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Dredge contractor intends to sue Hernando after being fired

BROOKSVILLE - For the second time this week, Hernando officials have received notice that they may be sued over a major project.

On Friday, county officials received an "intent to file suit" by Orion Dredging Services LLC over the County Commission's decision last month that the firm was in breach of its contract to dredge the Hernando Beach Channel.

Orion's vice president and general counsel Peter Buchler cites the contract provisions that require disputes between Orion and the county to be settled in Circuit Court.

County commissioners determined that Orion had abandoned the dredge project and had breached their contract by failing to meet the provisions of the county's dredge permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Orion began dredging last year but was stopped by the DEP in January because the firm could not strip enough of the sediment out of the spoils before returning the water to a nearby canal.

Since then Orion and the county's consultant on the project, Halcrow, have tussled over who was responsible for determining the method for de-watering the spoils. The final straw for the county was Orion's insistence on pushing a $7.8 million change order to use a new system of settling ponds and a coagulant to strip the sediment from the water.

That money was requested above the $5 million contract already approved for Orion.

County officials have been talking to new dredging contractors and are hoping to bring some proposals to the board later this month, according to Lisa Hammond, the strategic planning director for the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

"We are aware of Orion's notice,'' Jon Jouben, assistant county attorney, said Friday. "To the best of our knowledge, Orion has not filed a lawsuit. Beyond that, the County Attorney's Office does not comment on hypothetical or threatened litigation.''

Earlier this week, Corrections Corporation of America filed suit in federal court against Hernando County. CCA, which operated the county's jail for 22 years, ending that contract in August, is suing because the county withheld $1.8 million invoiced by the firm and claimed equipment that CCA says is theirs.

County officials have been awaiting a final engineering report which is expected to determine how much of the needed jail repair should be charged back to CCA. A preliminary report indicated that CCA owned nearly $1 million for deferred maintenance.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Dredge contractor intends to sue Hernando after being fired 10/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 5:47pm]
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