Since December, Sarasota officials have been working to get a long-delayed and troubled $12.5 million lift-station construction project back on track.
On April 18, city officials released an updated project timeline that puts the final completion of the project at Aug. 1, 2015.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” said David Coe, who lives in a Central Park II condominium next to the new lift station. City engineers updated him about the new timeline.
City engineers also assured residents the contractor will install buffer landscaping around the new Lift Station 87 in Luke Wood Park and along U.S. 41.
The new lift station, which is built mostly underground, at the southeastern corner of U.S. 41 and Osprey Avenue in Luke Wood Park, is about 90% complete, said Mitt Tidwell, city of Sarasota utilities director. It will replace the aging Lift Station 7 at 935 Pomelo Ave., close to Hudson Bayou.
The most difficult phase of the project, however, involves micro-tunneling under the bayou for a 36-inch main sewer pipe that will connect to the new lift station. City officials have blamed the engineering firms Boyle Engineering and AECOM Technology Corp. for failing to move ahead with the micro-tunneling phase of the project.
Complicating the micro-tunneling process, levels of lead above the state threshold for human contact were first detected in the bayou in 1992 and are said to be encapsulated below the sediment floor.
Earlier this month, the city selected a new engineering firm, Wilmington, N.C.,-based McKim & Creed, and is in the process of hiring the firm. City commissioners will vote on the new firm.
“McKim (& Creed) is aware of the urgency and the high profile of this project,” Tidwell said. “They know what they are getting into.”
The North Carolina-based McKim & Creed has a Sarasota branch.
Coe said city engineers have been “upfront” with residents about “upcoming” challenges of the project, and residents will be watching the forthcoming construction work — especially the micro-tunneling under the bayou.
“With contaminants under the bayou, that might prove problematic,” Coe said.
Tidwell said one of the first priorities for the new engineering firm will be to assess options for installing the pipe.
“That is the key thing now, getting the pipe under Hudson Bayou,” Tidwell said. “We want McKim & Creed to take a clean slate and try to come up with the best engineering approach.”
In the meantime, crews this week were slated to remove a pile of large pipes being stored in Luke Wood Park.
“We were really worried about the park being cleaned up,” Coe said. “We are seeing some progress.”
Palm trees that were moved into the park temporarily for a separate U.S. 41 project will be moved back into the median on U.S. 41.