Agencies should communicate

By Steve Estes

There is very little limit these days on the ways folks can use to communicate with one another virtually whenever the need or the mood strikes them, particularly for government agencies who usually get the best of the latest toys on the taxpayer dime.

Land line phones still exist, cell phones are common place, email is readily available, web sites are accessible, teleconferencing is becoming old hat, smart phones can send and retrieve data at will, and if all else fails, the highway still goes two directions.

Thus it baffles us why government entities can’t seem to coordinate one another’s activities, and often get in each other’s way when pursuing major projects.

We saw that last year when the state Department of Transportation spent millions of dollars and thousands of man hours preparing for and completing a road upgrade project on Lower Sugarloaf Key.

The residents asked them to coordinate with the county and their own sister agencies to tear up the neighborhood one time for the road repair, the installation of the bike path and the installation of the sewer systems.

Those pleas fell on deaf ears.

Now we face somewhat the same situation on Summerland Key where DOT plans a massive drainage fix problem along US 1 through the business district there later this year or early next year.

The plans are for the installation of a new drainage system that will alleviate the standing mini-lake problem many of the businesses face after every decent rainfall.

Plans include moving the bike path closer to the road and installing a sidewalk at the far end of the state right-of-way through the area.

According to artists’ renditions, there will be some new landscaping and grass put down in the right-of-way that may partially address the area’s ongoing ingress and egress issues.

Right now, few impediments exist to motorists who simply want to pull off on the bike path and use it as a travel lane until they reach their destination, or pull across several parking lots to get to the one they seek.

And every one of those access points goes directly across the bike path.

Plans are to fix that by putting bike path on both sides of the road, but now motorists will have the option to whip across the sidewalk too in order to access the businesses along the highway.

We have no doubt that it will be a good-looking project when completed.

What we doubt is the issues that come later.

County officials plan to begin laying sewer pipe along that same right-of-way in 2014 and they will have no option but to tear up the nice work DOT did a year before.

That’s a lack of communication, or a lack of caring about communication, whichever side of the half-full glass argument you’re on.

DOT officials are convinced that they have a five-year moratorium on tearing up their work built into their authority level. If that’s indeed true, then the county just missed it’s 2015 mandate for the installation of sewer pipes by about three years, not just on Summerland Key, but everywhere east of Summerland Key because the system’s transmission pipes go from Cudjoe eastward to Big Pine.

Summerland would seem to be an important piece of that plan.

One wonders if the state expects the county to build the pipes up to Summerland, then go to the other end and install pipes that go nowhere until the moratorium has expired before completing the system.

That’s a waste of time and money.

Here’s a common sense suggestion.

We know the road needs to be fixed. We know the drainage issues need to be addressed.

But why can’t we wait for grass curbs until the sewer pipes have gone in and everybody is done tearing up the right-of-way?

We are all familiar with the governmental mantra of “spend the money while you have it because you may not have it again.”

And that’s why we wind up tearing up and repairing each other’s work, spending extra millions in the process.

Of course we have to take some of the blame because in these days of instant communication and our desire to be first in line for any perks we write them, call them, email them, Facebook them, Tweet them and visit them until our instant gratification craving is satisfied.

And then we do the same to browbeat them for wasting our taxpayer dollars.

That still doesn’t absolve our state, federal and local officials from the need to communicate with one another.

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