Commissioners Question Engineering Costs – AMI Sun
BRADENTON BEACH — City officials are concerned about higher-than-expected engineering costs for a state-funded beautification and landscaping project along Gulf Drive North.
To date, Lynn Burnett’s LTA Engineers has received $48,205 for engineering and design services related to a beautification project that will be funded by a $104,246 Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) grant. .
The beautification project is planned on state-owned rights-of-way along the SR 789/Gulf Drive corridor, primarily between 23rd Street North and 12th Street North, with engineering and design plans submitted to FDOT review and approval.
In April 2021, Burnett presented what was then described as the final design plans and specifications for the project, which have since been revised after input from FDOT.
Original plans called for the removal of several Australian pines along Gulf Drive North and the planting of green button and wax myrtles, coconut palms, cabbage palms and various shrubs, grasses and other ground cover materials. At the request of the FDOT, the felling and planting of trees are no longer provided for in the plans.
Although Burnett is no longer the town’s lead engineer, she remains the official engineer for this project. On Thursday, Feb. 17, she appeared before the commission to discuss engineering efforts to date and her final bill related to the $2,910 project.
Working as a sub-contractor, ZNS Engineering Project Landscape Architect Joe Collins is assisting LTA engineers with the beautification project and participated in Thursday’s meeting by phone.
Throughout Thursday’s discussion, committee members repeatedly raised concerns about engineering costs already equating to almost half of the grant funds – and potentially reaching as high as $60,000 before the start. completion of the project, with LTA engineers providing future on-site inspections and supervision.
Grant money can only be used to pay for landscaping and beautification work and cannot be used for engineering and design services. According to city treasurer Shayne Thompson, engineering and design costs are being paid from the city’s general fund as part of the $129,000 originally budgeted in the fiscal year 2020-21 for the project. , which includes the grant.
Mayor John Chappie said Burnett originally estimated the engineering and design costs would be around $30,000. He asked why some basic design elements that were supposed to comply with the existing FDOT general standards needed further revision and review.
Collins noted that the project is subject to FDOT quality control standards that apply to utility lines, setbacks, rights-of-way, hydrants and other existing features – including “plant-free zones” which prohibit plants and landscaping in areas where they could potentially injure someone involved in a car accident.
Burnett said the FDOT’s 60-day expedited review process was supposed to be completed in September, but it took six months to get to that point in the process. Collins and Burnett said they had never encountered such significant review-related delays when working with FDOT.
Commissioner Jake Spooner questioned why the removal of tree planting and removal plans resulted in significant costs in engineering and design services. Collins and Burnett said removing the trees from the plans required additional engineering, design and review for shrubs and other lower-level plantings that remain in the plans.
Burnett noted that Chappie and others had already been made aware of the FDOT’s tree removal and planting issues and that she had been instructed to proceed with the project which now has an extended completion deadline of June 2023.
When expressing his displeasure, Commissioner Ralph Cole noted that taxpayers’ money is being spent on the project regardless of who is responsible for the increased cost.
Chappie asked Burnett if there was anything she could do in terms of working with the city to help reduce design and engineering costs. Burnett said she had already written off $10,000 for work related to the project and was unable to provide the city with additional free services.
Chappie noted that FDOT landscape architect Darryl Richard is the city’s primary contact for the project and he suggested the commission hear from Richard and get FDOT’s perspective before making any decisions related to the project. . The commission accepted Chappie’s suggestion.