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Date of Issue: August 13, 2008

Anna Maria stormwater project: costs recede as fees rise

Sometimes, less is more.

That’s what Anna Maria city commissioners learned at their July 24 meeting.

City engineer Tom Wilcox told commissioners that Phase I of the city’s redesigned stormwater drainage project will cost the city just $645,000 compared with the $764,000 cost of the original design.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District had rejected the first plan, but opted to approve a modified version submitted by Wilcox and his firm, HDR Engineering of Sarasota, that required only a few adjustments to the first design.

That amounts to a savings of $114,000 for the city - on paper, at least - until HDR increased its fees due to its work to redesign the project to meet Swiftmud specifications. The HDR bill for the project jumped $64,000 to $208,000, according to figures supplied by city treasurer Diane Percycoe.

The company has said previously it waived an estimated $30,000 in various fees for Anna Maria projects.

 Wilcox said he was trying to coordinate the start of Phase I with Adkins Contracting, the approved contractor, so that it does not interfere with the current Gulf Drive pipe-laying project by the Manatee County Utilities Department.

The stormwater project was scheduled to start Aug. 4, Wilcox said, with a targeted completion date of Jan. 31, 2009.

Planning and zoning board member Jim Conoly provided comic relief to the meeting when he questioned where all the drawings, e-mails, letters and minutes of meetings regarding the entire project will be maintained.

Mayor Fran Barford said she hoped Conoly was not insinuating that the city has anything to hide regarding the project, which has taken about four years of planning.

Quite the contrary, noted Conoly.

“I just want to be able to look and see what we are doing. I’m not here to replace Rick DeFrank,” he said, bringing a laugh from the commission and audience.

“You could never do that,” quipped Barford with a smile.

DeFrank, long a critic of the city’s stormwater drainage plans and a conspiracy theorist, recently sold his Pine Avenue home and moved from the city to northwest Bradenton.

 

Site-plan reviews

In other business, commissioners had the first reading of an amendment to the site-plan review procedures that will turn a large portion of the process over to the administration and the city’s building official. The amendment will give an applicant 18 months from the date of preliminary site-plan approval to apply for final approval, but just one year from that approval to complete the project.

Under the amendment, the administration would be able to extend the deadlines.

 

EEEC official

Commissioners also gave the city’s environmental education and enhancement committee status as a recognized city committee, with from three to seven members appointed by the mayor and approved by the commission.

As a city committee, the EEEC will be subject to Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Laws, ethics statutes, accounting procedures for municipal committees and other legal requirements, in addition to adopting rules of order, setting agendas and taking public input.

 

 

Full-time building official

The commission unanimously approved a resolution to retain M.T. Causley Inc. as the full-time source for the city’s building official duties, with Bob Welsh of M.T. Causley remaining in that position.

The city will pay $2,500 per week for the services, but provide no personnel benefits.

 

Waivers

With the annual Island Bayfest planned for October when the Anna Maria Island Bridge is scheduled to be closed to vehicular traffic, the commission approved a measure reducing the special event permit fee from $500 to $200 for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, organizers of the event.

Commission Chairman John Quam was reluctant to back the chamber’s request to waive the fee because he feared it would set a precedent, but was swayed by Barford’s argument that the event’s impact would be lessened this year because of the bridge.

Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed to reduce the fee - albeit reluctantly - but said the chamber should understand that “this is a one-time deal.”

The commission was in an expansive mood, agreeing in a separate measure to waive the $670 building fee for the Island Players to improve the theater, which is owned by the city.

 

Staggered office hours

Barford said the staggered hours for office staff initiated recently in anticipation of the 45-day closure of the AMI Bridge has been “great” for the staff.

“It’s a real morale booster and we’ve cut down on sick time and lost days,” she said.

 

Budget

The three commissioners in attendance - Mattick, Quam and Woodland - adopted a tentative millage rate of 1.7882 for the 2008-09 budget as Percycoe noted that the millage rate now cannot be raised, only lowered.

The rollback rate - the ad valorem tax rate needed to generate the same amount of revenues as in the 2007-08 budget - was 2.0415, but no commissioner was interested in raising the millage. The 2008-09 budget will now have $151,000 less revenue than last year’s, but that will be offset to some degree by increases in fees and other revenue sources. (See separate budget story.)

Commissioners Duke Miller and Christine Tollette were absent from the meeting.