Mayor of Venice refutes claims that the Downtown Beautification Project is over budget

Mayor of Venice refutes claims that the Downtown Beautification Project is over budget

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Unconfirmed reports are making their way around the Suncoast, saying the Venice Beautification Project will cost an additional $570,000.

But Wednesday, the Venice Mayor said they’re just that - rumors, and that everything is going according to plan for the $8.4 million project to improve Downtown Venice.

The beautification to Downtown Venice is Phase Two of three phases that make up an $18 million Venice project. Phase One was repaving 71 lane miles of road throughout the City.

There was a steady line of cars on Venice Avenue Wednesday. It was traffic that the Mayor of Venice said is good for business downtown.

But not everyone agrees.

“It has been a disaster,” said Nancy Hamill, chef and owner of 124 Breakfast Lunch and More.

The small, mom and pop type shop has a gourmet breakfast. “We make the eggs Benedict, the Hollandaise sauce from scratch, we have real maple syrup,” gushed Hamill.

Still, 124 Breakfast Lunch and More is struggling to get by.

“If I was a person that quit, I would have already been gone, because it has been very difficult," said Hamill.

Cooking for her community is a passion of hers, but it’s one she says is nearly impossible now because of the Downtown Venice Beautification Project.

“It’s really on the backs of the merchants downtown," Hamill explained. "A lot of people have gone out of business during this and you’ll see more in the Summer, because they’ve taken the season! This is the middle of season. There’s a hole right behind my restaurant, like big!”

It’s a concern the Mayor of Venice empathizes with, but said there was no way they could continue to put off the work that needed to be done.

“This is a one time shot," said Mayor John Holic. "There won’t be a single business owner, that’s in business today, that’ll have to go through this again.”

Tampa Avenue is still under construction and, with the exception of one layer of blacktop, Venice and Miami Avenues are nearly complete.

Everything is supposed to be done by the end of April, about 40 days beyond the original bid.

“When they started redoing the project, they saw that the sidewalk was in really bad shape. That added a bunch of time to the bid," explained Mayor Holic. "That doesn’t mean they’re beyond time, the whole time of the project was extended because that means there was extra work added on.”

As for a rumor that the project is $570,000 over budget?

“It’s totally false,” Mayor Holic said. “If you look at the budget of the entire program, $18 million, a portion of that was called contingency, about $800,000. Any project of the magnitude of an $18 million project, you can’t possibly dot every single 'i' or cross every single 't'."

The Mayor said the contingency fund was set aside as part of the budget that would cover any unexpected cost or change in the project.

So far, Holic said about half of that $800,000 has been spent, which is where he believes the rumor might have started from.

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