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Bradenton Beach eyes new direction for pier project

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Visitors to the Bradenton Beach Bridge Street Historic Pier enjoy a sunny day. Islander Photo: Mark Young

The last thing Bradenton Beach city commissioners wanted to hear was there could be another delay that would push the Historic Bridge Street Pier reconstruction project closer to tourist season.

But that was the message received Sept. 20 during the city commission meeting at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Based on recommendations from the city pier team, commissioners previously approved a plan to hire Charles Sego of Sego & Sego to be the project engineer. The thinking behind the pier team’s recommendation was the hire would save time because he was the engineer of record for a previous pier project.

But that has not been the case. The city and Sego hit a stalemate having to do with the city’s ability to file an insurance claim against Sego’s insurer in the event a design flaw would lead to problems.

City attorney Ricinda Perry and Sego have been trying to work through the stalemate for more than a month but, according to Perry, Sego has gone quiet on further negotiations.

“The commission met and authorized a contract that would allow the city to file any damages to Sego & Sego’s insurance company, as well as liability,” said Perry. “I forwarded what I thought was the finalized contract, and he said he would not accept it.”

Perry said it appears Sego is trying to contract on behalf of his insurance company.

“So, I explained this to Mr. Sego and asked him to confirm if this is his intent, and if there were other issues, to please let me speak to his attorney,” she said. “That was on Aug. 15, and I have not received anything from Mr. Sego or his attorney explaining the sticking point.”

Perry told commissioners she wanted to be sure the city’s position to protect itself was a standard contract concern, so she sought two separate legal opinions and was told that, yes, the city needed that protection in its engineering contract.

Perry said she shared that information with Sego and informed him that the city would be discussing the contract Sept. 20.

“And I have received no response from Mr. Sego,” she said. “It is my legal opinion that it is not in the best interest of the city to strike that provision from the contract.”

Perry said she understood the city’s urgency to complete the pier project before tourist season and would strike the provision if commissioners agreed. She also provided the alternative solution of drafting a request for proposal and bid the project in an attempt to retain a new engineer.

“If the commission wants to expedite an RFP for someone else, I believe that can be handled,” she said.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh asked Perry if she had spoken with Sego’s insurance company.

“I don’t know who the insurance company is,” said Perry. “Mr. Sego has not provided me with the name of the insurance company.”

Vosburgh said it sounds like Sego is no longer interested in the project.

“That’s just weird,” she said. “I don’t know what his problem is. He’s obviously not interested.”

Commissioner Gay Breuler agreed.

“Part of me says if the guy doesn’t want to give us the information and he’s not showing up to the meeting, then maybe he’s pulling away, scared or doesn’t want to do it,” she said.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said the city is caught in a Catch-22.

“This is something we have to do, and it’s time sensitive,” he said. “I don’t want that pier closed during season. If that pier is closed for any length of time, the restaurant will suffer, too. But I don’t want to put the city in jeopardy. If he won’t respond, then maybe he doesn’t want to do it.”

Building official Steve Gilbert said the city should not have any issues getting quick responses from an RFP.

“An RFP would get more than two responses,” he said. “People are still looking for work out there and this is not a complicated project.”

Breuler also asked the opinion of public works director Tom Woodard, whose department maintains the pier.

“When I deal with things like this, and you have Mr. Sego not responding when he is aware of our timeframe and importance of this project, I would personally move on,” Woodard said.

“If we have that kind of problem with him now, we could have a lot more problems with him down the road,” said Vosburgh.

Shaughnessy asked and received a consensus from the commissioners to authorize Perry to draft an RFP. Perry said she would have the RFP ready to present to the commission at its Oct. 4 meeting.

2 Responses to Bradenton Beach eyes new direction for pier project

  1. Tim says:

    I agree with Tom Woodard. There is something Mr. Sego is not telling us, so I would find another contractor. I used to fish on that pier when my father was alive, so the pier is very important to me. We need to get a contractor with the backing of a “Known” insurance company, award him the contract, and press on.

  2. Patrick says:

    I work procurement quite a bit, and generally when this situation comes up it means the contractor did not have the insurance. The city likely asked for a certificate of insurance from Sego, and he could not provide it.

    For the record: I am a contractor, not a buyer. I don’t do construction, but I do lots of service work for federal and state government, as well as large corporate.

    I have seen plenty of cases where a firm skimps on their coverage (or drops it entirely) and then bids it anyway. They think they can go back and get it later. They cannot. It’s not cable tv. You don’t just click “subscribe” on liability, E&O or fiduciary bonds.

    If the costs to the city to re-compete are high, the city should demand proof that Sego had insurance when he submitted his bid – that is generally a requirement to get the award. If Sego did claim to have the insurance – but did not – he could be chased for the cost to the city under civil fraud statutes. He should be responsible for the cost of the city attorney, P&Z, PW and other work efforts due to his false claims.

    If the city did not have requirement in the bid package for insurance to exist prior to award, then they screwed up and need to fix it. I highly doubt this to be the case. My guess is they did all the right things here but got burnt.

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