BY JACK SHORT – The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority board met on June 25 for a quarterly meeting, and foremost on the agenda and in the minds of many residents were recent bridge failures that caused the roadway to be shut down on two Saturdays in recent months.
“This is the first time, certainly in my experience,” said board member Bill Holmberg, “that we’ve had so many outages, if you will. Be it lightning, be it mechanical … it has certainly taxed the staff in terms of keeping things running, and so far it’s been running just great.”
Executive Director Kathy Verrico outlined measures, such as a separate phone line to receive calls for information, put in place since those outages.
Verrico said that GIBA’s website will feature a banner with information in case of an emergency, and that there is now a dedicated phone line with bridge opening schedules, traffic information, and any bridge delays.
They also discussed the Authority’s paving project, extending from the south end of the south bridge to the end of GIBA’s right of way near Uncle Henry’s Marina. It will begin on July 6, with some traffic being routed around the site via Gulf Shore Boulevard and is expected to be complete by the beginning of the season.
GIBA also refined an agreement granting an easement to The Boca Grande Club, whose wall has encroached on the Authority’s right of way. The encroachment was unknown, according to the board, until a survey was conducted related to the upcoming paving project.
The encroachment does not constitute a hindrance to any of the authority’s business, according to representatives of the board, which indicated that it would not ask the wall to be removed under any foreseeable circumstances.
In spite of suggestions that they add a clause to the agreement that the bridge not be rebuilt in case it’s destroyed, members felt that their right to terminate the easement by giving BGC 30 days’ notice was sufficient.
The board also approved additional funds to pay Hardesty and Hanover for additional hours to complete “post design” work. According to some present, the firm did not correctly estimate its hours needed for the project. The board approved an extra $30,000 at the recommendation of engineering committee chairman Peter Strong.
The board emphasized the need for a smooth relationship with Hardesty and Hanover.
“They have to bless every single thing that happens on that bridge,” said Verrico, “ … every bolt change.”
Finally, the board approved the 2016 budget, which was predicated upon an estimated 2.4 percent decrease in revenues (from 2015 actual revenues) in order to construct a “conservative budget.”
The projected revenues for 2016 are $4,610,083. Projected expenses for 2016 are $3,306,292.