By Steve Plunkett

Briny Breezes wants $14 million from the state’s Resilient Florida program to help pay for enhanced sea walls and an improved stormwater drainage system.

The Town Council authorized Mayor Gene Adams and Town Manager Bill Thrasher to apply for the money at its Sept. 28 meeting.

If the grant is awarded, it would be the second one the town has received from Resilient Florida.

“So the first grant … which was much smaller than this — about $330,000 — was for the planning of the construction or planning for the implementation,” Thrasher said. “So this is moving from one phase of planning to the next phase, which is actually, literally construction.”

Thrasher said a resolution had to be completed “in order for our application to be reviewed, ranked and possibly approved.” The total project scope of work is $14.4 million, he said.

Town aldermen approved the resolution unanimously.

“It’s exciting to see us moving forward to the actual implementation,” said Alderwoman Sue Thaler, who chaired the meeting. Council President Christina Adams participated by telephone.

In a separate session, the council gave final approval to a property tax rate of $3.75 per $1,000 of taxable value, down 62.5% from the $10 per $1,000 the town has collected every year since 2009.

The owner of a mobile home valued at $150,000 will pay $562.50 in property taxes instead of $1,500 at the customary millage.

But the lower tax bill will be offset by a higher annual assessment paid to Briny Breezes Inc., the co-op that leases land to residents. The corporation is boosting its payment to the town for police and fire-rescue services to $473,007, or 70% of the cost instead of 31.6%.

The number juggling will let Briny raise taxes in the future to pay off the sea wall and drainage system loans, which it had no room to do in the past because it was already at the maximum $10 per $1,000 tax rate allowed by the state.

Briny’s total tax base is $85.6 million, up 14.5% from the previous year’s $74.7 million. The property taxes will fund a $949,000 operating budget.

The council also approved a 12% increase for Town Attorney Keith Davis’ hourly rate, from $165 to $185.

“This is basically my humble request for a modest raise,” Davis said, noting that it was the first time he had asked for more money since he became the town’s attorney in 2018.

Davis also said he has been named an adjunct law professor at his alma mater, the College of William and Mary Law School in Virginia, starting in the fall of 2024. He’ll spend one week each semester teaching ethics and other subjects.

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