Siesta Beach Park will be built over the course of two years instead of more than a decade after the County Commission approved the bonding of the project and for staff to complete the design.
The commission unanimously voted to direct staff Tuesday afternoon to complete the park's design and to have a project cost not to exceed $21.5 million while using a construction manager at risk in lieu of an independent, third-party consultant to oversee the execution of the plans.
The commission also approved 4-1 to have a bond issued next fiscal year to pay for the remaining funds of the project instead of waiting for all the money to come in through the penny sales tax funds. Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson dissented.
The commission declined all upgrades to the plan totaling $4.12 million with the exception of replacing one dune walkover to handle emergency vehicles at a cost of $8,000 to $10,000 extra. The extras that were declined were mainly choices of finishing (brick pavers versus concrete; lighting choices).
One major feature the commission passed on from the recommendation of staff was a multi-purpose structure and event area because residents complained it would add noise to the beach area and would take away picnic tables.
Commissioners Joe Barbetta and Nora Patterson supported cutting the time frame down to avoid escalating construction and permitting costs in the future. Patterson added she wouldn't want to see the beach to be a decade-long construction project.
"I support doing it now because it would be a nightmare over 12 years to do several phase projects for this incredibly used beach and it would hurt our economy to have that happen— to have the No. 1 beach in a constant state of construction," Patterson said.
The bonding was needed for the final $14 million of the project, and that choice creates a tight budget for future commissions, said Steve Botelho, chief financial officer for Sarasota County. That's because the county will have to secure a bond to fund the 800MhZ transition for emergency communication radios and towers, Botelho said.
Robinson did not support the bonding motion because she sees the shorter construction time as a need rather than a want compared to the road paving.
"We have dire needs of roads in our community whether it's Richardson Roda to south River Road," Robinson said. "We drastically reduced our repaving schedule. This is a quality of life issue for our entire community."
Barbetta countered that the commission has other options to use to fund road improvements but hasn't used them and it's not a choice of paving roads versus funding the beach project.