Gasparilla Island Board Chairman David Hayes doesn't shrink from the tough task of guiding the $40 million bridge replacement project or in the difficulty of filling the large shoes left by former GIBA Chairman Jerry Lusk, an effective, thoughtful consensus-builder who can be credited for quietly working through all obstacles during his tenure.
In his opinion, Hayes is satisfied the bridge-building process is on track but he won't be satisfied until he can drive over the new Swing Bridge - the last of three new bridges to be built - in January 2013. Here is the first of a two-part series on the GIBA chairman's bridge project overviews.
QUESTION: How tough has it been taking over as GIBA chairman with all the questions surrounding financing for the $40 bridge project?
David Hayes, Gasparilla Island Board chairman
ANSWER: I do want to pay some respect to former GIBA Chairman Jerry Lusk. Until you take that seat, you don't realize that you've just tripled your workload. I have the utmost respect for all the work he's done. He's very well organized. He did a great job. The fact we have two bridges under construction now, he brought it to that and I applaud him for it.
Q: You're a frequent and vocal critic of Florida's Sunshine Laws, which are designed to have all government actions taken in a public forum. Has the Sunshine Law hindered bridge project progress?
A: The one thing I hate the most is the rules of the Sunshine Law. They don't allow you to talk to other board members (about board business outside an official meeting). It drives me insane. You have so much on your agenda, you don't have time to talk and work things out. I'm used to a corporation. We have meetings. We get to talk. Here, you can't tell other board members how you feel until you get into that public format and then you're under time constraints, which makes it difficult to form consensus because they don't have time to think about it.
David Hayes at a glance
Family: Married 22 years with two sons and two daughters, four grandsons and one granddaughter.
Experience: 40 years of manufacturing and management running four plants as a large supplier of parts domestic and foreign. Now a semi-retired consultant.
Why ran for GIBA. The bridges are a complicated task. I've built projects that big having planned communities and roadways. I felt it was important that someone step up to the table that has experience handling such issues.
GIBA service: Sat on GIBA Engineering and GIBA Finance committees before being elected to the GIBA Board in 2010 and being named chairman this year .
Education: Bachelor's degree in business from Tiffin University where he still sits on the board. Master's degree from University of Dayton.
How long lived on Boca Grande: We became Boca Grande residents in 2005 and built a new house in Boca Grande in 2008. I love it. I've loved the island since 1993.
Q: Is the bridge project on track?
A: So far it's gone pretty good. I'd just like things to move a little quicker and not squabble over things that have already taken place. No need to go backward. I'm trying to keep it going forward to keep it on track.
Q: Where is construction on the temporary bridge next to the South Bridge right now?
A: They are driving the pilings now to support the temporary bridges. Once the pilings are in place, they'll start putting down the temporary bridge. It's a six-month project.
Q: Other than a little hiccup when utility work blocked a lane of traffic without notifying GIBA or island residents, have slowdowns been a problem?
A: No, no. After the little jam - I was in it, it wasn't much - we instructed every project manager to notify GIBA of any interruption in traffic. This last time, GIWA called nobody. They just arbitrarily put a flagman up and the cones down and didn't warn anybody. They need to let us know and, if they don't, we have eyes on it now. And we'll let the public know when to expect a wait.
Q: There will be more traffic disruptions though, won't there?
A: A lot of it is minor but to the residents it's not minor if they have a doctor's appointment or something as important. Then it's not minor. We'll have stop-and-go's but we'll make the public aware of it. Sometime during off-season we will have to go to one lane, especially when we're tying in the temporary bridge.
Q: Why didn't GIBA build up a rainy day fund so the $40 million cost didn't come crashing down on islanders?
A: We depleted our rainy day fund because we paid off the debt that we had (to become more attractive to bond issuers). We did have a rainy day fund but it's gone.
Q: If GIBA's requested property tax increase is approved, will all revenues go to erase debt incurred building the three bridges?
A: I want all the excess revenues, every single penny, to be segregated and set aside for any impending problems that nobody can foresee.
Q: Why did the board institute a new check co-signing procedure for all major GIBA expenditures?
A: Because of the amount of money we're spending, I asked for board for the chairman to co-sign all drawdown construction checks we issue to Orion so we have a second set of eyes. It's just a double-check. I don't want any surprises. It's a preventative measure to make sure the money we spend matches up with the contract we currently have.
Q: How concerned should islanders be about the $1.7 million annual gap in bridge construction financing?
A: We have to build the bridges and we also have to pay for the bridges and ensure they are on budget and built on time. Bottom line is the GIBA Board has the ultimate decision as to what to put forward in the referendum (to cover the shortfall). The courtesy poll is to get a feel from residents as to how they feel about these proposals.
Next week: How GIBA will solve its financing equation, did the bridges really need to be replaced, what to do when voting for a property tax increase, naming rights and who will cut the ribbon on the new bridges.