July 20, 2024

Additional Funds Approved to Relocate Gopher Tortoises at New Tax Collector Building Site

At the December 12th Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, the board approved a Consent Agenda item that will amend an accounting issue and request additional services by Straughn Trout Architects to conduct a second Gopher Tortoise census at the pending DMV construction site on Forest Oaks Blvd in Spring Hill and relocate the tortoises to a refuge.

The item was approved without discussion or vote.

On November 29, 2022, the Board approved a contract to Straughn Trout Architects for Architectural and Engineering Services for $1,457,621 to prepare for construction of the new Tax Collector Building. This approval included supplemental services described as “Ecological Services – Gopher” for $162,940. This amount was transposed with an item listed as “Site Civil Engineering” for $41,245. The approved amendment corrects that transposition so that the contracted amount for “Site Civil Engineering” is $162,940, and the original amount for “Ecological Services – Gopher” is $41,245.

On January 24, 2023, an initial census located 143 Gopher Tortoise burrows, 136 of which were found to be occupied. Before relocating the tortoises, additional funding was approved to complete a second census and other activities, such as permitting, under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Gopher Tortoise Permitting Guidelines (FWC 2020).

The additional funds requested are: A second census for Gopher Tortoise burrows: $4,301; design fee and permit Application $11,500; permit fee $23,283; Gopher Tortoise relocation.

$78,832.50; recipient site fee: $418,950. The total budget for the tortoise study and relocation comes to $1,994,487.50.

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