Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
District acknowledges fault in pipeline design
Compensation bill changed in Legislature

KEY LARGO -- While the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District investigates the how and why its sewer pipeline doesn't match its design plans, the district's elected board has acknowledged it should compensate the state's road agency for having to rewrite its plans.

In March, officials with the Florida Department of Transportation realized in preconstruction meetings that there was a conflict with sewer infrastructure where they intend to start a Key Largo drainage project.

Since then, FDOT has asked the wastewater district to pay for a redesign of its project, which could cost about $120,000. Even with the redesign, it is also possible the wastewater district may have to reroute some of its pipes, an expense to which district officials found it hard to put a number.

"It's a mistake and it can be corrected," board member Andy Tobin said. "We don't have any documentation that we authorized this [deviation from the plans]."

An investigation into what happened and who is to blame is just beginning.

District Operations Manager Dan Saus said the daily notes of the district's inspector match what was installed and not the approved design plans. Those plans were worked out with FDOT, since the intention was not to interfere with planned the drainage project.

The district has asked its attorney, Ray Giglio, to begin investigating any liability and insurance issues and to possibly meet with contractor J.A. LaRocco, who Saus says deviated from the plans.

"Right now it's a he said-he said," District Manager Margaret Blank said. LaRocco officials say they did what they were told, while the district can find no written directive for the deviation.

"We have a very weak argument against DOT," Blank said. "... We don't have a leg to stand on."

Some board members were curious if FDOT would split the expense with them, but that isn't likely, district staff said.

"DOT isn't going to split anything with us," Saus said. "In the end, it wasn't installed the way it was designed."

The area in conflict, at minimum, includes 2,000 feet of six-inch vacuum main pipeline. Saus said he plans to meet with FDOT engineers to arrive at a fair redesign cost assessment.

In other matters, the wastewater board members will not be getting a raise as high as they initially wanted. HB 1403 was changed in a Florida House of Representatives committee meeting to compensate board members at $300 per meeting instead of the requested $382. The bill, though, allows for an annual consumer price index adjustment on Oct. 1.

Giglio said he doesn't foresee any problems with the bill passing both the House and Senate. The bill also details how a board member should be replaced if a resignation occurs near an election.

jgore@keysnews.com

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