Saturday, November 2, 2013

11/2/2013 Community Meeting with the Roads & Bridges Advisory Committee

Linda Cotherman, Chair of the R&B Committee, presided over the town hall-style meeting.  She began by introducing the committee members, with an explanation of the four “Districts” that each member represents and how these districts were organized.

The MSTU map of the Island was divided into areas not just by location, but also by road type and composition. For example, Dave Witters represents District 3, which includes the areas around Palm Drive as well as South Gulf Blvd. Both of these locations are in District 3 because they both have remnants of asphalt under the road surfaces. 

Tim Malone, Vice-Chair of the committee, represents District 2, the Hard Road. Linda Cotherman represents District 4, the remainder of Don Pedro Island, and its sand roads. Bill McNulty is the regular “at large” committee member, representing all districts.

Not present at the meeting were: Jeffery Jacobson representing District 1 (the Resort) and Don Milroy, alternate “at large” member.

Roughly 30 people gathered to listen.  Linda gave a brief history of the creation of the committee and its activities to date.

Complaints about the marle material used to patch our roads led to Charlotte County’s decision to form an MSTU Advisory Committee. The MSTU ordinance was changed to allow for the formal committee, positions on the committee were advertised and the BCC voted to approve the members as recommended by staff.


One recommendation put forward was immediately implemented by the County: they contracted independent consultants, “The Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies” (a non-profit organization based at the Engineering Dept. of Penn State) to review our roads and make recommendations for their repair and maintenance. (CLICK HERE for report)

The other recommendation implemented was running a test strip on Bocilla Drive of a new material, consisting of a 4” washed shell base with #250 coarse sand on top. It was noted that since placing the material mid-August, there had been no maintenance of the patch other than local dragging.  There was also 7” of rainfall, including one day with 3” of rain. Even under bad conditions, all standing water was draining within 24 hours.  Everyone agreed that the test was successful.

The experts supported the new material in the report that they submitted. Other recommendations were:
1-Remove the marle in pockets where possible, and scour what remains so it will perk more (note: the expert did not say to remove the asphalt from District 3 roads. He said it should be scarified and raked into the road base)
2-Bring in sand from the sides of the road to help build up the base
3-Maintain an 18’ wide travelway with a 4 degree crown, so that water diverts off to the sides of the road
4-Compact the new (correct) road material
5-Groom the road with the proper equipment as part of an “as needed” maintenance schedule.


Will this material work in the Tarpon Drive area (District 3)?

Dave Witters responded, indicating that crowning with the shell barrier will absorb water, and the sides of the road will store water.  This way, there should be no silt deposit in homeowners’ yards.

Will the sand roads be rated for tonnage?

This led to a discussion of large vehicles on the sand roads, and the amount of distress it causes. Linda noted that there is an ordinance in effect that holds contractors responsible for road repairs, and there are ways to address and enforce it.  She even cited a county that requires contractors to post a bond against completion of road restoration.

Did the expert have a recommendation for the Resort?

Bill McNulty made it clear that the Resort roads are private, and will not be included in the improvements.  He lives in Sabal Palm Point, one of several areas outside of the resort included in District 1. The expert was invited to the Resort, separate from the general evaluation, to inspect the Resort roads and make suggestions. The roads there have different needs and perameters: there is less vehicle traffic, different material, more crowning and drainage.  The big problem there is dust.


The committee explained that we currently have a 2-year renewable contract for road improvement and maintenance in place. This contract was awarded prior to the existence of the committee, from an RFP that was very generic with minimal specifications. As a result, the contractor placed the wrong material on the roads and established a regular maintenance schedule (every 3 months) regardless of road condition.  No one was happy with this.

However, the present contract is effective until September of 2014. This leaves Islanders with two options.

The current contractor gave the County an estimate of $141,000.00 to blade the sand roads and apply two coats of the new material. However, the estimate did not include the removal of the marle and other road preparations recommended by the expert. So the first option is to spend the $141K on the contractor’s offer while we set up a new contract to take effect when the old contract expires.

“If we’re going to do it, we might as well do it right,” said Jon Goranson. He pointed out that placing the new material over the old clay is a waste of money.  “I believe the marle must come up, must be scarified” he said, expressing confidence in the expert recommendation. “The guy was very thorough.”

With 30 days of notice, the old contract can be terminated and a new RFP can be created with more line items and specifications in line with the expert recommendations. Then the County can bid out the RFP and award a new contract. The committee estimated that this process can take up to 6 months, but “if we are willing to wait, we have the opportunity to do it right”, Linda said.

Linda suggested setting up minimal maintenance on the roads to get through the winter, allowing time to write the new RFP and re-bid the contract.  


Bob Cornelius raised the issue of lines criss-crossing the roads right under the surface. Tim pointed out that most of the utilities fall within the rights-of-way, and with the new travelway being only 18 feet it should lessen the impact. The committee agreed that the contractor needs to be held responsible for identifying and marking lines. 

John Sickles asked about the road rights-of-way. Plans for the ROWs will be included in the new contract. It was also said that a savings in barge fees can be realized by combining marle removal with bringing over the new material.


The committee reminded the audience that the mil rate for our R&B MSTU is scheduled for a reduction, from 1.7 to 1.1 mil, starting next year.  That is because we have finished paying off the bridge loan. Islanders commented about the 900K reserve in the MSTU fund, and were told that the County will be slowly drawing off the reserve for the road improvements until there is a “reasonable” amount left in the fund for emergencies. 

The committee is optimistic about working with the County to the benefit of all Islanders. They were surprised and pleased when Public Works invited the committee to help write the specifications for the new RFP.  Working with the new commissioners and a new PW Director, Linda said, “It’s a new day, as far as I’m concerned."

At the end of the meeting, the audience expressed their confidence in the committee, leaving the final decision to them. "They really know what they're talking about" said Sharon Porro. "Tell them whatever the committee decides is okay with us."

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