Downtown Largo could have a new recreation trail by the end of the year. The proposed recreation path would be part of stormwater improvements in the West Bay Drive area. The walkways would go around the water treatment ponds.
The downtown drainage ponds are located near the Bayhead Sports Complex. The ponds provide about 163 acres in the West Bay Drive area with stormwater retention and treatment. The current drainage system was installed in 2000 and needs to be replaced, said City Engineer Leland Dicus.
The proposed replacement drainage system would also provide irrigation and a recreational trail with a total cost of about $700,000.
The Largo City Commission discussed the project at its Aug. 21 regular meeting. Commissioner Curtis Holmes questioned the cost of the project and suggested eliminating the trail to save about half of the $485,000 for the first portion of the project, he said.
The city plans to use the open space to "create an amenity to support downtown redevelopment and to better connect downtown with the Bayhead Park. We are leveraging a drainage project to create a downtown amenity," said Community Development Director Carol Strickland.
Engineer Dicus said if the trail and irrigation system were eliminated, the project would need to be redesigned and sent out for bid again.
Commissioner Woody Brown said the irrigation system provides an added benefit to the city.
"We are going to reap a benefit other than cleaner water. We are going to have greener plants," Brown said.
Mayor Pat Gerard like the trail project.
"I am glad to be doing something with Bayhead. (The area) has been underutilized for years," Gerard said.
The city commission approved the first portion of the project 6-1 for $485,009.60, to Alexander W. Enterprises, Inc. Commissioner Holmes voted against it. The project was divided into two portions because the bids exceeded this year's budget. The remaining $214,000 will be rebid for the 2013 budget , which begins Oct. 1 of this year, Dicus said.
Changes to the stormwater project budget to reduce costs included eliminating curbing on the recreational trail, so the pathway will be similar to the new walking area at Highland Lake. The second portion of the project will cover landscaping, a block wall and bioswales.
Funds for the project come from a few sources. This year's portion of the project will be paid for with $100,000 in downtown tax incremental finance district funds and $385,009.60 in local option sales tax monies. The Southwest Florida Water Management District will reimburse up to $300,000 for the design and construction of the complete stormwater system, Dicus said.