Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

As Beach Project Price Rises, Fingerpointing and Frustration

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

As Beach Project Price Rises, Fingerpointing and Frustration

Article excerpt

SARASOTA COUNTY

When the cost of a new Siesta Public Beach parking complex shot up from about $21 million to nearly $27 million, Sarasota County commissioners demanded an explanation.

But the explanations they received raise nearly as many questions as they answer.

County workers blame the engineering firm hired to design the parking complex for most of the increase.

Though the engineers declined to comment directly, emails from the firm point the finger at county staff for design changes.

"I don't want any finger-pointing," County Commissioner Joe Barbetta said. "I just want to know why nothing's been done since June."

The beach project is the latest flashpoint in tensions between county commissioners and county staff, a strained relationship made worse after numerous failures with a contract for mowing grass in right-of-ways.

The Siesta beach project, which includes new restrooms, concessions, 130 more parking spaces and a two-story overlook, is just a little more than half designed.

According to county officials, some of the cost increases can be attributed to:

The estimated price tag for a main parking lot that went from $1.8 million to more than $5 million. County staff are trying to pin down the reasons for that increase.

A proposed maintenance building that jumped from an estimated $300,000 to $1.3 million. County staff say Kimley-Horn and Associates, the engineering firm overseeing the work, failed to take into account federal building requirements, like wheelchair access.

In some discussions, it was not made clear to commissioners that there would be additional costs for oversight of the project, such as testing concrete to ensure it measured up to industry standards. The price tag includes about $3.2 million in oversight and budgeting costs.

County staff members say there are still trying to determine how the price went up based on information provided by Kimley-Horn.

"You couldn't tell where they were," Jim Harriott, the county's chief engineer, said of the increases.

Representatives of Kimley-Horn, which is being paid about $2 million to design the Siesta beach project, also say they do not know where some of the numbers came from. …

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