Repairs on N.E. 304th St. bridge delayed

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County residents who have been navigating a 20-mile detour due to damages to the Northeast 304th Street bridge from Hurricane Irma will have to wait a little longer for relief.

Bids on the bridge repair were on the agenda for the Aug. 23 Okeechobee County Commission meeting, but instead of giving the job to the low bidder, the commissioners sent the project back to the engineer after learning concerns about the natural gas pipeline and Florida Power and Light lines in the area had not been addressed.

Commissioner David Hazellief said some potential bidders complained they were unable to get all of the information they needed in order to bid. In particular, there are concerns about the locations of gas lines and power lines, and the restrictions in regard to those utility lines.

He said the county may have to change the design due to the placement of these lines.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said the engineer should have gotten all of that information before designing the project.

“If he can’t get it straight, then Johnson Engineering should put someone in charge who can get it straight,” said Chairman Burroughs.

“If the information is incomplete, these guys don’t know what they are bidding on,” said he said.

“We’ve got other interested bidders who have not gotten answers to their questions,” said Commissioner Bradley Goodbread.

He said he doesn’t want to take the low bid and then wind up with extensive and expensive change orders if the engineer’s design won’t work due to the utility lines.

“In the drawing, the gas line and the power line is mentioned,” said Mr. Hazellief. He said the engineer should have met with the utility companies to get the accurate information in regard to the requirements for building on the property.

“How can you design something if you don’t take that into consideration?” he asked.

At Chairman Burroughs suggestion, the commissioners agreed to throw out the original bids and rebid the project after the engineer gets the needed information from the utility companies. He added they need to make sure the engineer answers all the questions potential bidders have about the project requirements and design.

“We’re sort of trying to make a decision without all of the information,” said county attorney John Cassels.

Commissioner Kelly Owens suggested the county get the questions answered and if the original design will work, moving forward with the bids received.

She said they need to complete the repairs as quickly as they can.

A 20 mile detour could affect the safety and welfare of the citizens in an emergency situation, she said.

Mr. Goodbread said the engineer should have gathered all of the information before release the design for the bidding process.

“It’s like planning a bachelor party without asking your wife if you can go first,” he quipped.

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