LARGO – During the Aug. 13 work session, staff reported to the Largo commission that negotiations with Pinellas County for the city to take over the portion of Highland Avenue between Rosary Road and East Bay Drive have failed.
The city has been anticipating taking over responsibility for the maintenance of Highland Avenue, which staff sees as a vital conduit between city amenities, for many years. Earlier this year, the county offered to transfer the right of way along with a fund of $300,000 toward any improvements, but would not promise any future funds. Along with the transfer, the city would be responsible for the cost of relocating any county utilities needed to make improvements.
The city asked the county to reconsider what the commission deemed unacceptable terms, but to no effect. As such, the city can no longer pursue its intended improvements to the roadway. The city will reallocate the more than $3.3 million set aside for the Highland Avenue back to the original funding sources.
“We feel there is no longer any viable options for this … moving forward,” Community Development Director Carol Sticklin said.
The city will be improving the sidewalk along Highland Avenue between the new Highland Recreation Complex and Eagle Lake Park, both opened since negotiations with the county began. The improvements would be done within the Rosary Road project, set to be designed in the upcoming fiscal year.
Largo also will ask the county to commit at least the offered $300,000 amount toward bringing Highland Avenue up to acceptable conditions, currently an unfunded project at the county level. While repaving the existing road won’t transform it to the “community street” – one friendly to pedestrians and bicycles – as Largo had anticipated, it’s a needed improvement, Stricklin said.
City to spend $31.5 million on infrastructure
The work session also included a detailed update on the wet weather monitoring and pumping system project, a major infrastructure improvement project estimated to cost $31.5 million.
The project, in the final design phase, is intended to tackle overflows in the system caused by heavy rainfall, said Leland Dicus, city engineer. It will include the construction of about 14 miles of sewer mains and the reconstruction of seven pump stations within Largo, according to city documentation.
“The project will not only address the overflows that are occurring today, but provide capacity in the collection system for future growth and redevelopment within the city,” Dicus said.
The improvements will help the city’s economic development goals by creating a more business-friendly environment with a capacity for growth, he added.
Given the magnitude of the project, it was important for the commission to hear the details of how the improvements were developed and how they will address the overflows, City Manager Mac Craig said, explaining hour-long presentation that resulted.
The project is slated to be completed in the spring of 2015. The improvements are expected to have a life of 20 to 40 years.
The construction will involve some temporary roadway lane closures and night work, but the project should move through the city fairly quickly, Dicus said. The city will be launching a public outreach campaign to let residents know of the project’s impacts.
City staff also asked the commission for direction regarding financing for the project. Commissioners agreed that the city should try to save financing costs by pursuing a low-interest loan from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The city also will be exploring other financing options, should the project not be granted enough of a loan to cover the expenses.