By Rachel Brown Hackney
The Turtle Beach Campground will be closed through the end of September, Sarasota County staff informed the County Commission in July, so the water, sewer and electrical infrastructure can be replaced.
By unanimous vote on July 12, the board approved the project without comment. The work was scheduled to begin in August and be completed no later than Sept. 30, according to a memo staff provided the board.
The total expense will be $1,050,000, with $974,303.40 to be paid to Tampa Contracting Services of Palmetto. That aligned with county staff’s estimate for the work, the memo indicated.
Commissioner Alan Maio made the motion to approve the work; Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it. No member of the public had signed up to comment on the plans.
The staff memo pointed out that the county purchased the campground in 2006. During the 2016 fiscal year, the memo continued, the facility had an occupancy rate of 83%, generating revenue of $536,000.
The water and sewer lines and electrical equipment date to about 1970, the memo added.
“The age of the infrastructure and the maintenance to keep it in a safe and working condition has become problematic and has increased in the last two years,” the memo explained. “The environmental impact on these systems from the salt air and moisture due to the close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico has accelerated system fatigue.”
“Further,” the memo continued, “RV campers have become larger than when the campground infrastructure was first installed and their increased service demands are taxing the systems. For these reasons, [the county’s] Facilities Maintenance [Division staff] has recommended that the water/sewer/electrical infrastructure within the Turtle Beach Campground … be replaced as soon as possible … to minimize the potential for a catastrophic failure,” the memo said.
Campground customers were notified that reservations would be suspended for the two-month period projected for the work, the memo pointed out.
As for hiring the firm to undertake the work: The memo said that although representatives of 70 firms viewed the solicitation, only two vendors attended the non-mandatory, pre-bid meeting, and only one submitted a bid. Procurement Department staff contacted the other vendor, the memo added, but could not get a response as to why it submitted no bid. “Noteworthy is that the qualifications were revised at the pre-bid meeting based on the vendor’s request,” the memo continued, “but even so, the firm did not bid on the project.”
In evaluating potential reasons for the receipt of the single bid, staff considered the following factors, the memo pointed out:
• “The construction industry is booming, resulting in fewer bidders.” Another recent project that went to bid also resulted in just one response, the memo noted. That was the Blind Pass Septic Sewer Upgrades Project.
• “This project has a very tight construction schedule consisting only of the months of August and September,” and the contractor is required to pay cash damages if the work is not finished on time. “This limited schedule is designed to complete the improvements before seasonal campers return,” the memo added.
• “It is primarily site work during the rainy season.
• “It is in a somewhat remote area with high traffic.”
On June 1, the memo continued, Procurement Department staff issued a Notice of Recommended Award for Tampa Contracting Services.
Because only one firm bid on the project, the memo pointed out, staff did weigh the option of delaying the project for a year. However, that idea was rejected, the memo said, because staff determined the risk that the infrastructure could fail was too high, and construction costs likely would increase.