Final contract amendment approved for engineering firm overseeing Lift Station 87 project

City of Sarasota Utilities Department director seeks another $121,440 for McKim & Creed

Work has continued on the building in Luke Wood park that is above the ‘wet well’ portion of Lift Station 87. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Just two weeks after the Sarasota City Commission voted to direct City Attorney Robert Fournier to compile a report with a timeline of all the major events contributing to the total expenses associated with the Lift Station 87 project, the board faced yet another financial decision this week related to the undertaking.

Listed on the Sept. 21 agenda as the last item of Unfinished Business, the proposal called for a fourth amendment to the city’s contract with the McKim & Creed engineering consulting firm that has overseen the Lift Station 87 initiative since August 2013.

This amendment, for $121,440, mostly covered the completion of the Phase II work, city Utilities Department Director Bill Riebe explained to the board members, who were conducting their meeting via Zoom.

Phase II was the segment focused on the construction of the actual lift station. The “wet well,” which is underground in Luke Wood Park near downtown Sarasota, has been designed to withstand a Category 3 hurricane. A building standing aboveground disguises the fact that the lift station is below the surface.

A memo Riebe provided to the commissioners as back-up agenda material for the Sept. 21 meeting noted that more time was needed to complete Phase II because of “difficult subsurface conditions and COVID 19 related issues.”

The memo added, “The expected final completion date for Phase II is October 31, 2020. Diversion of approximately 50% of the flow from Lift Station 7” to Lift Station 87 is expected to begin by Sept. 30, the memo added.

A graphic shows the location of Lift Station 87. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Riebe also pointed out to the board that oversight of the reconfiguration of the intersection of Osprey Avenue and Lincoln Drive, for safety purposes, will be covered by the extra funding. The total amount for that work, the memo said, is $29,340. That project is being incorporated into the Lift Station 87 initiative, the memo explained, to minimize disruptions to the neighborhood.

An exhibit attached to the contract amendment said that the redesign of the roadway will create a 90-degree intersection that will have curbing and sidewalks. Further, “specific sidewalk ramps” along Osprey Avenue from Lincoln Drive to Bahia Vista Street will be installed to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. Drainage improvements also are planned, the memo said, noting “ponding issues between Alta Vista [Street] and Bahia Vista based on historical information provided by the [city].”

Riebe further reported in his memo that this amendment would be the last one for McKim & Creed, which has several offices in Florida, including one in Sarasota.

The total contract award to the firm, with this latest amendment, is $8,460,316.

City staff hired McKim & Creed to evaluate and redesign the Lift Station 87 initiative, including a microtunnel under Hudson Bayou, the fourth amendment to the contract pointed out.

The total cost of the Lift Station 87 undertaking, the memo added, is $67.9 million. It started out at $12.5 million, which is one primary reason the City Commission has asked City Attorney Fournier and his staff to compile a report on multiple facets of the project, including the steps that led to cost escalation.

No members of the public had signed up to address the agenda item, City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs reported after Riebe concluded his remarks.

Images in a consultant’s report to the City Commission this summer show work on the Lift Station 87 wet well. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

When Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch asked whether any of the commissioners had comments or questions, Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie asked Riebe how he could be certain that no other contract amendments would be necessary.

“We’re simply not going to do any more,” he replied, prompting chuckles from Freeland Eddie. Riebe himself laughed, as well.

A document included in the commissioners’ backup material pointed out that the amendment does not include any construction services from McKim & Creed for the final phase of the Lift Station 87 initiative. Either city staff or “designated representative[s] will serve as Successor Engineer of Record,” the document added.

Commissioner Willie Shaw made the motion to approve the contract amendment and Freeland Eddie seconded it.

As Griggs called the roll of the members for their votes, Commissioner Hagen Brody, who was participating via telephone, appeared to hesitate. Finally, Brody voted “Yes.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Brody has pressed staff about Lift Station 87 issues, especially over the past couple of years. He also was the board member who requested the Sept. 8 discussion, which resulted in the direction for the report from the City Attorney’s Office.

Fournier told the commissioners during the Sept. 8 meeting that he was not sure how long it would take to produce that document, as he has limited staffing in his office.