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Company selected to remove old boat

Removal of the Bonner Lee got back on track Tuesday when the County Commission approved a new contractor to do the work, which could begin as early as Monday.

The selection of Coastal Marine Construction Inc. raised hopes anew that the partially sunk, mostly decayed vessel would vanish from Kings Bay.

"I have all the hope in the world we're going to make it this time," said Tom Dick, assistant public works director.

Also Tuesday, the commission approved a $701,300 contract with Dooley & Mack Constructors Inc. to renovate the first and second floor of the courthouse building for use as a commission meeting room and offices.

The outlook of the Bonner Lee was less cheerful a few weeks ago when Grubbs Emergency Services of Brooksville backed out of the job. Officials refused to fully explain why, citing only "negative publicity and media attention."

Mindful of a June 7 state deadline to complete the work, the county's staff scrambled to find a replacement. The speed at which a new contractor was secured surprised commissioners Tuesday.

Coastal was the lowest of seven bidders, submitting a $89,500 proposal. The work will be covered by a state grant.

The Venice company plans to demolish the 110-foot boat in the water, using a crane-mounted barge, then float the debris to state land at the Cross Florida Barge Canal, where it will be trucked to the county landfill.

Coastal president Jim Logan said the equipment could be in place by the weekend and work could begin Monday. The job would take four weeks, he said.

It should be a closely watched process, given the interest in the Bonner Lee. Owner Paul Purdum brought the World War II era boat to Crystal River in 1997, and it has remained there ever since. Officials say it poses a navigational and environmental hazard.

Purdum spent time in jail for failing to remove the boat, then skipped a court appearance and now has apparently left the country. At the urging of the city of Crystal River, the county applied for the state grant.

Room in the courthouse was created because the tax collector and property appraiser are moving to the Stovall Building, a couple of blocks north of the courthouse.

Space on the first floor would be used for a commission meeting room, with room for 98 or more seats. The county currently leases space in the Masonic Building.

The second floor of the courthouse would be used for commission offices as well as the county attorney.

Gary Bartell and Vicki Phillips voted against the proposal, saying it was too expensive (the overall cost could be $875,000) and might not meet the space needs.

Phillips said the courthouse should be used solely for judicial purposes and suggested that the county's money might be better used to construct a new building for the commission.

But other commissioners said the building was already slated for renovation and should be used.

"We're a growing county. Thank God, we're growing," Chairman Jim Fowler said. "We're always going to need space. But this board needs a home."

_ Alex Leary can be reached at 564-3623 or learysptimes.com.

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