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Sarasota Thursday, May. 6, 2010 7 years ago

My View: Mooring fiasco shows need for tough auditing

by: Ken Shelin

I read Bob Fournier’s lengthy analysis (dated April 26) of the problems associated with the attempted installation of mooring devices by Millmac Corp. in Phase I of the city’s planned bayfront mooring field. I am terribly disappointed to learn that city of Sarasota staff and the city’s consultant on the project failed miserably to do their jobs.

This report doesn’t change the need to create this mooring field, nor should it be used as an excuse to abandon the project. But staff should be ashamed. The consequences of their failures to perform their jobs appropriately amount to, at the least, malfeasance in office. They have failed to do what they had an obligation to do.

Our bayfront substrate is not well-documented and apparently consists of variable conditions, but those conditions are certainly not unique in all the world. But our city staff and the city’s consultant for the project, Coastal Engineering Consultants Inc., according to Fournier, failed to do their jobs as follows: (Fournier’s 30-plus-page report contains many more examples.)
Staff snafus
1. Wrote contract specifications for the use of helical screw anchors as the only device for mooring without knowing whether they were likely to work and in spite of the fact the manufacturer says on its website that helical anchors cannot be used in rock.

2. Failed to write contract specifications that indicated how deeply anchors were to be installed to assure they had the load holding capacity to work.

3. Failed to require adequate testing of the bay bottom conditions to determine what kind of anchors were needed and how they had to be installed to achieve the mooring device purpose.

4. Failed to assure that Millmac Corp. as the recommended acceptable bidder could actually perform.

5. Accepted “geotechnical tests” that did not provide needed data to assure mooring devices could be installed and serve their intended purpose.

6. Accepted results of unrecognized “geotechnical test” methodology.

7. Admitted they knew helical anchors could not be used throughout the mooring field, yet wrote the contract for the use of helical anchors only.

Consultant snafus
1. Failed to write usable technical specifications for the invitation to bid so that prospective contractors would know what was expected of their performance.

2. Failed to advise city staff that recognized test methodology should have been used to develop substrate data so that usable specifications for the installation of mooring devices could be written.

3. Failed to advise city staff that helical anchors could not be used in the varying bay-bottom conditions found throughout the planned mooring field area.

4. Failed to alert city staff that the widely varying bids received in response to the invitation to bid indicated there were specification problems.

5. Failed to provide the consulting services that the city staff should have been able to rely upon for contract development and bid acceptance.

The mooring field project needs to move forward for all the reasons that have already been debated for many years. We don’t need to rehash whether it needs to be built. It does!

The question is how to move the project forward without the bumbling exhibited by staff and consultant.

I hope you will give serious consideration to Mr. Fournier’s recommendations for making the best of a bad situation.

This series of events is just one more reason why the auditing function of the city auditor’s office is so important and why the city of Sarasota needs highly qualified auditors regularly reviewing city of Sarasota government processes and procedures.

I hope city commissioners not only will require that this project be fixed, but they find out why this happened and who on staff is responsible so appropriate action can be taken.

Ken Shelin is a former vice mayor of Sarasota and district director for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


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