Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Another delay for Tarpon Springs reverse osmosis water plant

TARPON SPRINGS — Finally freed of legal entanglements, the city's new water plant project was hardly on again before it was off — again.

As city commissioners readied last month to review design proposals, a protest from the second-ranked bidder has put Tarpon Springs' largest capital project ever on pause.

"We fully expected someone to protest just because," said Jay Jackus, the city's purchasing administrator.

Just because, perhaps, the protesting company stands to lose out on a $35 million contract.

In letters, second-choice Garney Construction accuses Tarpon Springs of breaking state laws because the city's top pick didn't follow bid procedures or include all the necessary information.

Ranking competing construction company Wharton-Smith as No. 1 was "arbitrary and capricious," according to Garney.

Among the complaints — and Garney contests dozens of points — is the way Wharton-Smith calculated its project price. But even by Garney's re-calculations, Wharton-Smith would remain the first-place bidder.

Still, Garney argues, that's an unfair advantage. So the company is calling for the city to disqualify Wharton-Smith and use Garney's proposal instead — or throw out all the bids and start over.

In a point-by-point response, the city noted where Garney interpreted recommendations as hard-and-fast rules.

The city also reminded Garney of this line in the request for proposals: "… the 'City reserves and holds at its sole discretion, various rights and options including without limitations' the right to 'waive any minor informalities in the Proposals.' "

Wharton-Smith out-scored Garney in every category except price. Ranked superior in technical approach and quality of design, Wharton-Smith's proposal would cost almost $1.5 million more than Garney's.

But for this project, "we evaluated on more than just price," Jackus said.

The committee considered factors such as Wharton-Smith's track record with building water plants. According to its website, the company constructed Pinellas County Utilities' reclaimed water facility in Palm Harbor and a reverse osmosis plant in South Florida.

Tarpon Springs' reverse osmosis facility has been in the works since 2002. Officials planned it as a move toward water independence: Instead of buying drinking water from Pinellas County, the plant would filter groundwater pumped from wells. The reverse osmosis process pushes the brackish, salty water through membranes to remove impurities, producing 5 million gallons of drinking water a day.

The leftover salty brine eventually gets diluted and discharged into the Gulf of Mexico.

That's what concerned Tarpon Springs resident Henry Ross, who petitioned the state to hold up the project. He questioned how the wastewater would affect manatees, sea grass and sea turtles near the facility north of the Anclote River. It took years to resolve that challenge.

Construction was slated to begin next month and finish by the end of 2014. But all is on hold until an administrative hearing Jan. 23 on the bid protest.

If the hearing doesn't go Garney's way, the project could be further delayed if the company decides to sue.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or swang@tampabay.com.

Another delay for Tarpon Springs reverse osmosis water plant 01/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 6:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.