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Date of Issue: December 26, 2007

Anna Maria approves drainage contract, despite changes

Faced with a cost overrun on Phase I of its stormwater drainage improvements project, Anna Maria commissioners approved a $600,000 contract for work, but elected not to proceed immediately with installation of two vortex separators and improvements at city hall.

The delays will shave about $175,000 from the initial price tag and give the city time to find alternative funding sources for those two aspects of the project, city engineer Tom Wilcox said during a Dec. 20 city meeting. Other funding sources include application for a 2009 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and an out-of-cycle funding request to Swiftmud.

The city already has a matching $235,000 Swiftmud grant for the project, but low-bidder Adkins Construction Co. Inc. of Sarasota came in at $600,000 for the job. The city also has to pay engineering fees, adding to the shortfall.

Approving the entire contract, but passing the change order, allows the city to proceed with the project while looking for other funding sources, Wilcox said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has been at the forefront of the project, said the city is “not eliminating anything,” just delaying a portion of the contract “for financial reasons.”

The vortex separators in the drainage plan are the most expensive type of separators available for drainage systems, but are extremely effective, Wilcox noted. Other flaps and separators the city has utilized in the past, while less expensive, have not worked to the city’s satisfaction to relieve drainage problems.

But the changes prompted the ire of city resident Rick DeFrank, who said that these are “major changes” that commissioners should not approve.

“How can you sit there as residents and say ‘go for it’”? DeFrank inquired. There were too many “ifs” in the changes, apparently, for his satisfaction.

Other than Woodland, the other commissioners are not “up to speed” on the drainage issues, said DeFrank.

“I’m shocked. How can you sit there and say everything is fine?” he asked. “Bite the bullet” and do the entire project, he said.

Wilcox agreed the city should go for the “entire ball of wax” at this point, but while there are financial considerations, the city is not eliminating any part of the project.

“It’s just a change order to delay some of the work,” he noted.

Commissioners agreed and voted unanimously to accept the Adkins bid with the note that two parts of the bid would not be done at this time. By approving the entire contract, Wilcox said it locks in the prices with Adkins Construction, but gives the city time to find more funding sources.

Commissioners also discussed the minutes of its Dec. 11 public hearing on the comprehensive plan and got hung up on what words were actually said on allowing “one residential unit/structure” and “two habitable floors” in the retail-office-residential district.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said she was somewhat “confused” about the language.

Commissioner Duke Miller said the commission had agreed “by consensus” to add the word “structure” to the language.

But Mattick maintained this gave that section of the comp plan a new meaning with which she might not agree.

City attorney Jim Dye, however, noted that the comp-plan was approved by the commission Dec. 11.

When efforts by some members of the public and commissioners appeared to return the discussion from approval of the minutes to what the comp plan says or means, Commission Chairman John Quam steered the discussion back to the minutes.

Commissioners approved the minutes and a transcript of the public hearing, but agreed to revisit discussion of the “meaning” of the language at their February worksession.

In other commission business, Quam was authorized by the commission to sign off on a two-lot subdivision plat at 810 S. Bay Blvd. as an administrative action for the commission.