Storm brewing in Anna Maria over stormwater project
|An emotional Rick DeFrank, left, argues with Anna Maria city engineer Tom Wilcox at the Sept. 13 commission workshop on the merits of a $540,000 stormwater improvements project backed by the city commission and 50 percent funded by a Southwest Florida Water Management District grant. The commission has spent three years preparing the project. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin|
Anna Maria city commissioners should have been prepared for an outpouring
of negative public comment at its Sept. 19 neighborhood
workshop to discuss the planned $540,000 stormwater improvements project
that has been under consideration by the commission the past three years.
the opinion of project opponent Rick DeFrank, who spoke
strongly against the plan at the commission’s Sept.
13 work session, city residents are also adamantly opposed to the project.
claimed that at the Aug. 22 neighborhood informational
meeting on the project, “everyone
spoke against it. They don’t want this plan. We did this once before and
we are heading down the same road.”
DeFrank was alluding to a Southwest Florida
Water Management District project in the late 1990s
that angry residents denounced as harmful, not helpful, to their respective
property. Then-Mayor Chuck Shumard and the city commission quickly pulled
the plug on that project midway through completion and gave Swiftmud
inspectors and engineers the “swift” boot
from the city.
Nothing has changed since then, claimed
People now “don’t want this
project as it exists today,” he alleged, because it will tear up their
property rather than improving the drainage in the affected area and improving
the quality of the runoff into Tampa Bay.
“I don’t see how this is
helping anyone. We are rehashing old news,” he said. DeFrank also claimed
that residents have not had enough time to provide input on the project. The
public is “uninformed,” he alleged.
Although billed as a “neighborhood
workshop,” the Aug. 22 meeting was anything but neighborly. In fact, some
residents were so vocally opposed to the project that tempers flared and a Manatee
County Sheriff’s Office deputy was called to quell the disturbance.
to DeFrank, the same people at the Aug. 22 meeting
were likely to show up at the Sept. 18 workshop.
just don’t think we need
this project,” an emotional DeFrank reiterated to commissioners. “I
have facts and figures. We don’t know if this project is going
to work or make things worse.”
He also said that Swiftmud had advised
the city 10 years ago to “clean
up what you have and I don’t think we’ve done any of that.”
city engineer Tom Wilcox had a different view.
The project will improve the
flow of drainage into Tampa Bay and eliminate many
of the major areas of flooding within the project boundaries. In addition,
he said, the quality of the stormwater runoff into Tampa Bay will be
improved and that’s an area the city has
Currently, the Florida Department
of Transportation only requires cities to address stormwater
runoff, but the day may come when such measures are “mandatory,” Wilcox
DeFrank also bashed the city’s capital improvements advisory committee,
claiming he’s gone to many meetings on stormwater improvements where “you
can speak, but no one listens. I’m not getting any answers.”
commissioners were generally pleased with the project,
which has been years in the making.
Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has spearheaded the project
for the city since before the grant application was
submitted several years ago, said the commission has been looking at
this project for a long time. At previous neighborhood meetings and as
a work session agenda item, no one has spoken in opposition.
anyone showed up at our first work session, so I was surprised by the August
turnout. And there was not a lot of positive input at that meeting. In fact,
there’s a lot of disinformation out there about the project,” Woodland
As an example, said Woodland, he’s
met a number of people who firmly believe the city will dig ditches and swales
on some streets, including Hardin and Palm avenues. “That’s just
not true,” he said.
In fact, the vast majority of work will
be in city alleyways, where swales will be dug and
drainage pipes installed.
said he hoped people who attended the Sept. 18 work
session would be respectful of the commission and each other. But the
drainage issue has been around in Anna Maria since he was a boy and it’s
not easy to solve to everyone’s satisfaction.
“Some people, no matter what we do, are not going to be happy,” he
The project is funded by a matching Swiftmud
grant for $270,000. The city’s portion of the money comes from the $1 million
line of credit established by the commission last year for the 2007-08 budget.