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Tarpon briefly delays approval of North Safford project

Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2013 at 07:46 PM

A long-delayed project will be pushed back for just a little bit longer.

Sitting as the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, the City Commission decided Tuesday to delay approving the North Safford Avenue Recreation Corridor's progress at least two weeks until the next regular meeting.

Commissioners spoke favorably of the project, which is part of a three-pronged effort to create what City Manager Mark LeCouris has dubbed a "walkable circle of Tarpon Springs," from downtown to the Sponge Docks and back. Commissioner Susan Slattery was not present Tuesday.

The North Safford Avenue portion of the project, which dates back to 2009, includes the resurfacing of the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail from Tarpon Avenue to Pine Street, new sidewalk construction to fill in existing gaps, some landscaping and a new park at Safford Avenue and Live Oak Street.

This portion of the overall walkability project has been held up a number of times since 2009. Commissioners' request to draw up plans for the new park was one reason for a delay, and needed stormwater improvements were another.

On Tuesday, it was because Commissioner Townsend Tarapani was not comfortable with approving an $874,306 work bid without more background information in hand at the meeting. He asked that the decision to approve the bid of Tarpon Springs-based Augustine Construction be delayed until the Sept. 18 commission meeting.

The other commissioners eventually agreed to the request, though Mayor David Archie said the information Tarapani wanted has been readily available and requests for it should have been made to staff before the meeting.

All details involved with the North Stafford Avenue project gained commission approval at previous public meetings.

Tarapani also suggested that the bid process could be looked at again to go back out to prospective companies, raising concern over only three responses coming into the city.

Commissioners and LeCouris previously commended staff's ability to secure Augustine Construction's pending low bid. That bid, roughly $794,000, came in more than $400,000 below the next lowest offer. Augustine was the only company of the three from Tarpon Springs.

The total project bid comes to the $875,000 price tag after including an $80,000 contingency fee. LeCouris said initial estimates put the project at well over $1 million.

Archie said he did not want to seek other bids because the city has an "exceptional" proposal from a local firm.

Given the current disparity between the Augustine bid and the next lowest offer, Archie said, re-bidding could potentially open the door for the low bidder to raise its offer.

The overall goal of creating LeCouris' walkable circle of Tarpon Springs is eventually improving the connects among the North Stafford Avenue Recreation Corridor, downtown, the Sponge Docks, the Hope Street and Athens Street Corridor, and improving the lighting around Craig Park and Spring Bayou.

"After a lot of delays, I think we have a great project to go forward with," LeCouris said. (727) 815-1071

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