Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando commission to consider channel dredging settlement

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday will consider a partial settlement of the lawsuit filed by the first dredging contractor on the Hernando Beach channel project. Then, the county plans to target the engineering firm it hired for the job.

The county will have to pay a significant amount up front, with the hope of receiving a larger sum of money at the end of the process, according to backup material provided commissioners for their Tuesday meeting.

Two years ago, Orion Dredging Services LLC sued Hernando County after the county terminated Orion's contract because the firm couldn't complete the dredge.

At the time of the lawsuit, Orion blamed the engineer of record, Halcrow Inc., for drawing up a defective dredging plan.

Since that time, the suit has grown increasingly more complex, with Orion's de-watering subcontractor, Harvey-Taddeo Inc., and the bonding companies for Orion, Harvey-Taddeo and Halcrow all becoming parties in the action.

The settlement that commissioners will consider first requires the county to acknowledge that it owes Orion at least $4.4 million, then agree to pay Orion $1.7 million, which it will divide with Harvey-Taddeo.

After that, the county, Orion, Harvey-Taddeo and the bonding companies will all agree to release their legal claims against one another.

The county will continue the legal case against Halcrow, which designed the failed first dredging attempt.

Legal representation for the county at that point would be taken over by the same firm used by Harvey-Taddeo — Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli. The county would pay the firm half of its regular billing rate and 50 percent of whatever the firm recovers over $1.7 million.

In addition, all of the work product developed by the attorneys for Orion and Harvey-Taddeo would be turned over to the county. Those materials, gathered during the preparations for arguing their cases, are worth approximately $750,000.

Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli will file a motion seeking to amend the county's pleadings in the case to refocus the suit solely against Halcrow.

The county would then seek to recover damages, including the amount it paid Halcrow, which was approximately $2.5 million; the amount the county will have had to pay Orion to end its portion of the suit, which is $1.7 million; the full damages that could have been claimed by the county, $4.4 million; and all of the costs incurred on the project "which would not have been incurred but for the default, breach of contract, negligence and or professional malpractice of Halcrow.''

That amount has not yet been determined.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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Updated: 05/27/18