Army Corps of Engineers contractor using Lido Beach project staging area in county’s Ted Sperling Park must carry insurance policy to cover any damages, county/city agreement says

Document also calls for city to apply for county permit before any park trees can be removed to create delivery access into park

South Lido Key, including Ted Sperlling Park, usually are readily visible across Big Pass from Siesta Key. File photo

Almost exactly two weeks before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is due to open bids on its Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project solicitation package, the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County finally concluded an agreement that will allow the contractor to use the county’s Ted Sperling Park for staging purposes.

City leaders — including Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, in a public appeal — told the county commissioners that the USACE could save about $1 million through use of part of the park. As a result, the county board voted 4-1 in December 2019 to approve the request.

However, instead of formally endorsing a draft agreement drawn up by City Attorney Robert Fournier, the county motion called for County Administrator Jonathan Lewis and County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht to work with city staff to execute an agreement.

Commissioner Michael Moran cast the “No” vote on Dec. 10, 2019. In an earlier discussion and again that day, commissioners voiced concerns about potential damage from the project itself to their park, which is on the southern tip of Lido Key. Commissioner Charles Hines, especially, expressed concern that the provisions of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit awarded jointly to the USACE and the City of Sarasota for the Lido initiative does not give the county sufficient protection in the event the city and/or the USACE would need to take remedial action.

This is an exhibit attached to the agreement, showing the staging area (in blue) in Ted Sperling Park. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Jan. 31 agreement —which The Sarasota News Leader obtained through a county public records request — points out that the USACE solicitation documents do not require the general contractor for the Lido project to maintain a general liability insurance policy while construction is underway. However, the agreement notes, the USACE solicitation package “did not prohibit the general contractor selected for the Project from maintaining a policy of general liability insurance.” Therefore, the document says, the county will require that the contractor have such a policy, “which shall be in effect during the term of this Agreement.” That policy must name the county “as an additional insured and be provided by an insurance carrier licensed to conduct business in the State of Florida that possesses a current A.M. Best’s Financial Strength Rating of A-Class VII or better.”

The expense of that naming of the county as an additional insured under the policy will be the responsibility of the city, the agreement adds.

Moreover, the document calls for the staging area to be “restored to its original or better condition upon the expiration of this Agreement,” and that work is to be completed “on or before May 31, 2021.”

Mayor Ahearn-Koch and City Attorney Fournier signed the agreement on behalf of the city, the document shows. County Administrator Lewis and County Attorney Elbrecht signed it as county representatives.

Other details of the agreement

This engineering drawing in the new solicitation package shows the planned location of two groins on South Lido, just north of the county’s Ted Sperling Park. Along with placing new sand on the Lido Beach, the USACE contractor would construct the groins. The engineering drawing also shows the staging area, marked with cross hatches, in the lower righthand corner. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Among its sections, the document notes that “a construction staging area in close proximity to the beach nourishment site is required” to facilitate the Lido Beach Renourishment Project. The specific part of the park that may be used is shown on an exhibit attached to the agreement. The affected portion of the park “includes a ‘panhandle’ on the west side to provide beach access,” the agreement says.

The term of the agreement begins on March 4 and terminates on May 31, 2021. The city will pay the county a one-time fee of $10.

Because the USACE received what it called “unreasonably high” bids last year, when it first published a solicitation package for the Lido project, it took a new tack with the revised solicitation package it issued on Dec. 17, 2019.

In December 2019, just before it was published, Trisston Brown, chief of the USACE’s Florida Projects Section in Jacksonville, told the News Leader, “The solicitation will be unique because it will allow for an unconstrained construction start time and advertise around the same time as the neighboring Manatee County beach project.” The latter involves Anna Maria Island, Manatee County’s website says.

“The goal is to give bidders flexibility with scheduling their assets and obtain more competitive bids for both projects since they are reasonably close together,” Brown added in a Dec. 17, 2019 email.

The bids on the Lido project are to be opened on Feb. 13.

This is a copy of the staging area request letter that Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch sent then-County Commission Chair Charles Hines on Dec. 3, 2019. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The city/county agreement also calls for the staging area to be “separated from the main vehicular parking area for Ted Sperling Park … by a temporary six-foot high chain link fence which will block public access to the Staging Area.”

As the News Leader reported last week, deliveries to the staging area may take place between 9:30 p.m. and 6 a.m., when the park is closed.

City Attorney Fournier’s draft staging agreement last year set the starting time at 11 p.m.

When the News Leader asked about the change, which the USACE included in a Jan. 24 addendum to its solicitation, USACE spokesman David Ruderman explained in a Feb. 4 email, “The City of Sarasota and the Sarasota County further discussed when the best time for deliveries would be. It was determined that deliveries could be made any time the park is closed. The park is closed from sunset to sunrise; thus, the delivery times were refined to be between 9:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. (which covers when the park would be closed throughout the entire year).”

(In response to a News Leader question about another change in the Jan. 24 addendum, regarding use of booster pumps closer to residential areas, Ruderman provided the following information: “The standard specification language does not apply for this project due to the entire project area being within 1,000 feet of residential areas. If a booster pump is utilized for this project, the Contractor will coordinate with the Contracting Officer for an appropriate location to minimize disturbance. Construction is permitted to occur 24/7, including the use of a booster pump.”)

Further, the staging agreement calls for the city to pay for the removal of “the minimum number of palm trees” necessary to create the temporary access to the park for the deliveries. The agreement adds that the city “shall complete and file the application for a tree removal permit and shall pay the application and permit fees,” but it also says the county “shall sign the application for tree removal.”

This is language included in the USACE solicitation package regarding restoration of the staging area. It was attached to the city/county agreement as part of an exhibit. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Another facet of the document calls for the city to ensure signage is posted to identify the construction as a USACE/city project, and the signage must include “personal contact information with a telephone number.” The agreement points out, “The purposes of this requirement are to provide a source of information to citizens with questions and to prevent [the county] from becoming a ‘pass through’ for comments or questions from citizens.”

Additionally, stipulation No. 6 says the Sarasota Police Department “shall patrol the area adjacent to the Staging Area and the adjacent park on a regular basis during the time this Staging Agreement is in effect.”

Stipulation No. 7 calls for copies of all the monitoring reports FDEP will require for the Lido project to be provided to Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR). The FDEP permit issued in June 2018 specifies the monitoring that must be pursued.

Before the contractor begins use of the staging area, the county also requests that Rissler be provided “the name and contact information of the person responsible for conducting sea turtle nest patrol and nest marking during the period that this Agreement is in effect …”