The construction timeline for the Sarasota National Cemetery has fallen behind schedule — a year-and-a-half behind.
The delay of the second phase of construction at the veterans cemetery occurred following the disqualification of four bidders, another bidder’s protest and then a counter-protest by yet another bidder.
The Veterans Administration required that the winner of the construction contract for the Sarasota National Cemetery be a small business owned by a service-disabled veteran.
That company would be responsible for excavation, grading, landscaping, irrigation, electrical work and installation of pre-placed crypts on the State Road 72 property.
The VA awarded the initial contract to Orlando-based Blue Cord Construction in July 2009, but the Small Business Administration later determined that the company was not a small business, so it was disqualified.
The second-lowest bidder was also not a small business, and the third- and fourth-place bids were found to be technically unacceptable. They, too, were disqualified.
The fifth-lowest bidder, Specialized Veterans, of West Point, Ga., was awarded the contract by default.
However, another bidder, Tampa-based J2A2 JV, LLC filed a protest, claiming Specialized Veterans had a higher bid than it did.
The VA sustained the protest last April, and then Specialized Veterans filed a counter-protest of the challenge from J2A2 JV.
Because of all the problems, the VA decided to start the bidding process all over again.
The VA will hold a pre-solicitation meeting Sept. 23 at the Venice Community Center for potential bidders on a new construction contract.
Cemetery Director Wes Jones said after a winning contractor is selected, construction could begin by December or January and be completed 18 months later.
Although construction of the cemetery’s second phase is delayed, Jones said that doesn’t mean the facility is not being used.
“About 2,450 people have been interred,” he said. “We just don’t have the new buildings up.”
One of the things the delay has affected is the construction of the columbarium, which will house the above-ground cremated remains.
Since July 2009, the Sarasota National Cemetery has been transformed. The former cow pasture now has a paved roadway, 10 acres of meticulously groomed grass and rows of headstones where veterans have been buried.
When each of the 10 construction phases is complete, which will not happen for decades, 100 of the property’s 295 acres will be suitable for burial.
The cemetery is designed to accept veteran interments for up to 300 years.
Sarasota National Cemetery
• 295 acres located on State Road 72, four miles east of I-75
• Military honors will be provided upon request.
• Interments are free.
• All in-ground burials will have upright marble markers.
• All columbarium interments will have marble niche covers.
For more information, call 861-9840.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The Sarasota National Cemetery accepts the remains of:
• Any active-duty member of the Armed forces, who served honorably
• Any honorably discharged veteran
• Reservists and National Guard members who were entitled to retired pay at time of death
• Certain Filipino World War II veterans
• Spouses and minor children of eligible service members and veterans
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