By Tamas Mondovics

Members of the Apollo Beach Waterway Improvement Group (ABWIG) for the past six years have tirelessly supported and hoped to see the completion of the long awaited channel dredging and beach re-nourishment project. They will now have to wait until next summer before seeing any fruit of their labor.

ABWIG President Len Berkstresser brought the community up-to-date on the once-again delayed project during a recent town hall style meeting held at the Century 21 Apollo Beach Office.

The event saw more than 100 residents, as well as members of Hillsborough County government.

Berkstresser ensured all present that the necessity of moving the project to next year was not the result of mismanagement of the $250,000 already raised by the group, but was the loss of the contractor originally chosen by ABWIG.

“Our initial contractor has provided us with a financial target, but backed out of the project, while the second and subsequent contractors quotes were much higher than what we have in our budget at this time,” Berkstresser said. “The new estimate now ranges from $300,000 to $350,000.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, along with Deputy County Administrator Greg Horwedel and Hillsborough County Environmental Lands managerRoss Dickerson, spoke about the County’s support by its connections to leverage a contract for dredging project.

Horwedel reportedly told the large group that the benefits of the County’s larger involvement means future contractors with multiple resources and continued motivation to bid competitively on County projects would be chosen from a county-approved list.

Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners have already voted to allocate $50,000 toward ABWIG’s efforts, which according to ABWIG is a very generous commitment.

However, the group also has to consider a post-project founding to maintain the channels, which can amount to $10,000 a year.

The delay now forces the dredging work to begin in April 2016 with a two to three month completion time frame in harmony with manatees leaving the area.

ABWIG is now actively seeking new board members to serve the group in the future. For more information or to support the group by donating, visit www.abwig .org. Donations may be sent to ABWIG at P.O. Box 3251, Apollo Beach, FL 33572.

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