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Date of Issue: June 04, 2008

Costs continue to rise for Anna Maria stormwater project

Phase I of Anna Maria’s stormwater drainage plan is probably one of the most expensive drainage projects the city has never built. And the cost continues to go up and up, all before the first drop of water has hit the swale.

City commissioners learned at their May 29 meeting that another $65,000 may be added to the fee for the redesign of the drainage system, according to city engineer Tom Wilcox, although that amount is “still in flux,” he said.

Wilcox oversaw the first design for Phase I, although it was never approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District for lack of some project models.

Whatever the final amount for the redesign, it will be in addition to the $71,000 the city has already paid Wilcox for Phase I of the yet-to-begin project.

That’s not to mention the $235,000 claim for services rendered that contractor Adkins Contracting Inc. of Ruskin, the firm contracted by the city for the drainage construction, recently submitted to the city. (See related story.)

Wilcox said that “basically” Swiftmud was concerned with flooding issues in the first design. For the second design, he said Swiftmud officials have given the city the option to eliminate the ditch blocks and some pipes in certain locations and eliminate the project’s vortex separator.

With a scaled down design, Wilcox estimated the project would cost about $120,000 less than the $569,000 cost for the Adkins contract. But there are also engineering inspection fees to add, Wilcox observed.

City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick noted that the bid from Adkins was extremely low. With costs rising daily in the construction industry, it’s not good business to believe that the next bid on the project will be $120,000 lower than the $569,000 the city contracted to pay Adkins.

Wilcox observed that the city has applied for additional grant money from Swiftmud. While he’s convinced the city will get that funding, Mattick said she wasn’t convinced the city should authorize another redesign and application without more specific information on costs and funding.

“We’ve spent a huge amount of money on this project already,” she said, and there’s nothing to show for that money.

Wilcox said he’s received an e-mail from Swiftmud indicating that they have given consensus approval to the new design, so “the door is open” to revise the design and submit it for approval.

But that’s still not the same thing as official approval of a new design and official approval of additional grants, Mattick observed.

Wilcox agreed. Additional funding is not guaranteed until September, when Swiftmud approves its 2008-09 budget.

In addition to Mattick, some members of the public were opposed to “moving forward” with another design.

Stormwater drainage activist Rick DeFrank spoke in opposition to the redesign, claiming the city has not yet gotten anything for the money it has paid.

The motion to proceed with a new design passed by a 3-2 vote, with Mattick and Commissioner Christine Tollette dissenting.


‘Mistakes made’ says Woodland

Anna Maria City Commissioner Dale Woodland, the commission’s recognized expert on stormwater drainage, has acknowledged that “some mistakes” were made in the process of bidding and contracting for Phase I of the city’s stormwater plan.

In retrospect, Adkins Contracting Inc. should never have been “on the job” until the city “had a Southwest Florida Water Management District permit in hand,” he said.

Woodland questioned himself and his fellow commissioners in the process.

“Why did we put out a bid when we didn’t even have a permit? It doesn’t seem like we followed normal procedures,” he observed.

While the city commission may have made a mistake, signing the contract was not one of them, Woodland said. Signing a contract and the start of construction are two different exercises, Woodland said. He’d like to know who authorized Adkins to begin construction without the required permit.

The city signed a contract with Adkins in December 2007, fully expecting fairly rapid Swiftmud approval of its drainage design. When that didn’t happen, the city last month asked Adkins to delay the project until the latter part of this year.

Adkins declined and has sent the city a bill in the amount of $235,000 for services rendered.

Mayor Fran Barford called the bill “absurd” and has sent it to city attorney Jim Dye for examination in conjunction with city engineer Tom Wilcox.

In its bill, Adkins charged the city for nearly every aspect of its work, including opening letters ($22.50 per letter), sending faxes and e-mails ($37.50 for each e-mail), reading an e-mail ($37.50 for each reading), reviewing an e-mail or letter (varied amounts), $600 for one person to walk along the route of the swale and $150 to send a fax.