Causeway approved, toll system upgrade nearing completion

November 22, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

The new right-of-way discussed and voted on by the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority Board in April of this year is moving forward, and it was discussed at the organization’s quarterly board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19.                      
In April the board voted to add a sidewalk on the west side of Gasparilla Road from Gulf Shores to connect with the GICIA bike path, and that they would pursue acquiring the right-of-way from Charlotte County. They also discussed the fact that DMK Associates was hired to survey the area and create a drawing and legal description to be provided to the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners for transfer consideration. The project continues.
GIBA Executive Director Kathy Banson-Verrico also reported that the toll collection system upgrade is nearing completion. The final phase will include the customer service module and the creation of a new GIBA interactive website. 
To date, GIBA staff has exchanged more than 14,000 cards and stickers. All current toll rates and policies will remain the same. Staff anticipates the new website will be available at the start of the new year.
At the meeting, representatives from Verizon presented documentation showing the need for improved cellular service on Gasparilla Island. They requested that the GIBA board consider allowing a cellular tower to be placed along the Causeway.  After the presentation and discussion, the individual board members will prepare questions/concerns for discussion at the next quarterly board meeting.
The Finance/Audit Committee report included a review of the draft fiscal year 2019 financial statements. Overall revenue increased one percent and expenses decreased five percent compared to budget. The annual audit fieldwork was completed in October, and the final audit will be presented at the February board meeting for approval. GIBA will continue to build cash reserves to fund capital projects and repay the long-term debt to Suntrust Bank and the State Infrastructure Bank. 
The Engineering Committee report included a discussion on the recent bridge inspections. The inspections were completed in October, and the final report should be complete by the end of December. The inspectors did not note any areas of significant concern.
The Governance Committee report included a discussion of the annual discretionary GIBA-defined contribution plan for eligible employees. The board approved the Valic contribution at eight percent for eligible employees.