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Public works chief questioned about more problems with Hernando Beach dredging

BROOKSVILLE — Problems with the Hernando Beach dredging project have again landed Hernando County public works director Charles Mixson in hot water.

The county has received another warning letter from state environmental regulators concerning the ongoing dredging of the Hernando Beach channel, prompting County Administrator David Hamilton to raise questions about the county's management of the project.

In a memo Hamilton distributed to county commissioners Tuesday, Hamilton asks Mixson for a written response to a series of questions about why the project has fallen behind schedule and why there are problems with the turbidity of the dredged material and the sea grass mitigation plan.

In a letter sent to the county last week, the district director for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection warned that failure to monitor and report ongoing problems with the turbidity, as required by the county's permit, could be violations of state law. Director Deborah Getzoff has asked the county to schedule a meeting to discuss the problems.

Previously, the DEP had issued a warning letter to the county concerning several other problems with the dredging, including misplacement of the rocks removed from the channel, failure to mark the water line and failure to install signs required by the permit.

Hamilton's memo to Mixson voices concerns about the dredging project being behind schedule. Also, the issue with too much suspended sediment in the dredged spoils is a problem because "the standards were established by the Department of Environmental Protection well in advance of the project," he wrote. "The contractor should have been aware of these standards and taken steps to comply with them from the onset of the work."

That problem will be solved without further expense to the county, Hamilton tells Mixson in his memo. He goes on to ask Mixson to respond formally about what he is doing to get the project back on schedule and what penalties will be imposed on the contractor for the problems created.

"You and your department should now be well aware of county administration's position on a resumption of anything that returns us to what we have verbally referred to as the 'infinity plan,' " Hamilton said, making reference to previous lengthy delays in getting the dredging project under way.

Hamilton also asks Mixson to answer why assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton, who has managed the dredge project, recently told the Hernando County Port Authority that meeting the DEP's sea grass mitigation requirements would require a $500,000 change order to the dredging contract.

Hamilton asks why the mitigation requirement wasn't already factored into the contract with the dredging contractor and consultant. Because the need for the sea grass mitigation has long been known, "why would the county board be expected to consider a change order in the amount of $500,000?" Hamilton asks Mixson in the memo.

He goes on to say that, if the original sea grass plan was unacceptable to the DEP, "who was responsible in your department for this failed plan and for not adjusting to comply in a timely manner prior to the award of any contracts?"

Hamilton asks Mixson to respond by today.

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

Public works chief questioned about more problems with Hernando Beach dredging 01/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:29pm]
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