MADEIRA BEACH — A unanimous commission added another major infrastructure project to its active wish list Wednesday as it authorized the city manager to begin searching for a funding source to cover the $9.3-million cost to bury utilities underground along Gulf Boulevard.
This project, which could begin in about three years, comes on top of a $10-million project to rebuild city hall, the fire station and recreation center, and an estimated cost of $24-million to fix the city's flood-prone storm water system.
The city is also planning to refurbish Archibald Park at a cost of nearly $1 million, and spend millions more to resurface city streets.
City Manager Shane Crawford moved up the timetable for burying utility lines in order to coincide with Florida Department of Transportation plans to resurface Gulf Boulevard.
"It would save on substantial amount of costs," Crawford told the commission "You don't want to fix something and then dig it up and have to fix it again."
He said he has already been in informal talks with DOT and learned that the state would allow the city to piggyback on its contracting bid.
By joining in on the DOT bid, the city also would not be responsible for the cost of resurfacing the portions of Gulf Boulevard dug up to bury the utility lines, and could benefit from a potential overall lower cost for the actual undergrounding.
The city is eligible for about $3.3 million from 35 million in county funds set aside for similar undergrounding projects in other beach cities such as Belleair Beach, Belleair Shores, Clearwater, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach, Redington Shores, St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island.
The Gulf Boulevard improvement funds are part of Penny for Pinellas projects approved by voters in 2007.
That money will be distributed to the cities beginning this year through 2019.
Madeira Beach finance director Vince Tenaglia suggested the half-millon dollars the city receives each year in utility service tax revenues could be another source of funding for the project.
"You don't have to do the project now, but you would be tearing up Gulf Boulevard collectively only once," Crawford stressed.
Treasure Island is also looking at partnering with DOT to schedule its utility line undergrounding project at the same time as road resurfacing.
Madeira Beach engineers told the commission it will take several years to accumulate necessary easements along Gulf Boulevard and prepare construction plans, but DOT will begin engineering planning shortly.
DOT plans to resurface Gulf Boulevard in Madeira Beach beginning in August 2016 and finishing in January 2017, the engineers said.
"If we are going to proceed, time is of essence with FDOT," Crawford said.
To qualify for DOT financial assistance with the undergrounding project, the commission must decide within the next few months, Crawford said. He will report funding options next month.
"I think it is a project we all want, but we thought it was out of our reach," said Vice Mayor Terry Lister.