City agrees to contract for beach restoration

Matt Algarin
Residents along Holiday Isle should expect to see work on the West Destin Restoration project begin by early 2013. The last large scale project took place in 2007.

With an approved contract in hand, the city’s long awaited West Destin Restoration project is expected to begin by mid-January.

“It’s extremely important because it’s going to provide protection to 5,000 residents,” beach restoration advocate and former Councilman Larry Hines told The Log Tuesday morning. “Not only is it going to build up the beach, but it’s going to increase tourism and the ad valorem tax revenue in the city.”

With a unanimous vote Monday night, city leaders agreed to a contract with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock for the restoration project in the amount of $6,776,000. Councilwoman Sandy Trammell abstained from the vote because her son, Matthew Trammell, works for Taylor Engineering, which will be overseeing the project.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company will place approximately 560,000 cubic yards of sand along a 6,200-linear foot stretch of beach along Holiday Isle. Great Lakes was the contractor on the $28 million Destin/Walton County restoration project back in 2007.

Given the contracts with Great Lakes and Taylor Engineering, who will provide post-construction services for three years including monitoring and reporting, the total cost of the project will fall about $50,000 under the $8 million figure allotted by the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council. Destin homeowners are also paying for a chunk of the project.

Since 2009, about 3,100 properties in Destin have been assessed through the Municipal Services Benefit Unit to help cover the cost of beach restoration.

Beachfront property owners bear the greatest burden, paying in $150 to $200 annually, while inland property owners are assessed about $55 a year. County officials say that Destin property owners were assessed a total of $1,194,940 though the MSBU during the 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept 30.

That means the city shouldn’t have to pay a dime. But Councilman Jim Bagby was slightly concerned that the city would have to foot the bill if contractors exceeded that amount.

“If we miss a couple of days… that money gets eaten up quick,” he said.

City Manager Maryann Ustick assured him that there was plenty of funding and cost saving opportunities available to the city through the TDC.

The city came to an agreement recently with owners at the Oceania Condominium and a group of single-family homeowners along Holiday Isle that didn’t want to participate in the project, leaving a 2,600-foot gap in the middle of the project.

With years of legal wrangling and lawsuits behind them, the crowd of about 25 people in attendance let out a thunderous applause when the contract was approved.

“We want to thank all of you for your time and your perseverance,” said Ron Johnston, president of the Holiday Isle Improvement Association.

Per the bid agreement, the project must be completed by March 15, 2013.