In a special meeting today the Flagler County Commission in a series of unanimous vote approved emergency measures to build seawalls to protect 19 beach properties whose foundations were damaged by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, and to levy a special tax on those properties to pay for the project. Each homeowner is looking at an additional tax bill of roughly $100,000, spread over 15 years.
“Part of the process that we’re going through with all these projects is to try and get them going as quickly as possible,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said, explaining the urgency of the meeting, “so we don’t miss another week or so, especially in the seawall project. We’re trying to get more time to the vendor, that’ll bring us closer to sea turtle season, but it’ll also help lower some prices a little bit, we believe.”
Commissioners on Dec. 20 approved the mechanism to tax property owners who will benefit from the sea wall. Their properties were either damaged or had their foundations damaged enough that they could have collapsed onto the beach were protective measures not taken. The seawall will be 16 feet tall, only a few feet of which would be above ground. Several of the 19 properties were red-tagged after Hurricane Matthew, meaning that they were not safely inhabitable.
Today’s meeting consisted of three steps. An emergency order modified the county’s procedure, lifting the usual competitive-bidding procedures without entirely eliminating competition. The order gives the administration more and quicker authority to execute contracts.
The order, according to a county resolution, “suspends the effect of any rule, policy, or regulation that would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the County’s urgent need to install a seawall in Painters Hill,” and does likewise “to install an emergency protective berm in unincorporated Flagler County or within municipalities requesting such assistance.”
Second, the commission approved a temporary easement and temporary tax agreements with 19 properties along the seawall. The easement gives the county authority to enter the properties during construction, with the seawall going up in two segments, separated by two properties that already have a seawall.
The transportation department will be building a seawall of its own in that portion of the beach, to the south of the county’s project. The two projects are unrelated. The county’s project is also unrelated to the dunes-reparation project the county launched last week.
The tax will go in effect in March. The exact cost is not yet clear, but total project cost is expected to be approximately $800 to $1,250 per lineal foot along the ocean, according to the county, with a $1,250-per-foot cap. The bid to the contractor alone was $1.63 million, not including the cost of sand. One property owner who spoke at today’s meeting said he was looking at roughly a $100,000 bill for his share of the seawall. Property owners will have the cost assessed to them over 15 years. If there are cost savings, those savings would be spread between the property owners. “There will be some savings for the project, we believe,” Coffey said, “but we don’t know how much at this point.”
Home values among the 19 properties range from $240,000 to $846,000, according to the property appraiser, but most are closer to the $240,000 range than they are to the outlier at the higher end.
The Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector have waived a 2 percent fee for administering the district.
The county is responsible for obtaining all permitting for the seawall and is exclusively liable for any non-compliance with state and federal regulations. But once installed, the individual owners of the 19 properties will own their portions of the new seawall and will be responsible for its maintenance.
For the project itself, there were just two bids, a $1.66 million bid from Palm Coast’s S.E. Cline Construction, and a $1.63 million bid from Custom Built Marine Construction of Fort Pierce. The contract went to Custom Built Marine at the end of the 25-minute meeting.