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Lift Station 87 hits more delays

Sarasota city commissioners delayed moving ahead with the $32 million plans for a new wastewater facility to replace Lift Station 7 Monday, citing legal concerns.

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  • | 8:23 a.m. June 9, 2015
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Disappointed Hudson Bayou and Central Park II neighbors filed out of City Hall after a three-and-a-half hour meeting Monday, as Sarasota city commissioners delayed a decision on the controversial Lift Station 87 project.

A lingering legal battle between the city and a contractor the municipality blames for a "failed" original design for the wastewater infrastructure resurfaced before commissioners could give the new contractor, McKim & Creed, the go-ahead to begin work on the now $32 million project.

The city is trying to recoup the difference between what the new project will cost and the amount expended on the former contracts with AECOM.

"This could be a case where $30 million is a justifiable demand or it could be a case where it's $15 million," said Alan Tannenbaum, who the city has hired to bolster their legal team. "It's hard to enter mediation until we really know what the completion path on this project will be."

McKim & Creed Vice President Robert Garland spent the first two hours of the meeting justifying a project that exceeds $30 million and delays completion to 2020, citing rigorous due diligence to avoid a debacle similar to one that halted the project in 2012.

"We need this to be bulletproof," Garland said.

But, commissioners for the first time heard from the city attorney's office, which suggested a Sarasota County jury may find McKim & Creed's design too different — and costly — from the work for which the city originally hired AECOM. The jury could find AECOM liable but be unwilling to justify recovery of more than $20 million.

Representatives from AECOM were in the crowd in the commission chambers.

Tannenbaum suggested the city consider the alternative design, which requires an "open-cut" construction across Hudson Bayou, which his team said could be cheaper. McKim & Creed engineers rejected this plan due to permitting needed at the federal and state level, and easements to encroach on private property, putting the price for an open-cut project at $36 million.

"For every issue that's been brought up, there's been a planner on our engineering team to solve it," Tannenbaum said.

The latest continuation comes nearly a decade after Malcolm Pirnie Inc. suggested relocating the aging Lift Station 7 to an old parking lot at Sarasota High School, and eight years after Stantec chose Luke Wood Park for a new wastewater facility.

Commissioners elected to table the conversation until next week, expressing frustration that the issue came up during a public meeting. They will meet in private with their legal counsel before the next public meeting.

"This should have been dealt with in the shade," said Commissioner Susan Chapman.

Tannenbaum recommended at least testing the permitting process for  the "eastern solution," which his team said could cost $12 million. That plan would come with its own downsides, such as uprooting trees in Luke Wood Park.

"There's no perfect solution," Tannenbaum said. "There's bound to be disappointment with what would need to be done to meet those engineering solutions."



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