BROOKSVILLE — Residents of eastern Hernando County who miss their neighborhood library should soon see renovation work begin on the building, which was badly damaged by fire in July.
The Hernando County Commission voted this week to award the job of remodeling the East Hernando Branch Library to Samsson Construction Inc. of Aripeka, but only after commissioners questioned why the company's bid was so much lower than three others.
Samsson's winning bid was $83,770. The other three bids ranged from $130,000 to $152,000, which gave pause to Commissioner Jim Adkins.
"I want that library fixed, but I want it fixed right,'' Adkins said.
The county's chief procurement officer, Russ Wetherington, assured the board that county staffers had done an extensive technical evaluation of the bid that involved sending a list of specific questions to the contractor.
"If he lives by his answers, there should be no change orders,'' Wetherington said.
Over the past several years, commissioners have tried to curb change orders that inflate the cost of projects. Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he remembers when Hernando was "the change order capital of the state'' and he didn't want to see that happen again.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson asked when residents could expect the library to reopen.
It may be open by August, said Cristi Charlow, the county's risk management coordinator for the county. But even after the construction work is done, officials reminded commissioners, all of the books and other materials cleaned after the fire will still need to be returned, which will take some time.
Residents who use the library have been anxious to see some work begin and have questioned the delays. During the discussion about the contract for Samsson, Lynn Gruber-White, president of the Ridge Manor Property Owners Association, noted that library officials are planning to speak to the community this month about the renovation process.
They will appear at the general meeting of the association, scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Ridge Manor Community Center in Dade City.
Gruber-White also told commissioners she has been working to find a way to provide library services in the community while residents are waiting for the library to reopen.
Joseph M. Brannen was charged with second-degree arson in connection with the fire. He told officials he set the fire so he could help firefighters put it out.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.