ANNA MARIA — A skeptical city commission cast doubt on the feasibility of a $1 million transportation enhancement grant project that is in the final phases of planning.
Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who wrote the original grant for the project before she was elected five years ago, expressed dismay at the commission attitude.
“I can’t believe you don’t want this project,” she said to her fellow commissioners at their Jan. 29 meeting. “It would be so foolish to turn down this project.”
The project, which was envisioned by a committee of citizens after the grant was awarded, calls for a low-key, ground level boardwalk to run to the north and south of the pier. It features a covered trolley shelter north of the pier.
The present sidewalk would be removed, and cars would have a driveway into the parking area and a driveway out. There would be the same number of parking spaces that exist today.
Commission Chair John Quam said he had a lot of questions and issues about the project.
“The pier is the number one attraction on the Island,” Quam said. “We need as much parking as we can get there. I’d take the boardwalk out and put in more parking.”
The Florida Department of Transportation holds the purse strings for the project. Representatives are due in the city to address the commission later this month as the project is readied for an RFP (request for proposals) for a design/build contract.
Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus had problems with that process.
“You are not going to see the design,” he said. “I fear what this is going to be until I see the design.”
Stoltzfus added that he could be convinced if he could see a design built to scale.
Both Stoltzfus and Quam as well as Commissioner Dale Woodland said they’ve had calls from citizens who say they don’t want the project at all.
“It’s very important to me that the public get back on board with this so I think it’s premature to be talking about an RFP,” Woodland said.
A visibly upset Mattick expressed dismay with what she deemed last minute objections.
“You’ve seen this project at every stage,” she said. “You approved the application for the initial grant; you saw this same drawing a year ago when Tim Eiseler (a committee member) showed it to you and explained it to you. That was the time to raise objections — not now when we’re so far into it.”
Woodland commented that he didn’t think the public had much chance for input.
“We had meetings for two years, and they were open, advertised meetings,” Mattick said. “The drawing has been on the wall.”
After the meeting, Mattick expressed frustration.
“All too often, all of us are guilty of speaking out when we oppose something,” she said. “This project was designed by the TEG (transportation enhancement grant) committee, which consists of 12 of our fellow citizens who have volunteered their time and effort for more than two years to develop a project that fits in with the character of our city and enhances the natural beauty of the pier area.”
Mattick said she’s especially disappointed since the project would allow seniors and people with disabilities who can’t walk out on the pier itself to enjoy the beauty of the bay.
Mattick said she’d be happy to explain the project to anyone with questions. She can be reached by phone at 778-3232 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.