BROOKSVILLE — Cursed by delays for 17 years, the Hernando Beach Channel dredge hit one more snag Tuesday on its way toward completion.
Tuesday was to have been the day the Hernando County Commission would officially bring the controversial public works project to an end by paying the contractor, BCPeabody, the final $464,782 owed on its $8.7 million project.
But late Monday, the county's dredge project director, Susan Goebel-Canning, got word from the state Department of Environmental Protection that there was a problem.
BCPeabody's dredging subcontractor, Konga Marine Logistics, had over-dredged in some areas, meaning the company had dug deeper than the 6 feet below the low water line set forth in the state permit. Also, in two places, according to a county survey under review by the DEP, protected sea grasses may have been damaged.
Goebel-Canning urged the commission to delay the final payment until all of the details could be sorted out by the DEP. County Attorney Garth Coller suggested that commissioners follow the recommendation of the staff.
But Andrew Goetz, president of BCPeabody, said there was no requirement in its contract with the county that the DEP sign off on the project before the final payment is made.
"We are done. We believe we are done,'' Goetz told commissioners. "We've completed all our contractual requirements.''
Goetz said that he talked with DEP officials Tuesday morning and that they were simply saying their review of the drawings, surveys and paperwork was not complete. He also said there were sea grasses in some of the areas that the company was required to dredge.
For Goetz, the bottom line was that any minor issues did not justify the county withholding the final payment.
"I just don't think that it is right after the work we have done in the last year,'' he said. "I think some consideration should be given.''
The issue an outburst from Commissioner Dave Russell, who called the latest questions from the DEP "B.S." and said, "I am sick and damn tired of getting jacked around by these agencies.''
He threatened to approve the final payment to BCPeabody instantly, just because he was so upset with the regulatory agency.
He later apologized for his response, noting that he had been working on the project for years and was frustrated with the constant questions.
Commissioner Jeff Stabins suggested that the county cut the final payment in half until the DEP questions were answered. Commissioners also asked whether some of the money should be held up to help out residents who claim property damage from the dredge that has not yet been settled with BCPeabody's and Konga's insurance companies.
But county officials have maintained that they cannot help with that process and that property owners need to follow up on their own with the insurance claims.
Russell asked Goebel-Canning if it seemed reasonable to pay BCPeabody 90 percent of what is owed, with the county holding back 10 percent in case there was some need to mitigate for sea grasses that were destroyed. She said it was.
"I think we're due 100 percent,'' Goetz said, but added that he would not object to 10 percent being held back until the DEP signs off on the project.
Commissioners voted unanimously to pay the 90 percent immediately.
Russell asked for an update at the commission's meeting on April 24.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.