PUNTA GORDA — Despite some opposition, the City Council approved a new $80,000-or-so seawall study by a 3-2 vote.
The alternative seawall materials and design study will be conducted by consultant firm Taylor Engineering of Southwest Florida and funded by the Punta Gorda Isles and Burnt Store Isles Canal Maintenance Districts.
The goal of the study is to find new ways to streamline maintenance and management of the two district’s 109 miles of seawalls.
Vice Mayor Lynne Matthews and Council Member Debby Carey both opposed the approval of the study at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“I personally don’t think that we should do this because we have a system that is not broken,” Matthews said. “FEMA has supported us on our decision to build our seawalls the way we build them. They have backed us every step of the way.
“We have made all of our seawall system much more strong and resilient and long-lasting from all that we’ve learned through the Hurricane Irma (seawall repair) project.”
Hurricane Irma damaged around 10 miles of seawall in 2017.
Carey wondered why city staff couldn’t just conduct the study themselves and avoid the $79,937 expense.
“Don’t take this the wrong way but ... we know we have seawalls and you (city staff) know that part of your job is to oversee the seawalls,” Carey said. “Do you not get professional publications, professional meetings that you can go to that you in-house can stay up to date of all of these things.”
While they do stay up to date with new practices, they don’t have enough staff to handle studies like this one, according to Public Works Director Rick Keeney.
“We don’t have enough staff in house to accomplish this,” Keeney said. “We have one city engineer and we have a handful of people in engineering. We don’t have the staff to put together a design of this magnitude for City Council.”
City staff anticipates the study to be completed by November, according to agenda documents.
Taylor Engineering plans to identify “appropriate available seawall materials and installation technologies” for seawall replacement and rehabilitation.
Some of those materials include timber, concrete, steel, vinyl, composite, aluminum, and block/stone.
They will also be evaluating anchoring options to better secure the seawall panels, among other stabilization and repair technologies.
“We need to be proactive,” Council Member Jaha Cummings said. “Our circumstances may not be the same (in the future) as they have been (in the past). If we don’t have the best engineering advice available to our staff so that we can be on top of this, I think that we are really jeopardizing our city.”
Funding for the study has already been added to both the PGI and BSI districts’ planned budgets, according to City Communications Manager Melissa Reichert.
“The study will not increase their current assessments,” Reichert said. “Neither district had an increase in their assessments for Fiscal Year 2018 or 2019 on this item.”