BY LIZA STROUT - The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority’s quarterly meeting got under way at 10:33 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24. It started a little behind schedule after the administration/governance committee meeting was held up by, ironically enough, traffic on the causeway and a bridge opening.
The delay was caused by an unfortunate confluence of events: The extended opening of the swing bridge for the transport of a large barge from the Charlotte Harbor side of the causeway to the Gulf side, while, almost simultaneously, Orion Marine was moving an articulating boom lift a short distance down the road north of the center bridge. In the process, the steering mechanism of the lift broke.
A front-end loader was sent to move the equipment off of the road. In the end, traffic was held up for an additional 10 minutes.
“Hoist by our own petard,” said Gay Darsie, as she came into the meeting.
Once everyone arrived, business was handled swiftly and included a finance committee report and the approval of the fiscal year 2014 budget.
First, though, was the decision regarding the executive director’s position, left vacant when James Cooper left in April.
The position was advertised locally in the Boca Beacon, statewide in the Florida Association of Special Districts and nationally in the American Public Works Association. Twenty-seven applications were received from around the country.
Chairman David Hayes has made his preference plain from the beginning of the process.
“Cooper left just before a meeting where I planned to present a plan of succession to the board,” said Hayes. “He planned to retire in 2016, and in the plan we came up with, Kathy would have moved into the executive director’s position. Nothing that has happened since then has changed my mind that she is the best person for the job. I hope that the rest of the board agrees.”
After some discussion, Kathy Banson-Verrico was unanimously voted to become the new executive director.
After that decision, the subject shifted to a review of the GLF contract.
The GLF total with 100 percent completed plans was $18,873,476.82, almost $1 million more than the 75 percent bid of $17,874,503.13 that GLF presented the board when they were awarded the contract.
Of that difference, GIBA disputed $723,927.43. They agreed to the rest of the changes as they were due to changes in quantities and other miscellaneous small items as a result of modifications between the 75 percent plans and the 100 percent completed plans. In the end, GIBA and GLF agreed to reduce the increase by $233,471.10, for a total of $18,640,005.72.
There were two additional changes made to the plans after the negotiations. Hardesty & Hanover increased both the number of ladders and access platforms for the bridge and also increased the amount of structural steel called for in the plans.
The final GIBA/GLF contract price was $18,718,505.72, which is $844,002.59 more than the bid with 75 percent complete plans.
It is expected that there will be further savings realized. One definite source of savings will be the purchase of materials by GIBA instead of GLF, which will save around $300,000 in sales tax. There is also a possible $200,000 savings due to redesigned bulkhead walls. The current probable bridge cost is $18,218,505.72, which is $344,002.59 more than the original bid.
J.P. Donoghue of Orion Marine Construction provided an update on the progress of the fixed-bridge project.
The new center bridge will be opened to traffic next week, and Orion expects to wrap up operations by October. This will include the removal of the old center bridge and the repaving of the causeway from the “End of County Maintenance” sign at the south to GLF’s area of responsibility for the swing bridge to the north. The small bumps on the south bridge will be covered with a new friction layer, and an attempt will be made to mitigate road-flooding issues at the north end of the island when the new road surface is put in. The causeway was last resurfaced in 1999.
Also, working with KCCS and Banson-Verrico, Orion agreed to put aside a claim for a two-week delay to construction caused by a pair of nesting bald eagles. The delay cost Orion $10,000 per day.
“The whole situation was difficult for everyone involved,” said Donoghue. But we all worked together, and managed.”
Then Henri Stinson of Hardesty & Hanover reported on the current state of the swing bridge schedule.
“We have received permits from all of the various agencies involved, the Army Corps, the Southwest Florida Water Management District,” he said. All we are waiting for is the State Historic Preservation Board to give their approval, which will require that an archeological consultant inspects the site and ensures that we are properly documenting the historic site.”
Paul Wingard reported that utilities work is progressing well.
“The waterline relocation, they made their tie-in a week or two ago,” he said. Comcast and CenturyLink have completed all of their water work. They have to tie into at the south end and then they are completely out of the way. That will happen in the next month or two. FP&L has decided that they don’t need to move their line, so that’s good. It should all be completed well before GLF comes in.”
Next up was the finance committee report, presented by Executive Director Banson-Verrico.
There was a 1.3 percent decrease in bridge traffic from Fiscal Year 2012 to Fiscal Year 2013. This year, 691,746 vehicles went through the toll plaza, with the peak month of March seeing 101,562 vehicles alone.
In all, the projected expenses for Fiscal Year 2013 were $1,590,725.20. Actual expenses were $1,204,850.68, $385,874.52 less than projected.
Banson-Verrico then presented a very conservative Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which the board approved.
Orion and GIBA will be splitting the cost on two plaques for the center and south bridges, commemorating their replacement. GIBA employees will install the plaques.
In other bridge news, the residents of Boca Grande North asked that the Authority approve funding to pay for an iguana trapper, as they no longer fall under the umbrella of Charlotte County’s USDA trapper. The board voted no on the approximately $7,000 proposal. They also voted against a $9,300 proposal to install cameras to track license plate numbers of cars leaving the island.
Finally, Jerry Fall, who was the previous legal counsel to the GIBA Board of Directors, offered his services in Tallahassee. He is owner of a consulting firm in the state capital and offered to keep an ear out for topics that would be of interest or affect GIBA. He said that it was interesting to visit again and observe the meeting, as he served the board in 1996 and there have been many changes since then.
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