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No-bid contract on Brooksville cleanup swells past original cost

BROOKSVILLE — In 2005, Hernando County agreed to a no-bid, $77,051 contract with a consultant to help with the cleanup of the contaminated public works site in Brooksville.

Since then, a dozen supplemental agreements have boosted the contract's value to more than $2 million, as the total outlay for county taxpayers on the project has topped $4 million.

And the cleanup has yet to begin.

This week, county officials put the brakes on yet another request to expand the contract and add $45,500.

An assistant county attorney warned that approving the change would violate a policy set several months ago.

During the summer, County Administrator David Hamilton told county officials involved in the project that "no further supplemental contracts were to be assigned to (the consultant, Creative Environmental Solutions) without the issuance of a bid solicitation,'' assistant county attorney Erica Moore reminded Hamilton in a memo this week.

The request for the supplemental agreement was on Tuesday's County Commission agenda, and Moore noted it "seems contrary to the policy decision you made a few months ago.''

Moore added that the request is untimely. After the state agreed that the county's assessment of the contamination at the former public works compound was done, neighbors in the Mitchell Heights community sought a hearing to fight that decision.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is determining whether that complaint is legally sufficient to forward to the state Division of Administrative Hearings, DEP spokesman Doug Tobin said this week.

The next phase of the project, designing and implementing a cleanup plan, could be delayed for months, county officials have warned.

The toxic mix of petroleum products, arsenic and solvents were uncovered on the site two decades ago. In recent years, the county has spent about $4 million on project consultants.

In an e-mail to assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton, Moore noted "this is the 13th change order to an original contract which did not go out to bid.''

She also asked if the new work to be done, which includes more soil testing, is covered under the original $77,051 contract.

Sutton replied that professional service agreements have "supplemental agreements" rather than change orders. "As a supplemental agreement, it would not be bid out,'' Sutton wrote. "This work is required by FDEP and ... has been approved by them.''

Moore said that additional information, such as the DEP's letter of approval, was needed. She asked if there will be additional costs from the consultant.

Sutton said there would be, but not "until we move into the remediation phase."

Commissioners delayed discussion until their next meeting Tuesday at the request of Public Works Director Charles Mixson.

Hamilton said the delay shouldn't be significant given that the county is still waiting for the DEP to decide whether to bring the neighbors' complaints to an administrative law judge.

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

No-bid contract on Brooksville cleanup swells past original cost 12/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 9:37pm]

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