Election Day drew crowds to the Woman's Club Room on Boca Grande to help elect a president and decide a property tax referendum that could cost the average $1 million homeowner $300 more annually to help pay for the $40 million bridge project.
The ballot was long topped with two Gasparilla Island talking point issues - the presidential ballot and the proposed ad valorem increase.
The ad valorem request from the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority was roundly defeated by a 542-301 margin (67.4 percent) in the unofficial election numbers in Lee County. Charlotte County voters on the north end of the island mirrored the result by a 161-119 count (57.5 percent).
Lines were longer than usual at the Boca Grande Precinct 18 voting site in the Woman’s Club Room.
Overall, the referendum failed by a 703-420 vote (62.6 percent).
Lee County voted 153,668 times for presidential challenger Mitt Romney compared with 109,550 for President Barack Obama with all of the ballots counted.
On the ad valorem issue, GIBA did no campaigning for the increase other than educational.
GIBA's loan application to the State Infrastructure Bank now becomes critical. Whether GIBA receives the SIB loan should be determined before November is out.
The South Bridge could be finished three months early, according to the latest Orion Marine Construction report, which would save the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority thousands in consulting fees but possibly cause resident complaints.
GIBA had planned South Bridge work to culminate in a one-lane constriction during May when most island residents have already left for northern destinations. The traffic pinch would be much less painful with that schedule, according to GIBA reasoning.
J.P. Donoghue told the GIBA Board Friday South Bridge construction was three months ahead of schedule, which would put the one-lane restriction in February.
"The single-lane traffic restriction will begin by the end of January," Donoghue said. "But I can assure you the (traffic on) the South Bridge will not slow down."
The one-lane restriction using traffic signals to alternate flow in the middle of the season alarmed GIBA members.
"January, February and March are our busiest times," said GIBA Board member Virginia Watkins. "There will be a lot of complaints."
Bill Holmberg, GIBA Finance Committee chairman, suggested working on the Center Bridge and delaying the South Bridge tie-in until a later date. Donoghue said it could be done but not without risk. The longer the old Center Bridge stands, the more chance construction and water scouring have at causing a mishap.
"The goal for us is always, if you can do it, do it now," he said. "We were trying to get in there and get done with it was soon as possible.