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BB roundabout beautification projects get tentative approval

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

The roundabout on Bridge Street and Gulf Drive will likely see beautification by early next year. Bradenton Beach commissioners Sept. 6 tentatively approved a roundabout landscaping project to be funded by the Bridge Street Merchants. Islander Photo: Mark Young

The Bridge Street Merchants has been working to get approval to beautify the two roundabouts in Bradenton Beach for several months.

BSM first wanted to approach the city to split costs for the project, but a budget battle left no funding for beautification projects as commissioners focused extra spending on infrastructure needs.

BSM shifted its focus to pay for the project on its own, but soon learned the red tape of government can bring even the best of intentions to a standstill.

BSM cut through the first layer of red tape Sept. 6 during the city commission meeting at Bradenton Beach City Hall, when commissioners gave a consensus for the roundabout projects to move forward.

But more red tape lies ahead for BSM.

The roundabout that circles First Street in front of the Historic Bridge Street Pier is less of an issue. The street is city-owned and needs only city approval.

The roundabout at Bridge Street and Gulf Drive is part of a state road and scenic highway, so the project requires approval from the Bradenton Beach Scenic Waves Committee, the city and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Scenic Waves approved the project several weeks ago, and commissioners agreed to have building official Steve Gilbert contact DOT to begin the permit process.

BSM member Jake Spooner and Keep Manatee Beautiful executive director Ingrid McClellan presented design plans to the commissioners at the meeting.

The DOT permit became just one issue, as public works director Tom Woodard sought clarification on who would oversee the roundabouts once the landscaping was completed.

“When someone runs over the plants, who fixes them?” Woodard asked. “Am I responsible for maintenance? I have a 300-gallon water tank, so I could water it, but would have to pull someone off of other duties for the day to do it.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said those details could be worked out with further meetings, but first asked for a consensus for the overall project.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said the project was a “no-brainer. If it’s good for Bridge Street Merchants, it’s good for our city and our citizens.”

McClellan said KMB also would step in with any financial shortfalls BSM may incur from a project cost estimated at more than $2,900.

Spooner said all he was seeking was permission to move forward and help from the city coordinating two possible workdays to complete the projects. Spooner said a temporary road closure of Gulf Drive might be needed to unload trees.

McClellan suggested the project be done at night to alleviate traffic concerns after the restaurants close. In the meantime, she said, she wanted to focus on the city’s roundabout at First Street while awaiting approval for the Gulf Drive roundabout.

“I’d like to see these done during our Arbor Day celebrations,” she said. “We could do the city roundabout for Florida’s Arbor Day celebrations in January and do Gulf Drive for the National Arbor Day in April.”

The project will include only native vegetation, which McClellan said would require an initial watering schedule for three months.

“After that, it should stand on its own unless we find ourselves in a drought,” she said.

Commissioner Gay Breuler said it was “fabulous that the Bridge Street Merchants have picked up the ball and have run with it. I like to see that happen and I would like to recommend that our public works department do the watering during the three-month establishment period.”

The commission came to a consensus for the city to authorize the project, select Gilbert as the point person to contact DOT and for public works to assist in the initial watering phase.

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