These are exciting and historical times for the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority and our island community. We in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime, milestone process: replacing all three of our 54-year-old Causeway Bridges over the next five years.
I am proud to inform you all 3 GIBA replacement causeway bridges are designed to last 75 years. They are also far safer and more reliable.
Daily traffic flow will be improved with the elimination of the speed bumps and they will be the very first coastal bridges in our state to be built to withstand a 17-foot hurricane-force storm surge.
The hard work of our GIBA Board and Engineering Committee, led by Thor Johnson, and our Finance Committee led by Bill Holmberg, has resulted in solid, successful engineering and finance plans to ensure we have first-class bridge designs ready on time and sufficient construction funds available on time to pay for these GIBA replacement bridges.
This month, GIBA toll customers will begin observing construction work by Orion Marine Coastal along the causeway and in barges as we begin a $14.3 million project to replace the Center and South fixed bridges.
GIBA paid off $1.2 million in Bank America loans in February out of cash reserves. Financing for this key phase 1 project will come via a short-term $15 million line of credit with Bank America.
In early 2014, when GIBA's two new fixed bridges are complete, the GIBA Board plans to be ready to fully fund phase 2 construction: a 3-year project to replace our historic Swing Bridge with a taller new Swing Bridge at an estimated cost of $22 Million.
To make this final construction funding happen on time requires GIBA to increase current annual revenues by approximately $1.7 million.
The key GIBA Board financial question: What is the best mix of GIBA available toll revenues and possible tax revenue options to meet that goal? The GIBA Board needs to determine which options to pursue in the next few months and is actively encouraging Island resident and business input.
To help our customers best understand GIBA's limited revenue raising options, the GIBA Finance Committee has prepared a solid, detailed plan, presented to the public Jan. 26 and now available on the GIBA website: www.giba.us; (simply go to the Tab: "Press/Media"). This plan provides a variety of revenue options: raising the cash toll, decreasing the discount and possibly adding a new property tax.
The GIBA Board is actively seeking maximum community input on these issues. They would like to know which toll increase and possible property tax options residents and businesses desire and why? They recognize the charm and ambiance of the village community requires our island businesses and restaurants to remain vibrant and healthy.
To best accomplish this key GIBA and community decision-making process: the GIBA Board has set up a new Community Toll/Tax Information Program led by GIBA Board Member Pete Saeger. The purpose of this new information program is to gain maximum citizen input on what the island community feels is "best balance" over the next two years to raise the needed revenue.
Saeger is ready to take the various GIBA plan revenue-mix options to homeowner associations and business groups over the next few months to help provide information to the public and gain feedback. GIBA is seeking the best balance to ensure it can raise annual revenues by $1.7 million by 2014 to finance construction of the Swing Bridge and pay off the new Fixed Bridges loan.
If our community believes the property tax is desirable, the GIBA Board needs to place a Bridge Property Tax referendum on the Ballot in November and the language must be ready to file (How much and for what period) by August.