By Steve Plunkett

Town Manager Bill Thrasher had bad news and good news about his quest to find a $7.2 million grant with a $7.2 million match to build new sea walls and redo Briny Breezes’ antiquated drainage system.

The bad news: Briny is ranked No. 18 of 197 municipalities seeking Resilient Florida grants that will be handed out on July 1, but only the first 16 are promised awards.

The good news: The town wasn’t ready to begin work anyway and will move up to No. 2 for a grant on the next award date, July 1, 2025.

“I believe with everything that’s within me and all of my limited mental capacity that Briny is not only highly ranked but Briny is highly favored to receive $7.2 million in construction funds,” Thrasher told Town Council members on Feb. 22.

Part of the reason the town will not get a grant this July is that it asked for a six-month extension to submit its project proposal from its original March 31, 2024, target date, he said. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection awards money only to projects that are shovel-ready.

But during that additional time the town’s consultants discovered another source of money: the Florida Department of Transportation.

A storm drain along State Road A1A is “half full of silt and sand, and it’s the result of the runoff of A1A,” Thrasher said. Because the FDOT is responsible for the highway, it will pay for part of Briny’s work to refurbish the town’s drainage system.

The consultants needed the extra time to handle the complexity of dealing not only with the town but with co-op landowner Briny Breezes Inc., the South Florida Water Management District and other regulatory agencies, he said.

But in essence, he continued, the deadline extension confirmed to the state that the town’s work plan would not be ready to start this July 1.

“That eliminated our chances of an award on that day,” he said.

Thrasher also took time to debunk rumors about how much Briny Breezes has spent in pursuit of the grant money.

“There’s a lot of conversation going on. Millions of dollars floating around in the town, spending money here, there,” he said. “I heard somebody say we spent $1 million for these grants. And what have we got to show for it?”

To develop its $475,000 construction plan to compete for the $7.2 million state grant, Briny is using $330,000 from an earlier state grant and a $145,000 match from the town, he said.

The Town Council passed a resolution in 2022 authorizing Thrasher to use $144,747 in American Rescue Plan Act money as most of the first grant’s match.

“Those are federal dollars. And that’s exactly what you want to do … when you have no money and you want to acquire grants, is you chase federal money after state money,” he said.

“And so the town had to make up the difference to apply for these grants,” he said. “That difference is $253. So the cost to apply for all of these grants (is) $253 of your taxpayer money, or 50 cents apiece.”

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