SARASOTA — If they approve Tuesday, Sarasota County commissioners will take the first steps at the end of January to begin the expansion of the Legacy Trail.
On their consent agenda Tuesday, commissioners are being asked to approve a public hearing on Jan. 29 to consider the issuance of bonds to finance both the purchase of the second phase of the extension, and the construction of the whole extension.
Since it’s on the consent agenda there will be no discussion on the request unless a commissioner pulls the item for questions or comments.
In December 2017, the county completed the purchase of the first 1.7 miles of the extension from Culverhouse Nature Park north to Ashton Road for $7.9 million.
The remaining 6 miles of the abandoned railroad corridor into downtown Sarasota carried a purchase price of $30.1 million, which exceeded the limitation in the county charter on how much the county could borrow without voter approval.
This past November, county voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum placed on the ballot by commissioners giving county officials permission to borrow up to $65 million to fund the project along with a small increase in the property tax millage to pay the debt service on the bonds.
If commissioners approve the issuance on the bonds in late January after hearing from the public, the plan is to issue the bonds in two series.
The first series, in the amount of $35 million according to county documents, would be issued prior to the scheduled closing for the next phase, which is set for May 30. Those funds would be used for the land acquisition, design costs, and initial improvements in connections in North Port to Venice where the trail commences.
The second series of bonds will be issued at a later date to fund the actual construction of the trail, which has proved to be immensely popular with users.
County budget officials estimate that the debt service on bonds of $65 million will be approximately $4.9 million. That will result in a property tax increase of about $16 for $200,000 in taxable value, although that could vary depending upon the amount of the bonds and any grants the county receives.
Commissioners will meet Tuesday in commission chambers at the Robert L Anderson Administration Center, 4000 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, and Wednesday in commission chambers at the County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. The meetings will begin at 9 a.m. both days.
Access Sarasota TV will also televise the meetings, and the agendas are available at www.scgov.net by clicking on Meetings and Agendas under the Services A-Z tab. For more information, residents can also call the county’s Call Center at 941-861-5000.