BROOKSVILLE — Two weeks ago, as the County Commission grappled with how to finally get the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project accomplished, a new name appeared in the mix.
Greg Jarque, a past president of Arc Nature Coast and an executive director of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, was recommended by County Administrator David Hamilton to be the new project manager for the long-delayed project.
As it happens, Jarque and his company, Gritz Construction and Development, have no experience in dredging projects.
From the microphone at that special meeting, Jarque waved away such concerns. Construction is construction, he explained.
On Thursday, he repeated that theme.
"The actual project is not as important as the actual foundation in scheduling and logistics,'' said Jarque, who also founded and operates the high-tech firm Omni Circuits International at the Hernando County Airport and who is also a licensed general contractor.
Jarque isn't the only one on the beach dredging project who hasn't done a dredging project.
The construction company hired by the County Commission, BCPeabody, also has not completed a dredging project. But company official Bob Carpenter assured the County Commission that he and his staff have been involved in numerous dredging projects before they retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Just how the owner of a high-tech company lands in a job as a dredging project manager tracks back to Jarque's activities with Arc Nature Coast.
He has been working most recently at building Arc's new training center in Spring Hill, bringing the project in four months ahead of schedule and under budget. And he did it for free.
Responding to those who question his credentials for handling a dredge, Jarque pointed out he never built a hurricane shelter before this one, either. The structure, he noted, passed "with flying colors" through the stringent scrutiny of four different agencies including inspectors for FEMA.
While at the ARC project, he met Linda Hamilton, wife of the county administrator, who has worked as both a contractor and a volunteer for the organization helping with fund raising.
David Hamilton said he learned about Jarque through the glowing reports his wife would share with him as the construction project went through its various phases. The thought of finding someone who can bring in a project early and under budget intrigued Hamilton, especially since a lack of a project manager has delayed other county projects in the past.
When the county, under a difficult time line, decided about a month ago that outside project management of the dredge was a necessity, Hamilton said he reached out to Jarque to find out if he might be interested.
Jarque said he told him up front that he didn't have dredge project experience. But after he did some research, he told county officials that he could get the job done within the time constraints.
With the County Commission's decision to waive normal purchasing requirements in order to meet the Dec. 31 project completion deadline, Hamilton was able to bring the recommendation to hire Jarque to the board at its special meeting on March 15. The commission voted unanimously to approve the contract, which will cost the county $152,500.
That was negotiated with Jarque, who had originally proposed $241,700.
Hamilton and Jarque denied they were friends or had any social interaction. Hamilton said he based his recommendation strictly on Jarque's project management background and his business abilities.
"I'm a straightforward guy,'' Jarque said. "I'm here to do the job I was hired to do. It will get done come rain or high water.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.