By Rachel Brown Hackney
Some concern arose last fall when a contractor ran into vibration problems in the Siesta Cove neighborhood as work was underway to install a new water line and a new sewer force main between Siesta Key and the mainland.
A hairline crack in a homeowner’s garage temporarily put on hold the project designed to lead to the decommissioning of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant by the end of this year.
Greg Rouse, the county’s utility asset manager, explained to SNL in early November 2016 that county staff was being extra cautious after the damage was discovered during a preliminary step in preparation for drilling under the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Nonetheless, he reassured that when the time came to do the serious underground and underwater boring, the equipment would be up to the task.
That has proven true, as Robert Luckner, a member of the Environmental Committee of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), recently explained to members. The $20-million project is “on schedule,” Luckner said during the Feb. 2 SKA meeting.
On Jan. 2, the contractor resumed operations relative to the ICW crossing, according to a county email blast sent to persons who have registered for the updates.
A Feb. 6 email blast from county staff pointed out, “There will be two [horizontal directional drilling] ICW pipe pullbacks.” The first was scheduled to begin on Feb. 7, wrote Billie R. Havey, a spokeswoman for the county’s Public Works Department. The contractor would need to work continuously until that step was completed, which was expected to take 24 hours, she noted. The second pullback was estimated to begin either Feb. 14 or Feb. 15, Havey added. “It is anticipated that the pipe pullbacks will be completed by Feb. 16,” she wrote.
Havey was referring to the process through which the contractor is installing the water and sewer main lines, as Luckner reported on Feb. 2.
The pipelines went into the ground at Phillippi Estate Park at 5555 S. Tamiami Trail and were planned to come up at South View Drive on Siesta Key, in Siesta Cove.
In the meantime, Luckner said, the contractor had removed the old equipment, as planned, from the wastewater plant site. That work began in December 2016, he noted.
As of Feb. 2, Luckner added, the contractor had “dug a big hole,” poured concrete and was preparing to begin installing the new equipment that will transform the plant into a master pumping station to send effluent to the mainland.
Luckner also reported that county staff and the contractor had decided not to dig a trench along South View Drive. Instead, the horizontal directional drill process would be used, with no disruption to South View Drive or Midnight Pass Road. The work tentatively was set to begin on Feb. 20, Havey noted in a Feb. 14 update.
Luckner added that he was certain South View Drive residents were not disappointed by that news.
Havey’s Feb. 6 update had noted that after the necessary paperwork had been approved, “the pipe installation will last for up to 8 weeks. Restoration is estimated to be complete by the end of April.”
After the school year ends, Luckner told the SKA members — in late May or early June — the sewer main will be extended from Midnight Pass Road along Shadow Lawn Way and then Shadow Long Drive. For about a month, he noted, the Shadow Lawn Way entrance to Siesta Isles will be closed.
After he and his wife, Catherine — the SKA’s vice president — joined then-Siesta Isles Association President Tony Romanus in discussions with county staff last year, Robert Luckner continued, the staff agreed to install a temporary traffic light at the intersection of Beach Way and Beach Road, to facilitate Siesta Isles residents’ ability to enter and exit the neighborhood via that access.
Romanus explained last summer that Beach Road traffic flows so heavily through that intersection, using Beach Way to get into and out of the neighborhood is a challenge for residents.
Just that day, Luckner added, he had learned from county staff that the light was not included in the bid package for that phase of the construction work. However, Luckner told the audience, the staff member assured him that because the light had been promised, “‘it will be there.’”
That is good news, Luckner pointed out: “The county is living up to its promises.”