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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 2 months ago

Windermere stormwater concepts move toward design

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Town staff will put out a request for quotation for the Butler and Bessie stormwater-mediation concepts in the New Year.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Windermere is another step closer to finding stormwater solutions for the Butler and Bessie basins.

During their Dec. 8 meeting, Town Council members voted to move forward with the current concepts for both projects and set boundaries for their financial impact to the town.

Earlier this year, the town was awarded a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program grant for stormwater improvements for the Butler Street basin area — namely Butler Street and Seventh Avenue — in the amount of $80,000 for design and between $500,000 and $700,000 for construction. The grant also requires the town to contribute a percentage of the project cost.

The town also has received an HMGP grant for stormwater improvements for Bessie Street and Ninth Avenue which includes $90,000 for design and $1.1 million for construction. The town also would need to contribute a percentage of this cost.

Council members approved the concept for the Butler Basin design with the town’s contribution amount not to exceed $163,647, as well as the concept for the Bessie Basin design not to exceed $216,264.

Town staff, council members and residents have been back and forth regarding the stormwater concepts for months now. When grants are involved with such projects, a municipality typically is required to adhere to guidelines from the granting agency. However, Windermere residents have been adamant on finding design concepts that would have as little detrimental impact the charm and character of the town as possible. 

During the meeting, Town Manager Robert Smith assured council members and residents that the new individual project orders will focus on stormwater only, and existing roads will maintain their existing width. Additionally, he said, approving these IPOs means the designs will still return to Town Council for final approval at the 45% and 100% design stages.

“Based on our dealings with (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and (Division of Emergency Management) from HMGP grants — hopefully, based on the precedences we’ve set in the past of stormwater projects only — they would not require us to adhere to Green Book standards, and we could move forward with just the stormwater mediation that was proposed in the concepts,” Smith said.

Town staff now will put out a request for quotation for the two basin projects, and Smith said they are looking at awarding a bid for these RFQs sometime in January.

“We’ve been holding plenty of meetings out with … the residents, making sure we’ve done everything as transparent as possibly and accommodating wherever we can,” he said. “This won’t stop — this outreach and this back and forth working with the residents directly impacted and not directly impacted. There’ll be two milestones. Oe will be 45% design — and we’ll come back to Town Council for approval of that 45% — and then the final 100% plans.”

Smith warned that there is a risk of FEMA denying the design and refusing to fund either design or construction because it doesn’t meet standards. However, even if FEMA chooses not to fund design or construction, the town still has a design available that it could incrementally self-fund or seek other grants to fulfill.

Resident Annamaye Clonts told council members prior to the vote that it’s impossible to make every resident happy with such a decision, but it is a decision that needs to be made.

“I think you have to do what’s right,” Clonts said. “It may not be popular with everyone and it may not be easy, but I’m asking you to vote for this concept and do what’s right. I’m also very hopeful that we’ll be able to get this grant money because I also think that’s right. There are many residents in this town — not just me, not just my immediate neighbors, but they extend out into the old town of Windermere — and I don’t know how you’re going to face them and tell them that they have to have a tax assessment because you turned down grant money trying to keep a few people happy.”

Council Member Bill Martini said the ultimate goal is not to over-engineer these projects but rather focus on doing what’s best for the town and its residents.

“I think we need to focus on keeping the charm and character of the town, using that money judiciously and making sure the residents are satisfied on every step of the way … and I think we’re getting there,” he said.

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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