BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Public Works Director Robert David had good news for residents awaiting word on the status of Belleair Bluff’s multimillion-dollar project to control flooding and improve neighborhood streets.
A couple of property easements that were needed to continue the work have now been approved, at last, he said, and the project is now cleared to proceed as planned. In an interview on June 23, David said the needed easements were signed that morning, just meeting the deadline date for funding.
“We just made it,” David said. “We’re pretty excited and glad to get it done.”
The easement approval came just as time was running out for the city to get 50 percent cooperative funding from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The city will now need to pay half of the $800,000 project cost, and David said he was reluctant to commit that money without having the property easements in hand.
Getting the holdout residents to sign was somewhat of an unexpected accomplishment. Mayor Chris Arbutine had concluded last week, “It doesn’t look like they’re going to be signed.”
It was also a frantic effort, David said, with wording changes and additional requests going back and forth until June 20. Getting the job done involved David, City Attorney Thomas Trask and Justin Keller, project engineer with Advanced Engineering and Design, Inc.
David particularly praised the work of Trask in getting the easement language clarified and approved. The easement dispute had been going on for months, with issues mainly related to the welfare of mature trees and the location of stormwater pipes.
Now that that issue is settled, the job will go out for bid. Work on the next phase, which covers Cortez and Pinehurst avenues and Sunset Drive, is tentatively scheduled to begin in August, David said. The two easements in question involved Pinehurst residents.
The project, which has been ongoing since 2001, is extremely important to residents, as large parts of the city are prone to flooding, David pointed out. Stormwater systems are being installed in affected areas for the first time, so water doesn’t just run over the properties, he said.
David said the project goal is to put an end to the flooding issues that have plagued the city for years. In addition to the stormwater drains and outfalls, the effort also includes road replacement and resurfacing, along with curbing.