Thursday evening, the City of St Augustine made good on a promise made two years ago; to include the King Street merchants and residents in the planning of any major construction affecting the US-1 entry corridor to town — and to do it well in advance of any attempt to execute those plans.
An audience of about 36 citizens met in a room at Markland Place to hear an update on the King Street construction project; that meeting orchestrated by Vice-mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline and presented by City Manager John Regan and Public Works Director Martha Graham.
At the completion of “Phase 1” of the Florida Department of Transportation’s project, restoring adequate storm water runoff for Malaga Street, at its intersection with King Street; the state was prepared to move forward immediately with the next phase of work that would have impacted all businesses and residents along the corridor from Martin Luther King Avenue, west to Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
Still weary from Bridge of Lions and seawall construction, replacement of the San Sebastian Bridge, Riberia Street resurfacing, and with virtually no advance notice or time to prepare, residents said “enough”. During a meeting at a King Street art gallery, Butterfield Garage, Regan and other city officials apologized for the poor communications and intervened with the FDOT, on behalf of the residents, convincing them to stall phases two and three until everyone could catch their breath.
Areas that needed coordination of vendors and property owners, both businesses and residents, have been calling, sending e-mail, and commenting on websites with each other and at public meetings; both with city officials as well as city commissioners, so the two year break has been useful.
According to information provided at the meeting, the earliest that the state could break ground on this project would be early in 2017.
The next step is to bring the FDOT Project Agreement and FPL Design Deposit before the St Augustine City Commission on Monday night. Other key components of the timeline puzzle are listed as:
- City Commission April 28, 2014
o FDOT Project Agreement & FPL Design Deposit
- FPL (2-3 Months)
o Easement acquisitions
o Detailed estimates & cost agreements
- FDOT (6-9 Months?)
o Preliminary Designs
- Public Outreach Meetings
- Public Outreach Meeting -FDOT TBD (2015)
- FPL Undergrounding est. 2016 depending upon funding & easements
- FDOT Construction est. 2017
Regan explained that it is the underground work proposed by Florida Power and Light Company that would need to be negotiated first.
“It all comes down to easements,” FPL spokesman Dave Cobb told the audience. Until easements are granted to allow the utility company to bury high voltage transmission lines capable of serving the needs of the community, now and for the future, nothing moves forward. Better alignment of the sidewalks, removal of the telephone poles that are currently shared by FPL, AT&T, as well as cable television providers, and adequate maintenance of a clear zone, are all safety concerns that must be addressed.
Also discussed were project limits and definitions of who is responsible to pay for what. King Street is not a city street — it is a state highway. It is part of SR-5 Business, and as such, is the financial responsibility of the State of Florida to maintain, repair and replace.
The following “community input” items have been requested by citizens so far:
• Improve drainage ·
• Underground overhead electric
• Improve mobility
• Improve aesthetics
• Improve lighting
• Improve utilities
• Update signs and signals
• Crosswalk @Aviles St.
• Improve delineator @Cordova
• Handicap parking
• Increase parking
• San Sebastian Harbor
Of concern to everyone is adequate parking. All the businesses on King Street must provide their own parking and municipal parking options are non-existent. Unfortunately, according to Regan, don’t look for any relief on that until such time as a buyer for the “Sebastian Harbor” development gets underway. There are currently four entities with various ownership interests in the land that comprises the PUD. The former developer was granted concessions in exchange for a commitment to overbuild required parking. “Once a new buyer becomes known and their building plans become clear, I think we can negotiate,” Regan surmised.
And, of course, the question on everyone’s mind is “how much is this going to cost?”
“We can’t know exactly,” Regan responded when asked. “We have made some estimates and some suggestions of where the money might be found.”
The State of Florida will pay all construction costs for the roadway and any other obligations. An example was that FDOT would pay for basic street lighting over the sidewalks — but not the colonial style lantern lights used in other parts of the city. Regan says that the FDOT will cooperate on upgrades, allowing the City to pay the difference. Here are some of the preliminary estimates:
Electrical – Undergrounding & Street Lights FPL Costs $ 579,000 Prelim Engineering $ 2,520 Conduit & Install $ 60,000 Design Streetlights $ 26,519 New Streetlights $ 552,420 Total Electrical Works $ 1,220,459
Other Streetscape Costs
Stamped Crosswalk $ 76,072 Total Streetscapes and Electrical $ 1,296,531
Design $ 138,600 Utility Relocations $ 850,000 Stormwater $ 285,168 Total Utility $ 1,273,768
The City’s initial estimates of $1,296,531 in unfunded streetscape improvements, upgrades to contract requirements, and delineation of the Aviles Street crosswalk will have to be paid by some combination of general or reserve funds or some other direct tax on taxpayers in the neighborhood.
The City Water Department, including water, sewer, and storm drain improvements, operate as an “enterprise” in that the city bills users for those services at a profit. The estimated $1,273,768 in design, relocation and stormwater work can be financed from those enterprise funds.
If you want to hear the update live, John Regan will make a presentation before the city commission at their regular business meeting on Monday night at 5:00 p.m. and will be held in the Alcazar Room; on the first floor of City Hall, located at 75 King Street in St. Augustine. It may be broadcast live on Comcast Government TV (Cable Channel 3) or on the Internet at http://cosatv.com/ or on ATT U-VERSE.