South Siesta Beach Repair Project bids opening delayed until March 1

Only one bid received by original deadline, Feb. 15

On the afternoon of Feb. 15, the day that bids for Sarasota County’s South Siesta Beach Repair Project were to be opened, county staff issued a new addendum for the solicitation package it issued on Jan. 13: The deadline for bids had been pushed back to March 1.

The original schedule called for the bids to be opened at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 15.

When The Sarasota News Leader inquired about the change, the Capital Projects Department staff replied in a Feb. 16 email: “There was only one bid received as of 2:30 p.m. [on Feb. 15]. The bid opening was delayed due to the low number of potential bids.”

During a Dec. 1, 2022 presentation to Siesta Key Association (SKA) members, Curtis Smith, manager of the South Siesta undertaking on behalf of the Capital Projects Department, told the audience that the design consultant with whom staff had been working had been in touch with contractors. The consultant, Smith added, was aware of at least four companies that had availability in their schedules for the work, which staff hoped to see underway in March. Thus, Smith indicated, staff felt confident that it would receive bids.

In late August 2022, Rachel Herman, manager of the county’s Environmental Protection Division, emailed SKA leaders a fact sheet about the plans for the repair initiative, explaining the project “is on an accelerated schedule as a result of a very tight grant deadline.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had notified staff that the grant funds the agency had promised for the initiative had to be used by the end of June this year. Originally, staff had been advised that the work could take place in 2024.

“We were hoping for more time; we lobbied for more time, and this is what they were willing to give us,” Project Manager Smith told SKA members on Dec. 1, 2022.

“Our understanding,” he said, “is that this is the last Hermine project in the nation. … It’s taken many years to have the grant discussion with FEMA.”

Hurricane Hermine inflicted damage to the south Siesta shoreline only about four months after the second renourishment of the beach was completed, in the spring of 2016.

After receiving the FEMA advisory in late 2022, staff began working on details of a truck-haul project, which would entail vehicles bringing beach-compatible sand from an inland mine that has the approval of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The work on the beach would have to be completed prior to the official May 1 start of sea turtle nesting season, staff explained.

FEMA will pay for 75% of the expense, Herman’s fact sheet said, with the remainder of the money expected to come from the state and from the county’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue that is dedicated to renourishment initiatives.

In February 2022, staff estimated the total cost of the project at $4,110,700, with the county expected to pay $513,838. However, the county would be eligible to get about 40% of that reimbursed by the state, out of its Beach Management Funding Assistance program, the memo said. Thus, the county’s expense could be as low as $310,000, the memo noted.

About 100 trucks per day are expected to deliver a total of 92,500 cubic yards of sand to the Turtle Beach shoreline, where it will be placed in areas eroded by Hurricane Hermine. The trucks will come onto the island from Stickney Point Road and then make the turn onto Midnight Pass Road to head south to Turtle Beach Park, county staff has explained.

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.

Since late last year, SKA leaders have discussed the situation a number of times with their members during monthly meetings. Residents of the island have joined the nonprofit’s directors in voicing opposition to the project. As the News Leader reported last week, many of the concerns have focused on the fact that the trucks would be traveling to and from the island during the height of tourist season, when traffic congestion is at its worst on the barrier island and on approaches to the island.