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Date of Issue: October 18, 2007

Anna Maria stormwater contract flows smoothly

After the brouhaha at an August public meeting surrounding discussion of Phase I of Anna Maria’s stormwater drainage-improvements contract with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, one might have suspected a similar outcry when the city commission at its Oct. 11 meeting discussed Phase II of its long-range stormwater improvements plan and another Swiftmud matching funds contract.

Not so.

In fact - hard as it is to believe that in Anna Maria, discussion of an issue such as stormwater drainage would be scarcely noticed - only two members of the public attended the meeting and- Jim Conoly and Margaret Jenkins - are members of the city’s planning and zoning board.

City engineer Tom Wilcox gave commissioners an overview of the project, noting it would encompass three areas of the city: North Shore Drive/Jacaranda drainage basin; South Drive/South Bay Boulevard area and the North Bay Boulevard/Tarpon Street drainage basin.

Total cost of the project was estimated at $710,000, with Swiftmud reimbursing the city for $305,000 upon completion, he said.

Wilcox presented a time line that would have the city retain an engineering firm by March 31, 2008, for the design and permitting phase. A contractor would be selected by Dec. 31, 2008, and all work would be completed by Dec. 31, 2011. The design and permitting phase would cost $63,500, Wilcox estimated.

Once an engineer has been selected, that company would proceed to hold a series of “open forum” meetings with the public to gain input and information on the location of severe drainage problems in the subject areas. The first forum could be in January 2008, Wilcox said.

That prompted Commissioner JoAnn Mattick to ask if Wilcox was positive these three locations were “trouble areas.”

Indeed they are, Wilcox responded. After studying Anna Maria’s drainage problems for the past five years and working on Phase I of the city’s long-range plan for stormwater improvements, Wilcox said he and the city’s capital improvements advisory committee had designated these three areas as priority locations for drainage improvements.

Conoly was the only member of the public who spoke about the proposal, noting that drainage in the city “needs attention.”

He was concerned about follow-up maintenance costs on the project and worried that the city’s public works department staff would not be to handle swale maintenance.

“But I believe it’s a good project for the city,” he added.

The commission unanimously approved the project and will select an engineer by the end of the year.


Oak and Tarpon paving

In an issue that goes back to the botched paving of Oak and Tarpon avenues in 2004, the commission approved $3,500 to pay for minor repairs and improvements to those two roads.

Apac Paving, the company that originally paved the roads, will provide $7,000 in services as their part of the repair contract, or 66.7 percent of the total price. That percentage was agreed upon by the city and Apac in 2005.Wilcox noted that this was a good deal for the city as the three-year Apac guarantee on the previous paving job expires in December.

When Commissioner Dale Woodland asked about inspection of the work, public works director George McKay volunteered to inspect the project, along with members of the capital improvements committee, including Bill Snow, who was a paving contractor in Michigan for more than 30 years.

Wilcox said the cost of inspection services from an outside engineering firm would be about $1,400.

“I don’t really want the contract,” he said. “I want to see the work done right.”


Staff/volunteer party

Commissioner Christine Tollette agreed to coordinate a party for the city staff and city volunteers that will be held Dec. 13 at city hall. Commissioners said they would independently donate $100 each to the party and no public funds would be utilized.

Mattick said she is “comfortable donating because I appreciate everything every staff member does.”


Fireworks task force

Mayor Fran Barford reported to commissioners that the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials agreed that the problem of illegal fireworks on the July 4 weekend needs to be addressed (The Islander, Sept. 19) and she had been given the go-ahead to form a task force to deal with the issue.

The task force includes representatives from all three Island law enforcement agencies, the West Manatee Fire Rescue District and Island elected officials.

Sgt. John Kenney, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy in charge of the Anna Maria substation, said he agreed with Barford that illegal fireworks are a problem, but to solve the issue with more manpower might be “cost prohibitive.”

Kenney said Ed Chiles of the Sandbar Restaurant has indicated he would hold only one legal fireworks display during the July 4 holiday instead of two. Currently, Chiles has a show at the BeachHouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach July 3 and another July 4 at the Sandbar.

Kenney said Bradenton Beach police chief Sam Speciale has “volunteered” to host the Chiles’ fireworks show there.

That might be a good start, Kenney indicated, but trying to stop all the illegal fireworks on July 4 would be almost impossible without one officer for every person on the beach.

Barford said the task force will continue to meet monthly at the Anna Maria City Hall and she will report its recommendations to the commission. The next meeting is Oct. 29.

The mayor wants the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce to assist by educating rental property owners and managers to inform guests that fireworks are illegal. She also suggested a large-scale campaign to educate the general public and those coming from the mainland.

“We need to let people know what is and isn’t legal,” she said forcefully. “It’s a question of the health, safety and welfare of the public.”

Last July 4, a man on the beach in Anna Maria lost three fingers on his right hand when a firecracker thrown by an unknown person exploded directly on his hand. In addition, a youngster was almost seriously injured in a Bradenton Beach incident. Three years ago, a boy lost one of his ears because of an exploding firecracker.

Barford wants to settle the issue well before July 4, 2008, and before an injury from an illegal firecracker causes more losses - or worse.