BB CRA approves Bridge Street-Coquina tram contract

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A shuttle awaits passengers outside the Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Bradenton Beach city pier. The city’s community redevelopment agency agreed Sept. 2 to a contract with Easy Parking Group to operate a pair of similar trams between Coquina Beach and Bridge Street. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice

Bradenton Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency is moving full steam ahead with plans for a public shuttle between Coquina Beach and Bridge Street

CRA members voted 6-0 Sept. 2 to pay $113,150 to Sarasota-based Easy Parking Group to supply and operate a pilot transport program.

CRA member Jan Vosburgh, a city commissioner, was absent without excuse.

The pilot program will employ two low-speed vehicles, including one that complies with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act standards, to operate 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The trams will provide 10 p.m.-11 p.m. daily service for employees.

The contract, which the CRA could terminate at any time, begins Nov. 1 and expires in a year. The CRA can extend the deal for up to five years.

The agreement allows the contractor to sell ad space to subsidize costs of the service and possibly generate income.

The contractor could raise ad revenue that would reduce its billings to the city and, if ad revenue exceeds monthly service costs, the contractor can keep the money.

The contract establishes a $10-$45 daily rate for ad space, depending on size. A tram can hold up to 14 ads.

The contract did not specify a route for the tram, instead referring to “a loop that connects Coquina to Bridge Street and other nearby locations.”

Manatee County Area Transit already operates a fare-free trolley on Anna Maria Island that includes daily service along Gulf Drive, with a main station at Coquina Beach.

Previously proposed routes for the tram included Gulf Drive from Coquina Beach to Fifth Street South, Bay Drive to Bridge Street, then to the Bradenton Beach Marina and a return.

Fifth Street South resident Terry Gebhardt spoke in opposition to the tram during public comment, saying the service would damage the neighborhood.

“I feel like this is a steam-rolled done deal and I’m disappointed,” Gebhardt said. “You’re asking people to drive the length of the city. So, you’re still going to have traffic.”

CRA members did not respond.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the tram operator must attend CRA meetings to provide monthly updates, including tracking data.

She suggested the CRA appoint a contract administrator to oversee the project.

CRA member Ed Chiles, a restaurateur, moved to appoint CRA member/Commissioner Jake Spooner and Perry as administrators. CRA member/Mayor John Chappie, seconded the motion.

The CRA voted unanimously to approve the appointments.

The CRA also directed Perry to research charging stations for the electric tram, as well as work with public works director Tom Woodard to identify a Bridge Street location for a station.


Bridge Street lighting

The CRA aims to brighten Bridge Street after recently removing Florida Power & Light’s utility poles and streetlights.

But new streetlights ordered by the CRA may be months away.

The CRA issued a request for proposals to install new LED-powered streetlights along the strip to replace existing solar-powered lights but received no bids. So, board members voted unanimously to extend the RFP for two weeks.

Also, manufacturing is backlogged by 6-8 months due to the coronavirus, so the CRA might have to wait for any new fixtures.

In the meantime, CRA members voted unanimously to pay Care Electric no more than $3,825 to remove up to five solar-powered streetlights from First Street North and relocate them to Bridge Street until the new streetlights are installed.

There was no public comment.


About the CRA

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency promotes restoration, growth and tourism for the district — bordered by Cortez Road, Sarasota Bay, Fifth Street South and the Gulf of Mexico — by funding capital improvement projects with incremental tax revenue collected by Manatee County since 1992, when the area was declared blighted.

The agency includes the mayor, city commissioners and two appointed members, restaurateur Ed Chiles and full-time resident David Bell.


… and city-CRA adopt resolution for staff bonuses

The CRA board unanimously voted Sept. 2 to approve a joint resolution with the city allowing either entity to award staff with bonuses.

City commissioners and CRA members previously discussed giving bonuses to Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby and public works director Tom Woodard for tackling additional responsibilities brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, state law prohibits employers from paying bonuses for services an employee has already performed and was compensated for without criteria for a lump-sum bonus program.

The resolution allows the CRA to grant bonuses to “outstanding” employees whose work exceeded the standards of their job.