St. Joe Beach property owner Bill Koran came to the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday with more questions and information about the Americus Ditch project.
Commissioner Joanna Bryan said answers may be coming soon.
The ditch, which according to records from the Clerk of Courts, has cost county taxpayers over $1.2 million to date, including more than 130 repair jobs, including a recent filling in of dirt around an above-ground break in the pipe continues to be a problem, Koran said.
The line, in some sections, is 20-24 inches out of grade, Koran said.
Over prior meetings commissioners have said a job bid out six years ago and finished more than five years ago was in the past and of little interest to them, but Koran and Bryan have pushed back saying the ditch continues to be an issue.
“There are 40 or 50 homes out there that are affected by that ditch,” Koran said. “So it is in the future. We could have had some homes washed out if that storm (Tropical Storm Karen) had come this way last week.”
Koran said commissioners had just raised taxes by more than $1 million and he had been personally attacked at meetings by members of the audience while trying to bring pressing county business to the BOCC.
“I came here to discuss a real problem and I have been personally attacked,” Koran said. “I am here to show the public the truth.”
But, he said, his own research backed up fundamental assertions.
Firstly, the company that was contracted for the job was not, as required under bid specifications, a Florida Department of Transportation pre-qualified contractor, contrary to statements made by Brad Bailey, owner of Bailey and Sons.
According to correspondence from Darlene Anderson, Prequalification Supervisor of the FDOT, agency records do not show Bailey and Sons was prequalified to perform road or bridge work.
Koran also noted that Bailey and Sons drew its final payment for the job, indicating all had signed off on the job and “everyone was happy.”
This despite obvious problems from the outset on a job contracted for 120 days which took nearly 10 months to complete and, most importantly, without a final inspection report which should have been filed.
Those reports, he said, could not be located by the Clerk’s office.
“Either no reports were done or reports were removed from the file,” Koran said.
Koran also questioned discrepancies in billing for the job from Preble Rish Engineers, which designed and inspected the job.
Under original invoices obtained from the Clerk’s office, the job started as a $1 million project and was a $1.1 million job later in the year.
He also noted that some $220,000 worth of pipe burned in 2008 and said public records do not indicate who absorbed that cost.
In an email between the Clerk’s office and county administrative staff, Koran noted, two invoices from Bailey and Sons could not be located by the Clerk’s office and staff there were told administrative staff would handle the issue.
Koran also wondered how Bailey could have submitted an invoice in January 2008 before the commencement of the project the following month and the securement of a construction bond by his company.
“We have a building problem,” Koran said. “We could save the taxpayers money. We should look at all projects. The county needs to get what is paid for.”
Bryan said that Ralph Rish, president of Preble Rish, had appeared before the BOCC and pledged to work with the county to fix any problems.
She said had reached out to Rish and they were “working toward remedying problems with this ditch.”
Commissioner Tan Smiley, expressing an opinion diametrically opposed to prior meetings when Americus Ditch was deemed old news, said the board would also assist.
“If we do have a problem I know we can fix it,” Smiley said. “That Americus Ditch, if we do have a problem, Ms. Bryan, if you need anything let us board members know.”