during construction,” Nicolas told the News Leader. “There will not be any detour signs as we agree to keep general traffic on Osprey, per the request of the businesses.”
In making the motion to approve the award of the bid to Gator, Commissioner Willie Shaw commended the company for its hiring of minority employees.
What about the flooding?
Although the item was placed on the City Commission’s Consent Agenda No. 1 of routine business items for April 16, Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch pulled it to ask about the potential for stormwater or utilities projects to necessitate resurfacing of Osprey again within a short time frame.
She had heard from, and met with, a number of residents in the affected area, she said, who are “very concerned about stormwater and about flooding.” Their research, she continued, indicated stormwater pipes are of inadequate size. They feel strongly, Ahearn-Koch told city staff, that the pipelines should be replaced before the road resurfacing project begins.
Michael DelRossi, manager of public services in the city’s Public Works Department, assured Ahearn-Koch that the city’s Utilities Department has no plan to undertake water or sewer work in the area of Osprey Avenue within the next 10 to 15 years. Moreover, he said, Sarasota County — which handles all stormwater issues in the city — has no stormwater projects on its schedule for the coming four to five years.
“The road really needs to be resurfaced right now,” Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown pointed out.
However, DelRossi continued, county staff has been using video technology to investigate the interiors of stormwater pipelines from Bahia Vista Street to Siesta Drive. “There is a lot of flooding … The [pipelines in the] area [along Osprey] from Webber [Street] to Magnolia [Street] had a lot of roots.”
The county had finished the segment of its project between Webber and Oleander Street during the school district’s spring break in March, Ben Quartermaine, the county’s interim stormwater manager, told the News Leader in an April 18 email. The second phase of work will encompass the area from Oleander to Orchid Street, he added.
As of December 2017, he said, the county had succeeded in cleaning out those roots in pipelines between Webber and Oleander Street. “It was in really, really bad shape,” DelRossi added of the stormwater system. The work has been continuing to Magnolia Street, he noted.
Commissioner Shaw recalled a discussion with the City Commission several years ago, he said, about resurfacing Osprey Avenue. That was related to the work on Lift Station 87, he added.
The Osprey resurfacing project was supposed to have been undertaken in 2012, DelRossi replied. However, the city Utilities Department did not have the funding at that time for any infrastructure work in the affected area. “It just never got off the ground,” he added of that plan.
As for the stormwater system: County staff determined, he said, that “it was cheaper and more efficient to line the pipes … instead of digging up the road.”
The new linings, City Manager Tom Barwin pointed out, are “the equivalent of new piping.”
In his email to the News Leader, Quartermaine wrote, “The existing stormwater pipes are decaying; we’ve elected to install a liner inside of the existing stormwater culverts. The work doesn’t require excavation [or] the disturbance of asphalt; there is minimal traffic impacts and we’ve scheduled the work when school is not in session.” He added that the phase from Oleander Street to Orchid Street is planned for this summer.
The information about that work had not been presented to the commission formally or informally, Shaw told DelRossi on April 16.
That was because of the all the discussions about what to do — including utility work — along Osprey Avenue, DelRossi said. “So, finally, I think we’re there.”
Ahearn-Koch said that, based on the number of people who had approached her with concerns about flooding in the area, that stormwater issue had not been resolved.
He hoped the county project would eliminate the problems, DelRossi responded, adding that in one section of stormwater pipeline, the root intrusion was so widespread that the county workers were unable to move the camera into place to examine the interior. “Hopefully, this is the root of the problem,” he said.
“No pun intended,” Ahearn-Koch replied.
Barwin added that because the Osprey project will entail some curbing, as well, he hopes the flooding issues will be resolved. Still, Barwin said, “We have to stay on top of the county with these storm drains …”
“We probably won’t know the full impact until they finish to Magnolia,” DelRossi added of the county workers’ efforts.
Ahearn-Koch reiterated her concern that residents’ complaints indicated the issues were not being resolved. If they had been, she noted, people would not have come to see her about them just two weeks ago.
DelRossi responded that a more in-depth project might be necessary, which would necessitate the county’s increasing the size of the stormwater pipelines. “Unfortunately, they don’t have a [Capital Improvement Program project on the schedule] that will take care of that.”
If the county were to pursue such a project, he added, he believed the county would have to assess property owners in the affected areas to cover the expense.
Deputy City Manager Brown confirmed that.
Ahearn-Koch asked DelRossi and Nicolas to make certain to communicate such information to affected residents and business owners and to keep people informed about city and county projects, including the resurfacing plans for Osprey. It also is important for the public to know whom to contact if a problem arises, she said.
“We can do that,” DelRossi replied.