1. Archive

Oldsmar racks up contractor claims bill

The city is building a tab with the Florida Department of Transportation that now tops $200,000.

That money is for extra work performed for the city by Kimmins Contracting Corp., the state contractor widening Tampa Road, and for delays caused by mistakes in city utility plans, say DOT officials.

Last week, Kimmins and city officials were not able to reach an agreement to settle $56,000 in delay and extra work claims filed against the city. Kimmins had rejected a city offer to settle for $1,900.

So, to avoid delays in the road work, the DOT stepped in and Friday settled six claims for $28,000.

The same thing happened in June, when the DOT settled the first set of claims for $177,000 after Kimmins and the city could not reach agreement. The DOT will seek both the $177,000 and the $28,000 from the city, DOT spokeswoman Leo Folsom said.

But the city won't pay unless it gets better justification for the dollar figures, said George Spofford, a lawyer hired by the city to resolve the claims. Spofford was among 12 people, including lawyers from the DOT, who attended Friday's settlement meeting.

Kimmins, Spofford said, closed the negotiations with the city when he began asking tough questions about the claims. Spofford said the contractor's labor and equipment rates appear inflated and that Kimmins has not produced the paperwork to support its figures.

"They went into shut-down mode with the excuse the city is negotiating in bad faith," Spofford said. "We still haven't seen the proof."

Tony Harvey, an engineer hired by the DOT to oversee the Tampa Road widening project, said the information the city wanted was available at the meeting. The city, he said, was given plenty of opportunities to settle the claims. Harvey ended up combing through the claims with Kimmins vice president John Zemina and agreeing to $28,000.

"It was fair for all," Harvey said. "I was optimistic the city would think $28,000 was a good number."

Harvey said the claim amounts were whittled down because in some cases, daily reports kept by Kimmins workers were not complete; therefore, the paperwork did not justify the claim.

"Kimmins may have been owed the money," he said. "They know what happened out there, but on paper it didn't justify it."

More negotiation meetings are expected to be held soon for 10 more claims for more than $30,000 filed since July.