TREASURE ISLAND – Preparing for the future was the focus of city staff at a recent City Commission meeting, as Treasure Island positioned itself to undertake intense lobbying efforts to secure funding at the state and federal levels.

In addition, city commissioners selected three engineering firms to be on a standby basis to oversee major upcoming construction projects.

During the Nov. 6 meeting, Assistant City Manager Amy Davis presented proposals to spend a total of $85,000 to hire two lobbying firms that will plead the city’s case for funding in Tallahassee and Washington. City officials foresee major funding will be needed to offset the local cost of rebuilding the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge.

Davis told commissioners the city currently does not have a firm to handle either state or federal lobbying efforts.

“The challenge that we have as a city in funding the capital maintenance for the Treasure Island Causeway, with the two fixed bridges and the bascule bridge, combined with other infrastructure needs, generates the need for lobbying services,” she told commissioners.

“Having lobbying services enables the city to be represented at the state legislature level and provides a greater chance of getting funding,” Davis explained, adding “federal lobbying services can help the city find opportunities through legislation at the federal level to support the maintenance and the eventual replacement of the City’s bascule bridge.”

When it came to choosing a state lobbyist, Suskey Consulting proposed the lowest bid of $25,000, with an option for four additional one-year renewal periods.

Their asking price “coupled with their strong relationships and local presence resulted in the committee recommending this firm,” Davis said.

Davis told commissioners the city needs to show a presence at the state capitol to secure funding for replacement of the Causeway Bridge and protect its home rule.

Alan Susky, owner of the consulting firm that bears his name, said they can help the city maneuver through the legislative process and touch base with those who can assist in getting local projects funded.

He noted the city’s funding needs are no stranger to him because he once worked for former Congressman Bill Young who frequently talked about funding for the initial Causeway Bridge project.

Susky said he plans to work closely with the firm hired to lobby on a federal level to speed up efforts between state and federal agencies.

Commissioners decided to put approval of the state lobbying firm bid on the consent agenda for a vote at the next City Commission meeting Tuesday, Nov. 20.

On the federal level, Davis said Alcalde & Fay Ltd. proposed the lowest bid at a cost of $60,000 per year, with an option for four additional one-year periods. The great difference in price from the state lobbying bid is a result of Congress being in session much of the year.

“Coupled with their experience with local government and bridge experience, the firm worked with Treasure Island in getting the earmark to reconstruct the bridge, the committee recommended this firm,” she explained.

Davis noted consultants from Alcalde & Fay could not attend the meeting, so the item will be placed on the regular agenda for the Nov. 20 meeting.

City commissioners also decided to be proactive and unanimously authorize the city manager to sign agreements with three firms that will provide “as needed engineering services” to oversee major construction projects: Applied Sciences, Deuel & Associates, and Cardno.

Paula Cohen, community improvement director, said each agreement for professional services would be in effect for a 3-year term, with two 1-year renewal options. The firms would provide “as needed civil engineering, plan review and inspection services to all city departments.”

Cohen explained the array of services that the firms will be expected to perform include: site/civil, waterfront facilities, transportation, geotechnical, environmental, land surveying and mapping and hydrographic surveying and mapping.

“Staff will establish a purchase order amount with each of the three firms. If only one of the engineering firms offers a specialty service, they will be the ones selected to provide that engineering service,” she explained.

For example, Cohen said, “when more common engineering services are needed, such as site plan review, staff will email each of the three firms and request an estimate of hours to perform the work for the entire project, and timeframe to complete the work in order to meet specific deadlines.”

Staff will then select the firm.

“When the engineering firm is selected to conduct the work for a specific project, the same engineering firm will continue with the project through review of construction drawings, peer review for the plat, (and) all site inspections, through to ensuring the as-built drawings are accurate,” she explained.

“Another example might be the city’s need for a survey,” she added, “each of the three firms would provide an estimate of hours to perform the work and the timeframe for completion. In some cases, the overriding factor to choosing the firm may be the timeframe to complete the project.”

“The entire purpose of the qualifications process is that you are trying to establish the correct firm, with the best expertise for the item at hand, within the timeframe necessary to prepare and complete those projects,” she told commissioners.

“As we approach each of those firms with opportunities, and they are coming pretty rapidly on us, each of the firms will have an opportunity to provide us the information.”

Most of the projects will ultimately be approved by the city manager.

Commissioner Saleen Partridge, who served on the Planning and Zoning Board for the last six years said, “I believe this is a fantastic move in the right direction. Seeing projects, as they have exponentially grown over the years, I think it’s invaluable to have areas of expertise looking at specific development.”

She explained many times problems are not seen until it’s late in the game, and a project has been up for a while. Then remediation costs a lot.

“Coming from planning and zoning, I commend this initiative. I think we needed it and is money well spent, because of what it will save us down the road,” she added.

Mayor Larry Lunn said “it’s very difficult to have sufficient expertise on our staff to handle all these problems that occur. I think it will be wonderful to have this extra hand in the process that we can rely on.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the proposal to hire three engineering firms to oversee upcoming projects.