BROOKSVILLE — Although they've been assured by their contractor that the Hernando Beach Channel dredge will be finished by the Dec. 31 deadline, county commissioners on Tuesday decided to hedge their bets.'
That's how Commissioner Dave Russell described the board's unanimous action to seek a third extension in the state funding deadline for the troubled project.
The move wasn't designed to give the contractor more time, since there are daily penalties in its contract for missing the deadline, but simply a way to play it safe and not jeopardize funding, Russell said.
Officials worry that if completion of the problem-plagued dredge slips into 2012, the county would lose $6 million the state has approved for the work.
Seeking the extension was one of several key decisions regarding the dredging that commissioners made Tuesday in an effort to move the project forward and possibly save some money.
Several weeks ago, commissioners heard a plea from Andrew Goetz, president of contractor BCPeabody, to keep the faith that the work would be done on time. And Goetz explained why his company deserved its next pay draw.
Susan Goebel, the county's transportation services director, had problems with some of the items in the pay request. Ultimately, the commission said to pay the bill, and an attorney in the office of the clerk of the circuit court suggested that the county rewrite its contract with BCPeabody to match a change in the way the dredge is being performed.
That, the attorney said, could clear up future pay disputes because the contract would better match the actual dredging work.
Commissioner John Druzbick asked Tuesday if the county wasn't opening itself up to problems since reopening the contract means both sides could seek changes.
County Attorney Garth Coller said Druzbick's concerns were correct, but noted that if commissioners do not like the changes that are negotiated, then they can simply reject any alteration of the current agreement.
Commissioners voted to open discussions with the contractor.
Robert Carpenter, the owner of BCPeabody, told commissioners that a renegotiation might be a big help to the county because his company was now proposing to drain and store the dredged materials in the now-unused settling ponds on the county's old wastewater treatment plant.
Storing the material once it has dried is allowed under the current state permit, Carpenter told commissioners.
Not only would that save as much as $100,000 in the cost of having the SunWest Mine in Hudson stockpile the material, but it also would save on trucking costs.
Once the material dries, the county can use it, Carpenter said.
"It's perfectly good fill," he said. "It's clean.''
County officials still must talk to representatives from Manuel LLC about the arrangement. That company has been promised the fill dirt that comprises the walls of the settling ponds, and those would have to stay in place for some time if the spoils are kept there.
"This is keeping with the commission's wishes,'' Russell said, noting that "the more (of the spoils) we keep on site, the better. . . . That stuff is always useful.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.