Settlement closer in dredging lawsuit

BROOKSVILLE — After a mediation session last week, county officials are considering a settlement of the complicated lawsuit over the first attempt to dredge the Hernando Beach Channel.

County commissioners met behind closed doors after Tuesday's workshop to discuss legal strategy in the lawsuit, originally filed against the county by Orion Dredging Services LLC two years ago.

When the meeting concluded and commissioners reassembled in the commission chambers, Commissioner Dave Russell announced that the commission had come to a consensus to request that the staff draw up a mediated settlement agreement "which will maximize Hernando's collection while reducing our loss and risk.''

Officials could say no more about the terms of the agreement until it comes to the board for consideration at an upcoming meeting.

Orion sued the county, saying that a "defective project design'' by Halcrow Inc., the county's consulting engineer on the dredge, was the reason Orion was unable to complete the dredging job.

"The defective design caused Orion to be delayed on the project resulting in damages, including but not limited to, significant time impacts and cost increases,'' according to the original six-page complaint.

Orion said that it tried to finish the dredge and that the county's decision to terminate its contract wronged and damaged the firm.

In the time since the suit was filed, the county countersued. Also, other entities — including the de-watering subcontractor hired by Orion, Harvey Taddeo Inc.; bonding companies for both the contractor and subcontractor, and Halcrow — all became a part of the complicated action.

While the dredging has been completed for months after a second contractor, BCPeabody, was hired by the county, the project still has not been closed out. Issues with over-dredging and sea grass destruction remain that the county must settle with the Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition, residents in the Hernando Beach area are still grappling with insurance issues over damage they blame on the dredging project.

Still, a settlement in the Orion lawsuit could bring to a close another chapter in the troubled public works project, which took 20-plus years and more than $15 million to complete.

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

Settlement closer in dredging lawsuit 10/31/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 9:29pm]

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