Stipulation in city/county staging agreement for Lido Renourishment Project apparent reason for Army Corps of Engineers delaying bid deadline for two weeks

City staff has been told contractor will have to use north access, at Lido Pavilion, instead of south access planned at Ted Sperling Park

Sperling Park is easily visible across Big Sarasota Pass from Siesta Key. File photo

Once again, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has pushed back the due date for bids on its Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project.

At 10:09 a.m. on Feb. 7, the federal government website where the solicitation has been advertised showed the deadline had been moved from Feb. 13 to Feb. 27.

Based on information provided to The Sarasota News Leader from several sources, the delay was prompted by a stipulation in an agreement the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County staff executed on Jan. 31. That was to allow the USACE contractor to use part of the county’s Ted Sperling Park on South Lido Key as a staging area for the renourishment initiative.

In a Feb. 12 email. Jan Thornburg, senior communications manager with the City of Sarasota, told the News Leader,

“At this writing, the staging will be done at the north access.” The USACE solicitation package says that that is the Lido Beach Pavilion “paved parking lot and walkway. Staging area is approximately 175 [feet] by 210 ft.”

This engineering drawing in the May 2019 USACE solicitation for the Lido Renourishment Project identified the North Staging Area at Lido Pavilion. Image courtesy USACE

In accord with that provision, in a July 11, 2019 addendum to the USACE’s original, May 2019 solicitation for the Lido project, the federal agency noted, “[T]he Contractor may ‘scrape’ the existing beach” in front of the Lido Pavilion and Pool. That would be allowed, the package noted, if the contractor needed to cover the existing rock groin that extends offshore of the southern part of the renourishment area, so the contractor could transport equipment over the groin.

The amendment specified, “Scraping shall be uniform throughout the area to avoid holes, ruts, etc. and not excavated below mean high water … The temporary sand ramp shall be of the Contractor’s own design,” the amendment continued, “and shall be constructed so as to ensure the existing rock groin is not damaged from equipment traversing over it. Any damage to the existing groin that occurs due to … equipment traversing it, shall be repaired at the Contractor’s expense.”

The July 11, 2019 amendment added, “The scraped area shall be filled back to its approximate pre-scraped condition within 2 calendar days from the commencement of fill operations.”

 

This engineering drawing in a July 2019 addendum to the original USACE solicitation for the Lido project included a note about the ‘scraping’ of the beach. Image courtesy USACE

In April 2019, the City of Sarasota completed an emergency renourishment project on Lido Beach; part of the new sand covered the area in front of the Pavilion and Lid Pool.

In early August 2019, the USACE cancelled its original solicitation for bids because the two it received, it said, were “unreasonably high.”

Late last year, city leaders pleaded with the County Commission to allow the USACE contractor to use a portion of Sperling Park because the park’s close proximity to the work area would save about $1 million on the overall expense of the undertaking. The commissioners finally voted 4-1 on Dec. 10, 2019 to accede to the city request, with Commissioner Michael Moran in the minority.

On March 2, the Sarasota City Commission is scheduled to address a staff request to approve an amended partnership agreement with the USACE for the Lido initiative. The primary facet of that document will be a city offer to cover more of the cost, if that proves necessary, a staff memorandum says.

Apparent cause and effect

As part of the December 2019 County Commission motion regarding the Sperling Park staging area, the board members agreed to a request by County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to work with County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht to execute an agreement with city staff, in lieu of the commission’s approving a document drafted by City Attorney Robert Fournier, which the City Commission approved in early December 2019.

This is a copy of the letter that Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch sent then-County Commission Chair Charles Hines on Dec. 3, 2019, seeking use of a staging area in Sperling Park for the USACE contractor. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The agreement executed on Jan. 31 — which Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Lewis signed, along with Fournier and Elbrecht — pointed out that the USACE solicitation documents published on Dec. 17, 2019 do not require the general contractor for the Lido project to maintain a general liability insurance policy while construction is underway. However, the agreement noted, 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 said, the county would require that the contractor have such a policy, “which shall be in effect during the term of this Agreement.” That policy would have to 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 agreement said.

In her Feb. 12 email to the News Leader, Thornburg of the City of Sarasota added, “City staff will continue to work with the County and the USACE to facilitate the project in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible to protect and preserve the Lido shoreline and nearby infrastructure.”

The News Leader also asked county staff for comment on the situation. Late in the afternoon of Feb. 12, Media Relations Officer Brianne Grant responded in an email: “I checked with staff and we’ll defer to the Army Corps of Engineers on the requirements for their contractor.”

The News Leader talked on Feb. 12 with David Ruderman, spokesman for the USACE District Office in Jacksonville. He promised to get information as soon as possible about the staging access issue, but he was unsure about how quickly he could respond, he said. The News Leaderhad not heard back from Ruderman by deadline for this issue. This story will be updated whenever it receives comments from the USACE staff.

People walk Lido Key Beach in late January. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

In its review of the Feb. 7 addendum — which pushed back the bid deadline to Feb. 27 — the News Leader could find no changes regarding the staging area.

However, the new addendum does make it clear to companies submitting bids that they should allow 60 days for a bid award to be announced. A Jan. 8 addendum had revised that to 30 days.

The Feb. 7 addendum still says the Lido project must be completed by May 1, 2021.

Sea turtle nesting season officially begins on May 1 on Florida’s shoreline.

City proposal to ‘voluntarily contribute additional funding’

On Feb. 6 — just one day before the latest USACE addendum appeared — the City of Sarasota released the agenda for the Feb. 18 City Commission meeting. The backup material for the third item on the board’s Consent Agenda No. 1 of routine business matters explained staff’s recommendation that the commission agree to “voluntarily contribute additional funding to the [USACE] project, if needed to meet the lowest responsive [bid].”

However, on Feb. 12, city staff issued a notice of Change to the Order of the Day for the Feb. 18 meeting, including the removal of the Lido Beach item from Consent Agenda No. 1.

In response to a News Leader question about that action, city Communications Specialist Jason Bartolone wrote in a Feb. 12 email, “This item is being moved to the March 2 meeting agenda to accommodate the Army Corps’ shift of the bid opening date to Feb. 27.”

The backup agenda material for the Feb. 18 meeting noted that the City Commission approved its initial Project Partnership Agreement with the USACE on Aug. 20, 2018. At that time, the memo said, the estimated cost of the initial Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project was $19,577,231. The USACE was to pay 65% of that, with the city taking care of the remaining 35%.

This is the document the USACE published on July 30, 2019, showing facets of the two bids for the original solicitation package. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

City documents have explained that half of that 35% would be covered with state grant funds.

The USACE plan calls for subsequent renourishments of the 1.56-mile stretch of Lido shoreline approximately every five years after the first initiative has been completed. The permit the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) awarded the USACE and the city in June 2018 is good for 15 years.

The staff memo for the Feb. 18 agenda item also noted that the Department of the Army would fund 50% of each of those undertakings, with the city supplying the other half of the money.

The backup agenda material for the Feb. 18 City Commission meeting said any additional funding from the city “will be based on the availability of Tourist Development Tax Funds (TDT).” The TDT revenue comes from a 5% county tax charged on all accommodations rented for six months or less time. The county apportions a certain percentage of the funds each year to the City of Sarasota for beach renourishment efforts.

The memo added that $1.3 million of that TDT revenue allocated to the city has not been appropriated.

This pie chart shows how county Tourist Development Tax revenue was spent in the 2019 fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During a Jan. 16 presentation to the county’s Tourist Advisory Council (TDC), Doreen Buonpastore, a fiscal consultant with the county’s Office of Financial Management, reported that the City of Sarasota was given $751,897 — or 3.2% — of the $23,463,535 in TDT revenue that the county received in the 2019 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, 2019.

Because of funds carried over in the TDT accounts, Buonpastore continued, actual TDT expenditures in the 2019 fiscal year added up to $25,388,069. The city spent $3,788,041 — or 14.9% of that total — on beach maintenance. That left $1,329,035 in the city’s beach maintenance account at the end of FY2019, according to a chart she showed the TDC members.

In April 2019, the city completed an emergency project on Lido, with the hope that that would stabilize the shoreline sufficiently until the long-term USACE initiative could get underway. The city had won federal grant funds to assist with the emergency project.

Additionally, the County Commission gave the city $1 million for that initiative. The funds were part of an agreement ending a dispute with the city over a final county payment into a trust fund set up in the 1980s to redevelop blighted areas of downtown Sarasota.

A history of a solicitation effort

In early August 2019, when the USACE cancelled its initial solicitation package for the Lido Renourishment Project, it provided documentation showing details of the two bids it received on July 30, 2019. The lower bid was $22,135,100; the higher offer was $27,195,725. The USACE pointed out that it had estimated its cost of the initiative at $14,149,000.

For its new solicitation, the USACE provided flexibility to a contractor to undertake the Lido project within the same general period of time in which Manatee County leaders plan renourishment efforts on Anna Maria Island. “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,” Trisston Brown, chief of the USACE’s Florida Projects Section in Jacksonville, told the News Leader in a Dec. 17, 2019 email.

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