BB mayor: seawall fix a must

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt says a city seawall on the bay side of Sixth Street South must be rebuilt in the next year.

The capital improvement project could mean that the city commission will consider raising the city’s millage rate, which has not increased since 2002. The city’s fiscal position won’t be clear until later this month or early July.

Bartelt, meeting with commissioners and city staff May 25, stressed the urgency of the situation at Sixth Street South. The seawall is close to a lift station, the mayor said, “and we know what it’s lifting.”

Public works director Tom Woodard observed that the existing seawall is “only one cinderblock in width.”

That prompted Bartelt to add, “I don’t think it was ever constructed to hold.”

The meeting last week was held to discuss capital improvement projects necessary in fiscal year 2011-12, which begins Oct. 1. For this year, the commission budgeted a minimal amount for capital improvements and spent an unexpected $350,000 for a Gulffront parcel that settled a longstanding lawsuit.

“That was a good chunk of change,” said city clerk Nora Idso.

Before the meeting, Idso presented the elected officials with a memo outlining the city’s financial position and expectations for the next year.

The mayor summed up the situation — the city’s basic expenses are going up, but revenues continue to drop with falling property values.

“The numbers are what they are,” Idso said.

Quickly the focus turned to the seawall and then taxes.

A report prepared last October by LTA Engineers of Bradenton identified a number of problems with city-owned seawalls on the bayside.

LTA’s survey found that some seawalls need repair and others need replacement. The priority, however, was at Sixth Street South. The survey said there is no cap on the seawall, which is in poor condition. A drainage sheet flows down Sixth Street South to grass and then over the top of the structure into the bay.

Woodard said the replacement cost was estimated at $25,000.

“Last year we put very, very little money into capital improvements,” Bartelt said. “This year we are saying we need to have some increase in capital improvement just to mitigate the high dangers that we have.”

Commissioner Janie Robertson said protecting the city’s perimeter, which includes the seawall work, must be a priority in the next year.

“It’s the most important thing we can do,” she said.

And, she added, “I have no qualms about raising millage” if necessary.

But Commissioner Jan Vosburgh does. “I would be absolutely against raising the millage rate,” she said. “I don’t think we should burden our citizens more.… Never increase taxes in a down economy.”

Robertson and Bartelt, as well as Commissioner Gay Breuler, emphasized that raising the rate would be a last resort.

“If there is a way that we can come up with a budget that doesn’t raise taxes, that would always be the first goal of all of us,” Breuler said.

Commissioner Ed Straight added, “Raising the millage rate doesn’t necessarily mean more money out of people’s pockets. My taxes have dropped considerably” because of declines in taxable value.

The city commission will begin taking a closer look at budgeting for 2011-12 in July. A new budget must be adopted in September.

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