MADEIRA BEACH — In low-lying areas throughout the city, residents are often trapped in their homes for an hour or more after heavy rains.
Several times a year, cars float in the rising waters at Duhme Road and the Tom Stuart Causeway.
The problem is inadequate stormwater drainage, a perplexing and difficult problem to fix, as the City Commission is beginning to find out.
"Madeira Beach is like any coastal community. You have challenges," Jeffrey Siewert, engineering program director for Bayside Engineering, told the commission Wednesday.
He recommended that the city conduct a survey to update its master drainage plan.
That plan was completed in 2000 and identified 27 storm drainage projects. Since then, only a handful have been completed.
One completed project was on 140th Avenue, an area that still floods after moderate to heavy rains.
According to Commissioner Nancy Oakley, 140th is still a huge issue. "Whatever was done doesn't work. A lot of people can't get out. I can't get out. It's always flooded."
Other areas of the city that frequently flood are along Boca Ciega and Bay Point avenues.
Siewert said the city's flooding problems are most likely caused by a combination of issues, including elevation, poorly designed or deteriorating streets, lack of proper curbing, too small, blocked or improperly placed drains, piping and outflows to the bay.
"Each area has its unique issues," Siewert said.
He urged the commission to quickly authorize a new drainage survey in order to meet Southwest Florida Water Management District's funding deadlines in early December.
Even then, money would not be available to the city to spend until 2013. Missing the deadline would mean waiting until 2014 for state funding, he said.
Interim City Manager Bill Mallory said Friday he intends to ask the commission to authorize the stormwater survey at its Sept. 14 meeting.
It is expected to cost about $30,000, an amount the city already has budgeted, Mallory said.
If the commission decides, instead, to seek proposals from competing engineering firms, the city would not be able to meet the funding deadline.
"I don't think we have time to go out to bid," Mallory said.
He also cautioned that since the city is an island community, "there is only so much that can be done to control storm runoff," he said.
The city plans to spend $500,000 next year for street resurfacing and $125,000 for curb and gutter replacements. Some of that work cannot be done until flooding issues are addressed.