MADEIRA BEACH – A much-touted move by the city to acquire valued dock space at John’s Pass has floundered.
In a surprise announcement made at the June 24 City Commission meeting, City Manager Shane Crawford said the purchase of Don’s Dock, an aging but well-positioned facility with space for 24 boat slips, was likely not going to happen.
Crawford said the current tenant had exercised a clause in a lease to purchase the property. That puts the city in “a wait and see position” in the planned purchase, Crawford said. But he added, “I would be shocked to see that the property now becomes available to the city.”
The turn of events likely puts an end to what had been touted as a major purchase to enhance the city’s participation in the area’s largest waterfront attraction. Central Services Director Dave Marsicano said recently the purchase of Don’s Dock would present a rare and valuable opportunity for the city.
“It’s a home run,” he had said.
Crawford was clearly disappointed and appeared dismayed that an apparent understanding between the city and the owner of Don’s Dock had come unraveled. He said the owner “forgot to tell us that (the lease clause) was exercised.” Crawford started to comment further, but checked himself. There was no further comment by commission members on the subject at the meeting.
But Commissioner Terry Lister said afterward that he was deeply disappointed.
Now it appears the city’s only remaining hope to acquire the John’s Pass property is if the tenant’s financing should fall through. Don’t count on that to happen, Crawford said.
Stormwater repairs to cost $22 million
A report on the condition of the city’s stormwater system contained few surprises, except for a “sticker shock” cost to do needed work and ongoing maintenance.
The price was a staggering $22 million to rebuild the entire system. Al Carrier of Deuel and Associates, who did the study, recommended the work be done in phases, with the most flood prone areas addressed first. That way the cost could be spread out over a number of years, and matching grants allowable from the Southwest Florida Water Management District applied for and used to pay half of the price, Carrier said. He said this could be a 10- to 20-year process.
The cost to Madeira Beach residents could be a doubling of the stormwater fee, from $5 to $10 per month.
Crawford said doing the work needed to fix the stormwater system in phases is the best option.
“We need to pay for what needs to get done,” he said.
Doing it in increments makes it affordable and also allows the city “to get millions of dollars in grant money to get things done.”
While grants of a million dollars or so are obtainable, an $11 million 50 percent matching grant “to do it all at once is not feasible, even if the city had the money,” Carrier said.
Crawford said a doubling of the stormwater rate, if not more, is justified “based upon what we need to do with the stormwater facilities.”
Carrier said his report showed the city’s stormwater system generally to be “in decent shape.” But certain areas need a number of improvements. The problems include collapsed and deteriorated pipes, and barnacles clogging the inputs, among other deficiencies.
New problems crop up daily, said Central Services Director Dave Marsicano. He said the repairs proposed involve not just fixing a pipe, but reconstructing the entire area.
The city’s crews are doing a good job in keeping up with currently needed repairs, Marsicano said, with about 80 percent of the work related to cleaning outfall pipes already done. Uncooperative tides have slowed the repair work, he added, because “you can’t repair pipes when they’re underwater.”
Carrier said the stormwater facilities overhaul is needed to “rebuild the system, so we don’t keep going after things year after year.” He said the work being recommended is not extravagant. “The $22 million project is a ‘Chevy,’ not a ‘Cadillac.’”
The phased approach also makes sense, said Carrier, because certain areas are more in need than others.
City Center project ahead of schedule
A $10 million remake of the city’s municipal and recreation complex is going well, said Jason Jensen of Wannemacher Jensen, the project’s architectural designer.
“We are within budget, and slightly ahead of schedule,” Jensen told the commission.
The new fire station is expected to be completed before the end of the year, with the city hall opening in January or February of 2015, said Sid Talsma of Hennessey Construction.
Jensen said all the foundations have now been laid, the piles driven in, and issues with the soil have been overcome.
An added feature to the complex will be a “Remember Our Children” memorial park on the perimeter of the recreation fields, which Jensen said will add “a new layer of significance and pride to what we have designed” without adding to the budget.
William Karns, a local developer, is donating amenities to improve the landscaping on the City Center project. His proposal was prompted by the desire to create a park area where he and others who have suffered the loss of a child “can go and reflect and remember,” but also where they can have fun and enjoy the surroundings.
Karns said the park will contain such features as fountains, a “splash pad” and a butterfly garden, along with other enhancements which will make it “extremely special to the community.”
“For $150,000 of our money (already in the City Center project), he will bring us approximately between half a million and three-quarters of a million dollars worth of value to the landscaping of the entire project,” said Crawford.
Additional money needed to finance the cost will be obtained through fundraising activities and donations, he said. Karns said Home Depot has already agreed to donate some materials. “We have already received over half a million dollars in donations,” he said.