Monday, June 18, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete Beach splits plans for Pass-a-Grille Way

ST. PETE BEACH — It will cost nearly $5 million to rebuild the northern portion of Pass-a-Grille Way and another nearly $8 million for the road's southern portion, money the city does not have, city officials learned last week.

In limiting initial engineering studies to the northern portion, the City Commission cited the many other infrastructure projects that have a higher priority than rebuilding the entire roadway.

Two members, Commissioners Melinda Pletcher and Lorraine Huhn, unsuccessfully urged the commission on Tuesday to perform the engineering studies on all of Pass-a-Grille Way.

They also failed in their call for keeping the property tax rate unchanged.

Pletcher said even though the city is saving significant money by closing its police department, residents she surveyed "did not expect taxes to be lowered. What they care about is us being very judicious with what we do with that money. They want us to take care of our city, our roads, our alleyways and infrastructure."

Huhn said her "gut feeling" was to keep the rate unchanged at about $3.28 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value.

"I don't understand how we can in good conscience talk about a reduction," she said.

But, in a 3-2 vote, the commission approved a tentative property tax rate of $2.86, the rate that was levied in 2012.

Mayor Steve McFarlin said the city implied last year that if the police department were disbanded, the rate would go down, adding that the city cannot do all needed projects at once.

The city's wish list of nonutility infrastructure projects includes expanding the library and redesigning the Corey Avenue downtown area, as well as road reconstruction throughout the city.

The northern phase of the Pass-a-Grille project, which is on the city's to-do list, begins just north of W Maritana Drive and continues south to the intersection with 21st Avenue.

A preliminary study last year found that the roadway has settled so much that manholes stick up as much as 3 inches above the existing pavement.

The road is heavily patched and continuing to deteriorate. Underground utilities are in need of repair as well.

"The street has failed. It is in very poor condition," said Public Services Director Steve Hallock.

According to Hallock, the "worst case" cost for Phase 1 is $4.9 million. That includes $2.2 million for completely rebuilding the roadway, $1.1 million for wastewater repairs, $900,000 for reclaimed water repairs and $550,000 for stormwater system repairs.

Phase 2, which would encompass the southern portion of Pass-a-Grille Way could cost another $7.65 million, he said.

"I can tell you that if it is close to $5 million for the first half, you are not going to even come close to having the $7 million for the second half anytime soon," City Manager Mike Bonfield said.

Pletcher wanted the commission to continue the project at least to 12th or 13th Avenue.

The commission hired the Cribb Philbeck Weaver Group to conduct the engineering surveys that will include surveying the roadway's right-of-way and underground utility location, and assess the state of the wastewater, stormwater and reclaimed water systems.

Once the survey is completed, the city will hold a series of public meetings with neighborhood groups, as well as commission workshops.

With that public input, the commission will authorize final designs for bidding the project. That portion is expected to take up to a year to complete.

How long construction will take will depend upon the final scope of work, as yet to be determined.

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