TARPON SPRINGS – After more than a decade, the Tarpon Springs shoreline restoration project is drawing to a close.
On Feb. 18, the City Commission voted to authorize payment of about $206,000 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with a contingency of about $94,000 for a total of $300,000.
The shoreline restoration project, originally approved in 2011, will stabilize approximately 2,800 feet of the eastern shoreline of Whitcomb Bayou and approximately 1,700 feet along the eastern and southern shorelines of Kreamer Bayou.
In September 2011, the City Commission approved an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers for the $3 million project, of which the city is responsible for $994,850. Because several of the roads along the bayous share jurisdiction with Pinellas County, the county will pay for half of the city’s cost within 90 days of payment. Tarpon is using money from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax fund, while Pinellas County has money allocated in the Capital Improvement Program. The rest of the money comes from federal funding.
But the funding wasn’t approved without complication: three months before the final agreement, in June 2011, Corps of Engineers officials informed the city that federal funding for the project had been cut to meet congressional mandates. But by September, which fell in the next fiscal year, funding had been returned and the project was back on.
Last month, the Commission approved final payment to the Army Corps of Engineers, but not without discussion, this time from the City Commission.
Commissioner Townsend Tarapani said that he has only heard complaints about the project, including removing trees and ruining the vista, and questioned whether the Commission should pay the fees.
City Manager Mark LeCouris countered that the vote was only to approve payment that had already been agreed upon; Development Services Director Joseph DiPasqua seconded LeCouris’ statement, saying that the Commission is under a contractual obligation to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Tarapani continued to question other options to approving payment, but Mayor David Archie reiterated that the money had already been obligated to the project and the Corps of Engineers.
When asked about legal consequences, City Attorney Jay Daigneault advised against withholding payment.
“I imagine the federal government would react poorly if we don’t pay,” he said.
The City Commission voted 4-1 to approve payment, with Tarapani dissenting.