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Date of Issue: May 14, 2008

Anna Maria moves 'swiftly' on drainage permit

Anna Maria city officials along with city engineer Tom Wilcox met May 6 with Southwest Florida Water Management District staff and, following the meeting, the city agreed to submit a new design for Phase I of its stormwater drainage project.

While that news might bring a few groans from residents who have long awaited a solution to their drainage problems, both Swiftmud officials and Mayor Fran Barford pledged the plan and new permit application would be on the “fast track.”

In fact, said Barford, the new permit application is more a process of “taking things out” rather than adding new parameters. Indeed it was, and by May 8, Wilcox had a new application hand-delivered to Swiftmud’s Sarasota office.

Barford said the problem with the first design was that Swiftmud wanted the city to guarantee that the impact of stormwater wouldn’t be “shifted from one location to another.”

According to Swiftmud, the original permit was never approved because the city failed to provide pre-construction modeling, along with more surveying, with the original permit application.

But Swiftmud gave the city four options at the May 6 gathering to “fast-track” the new application, including one in which the city would eliminate pipes and ditch blocks and use only swales.

With speed in mind, the city accepted that alternative and the new permit application will utilize “stand-alone swales with no pipes.”

The project will now have to be rebid, but Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has been involved with the city’s stormwater drainage problem since before he was elected to the commission, said he expects the new design and application to go smoothly.

Essentially, Swiftmud gave the city the option to “take things out” of the original design rather than start from scratch, Woodland said.

“There wasn’t really a lot of new information required. It should be smooth sailing,” he predicted.

Woodland said Wilcox had designed the original project without pre-construction models in an effort to save the city money. He did, however, provide post-construction models to Swiftmud.

“Unfortunately, Swiftmud wanted the models” that showed water moving from “places it didn’t normally go,” Woodland observed. When Swiftmud failed to obtain those specifications, it declined to issue the original permit.

The city had moved the bidding process forward in anticipation of a speedy approval to its February permit application and had selected Adkins Contracting Inc. for the project. When the start date of construction passed without the required permit, Adkins dropped the contract. (See related story.)

Barford said the new stormwater design, along with an amendment to the scope of work and a revision of the specifications to re-bid the contract will be on the agenda  for the May 29 city meeting.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, we anticipate construction to begin after the rainy season sometime in November or December,” said Barford. “Hopefully, it will be an uneventful season.”

Swiftmud also gave the new application a “swift” boost. Spokesperson Robyn Felix said that with the city “simplifying the project,” they can “expedite the permitting process.”

But all was not well among some city residents long involved with stormwater drainage and improvements.

Resident Tom Turner has called for an oversight committee to track the progress of all stormwater drainage applications and contracts.

At the same time, Rick DeFrank of Pine Avenue said that although the city has engineering to provide successful projects, to date, there’s been little success.

“This is a failure by the city,” he said, noting that in addition to the city’s fruitless effort to obtain the Swiftmud permit for Phase I, the filters installed last year for Phase A of the stormwater improvements master plan are defective and need to be replaced.

“Another failure,” claimed DeFrank.