DADE CITY — The good news for Dade City residents is that a stormwater project to combat downtown flooding problems s moving forward.
The bad news is that the company hired to build the project pulled out, and the city will have to spend $300,000 more than anticipated.
The revelation prompted Mayor Camille Hernandez to admonish the city staff during a Dade City Commission meeting Tuesday. The cost overrun on the project, which is funded largely by state dollars, makes city officials “look like fools” when they are lobbying legislators for aid.
“When I first read this, I got sick to my stomach,” Hernandez said.
Design planning for the project dates back to 2011, and it is aimed at combating regular flooding in Dade City’s downtown, where even small rain events send water running through the streets.
Plans to build a storm-water conveyance system and expand a city-owned pond downtown garnered $1.8 million in funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and $125,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation. This year’s Dade City budget also included $104,000 for the project from its utility fund.
With a little more than $2 million available for construction, the city received a low bid from Wauchula-based Cobb Site Development of just under $1.8 million in January. The commission awarded the job to Cobb.
Problems arose after the sealed bids of other companies became public and were substantially higher than Cobb’s bid. Cobb conducted an internal review and found that it had “missed several key items related to the construction of the storm-water pond, as well as some ancillary items that are involved in that scope of work,” Cobb CEO Clay Cobb wrote in a letter to the city asking that they disqualify the bid.
“At Cobb Site Development, we take pride in our estimating team and do not take errors like this lightly,” Cobb wrote. “Please note that these were honest mistakes, and we will ensure that we make the proper changes to mitigate these errors in the future.”
The commission granted Cobb’s request for disqualification, and accepted the next-lowest bid from Kamminga & Roodvoets. It came in at about $2.3 million, leaving the city to find $300,000 more than expected.
With state funding in the pipeline and ongoing flooding concerns, Commissioner Nicole Deese Newlon said she believed the only option was to move forward with the Kamminga bid. The commission voted unanimously with her.
The vote also directed the staff to find $300,000 from city coffers.
Newlon called on staff members to more efficiently move projects forward, because inactivity while construction costs swell is problematic.
“It’s not only costing us money, it’s costing us credibility,” she said.