Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando County officials clash over cleanup of old public works complex

BROOKSVILLE — The latest chapter in the long-awaited cleanup of the old public works complex on Tuesday saw a dustup among two Hernando department heads and the project's consultant.

At one point, County Commission Chairman Dave Russell had to gavel down a heated exchange between public works director Charles Mixson and purchasing director Jim Gantt.

As issue was the 13th change to the no-bid contract the county struck with consultant Creative Environmental Solutions Inc. in August 2005. The original contract amount was $77,051, but it has since swelled to more than $2 million.

The latest change would add another $45,500 to a project that so far has cost more than $4 million, and the cleanup of the contaminated site has yet to begin.

The county attorney's office flagged the change since County Administrator David Hamilton had determined months ago that any more work would have to be bid. Originally set for approval last week, the commission agreed to delay the decision until Tuesday.

Then came a flurry of memos.

Gantt recommended that the county seek bids for the new tests ordered by state environmental regulators.

"The board may approve the addition of this work to Creative Environmental Solutions Inc., as a supplement to the previous contract; however, it would seem prudent to procure this work on a competitive basis, in that it can be separated from the scope of work contracted to date,'' Gantt wrote.

"It is unfortunate that county engineering was not permitted an opportunity to discuss this recommendation prior to being presented to the board,'' Mixson fired back.

In his memo, he argues that the new tasks couldn't be easily separated and that Creative Solutions would have to participate in the testing to sign off as part of its cleanup plan.

He went on to warn that finding someone else to do the work at this late date might mean the county would miss deadlines with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

George Foster, president of Creative Environmental, wrote a five-page pitch to keep the county's business. He detailed all the problems the county had with its previous consultant and summarized what his firm has done since then.

"It is my understanding that certain factions in county government, possibly with pressure from private, out-of-county entities, have determined that CES should not be permitted to bring this project to completion under our current county contract and that the remaining tasks should be put out to bid,'' Foster wrote.

"Naturally, we would like to finish the project we essentially started and we feel it would be imprudent to change consultants when the end is so near,'' he wrote, warning that changing now would cause delays and drive up costs.

But when commissioners asked Gantt on Tuesday how long it would take to bid out the testing, he responded that he could advertise and have a response back to commissioners in just a few weeks.

Mixson countered that testing was part of the overall remedial plan and it had to be proved that the cleanup plan will work.

As the debate escalated, Russell slammed down his gavel and allowed Hamilton to propose a compromise.

Hamilton suggested that the commission grant this change but accept competitive proposals for the next phase of the project, the actual cleanup and monitoring of the work.

He said opening the work to other firms is a form of checks and balances. Having the same people who designed the fix monitor whether their plan actually works "is like marking your own exam,'' Hamilton said.

Commissioners voted unanimously to follow Hamilton's suggestion.

No work is likely to start anytime soon on the actual moving or treating of soil, however. The state will have to approve the county's remediation plan, and the county cannot even submit that plan until threat of legal action by the neighboring community can be settled.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County officials clash over cleanup of old public works complex 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 8:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.
  2. CIA chief: Intel leaks on the rise amid 'worship' of leakers

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — CIA director Mike Pompeo says he thinks disclosure of America's secret intelligence is on the rise, fueled partly by the "worship" of leakers like Edward Snowden.

    CIA director Mike Pompeo said the U.S. must redouble its efforts to stop information from leaking.
  3. ABC Racing kennel advances three into semifinals

    Parimutuels

    ST. PETERSBURG — The maiden voyage by Don Burk into the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby series — his first as the ABC Racing kennel owner — went as easy as ABC.

  4. Why Grenfell tower burned: Regulators put cost before safety

    World

    The doorbell woke Yassin Adam just before 1 a.m. A neighbor was frantically alerting others on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower about a fire in his apartment. "My fridge blew up," the man shouted.

    At least 79 people were killed in the fire at the Grenfell Tower apartment building in London, and the toll is expected to rise.
  5. Bullpen melts down as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jacob Faria allowed his first two big-league home runs and was touched for a career-high three runs Saturday by the Orioles. Other than that, the rookie making his fourth major-league start did okay against the Baltimore bats.

    The bullpen, not so much.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Baltimore Orioles scored four runs during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) SPD118