Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando not ready to say channel dredging project is finished

HERNANDO BEACH — In the 17 years the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project has been in the making, there have been plenty of missed deadlines.

Friday, which was to be the deadline for project completion, became another.

While contractor BCPeabody has asked for the final payment on the work, approximately $420,000 of the $8.7 million project, the county says the company hasn't finished the job.

"Basically, they're not done,'' said Susan Goebel-Canning, who has been the county's dredge project manager.

Work crews from BCPeabody will be back out working Monday to finish patching, sodding and other restoration work in the area of Calienta Street and the parking area at the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The actual work dredging the channel has been done for several weeks, and the equipment has been removed from the scene. The contractor has been working on other cleanup and repair tasks since then, including rebuilding the seawall at the off-load site for the dredge.

BCPeabody's Robert Carpenter said Friday that the work was "99.999 percent done.''

The hold up of a couple of days, he said, is because "we're waiting for the concrete to cure.''

The work to restore the parking lots and sodded lots near that off-load site could not be done until concrete trucks were finished with their work, and that's why those finishing touches are still under way, Carpenter said.

BCPeabody has turned in drawings and other information that the firm is required to submit to the Department of Environmental Protection at the end of the dredge.

County officials will also be meeting Monday to discuss the status of the project and the contractor's request to be paid, Goebel-Canning said.

While she will update the County Commission on the dredging project at Tuesday's regular meeting, there will be no action item for commissioners to consider. BCPeabody will have to be completely finished with the work by Tuesday to make it onto the April 10 agenda, she said.

The final payment for the project requires commissioners' approval.

The other outstanding issue on the dredging project and whether the payment is made concerns the dozen or so property owners who have reported damage to their boats, docks and seawalls from the dredging operation. In some cases, BCPeabody and its dredging subcontractor, Konga Marine Logistics, simply paid for repairs or fixed the problems themselves.

But many claims went beyond what the contractor thought was owed, and those have been referred to the insurance companies representing BCPeabody and Konga.

Even though she and her husband had made their claims for damages months ago, Betty Watkins is still fighting for a resolution. Friday morning, she said, she was sending off volumes of information in the form of videos, pictures and paperwork to two different insurance companies to get reimbursement for the damage.

Watkins said that the insurance representatives told her they would have preferred the dredging subcontractor to file claims as it got them and not at the end of the work and also that they were still trying to get a handle on the scope of the problems.

"They don't even have their arms around it yet,'' Watkins said.

Goebel-Canning said some of those damage claims are still outstanding and must be resolved before the county can release BCPeabody's final payment.

Russell Wetherington, the county's chief procurement officer, said that once the claims are filed and working through the various insurance carriers, the county's responsibility is complete.

Carpenter said he would rather focus on the fact that the project came in at the price of the original bid and that boaters have had full use of the longer, wider and deeper canal for months instead of on Friday's missed deadline.

He said BCPeabody was as anxious as anyone to get the work done and leave the delays behind.

"None of this is good as far as we're concerned,'' he said. "We can't get paid.''

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

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