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Residents who have had property damage due to Hernando Beach dredge urge no payment until claims are settled

BROOKSVILLE — As a senior manager for a site development company, Hernando Beach resident Phil Rubin knows a few things about construction jobs.

On Tuesday, Rubin begged the Hernando County Commission to make sure that all claims for damages are settled before the county pays the contractor for the Hernando Beach Channel dredge its final $420,000.

Otherwise, he argued in an email he sent to commissioners prior to the meeting, the county would have no leverage to ensure that residents whose property has been adversely affected by the dredge will have their issues resolved satisfactorily.

No other county Rubin checked with would finalize a contract with such issues outstanding, he said.

Rubin is among the residents who have had damage to their seawalls, boats and docks as the dredge equipment has moved around their canals.

Previously, the county had notified officials from BCPeabody that to complete their contract, they must "repair, settle or file insurance claims for resolving concerns from property owners.''

Rubin told commissioners Tuesday that the contractor has not been responsive enough to his complaints about damage to his property. In fact, he said, officials with the company "take no responsibility for anything until they have to.''

Rubin's concerns were echoed by another nearby neighbor, Betty Watkins. She outlined in detail the hoops she has been through with various claims she has filed with BCPeabody's insurance carrier and with the dredging subcontractor Konga Marine Logistics over the last several months.

"We feel like we're going nowhere,'' she told commissioners. "They're not being cooperative.''

Commissioners turned to their staff for assurances that the issues will be resolved before BCPeabody gets its last check.

Russell Wetherington, chief procurement officer, said that each case would be resolved to the point that the insurance company has made a settlement offer to the property owner before the final payment is made.

"We want to make sure there is due diligence by BCPeabody,'' Wetherington said.

He noted there was a fine line between the insurance company making a settlement offer and actually reaching a settlement that would completely satisfy every resident.

As Assistant County Attorney Jon Jouben put it, "We cannot make property owners accept a settlement, but we can make sure all claims are processed.''

BCPeabody this week notified the county that it was finishing up the final cleanup items on the county's checklist and expected all work, including the rebuilding of the seawall badly damaged at the offload site, to be completed by March 23.

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

Residents who have had property damage due to Hernando Beach dredge urge no payment until claims are settled 02/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 9:24pm]
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