Clearwater's long-touted and hard-fought plan to build boat slips along the downtown waterfront will cost about $2-million more than city leaders initially promised when courting voters to sign off on the project. City leaders say that despite the trying financial times, they have the additional money. But if they didn't, the project might be in jeopardy.
What was the proposal?
The city planned to spend $11-million to build 129 floating concrete boat slips, a promenade, boardwalk and fishing pier near Coachman Park. The project would also include 1,700 feet of side-tie moorings that would be rented and 800 feet of free side-tie mooring for daytime visits and special events. Rentals fees are expected to pay for much of the project and its operations. Voters approved the plan in March 2007.
What's the project's status?
First, the good news: The city is in talks to let Misener Marine Construction handle the project. The Tampa company would build 132 slips, 1,800 feet of side tie mooring and 630 feet of free transient mooring, in addition to the other amenities. The bad news? The project is going to cost $12.8-million, or nearly $2-million more than expected.
What caused the overrun?
Officials say they need to build a stronger electrical system than the one originally envisioned so they can service bigger boats. Consultants underestimated the amount of power the project needed. In addition, prices on copper — an essential component to the system — have doubled since 2006. The city also wants to install a lighted walkway for boaters and enhance the landscaping. This means making some changes where nearby Cleveland and Drew streets connect.
Also, Misener officials say the slips need stronger structures to protect the boats from waves.
How will they pay the extra costs?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last April gave the city a $1.2-million grant for the boat slips. This money was not factored into the initial cost projections. The city also is talking about using $1-million from the Community Redevelopment Agency. This property tax money is generated from within the city's redevelopment district, which includes the area where the boat slips are proposed, and is earmarked for downtown improvements. The city already planned to use $500,000 from the CRA.
What is the City Council going to do?
The City Council appears ready to approve the contract but wants to hold off until mid May when members see just how much money Clearwater will get from property taxes and to wait until Councilwoman Carlen Petersen is back in town. However, Misener has agreements in place with a number of suppliers through early July. If they expire, prices could rise.
When will the project be finished?
If approved, design and permitting is expected to be completed by Dec. 31. Construction would begin in January and wrap up by June 30, 2009.
The city already has a waiting list of 400 names for slips.
What are city officials saying?
Mayor Frank Hibbard, one of the project's biggest champions, said he probably wouldn't sign off on the project if not for the grant and the CRA funding. "I'm unwilling to drive the city off the cliff," he said. City Councilman Paul Gibson, who campaigned against the project because he didn't believe it would make money, said he's even more convinced that the project won't, citing a poor economy and increased fuel prices.