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Bids submitted for drainage project
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BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Bids have been received and a winning bidder recommended for construction of the next phase of Belleair Bluff’s massive drainage and road reconstruction project. The bid package was presented to the city commission at their Aug. 11 workshop meeting.

Public Works Director Robert David said in a comment following the meeting that receiving the bid proposal was “a huge step” toward getting the long-delayed project started.

A vote on selecting the winning bid will be taken at the Aug. 18 regular commission meeting. The six bids received for what had been seen as an $800,000 project had a wide variation, ranging from $787,000 to nearly $1 million. Half of the funding will be paid by a Southwest Florida Water Management District grant.

David said the project’s engineer, Advanced Engineering and Design, Inc., recommended the city pick the lowest bidder, Keystone Excavators. A letter to David from Advanced Engineering Project Engineer Justin Keller said his firm had worked with Keystone on similar type projects, and “we are of the opinion that the firm is capable of performing the work.”

David added that the company had done similar projects in Oldsmar, Largo, Clearwater, and northern parts of Pinellas County, and had just finished a job in Treasure Island. “They work very well with Advanced Engineering,” David said.

Commission members had few questions or comments on the bid proposals and appeared ready to pick the recommended choice and award the construction contract at next week’s meeting.

The bid approval would mean the job is, at long last, ready to begin. The project has been beset by a series of holdups that have delayed its start for months. The first was due to water studies conducted by the water management district. Then, issues with a few residents over property easements nearly killed the project as planned. The final easement was signed hours before the joint funding deadline with the agency expired.

The job upcoming will cover Cortez and Pinehurst avenues and Sunset Drive. It will include road replacement and resurfacing, along with curbing, stormwater drains and outfalls.

The work continues a massive citywide effort that began in 2001 and is expected to cost more than $12 million when completed. The project goal is to put an end to the flooding issues that have plagued the city for years.

Tentative proposed budget finalized

A new city budget recalculated to reflect cuts in a proposed utility tax and the related elimination of proposed millage rate reductions were presented to the commission by City Clerk/Finance Director Debra Sullivan.

Responding to resident protests, the commission last month reduced a planned 10 percent tax on electricity, water and gas to 5 percent and limited it to electricity use only. At the same time, a proposed lowering of the property tax millage rate from 5.35 mills to 5.06 was withdrawn, leaving the rate unchanged at 5.35.

The final tentative budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $1.7 million, which is a 3.77 percent increase over the current year’s budget. The utility tax reduction will provide about $100,000 less income than originally expected, while leaving the millage rate unchanged instead of lowering it will increase revenue by about $40,000.

Though the overall impact will be about $60,000 less income than anticipated, Sullivan said the city is still expected to have about a $40,000 surplus that will be added to the general fund next year due to delaying some public works expenses.
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