Reclaimed water main construction crews arrive unannounced and block off Gulf Boulevard between the village's entrances.
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2001
MADEIRA BEACH -- City officials, business owners and residents were caught off guard last week when large trucks laden with concrete barriers and digging equipment arrived at the entrance to John's Pass Village.
The installation of the reclaimed water main has begun.
Concrete barricades now constrict four-lane Gulf Boulevard to one lane in each direction from just north of the entrance to John's Pass Village to its southern entrance at the foot of the bridge separating Madeira Beach from Treasure Island.
Northbound visitors to John's Pass can use both entrances, but southbound visitors must use the smaller southern entrance.
A county official said the John's Pass neighborhood will be disrupted until February.
Todd Tanberg, director of Alternative Water Resources for Pinellas County Utilities, said the current phase of the reclaimed water project at John's Pass Village will be finished by Nov. 17, but some barriers will remain.
Drilling will shift to the south side of the bridge in Treasure Island and then return to the north side in Madeira Beach as pipe is laid under the water at John's Pass.
"We are going to try to get a portable lighted sign up there to let people know where alternative entrances to the village are located," Tanberg said.
"We knew it was coming," said City Manager Mike Bonfield, "but we just didn't know when."
Bonfield is meeting with county reclaimed water officials this afternoon to ask them to minimize traffic disruption around John's Pass Village. He also wants to reconcile conflicting timeline information previously obtained from the county, engineers and contractors.
"At a minimum, we'd like to have the main entrance to John's Pass Village opened (to two-way traffic) as soon as possible," Bonfield said. "If they are not doing the rest of the city, I don't understand why they have to do the village now. Maybe they could work with us to adjust their schedule to accommodate ours."
Village store owners, who worry the construction will hurt business, hope either the city or county will install better signage at the southern entrance. A small sign at ground level is easy to miss, they say.
"I know the pass and I almost turned into the VFW by mistake," said Jeff Antous, owner of Angel Heaven. He fears the construction will kill the coming tourist season. From January through March, Antous said, he typically makes almost half of his yearly revenue.
"Some of our customers have complained," said Mary Fowler, supervisor at Suncoast Gifts. 'They had a hard time getting in and asked how they could get out."
"I'm sure the construction will have some impact," said Bonfield, adding that the city will consider better signage.
Construction of the main transmission line down the center of Gulf Boulevard will head north to meet lines coming south from the Park Boulevard Bridge in Indian Shores.
According to Bonfield, each construction location governs a 1,500-foot span of Gulf Boulevard.
Unlike previous reclaimed water construction in Indian Shores and Redington Shores, Tanberg said long lines of purple pipe will not bar cross traffic on Gulf Boulevard for weeks at a time. "We're not going to do that anymore. I have asked the contractors not to assemble the pipe until one week before they are ready to push it underground," Tanberg said.
At no time, he stressed, will both entrances to John's Pass Village be simultaneously blocked. Construction of transmission lines in the rest of Madeira Beach will not occur until work is completed in the Redingtons.
Meanwhile the separate distribution line project that will extend reclaimed water lines into the city's neighborhoods also is ready to begin. Bonfield said equipment and materials are in place on 129th Circle, just east of John's Pass, where the county plans to replace potable water lines as well as install reclaimed water lines.
Construction of transmission lines on Gulf Boulevard will be completed in Madeira Beach by 2002. The entire reclaimed water project in Madeira Beach is scheduled for completion in June 2003.
Once the project is completed, residents and businesses will be required to pay an access fee of $7 a month whether they use the reclaimed water or not.
Madeira Beach's unsuccessful fight to prohibit forced access fees ended when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the county could charge all properties for the project costs.
Only those property owners who installed a shallow well before 1997 and do not use the reclaimed water will be exempted from the $7 access fee.
There will be no charge to hook up to the system, which can be tied into an existing irrigation system or a hose connection.