Kansas City firm hired to oversee conversion of Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility to Advanced Wastewater status

County commissioners take note of importance of that step in improving area water quality

A graphic shows the location of the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Given the importance of the action and the amount of money involved, Sarasota County Commission Chair Alan Maio pulled one item from the board’s Feb. 9 Consent Agenda of routine business items to offer some comments.

That item called for approval of a $1,727,543.40 agreement with Garney Construction Co. to serve as construction manager at risk for the preconstruction phase of the conversion of the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) to Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) status. The plant is located on Lorraine Road in Sarasota.

The project also entails the expansion of the Bee Ridge plant, so it can handle 18 million gallons of wastewater per day (mgd), instead of its 12-million-gallon capacity.

Maio reminded his colleagues that they designated him last year as their representative during sessions in which companies short-listed as potential winners of major Public Utilities Department bids make formal presentations about their proposals. The staff members who conduct the sessions have the appropriate expertise to make recommendations about contract awards, Maio has explained.

“Each [of those presentations] was about four hours long,” Maio said of the discussions with firms vying for the Bee Ridge contract, emphasizing “the hard work [our] staff does.”

On Dec. 15, 2020, the members of the county committee that heard the presentations ranked the proposers and deemed Garney the most qualified to perform the services, a county Procurement Department document said.

A Feb. 9 county staff memo about the Garney contract pointed out, “The goal is to complete the Bee Ridge WRF Expansion and Conversion to AWT in early 2025, so that operations staff can be trained to operate and maintain the plant, well before the Consent Order deadline of December 2025.”

The agreement, which also was in the Feb. 9 board packet, notes that Garney’s representative for the Sarasota work is Mark Abram, senior project manager, who is located in Winter Garden. A director of Garney signed the agreement on Feb. 2.

In 2019, the commissioners contended with a federal civil complaint, filed by environmental groups after those nonprofits documented close to 1 billion gallons of illegal discharges from the county’s three wastewater treatment facilities over a period of about three-and-a-half years. The commissioners also had to deal with a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Consent Order that dictated specific actions the county had to undertake to improve its wastewater treatment processes. The FDEP action covered a shorter period than the federal court complaint; yet, FDEP identified millions of gallons of sewage spills.

The Consent Order calls for the Bee Ridge Wastewater Treatment Facility (WRF) improvements to be completed by the end of December 2025, Maio noted on Feb. 9.

This page of an exhibit with the FDEP Consent Order lists part of the discharges associated with the 2019 agreement. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In recent months, the commissioners also have approved steps designed to upgrade the county’s other two primary wastewater treatment plants — the Venice Gardens facility in the Venice area and the Central County WRF, which is located on Palmer Ranch in Sarasota.

“We want things done as quickly as they can be done,” Maio said on Feb. 9.

Referring to the Bee Ridge WRF, Commissioner Christian Ziegler reminded his colleagues that, if he recalled correctly, about one-third of all the nutrients the county dumps into waterways originates from that facility, including nitrogen, which researchers have identified as a major source of food for the algae that produces red tide.

“It’s easy for us to forget about red tide,” Ziegler said. However, two years ago — following one of the worst red tide periods the county has endured — water quality was among the top concerns of county residents, he added. Removing excessive nutrients from water that flows into Sarasota Bay, Ziegler continued, will have “a big positive impact on our community.”

This May 8, 2019 graphic provided to the County Commission shows details about the nitrogen loads from wastewater treatment plants in the county. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“That is an excellent point,” Maio responded — “one I should have made.”

Commissioner Ron Cutsinger formally made the motion to approve the contract with Garney Construction Co., and Ziegler seconded it. The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

Garney is based in Kansas City, Mo., according to a document provided to the commission in advance of the Feb. 9 session. The other two bidders for the contract were Archer Western/PC JV of Tampa and PC/Haskell JV of Jacksonville.

As construction manager at risk, Garney will be responsible for ensuring that the initiatives come in on time and within the budget the County Commission ultimately approves. The formal agreement the commissioners approved this week points out that, among its responsibilities, Garney will review plans and specifications “at each design milestone” — the 30%, 50%, 70% and 90% marks. It also will advise the county “of ways to gain efficiencies in Project delivery and reduce overall project delivery time.”

A county staff memo in the Feb. 9 meeting packet explained, “It is standard practice to enter into an agreement with the [construction manager at risk] CMAR for preconstruction phase services in order for the design team and CMAR to collaborate during the incremental design phases, review opportunities for value engineering, and prepare Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP’s) at the various phases.”

Garney will be paid out of the county’s Utility System Revenue Bond 2020 Fund, which will be repaid by revenue from utility accounts, the staff memo added.

The preconstruction services are to begin this month, the memo noted, with completion is expected in February 2022.