Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Another Fine Mess

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Another Fine Mess

Article excerpt

Long-delayed lift station project just the latest Sarasota snafu

When the city of Sarasota green-lighted a large, new sewage lift station to be built at Luke Wood Park, engineers anticipated that the project would be challenging.

Snake-bitten is more like it.

Delays, broken pipes, broken machinery and road closures ensued. Now, with underground tunneling halted for months, the project is far behind schedule and a completion date is up in the air. Meanwhile, the nearby neighborhood and countless drivers wait haplessly for the project to be over.

Why is it such a mess?

An independent expert hired by the city blames a series of early shortcomings, as reported by the Herald-Tribune's J. David McSwane. Suspicion points to inadequate ground testing prior to commencing "microtunneling," and an engineering firm that lacked experience with this drilling technique. Microtunneling is relatively new in the United States, having been introduced in this country in 1984.

Until all the parties involved in this complex project get a chance to respond to the consultant's findings, it's difficult to place blame. With millions of dollars of the public's money at stake, accountability is critical, but Job No. 1 at this point is to solve the construction snag and finish the project.

Public works problems

Complaints about the delays have been simmering most of the year, contributing to rising doubts about the effectiveness of city government. The lift station fiasco comes on the heels of another public works project marred by unexpected delays -- the now- completed roundabout at Ringling Boulevard and Pineapple Avenue -- and the epic struggle over parking meters, which ultimately were dismantled.

Unlike the roundabout and the meters, the lift station project is clearly necessary. It is vital infrastructure that will replace a major Pomelo Avenue lift station that has a history of massive sewage leaks into nearby Hudson Bayou. …

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