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Date of Issue: May 07, 2008

Drainage permit delays costing Anna Maria

With the start of Phase 1 of Anna Maria’s planned $630,000 stormwater drainage project delayed because the city can’t get a permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Adkins Contracting Inc. - the lead contractor hired by the city for the project - has quit.

Adkins terminated its contract in an April 28 letter to

city engineer Tom Wilcox, adding it will be sending the city a bill for services rendered.

Any future involvement by Adkins in the project would probably be the result of a new bid process and contract, the company indicated.

If a new contract is necessary, it will likely be considerably more than the $630,000 the city had agreed to pay Adkins. That amount was already $160,000 above the $470,000 estimate when the city obtained a matching Swiftmud grant for the project last year. The grant would - eventually - reimburse the city $235,000 after project completion.

While the delayed start is cause for concern among a number of residents interested in stormwater drainage improvements, Mayor Fran Barford was upbeat that a Swiftmud permit would be issued shortly and the project rebid.

“We met with Swiftmud on May 1 and we’re all working together and getting on the same page. It was a positive meeting,” she said. “I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not there yet.”

The mayor also scheduled to meet with Swiftmud May 6 in an effort to satisfy Swiftmud’s permit requirements.

But some city residents are unhappy with all phases of the drainage project and believe the city needs to examine the entire engineering process and design for the project, including the role of city engineer Tom Wilcox.

“He’s part and parcel of the whole thing,” said Tom Turner, a former chairman of the city’s planning and zoning board.

Turner, however, stopped short of casting blame. Instead, he said, the city needs to have an oversight committee to keep tabs on drainage projects and related items such as Swiftmud permit applications.

City resident Rick DeFrank also was diplomatic. “Something is still not working,” he said.

The city’s drainage project permit with Swiftmud was once on the fast track, but is now on the “slow track,” he claimed.

“We’re not getting what we pay for. We need this done and done correctly. Thankfully, the mayor is now on top of this project and it’ll get done quickly,” he predicted.

The city commission has approved a $1.5 million line of credit to fund a number of stormwater drainage projects on a priority list prepared by the city’s capital improvements advisory committee..

Only “Phase A” on the approved project list has been completed, although DeFrank, Turner and resident Jim Conoly noted at the April 27 city commission meeting that filters used in Phase A, which was completed last year, are defective and need to be replaced.

Those filters were the “cheapest available,” said Turner, who would like to know who ordered them and why stainless steel filters guaranteed to last considerably longer were not used.