BROOKSVILLE — After terminating its contract with controversial contractor Greg Jarque, the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday voted to seek a replacement to oversee the troubled Hernando Beach channel dredge.
While the county staff was proposing to use an in-house construction management team to supervise the project, commissioners decided they still wanted someone experienced on site to ride herd on the contractor.
"We've got too much to lose here, folks, to not pursue this,'' Commissioner Wayne Dukes said. He noted that this is the "last chance" to get the long-awaited, multimillion-dollar project finished.
When the staff oversaw the project with the former contractor, the county ran into problems, Dukes said. He also said the project needs an engineer on site.
The engineer the county has been using, Halcrow Inc., is currently at an impasse with the county over past bills.
"I really, really don't want to take a chance of losing this,'' Dukes said. "I'm looking for an insurance policy.''
Commissioner John Druzbick said he agreed that a construction manager was important for the project.
"The bottom line … the project needs to be done,'' Druzbick said.
The project to widen, deepen, straighten and lengthen the channel has been stalled for years by legal, financial and environmental problems. If the work isn't done by Jan. 1, the county will likely lose $6 million in state funds.
Dukes said having someone who can scrutinize the project daily is important.
"Do we really want to be the board that dropped the ball on this and had to give the state back $6 million because we failed?'' Dukes said.
The commissioners did not speak about their decision to terminate Jarque's contract as project manager. County Administrator David Hamilton had removed Jarque and his Gritz Development and Construction firm from the project earlier this month after Jarque's background came under scrutiny. He pleaded guilty to attempted arson in New York in the 1990s, and that revelation caused a closer look at Jarque's construction credentials.
While Jarque told the board he was a general contractor, he actually is a licensed building contractor. Hamilton expressed concern about a breach of integrity.
It will take the county until June to seek proposals for a new contract manager, which several commissioners said should be an engineer with dredging experience willing to take far less than the $152,500 included in Jarque's contract.
That new manager could start work by July, officials said, giving the person a full six months on the jobsite before the Dec. 31 deadline for completion of the dredge.
In the meantime, county staffers will monitor the project.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.