TRINITY — Back in August, Pasco commissioners fired Kearney Construction Co. from a U.S. 41 utility project beset with delays and other problems — a move that led the firm to sue the county for wrongful termination.
Now commissioners are taking steps toward firing Kearney from another county job that is behind schedule: the extension of DeCubellis Road from Town Center Road to Ridge Road.
The work was supposed to be completed by Oct. 28, but officials say it is not close to being finished. Instead, the scene is an eyesore and a pain for drivers, who have to navigate barricades and a section of uneven pavement.
But this time, the county would need the permission of a judge before it takes any action.
That's because Kearney filed for bankruptcy in August, about two weeks after Pasco fired it from the U.S. 41 job. The DeCubellis project is now under jurisdiction of the judge.
So at their meeting Tuesday, commissioners told the county attorneys to file an emergency motion with the bankruptcy court, asking that the judge give the county the power to fire Kearney from the DeCubellis project.
That would allow the bonding company on the project to hire another contractor to finish the work.
Commissioners in March awarded Kearney a nearly $2.4 million contract to make improvements, which include roadway, drainage, signs and pavement marking work. The firm was the low bidder on the project.
At this week's commission meeting, officials questioned whether Kearney was committed to finishing the work.
Commissioner Michael Cox, who lives near the site, said he saw Kearney workers taking equipment off the site.
"That they're loading up and hauling stuff away doesn't give you a warm and fuzzy feeling that they're going to finish," he said later in an interview.
Kearney officials did not return messages Thursday for comment. But the firm is scheduled to send representatives to meet with county officials today about getting the DeCubellis project back on track.
This month, commissioners signed off on a "takeover" agreement to allow Kearney's surety company to hire another contractor to finish the $5.3 million utility job on U.S. 41.
That utility work is a crucial precursor to the widening of U.S. 41 between Tower Road and Connerton Boulevard, a long-awaited project that got jump-started with federal stimulus money.
County officials say Kearney workers damaged a reclaimed water line multiple times, incorrectly installed new pipelines so that they were prone to leaks, and had gotten at least six weeks behind schedule, thus risking delays to the road work.
Pasco County could face fines from the Department of Transportation if the utility project delays the road-widening work.
But Kearney has said that the delays are the fault of Pasco County and the county-paid project engineer, Parsons Water and Infrastructure.
In its lawsuit against Pasco and Parsons, Kearney says that the county provided incomplete drawings of the locations of existing utilities, rejected acceptable piping installation and did not provide timely responses to the company's questions.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.