BROOKSVILLE — The County Commission on Tuesday ranked Tampa-based BCPeabody as its top choice to complete the long-awaited Hernando Beach Channel dredging project.
BCPeabody, the only bidder in the previous round of bids, was the second-lowest bidder this time, sticking with $8.8 million. The lowest bidder, Center Contracting Corp. of Heathrow, which had bid $7.2 million and proposed a very different dredging method than the others, was ranked third by commissioners.
The second-ranked firm was Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, which had bid $10.5 million. Great Lakes officials told commissioners they would drop the price if the county would agree to haul dirt or could help getting electrical service to the job site.
County staffers will now negotiate a contract with BCPeabody and another with Great Lakes and bring that information to the board's special meeting on Tuesday.
Commissioners at that time will also discuss where to get the several million dollars they need to fund the project. There is only $4.5 million available in the budget for the dredge.
At the start of Tuesday's County Commission meeting, County Administrator David Hamilton said that next week he plans to recommend taking money from the $12.5 million in capital improvement funds earmarked for a judicial center. The county could repay the fund from whatever proceeds it receives from legal actions filed against the former dredging firm and its bonding company.
Later, during Tuesday's discussion of the judicial center, no mention was made of Hamilton's upcoming recommendation, even as a number of lawyers and judges insisted that the board not touch that fund.
Four dredging firms made presentations to the board during a special meeting Monday. Bids ranged from $7.2 million to $12.8 million. Each of the firms, two in-state and two out-of-state, had a slightly different plan for how to complete the dredge.
Bob Carpenter of BCPeabody assured commissioners Monday that developer and former road builder Gary Grubbs is no longer a major subcontractor for the job. Grubbs' involvement raised concerns earlier because he has had financial issues with the county.
SunWest Mine, which is Grubbs' property, is still a site where dredge spoils can be taken, according to the current permit.
The dredge project, which has been on the drawing board for more than 16 years, is supposed to widen, deepen, lengthen and straighten the 3-mile channel.
County Commissioner Jeff Stabins had questions about how much money is still owed on the project, especially an outstanding change order sought by the county's engineering consultant on the project, Halcrow. The firm recently sought an additional payment of $1,047,867 for work done in recent months on obtaining new permits and for ongoing sea grass care and monitoring.
Halcrow has already collected more than $2.1 million.
Transportation services director Susan Goebel said the county is still negotiating with Halcrow on the total of the change order, and that will be brought to the commission next week.
Stabins asked whether the county could fire Halcrow, but legal staffers said such a move would first have to be advertised for next week's meeting.
Dredging began in late 2009 but was stopped in January 2010 because Orion Dredging Services was returning filtered water to the canal that carried too much sediment. The county eventually found Orion in breach of its contract and sought to call Orion's bond. Orion sued in return, and those legal actions are still active.