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ARP funds used for Pine Avenue streetlights

ANNA MARIA – The city commission will use $183,000 in remaining American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to help pay for the future installation of new streetlights along Pine Avenue.

On May 11, Mayor Dan Murphy presented the city commission with his proposed use of the remaining federal funds. The commission unanimously approved the mayor’s request.

The city previously received $882,500 in ARP funds as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. A significant portion of those funds was earmarked and used for drainage improvements and maintenance of the city’s drainage system, including the recent maintenance work along North Bay Boulevard.

ARP funds also were used to fund the $50,000 Reimagining Pine Avenue study and some were earmarked for future use for Pine Avenue safety improvements that will include new sidewalks, new streetlights and new and improved crosswalks.

Murphy said the city has approximately $183,000 in ARP funds left to spend. He said he expects it will cost more than $200,000 to replace the existing Pine Avenue streetlights with the more decorative and aesthetically pleasing light poles and fixtures desired by city officials.

Commission Chair Mark Short said the $288,000 originally earmarked for the Reimagining Pine Avenue Project plus the additional $183,000 being proposed by Murphy would total approximately $460,000 in ARP funds dedicated to the Pine Avenue project.

Murphy noted that last year the city received a $1.6 million state appropriation for the Reimagining Pine Avenue project and this year they expect to receive an additional $1.4 million state appropriation that’s currently awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature. The additional $1.4 million would allow the project to be expanded to include Magnolia Avenue, Spring Avenue and portions of Gulf Drive. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) oversees the city’s expenditure of the state funds.

On April 27, the city commission voted 4-1 to reject the lone bid received in response to the city’s most recent request for proposals (RFP) to install brick paver sidewalks along both sides of Pine Avenue. For the third time, the Sarasota-based C-Squared construction firm was the only firm to bid on the project, with their latest bid being $1.38 million.

During the May 11 meeting, Murphy said streetlights weren’t included in the latest RFP because FDOT standards require streetlights that are larger and taller than what the mayor and commission envision for Pine Avenue. State funds can’t be used for non-FDOT-approved streetlights and an alternative funding source had not yet been identified when the RFP was issued. Using ARP funds resolves that problem.

Murphy said the next RFP will include sidewalks and streetlights and will specify the specific funding sources for each of those elements. The city’s public works department will tackle the crosswalk improvements.

Commissioner Charlie Salem asked Murphy if including streetlights in the next RFP would attract more bidders.

“I do believe that. I feel pretty confident or I wouldn’t make this proposal,” Murphy replied.

Regarding the use of ARP funds, Commissioner Deanie Sebring said, “I think it’s a great idea. I think the citizens and the visitors would appreciate that, especially since it’s quasi-free money.”
In April, Commissioner Jon Crane opposed rejecting C-Squared’s latest bid. During Thursday’s meeting, he said he remained skeptical that increasing the project scope would attract more bidders but he supported the mayor’s funding proposal.

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