Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando offers $250,000 settlement in lawsuit over work on Osowaw Boulevard

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County has offered a $250,000 cash settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought by the road-building company that made much-criticized improvements to Osowaw Boulevard.

County commissioners unanimously approved making the settlement offer on Tuesday after meeting with their attorneys. The offer was limited to the cash settlement, which would expire after five work days, and wouldn't include a series of other provisions asked for by the contractor.

In a letter dated June 28, Scott Machnik, the attorney for B.R.W. Contracting Inc. of Land O'Lakes, asked for the $250,000 plus the county's agreement to say that the "primary cause of the road defects and poor rideability of the road were due to unsuitable design or incomplete testing of the existing condition of the roadway.''

Machnik also wanted the county to agree that B.R.W. wasn't responsible for the road defects and that "while the county's termination of B.R.W. was perhaps an understandable reaction in light of the appearance of defects in the road and numerous complaints from driving regarding the quality of the road, such termination was ultimately unjustified,'' according to the letter.

In addition, B.R.W. sought to have the county agree that it would not "suspend, bar, exclude or otherwise prevent or hinder B.R.W.'s ability to bid future projects in the county based on the project or the lawsuit.''

The county has barred the contractor for the last two years from bidding on projects because of the Osowaw work and other projects that ran into problems.

The attorney noted that the non-monetary items he was seeking for his client were "not intended to shame the county so much as to redeem or preserve B.R.W.'s reputation — especially to its surety and Pasco County — and are in lieu of any potential damages incurred as a result of the defamation of B.R.W. and its reputation due to the dispute with Hernando County.''

In May of last year, B.R.W. filed legal action against Hernando County for breach of contract. The county had hired the company in February 2015 for $571,979 to make improvements to Osowaw Boulevard, west of U.S. 19, including bike lanes, a sidewalk and pavement overlay.

But soon after the pavement was placed and traffic began using the road, residents began complaining that the wavy surface reminded them of a washboard. The complaints came as the contractor came under increasing scrutiny for delays, using inferior materials and construction problems on several other county road projects.

The contractor's lawsuit sought $281,269 the county still owed it for the job. County officials said the work wasn't done properly. Contractor representatives said the county's design and specifications were wrong.

Last year, former company official Phyllis Blankenship was found guilty on 10 misdemeanor counts of perjury for signing sworn affidavits that none of the company's officers had been convicted of a public entity crime. Her ex-husband, Randy Blankenship, B.R.W.'s president, had served two years in federal prison on a variety of charges, including conspiracy to defraud the federal government.

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