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Panel hears of building materials practice

The Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the Homosassa Elementary School construction project met Wednesday and discussed comments that Homosassa's project engineer, Ted Williamson, made during Tuesday's School Board meeting regarding construction materials.

Williamson told the board that it was not unusual for a contractor to deliver supplies for a job to a holding site before delivering them to a construction site.

The issue is important to the Blue Ribbon panel, which previously expressed concern that much of the rebar bought by the school district was delivered not to Homosassa Elementary initially, but to the "farm" of builder R.E. Graham. That rebar was to have strengthened the walls of the school along with grout, which was also missing from many places it should have been in the walls.

Williamson said the steel had to be cut and bent at Graham's place of business before delivery to the construction site.

Blue Ribbon Vice Chairman Robert Kegel said he didn't disagree that it was a common practice, but he believed the School Board erred when it allowed materials it paid for to be sent somewhere other than the school site or a bonded warehouse.

Also Wednesday, superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel stopped by the Blue Ribbon meeting to assure the group she still was working to set up interviews with the district staffers whom panel members wanted to interview.

Last week, the group's chairman complained that the district was hindering its efforts to gather information. Himmel said she is actively working to be sure the information is provided.

The committee also heard from Diane Toto, president of the Homosassa Civic Club, who met last week with Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson and investigator Herb Hoskins. Toto told the committee that the State Attorney's Office, although it previously declined to launch a criminal investigation concerning Homosassa, is curious to see what the committee turns up.

The committee is expected to finish its report to the School Board in March.