BROOKSVILLE — The cost of cleaning up the toxic soil and water at the old public works complex in south Brooksville continues to grow.
The County Commission agreed this week to pay engineering firm Cardno TBE $102,777 to expand the remedial action plan for the project and to provide administrative services during the bidding and construction process.
The previous consultant on the project, Creative Environmental Solutions Inc., had written a remedial action plan as part of the last extension in their project but it did not include a menu of cleanup options. Instead, the firm's president, George Foster, suggested fencing off the property and leaving it in a passive state with long-term soil monitoring.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has suggested providing alternatives in the proposed plan so that if one cleanup method failed, the county could move to another without having to go through the lengthy approval process again.
Recently, the DEP granted the county a 120-day extension to submit the plan.
Cardno TBE was selected for the project from a rotating list of engineering firms that the county uses. Projects costing less than $200,000 can be done using these firms without bidding the work.
Creative Environmental Solutions had been chosen to do the work at the public works site in 2005 with a non-bid contract for $77,051. Through expansions in the scope of services, which up to this point have consisted of extensive soil and water testing, the company has been paid more than $2 million.
To date, the county has spent more than $3.35 million on the project and has not yet begun to clean the site, which was contaminated over the years by petroleum and other chemicals spilled there.
County commissioners agreed months ago that in the future, the continuing work on the project would be opened up for other firms.
County officials have talked about future use of the property for recreation such as basketball courts. That idea has gotten a favorable reaction from community leaders wanting to provide activities for area youth, assistant county attorney Erica Moore told commissioners.
But Commissioner Jim Adkins voiced some concern about the appropriateness of using a contaminated site for recreation. "Years down the road, what if a child has a disease?" he said.
Susan Goebel, interim public works director, assured commissioners that the site would be cleaned up to state-set environmental standards and would not pose a risk.
In other County Commission business:
• Commissioners listened for more than an hour Tuesday to attorney Bruce Snow, who talked about the background and history of former public works director and county engineer Charles Mixson.
The presentation was the center of a name-clearing hearing for Mixson, who was fired by County Administrator David Hamilton in January for a series of performance problems including delays in projects such as the public works site cleanup.
Snow detailed reasons why Mixson believed the termination was unwarranted, pointing to the ongoing delays in the cleanup project and the Hernando Beach Channel dredge as showing that regulatory agency delays and unforeseen circumstances are frequent in such complex projects.
Snow said that the opportunity to clear one's name was a constitutionally protected liberty. He asked that the transcript of the hearing be placed in Mixson's file and suggested it wasn't too late to laud Mixson for his quarter-century of service to the county.
Mixson did not speak other than to affirm the truth of what Snow told commissioners. There was no discussion by the commission at the end of Snow's presentation.
• Commissioners also learned that for the second year, the county was unsuccessful in securing a grant through the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program to make improvements to Kennedy Park in south Brooksville.
Earlier this month, the county received a letter explaining that the park improvement project was reviewed and ranked, but there were not sufficient funds for all the projects on the priority list.
Park users and parks and recreation officials have long sought more parking, sports lighting and playground equipment to enhance the park and had hoped the state funding would come through to make those changes.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.