By Steve Plunkett
The town has enough money to replace its worst water mains and rebuild frequently flooded streets without raising taxes or borrowing money.
With help from Town Commissioner Paul Lyons, Gulf Stream finance administrator Rebecca Tew developed a 10-year budget for the capital improvement project that will leave residents with $4.9 million in reserves after the work is completed, down only about $580,000 from an expected $5.5 million cushion this fiscal year.
Mayor Scott Morgan called the numbers “eye-opening.”
“I talk to residents all the time, and the main concern with this project is the fear of assessments and additional financial responsibilities,” Morgan said.
The plan calls for work to be done in five phases, with the town taking a year to develop construction designs and get permits, then having the work done the following May through November.
First to be tackled would be the northern core area: Bermuda Lane from Sea Road to the south end, Gulf Stream Road from Sea Road to Banyan Road, Old School Road from Gulfstream Road to the cul-de-sac, Oleander Way from Banyan to the north end, Polo Drive from Old School to Banyan, Wright Way from Old School to the cul-de-sac, Sea Road from Ocean Boulevard to Gulfstream Road, North County Road from Ocean to Sea Road, and Banyan from Ocean to the cul-de-sac. The work would be designed in 2019 and constructed in 2020.
The 2021-22 cycle would cover Place au Soleil repaving on Tangerine Way, Emerald Row, Orchid Lane, Indigo Point, Canary Walk, Cardinal Circle and Avenue Au Soleil.
In 2023-24 the project would shift back to the southern core, with work on Oleander Way, Polo Drive, Lakeview Drive, Middle Road, Golfview Drive, Gulfstream Road and Palm Way.
The remainder of replacing the water main along State Road A1A would come in 2025-26; repairs to Hidden Harbour and Pelican Lane would end the project in 2027-28.
Tew told commissioners at their April 13 meeting that she split the core work into two phases with the Place au Soleil work in between to let money build up for the southern core area rather than borrow money or raise taxes to do the core first, then Place au Soleil.
“We thought, why do that if your town doesn’t have to do that,” Tew said. “It just made more sense to break those projects out and kind of give us … two years to recover.”
Commissioner Joan Orthwein agreed. “Why would you borrow it if you have it?” she asked.
The finance plan, which commissioners took home to review, assumes that Gulf Stream will keep property taxes at the rollback rate through 2028 and that inflation will be 3 percent each year. It also includes money for new police cars, replacement computers and other routine capital expenses.
Morgan was relieved.
“I was always under the impression that this was going to require direct borrowing or a bond issue — the sums were so high. But the way you are budgeting it and staging it, monies are collected in-house and can be used over time,” Morgan said.
Mathews Consulting engineer Joe Kenney told commissioners in March that the water mains and streets would cost $10 million to fix. Another firm had estimated $8 million in 2012. The pipes are approaching the end of their 50-year service life. Improved technology means the replacement pipes should last 100 years.