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Date of Issue: September 20, 2007

Committee learns $358,000 ain't what it used to be

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford, at left, along with City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, center, and city resident Sissy Quinn attended the organizational meeting of the city’s transportation grant committee Sept. 12. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Time was when $358,000 might have gone a long way toward beautifying a city such as Anna Maria.

But that was probably years ago, when a dollar was really worth a dollar, and construction costs didn’t spiral upward by the hour.

Now, the Anna Maria transportation enhancement grant committee must prioritize how to spend the $358,000 in federal grant money the city recently received for improvements along the city’s Gulf Drive-Pine Avenue corridor.

The committee held its initial meeting Sept. 12 and heard from Chris Piazza and Manon Lavoie of the Florida Department of Transportation on how best to spend the money. The DOT will provide oversight services, including engineering, for whatever projects the city elects to pursue.

Among the possibilities for use of the grant money are installation of shelters and concrete pads for trolley stops; construction of ADA-accessible public rest rooms on city property; streetscaping that could include tree plantings, flower beds, lighting and bike racks; construction of an ADA-accessible dune walk-over on Pine Avenue at the Gulf of Mexico; and replacement of pavilions at the entrance to the city pier.

Piazza advised committee members to first make a priority list of projects and concentrate on bringing the main project to fruition.

“Don’t do multiple areas of work when using federal funds. Concentrate on just one aspect,” he suggested.

Once the committee decides on a priority list, Piazza and the DOT will analyze the list and decide what project would be feasible with the available money.

But remember, advised Piazza, $358,000 is not a lot of money for enhancement projects.

And the money won’t be available in a DOT budget until fiscal year 2010-11.

The selected project(s) must be submitted to the DOT by July 2009 in order for the engineering and design phase to be in the DOT’s 2009-10 budget.

Considering inflation and rising prices for construction, the $358,000 grant could shrink even further in the next two to three years.

And remember the fate of the new Key Royale Bridge in Holmes Beach.

When it was first proposed by the DOT in 1996, the estimated cost was $850,000. Year after year, the DOT pushed the project back to another budget cycle. By the time construction began last year, the cost had escalated to $4 million.

Still, the grant is a start for improvements, said city Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who wrote the grant application two years ago before she was elected to the commission. Mattick will serve as the commission liaison to the committee.

Other members of the committee are Mayor Fran Barford, Lavoie and Piazza, Janet Aubry, Don Brownewell, Nancy Colcord, Michael Coleman, Richard DeFrank, Tim Eiseler, Steve Kring, Cindy Mansour, Sissy Quinn, Mary Selby and Betty Yanger.

Committee meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at city hall.