Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando County nears final payout to dredge contractor

BROOKSVILLE — The small rock sitting on the desk might seem inconsequential, but not to the desk's occupant, Susan Goebel-Canning.

The county's environmental services director plucked it from the spoils of Hernando County's ultimate infinity project, as the past county administrator called it. It symbolizes the journey Goebel-Canning has taken professionally in the two years and three months since former administrator David Hamilton put her in the role of "dredge lady.''

On Tuesday, the Hernando Beach Channel dredge might finally drop its infinity nickname. If the County Commission approves, the county could, at last, bring the job to an end — 17-plus years after it was first conceived — by paying the final $464,781.95 owed to contractor BCPeabody.

"Every day, I've been living life as the dredge lady,'' Goebel-Canning said last week. "Finally I'm seeing the light. I'm so looking forward to the board on the 10th saying that it's done.''

Even though the project presented challenges at every corner, requiring a change in method on the actual dredge operation and modification of the state permit along the way, BCPeabody chief executive officer Robert Carpenter said he doesn't regret bidding on the complex project.

"I'm glad we were able to do what we said we were going to do,'' Carpenter said. "We're just glad to have been a part of putting a lingering problem to bed.''

Weeks ago, BCPeabody and subcontractor crews pulled up their barges, carting some away and floating others into the Gulf of Mexico toward their respective homes. Excavators were packed up and trucked away, too.

The welcome demobilization came after months of inconvenience. Loaded barges had blocked passage down the channel, and the deafening churning of the equipment had destroyed the peace and quiet for neighbors, day and night.

Boaters in Hernando Beach and surrounding areas were, after the long wait, finally able to enjoy a 3-mile channel that is 60 feet wide and 6 foot deep at mean low-water levels.

Independent and county surveys during March confirmed that a deeper, straighter, longer and wider channel was finally done.

In the days that followed, crews worked to finish up issues on a punch list: clearing a couple of side canals, rebuilding the seawall at the spoils dropoff site, and restoring lots and pavement near that site and the Coast Guard Auxiliary building on Calienta Street.

Late last week, Goebel-Canning was awaiting releases from several of the property owners who have claimed damage from the dredge operation. Those releases were from owners who had their repairs completed by BCPeabody or its dredging subcontractor, Konga Marine Logistics.

Another half-dozen residents have filed claims for damages with the insurance companies of BCPeabody and Konga and are in various states of resolution. Goebel-Canning said the county cannot hold up payment to the contractor over those unresolved insurance claims.

One resident with seawall damage, Phil Rubin, has put the county on notice that he might go to court to ensure his issues are resolved. Last week, the county forwarded to Rubin a letter from the county's insurance carrier, Travelers.

"As you know, Hernando County contracted this dredging project to BCPeabody as the general contractor. BCPeabody in turn subcontracted the boat activity for the movement of material to Konga Marine Logistics,'' wrote senior technical specialist Earl Spencer.

"The county did not actively participate or have control of the project operation in any such manner. As such, the county should not be liable for the alleged negligent acts of the general contractor and/or subcontractor,'' he wrote.

Richard and Betty Watkins have spent months chasing the dredging firms' insurance companies and adjusters, trying to resolve their damage issues. They intend to ask the County Commission on Tuesday why others had their seawalls repaired while their claim has been denied.

Betty Watkins called the entire situation "a shame" and wants to urge the commission, as residents have done in the past, to hold up making the last payment to the contractor until all damage issues are resolved.

"With everything still torn up,'' she said, "I don't think it is done.''

Even as the dredge project ends, the residual legal actions promise to keep talk of the project alive for some time to come.

The county's original dredge company, Orion Dredging Services, sued the county after the county found Orion in breach of its contract. Orion had been shut down by the state for being unable to sufficiently filter dredge spoils.

The county counter-sued.

Then last week, county attorneys filed a new claim that pointed the first fingers of blame at the consulting engineer the county hired to design the project and obtain the permits, Halcrow.

The court has tentatively slated a jury trial on the lawsuit for May 2013 if the issues cannot be resolved.

County Commissioner Dave Russell, who was instrumental in helping get the $6 million state grant to fund a portion of the dredge project, said he is hopeful that one of the outcomes of the litigation is that the county receives money from Orion or its bonding company for not completing the job.

That's because the price tag for the work has caused grief for the commission, which has had to tap into millions of dollars from its judicial center fund and other funds to pay the bills. Although the final cost has not been tallied, the last total released was $15.1 million, with $8.7 million of that going to BCPeabody.

For Russell, who has monitored the dredge project for most of its life — through environmental, financial and legal challenges — the end is bittersweet.

"I know the entire board will breathe a sigh of relief that the project is done. For me personally, we were able to accomplish the dredge,'' he said. "I am not pleased with the amount of time it took or the amount of money.'' He wasn't alone in that sentiment.

"I think there are a lot of citizens in this county that feel as I do. We're thrilled that the dredge has been completed and we have a navigable waterway," said Commissioner Jeff Stabins.

"But was it worth the price we paid? I don't know that.''

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

Comments
The Daystarter: Lightning one win away from advancing; Steve Persall rides off into retirement; talking ‘St. Pete Pier’ funding; meet the Times’ new business columnist

The Daystarter: Lightning one win away from advancing; Steve Persall rides off into retirement; talking ‘St. Pete Pier’ funding; meet the Times’ new business columnist

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• It’s more of the same with sunny skies and warm temperatures today. It’ll be a bit cooler at the beaches around the mid-70s, but east of Interstate 75 it will be in the mid to upper 8...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Trademark makes it official: Call it the St. Pete Pier

Trademark makes it official: Call it the St. Pete Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Today the City Council is set to approve a $15 million construction contract and additional money for the next phase of the new Pier District expected to open in the fall of 2019.But even as council members get ready to commit hundre...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Downtown’s success creates noisy problem for St. Petersburg

Downtown’s success creates noisy problem for St. Petersburg

Times Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG — Downtown’s rapid growth has not been without tension between its residents and the businesses and events that draw exuberant crowds.The city, which has been attempting to amend its noise ordinance over the past few...
Published: 04/19/18
Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

BROOKSVILLE — A 16-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old boy critically injured after their car was struck by a pick-up truck at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Country Road on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The cras...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Updated: 7 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 18

Wednesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 2, Boca Ciega 1Springstead 10, Nature Coast 4
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

TAMPA — A political fight over the makeup of Hillsborough County government could be heading to voters to decide.After a discussion divided along party lines, commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to overhaul the structure of th...
Updated: 8 hours ago