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Sarasota Monday, Apr. 1, 2019 7 months ago

APRIL FOOLS: Contract gaffe means less sand for Lido

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APRIL FOOLS: Maritime law expert says dispute's resolution might have to stand.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

APRIL FOOLS -- A dispute over the working hours of a dredge crew could cost Lido Beach the equivalent of about 830 dump trucks full of sand.

Documents filed with the Florida Department of Sand Transfer Regulations, obtained by the Sarasota Observer, point to a simmering dispute between managers of I Can Dig It Dredging and community leaders over the project that was designed to deliver a safety cushion to Lido’s storm-scoured beach.

“It’s simple,’’ said CEO Digger Downer. “They got more sand than they contracted for, we worked harder than we were required -- through no fault of our own -- and we want something back. We can’t get the time back, and our workers voted and said they’re not interested in back overtime.

“We want the sand.’’

At issue is more than 10,000 cubic yards of sand pumped from New Pass on Saturdays in January and February.

The city contracted with I Can Dig It Dredgers to work eight hours a day, Monday through Friday for nine weeks. Downer concedes the contract as written, but his crew customarily works six days a week when on an out of town job, something he says he made clear without objection.

He contends inspectors frequently visited the work site on Saturdays and said nothing about the sixth day of work each week.

Consequently, over the course of the contract period, the beach received nearly 200,000 cubic yards of sand, instead of the 185,000 yards agreed to in the contract.

“That New Pass sand, it’s really good stuff,’’ Downer said. “Those Atlantic beach blokes just love our west coast sand. We’d make twice as much selling to them as being simply compensated for our time. ‘’

City leaders and residents were stunned when they received a certified letter in a bottle last week, indicating a reverse dredge and its Russian maritime crew would arrive on Monday, April 1 to begin the process of pumping sand to an offshore barge.

The vessel is likely to remain offshore for about a week, but its Russian workers will stay with local families. St. Armands Circle merchants are gearing up for the 20-man crew's arrival, ordering extra vodka, borscht and scanning the internet for authentic beef Stroganoff recipes.

“But, but, they . . . can’t, they just can’t,’’ said Eartha M. Oveur, a frequent visitor to the beach. “Can’t someone just write them a check?”

It’s not so simple, state officials said.

The basis of maritime law, under which this dispute falls, is much different than the network of land-based laws that cities typically find themselves involved in.

“Arrr, it’s been under review since four bells,’’ said Tallahassee-based maritime mediator Capt. Caspian C.  Magellan. “The ways of the sea arrrrr not always yourrrr ways. They might end up with yourrrrr sand.’’

Downer said the point is probably moot.

The town of Surf Beach on the Atlantic Coast has already offered $2.1 million for the barge load and is counting on delivery before its “July 4 on the White Sand’’ extravaganza.

“Sorry,’’ Downer said. “Home Depot’s sandbox sand is pretty good, I hear.’’

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