Commissioners want answers about delays in repairing the St. George Island fishing pier.
At Tuesday morning’s county meeting, Preble Rish spokesman Clay Smallwood told commissioners he is trying to meet with Gulf Group, the firm charged with repairing the pier, to discuss delays.
Gulf Group’s contract calls for the work to be completed by July 1, but Smallwood said he does not believe the work will be finished.
“I’ve been receiving a lot of calls about this,” said Commissioner Pinki Jackel, whose district includes St. George Island. “There’s not a lot of entertainment for visitors on the island. A lot of people use that fishing pier. A meeting about the delay needs to happen sooner not later.”
Chair Cheryl Sanders said she had hoped the repairs would be done by Memorial Day but now didn’t think they would be complete by Independence Day.
Smallwood said he believed the remaining work will take a minimum of 30 days to complete. Commissioner William Massey said he believed it would take longer based on the progress already made.
In an interview after the meeting, County Planner Alan Pierce said he agreed with Massey and would not speculate on the cause of the delay or when the work will be done.
In January, Gulf Group bid $566,200 for the project. If Gulf Group does not finish on time, they can be fined $300 per day after the July 1 deadline.
Pierce said the company has not yet received most of the payment. He suggested to commissioners that $9,000 might be deducted from the next scheduled payment to cover the anticipated delay.
Pierce said the revetment adjacent to the pier also needed to be repaired using FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds. He said he had hoped to begin that task when the pier was complete but now intends to seek bids for the revetment immediately.
“The FEMA money must be spent by January 2014,” he said.
A section of the pier was destroyed when a barge belonging to Orion Marine Contractors, of Houston, Texas broke its moorings during Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012.
Orion, who was in the area as a subcontractor for Progress Energy, is denying liability for the damage, calling the storm an “act of God.” The company maintains the barge was properly moored.
The county retained Robert Dees, certified by the Florida Bar in maritime and admiralty law, in the event the county’s insurance carrier denies coverage and payment is sought from Progress Energy or Orion for the damages.
In the interim, commissioners voted to fund the repairs out of the $1.66 million in the bridge fund, which was set up by the state after it built the new bridge to St. George Island a decade ago.