Commissioners conducting hearing on beach sand bid appeal

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Indian River Board of County Commissioners embarked Tuesday on a quasi-judicial hearing to consider an appeal  by Stormwater and Underground, the contractor rejected to provide upland sand to renourish a 6.5-mile stretch of beach from Treasure Shores Park to John’s Island.

On Monday, Judge Paul Kanarek denied a request for a temporary injunction for the county to award a contract to Ranger Construction, the Fort Pierce-based firm chosen by commissioners on Sept. 8. The judge denied the injunction in order for the county to hold the hearing as part of its appeals process. So far, commissioners have heard testimony from public works staff, the owners and engineers of Stormwater and Underground, and Brian Davis, proprietor of the Brian Davis Sand Mine, which would provide the 26,000 loads of trucked-in upland sand for the project. Witnesses testified about the material in the mine, dredging equipment and personnel to be used and permits in place for the Brian Davis Mine.

Brian Davis is the brother of County Commision Chairman Wesley Davis, who has recused himself from the proceedings.

Commissioners thoroughly questioned the witnesses on the quality and quantity of the sand available and the testing that was done on the samples. Commissioner Peter O’Bryan, who has a scientific background, accused the consultant who evaluated the sand in the Davis mine of “cherry picking” boring samples by excluding 8 of the 18 samples taken from the report. Commissioner Bob Solari called down the attorney for Stormwater for declaring that the Davis mine had the “best sand.” In general, commissioners have not welcomed the questioning of their decision to award the bid to Ranger.

Stormwater and Underground submitted a base bid of $7,068,022 and Ranger submitted a base bid of $7,270,807, which the county accepted with a 4-0 vote.  Stormwater and Underground has objected to decision as they were the low bidder, which has led to the proccedings Tuesday.

Ed Lombard, attorney for Ranger Construction, who began speaking at 2:40 p.m., will also be allotted equal time to present arguments, experts and testimony as to the validity of the commissioners’ decision to choose Ranger for the job.

Whether or not commissioners uphold their Sept. 8 decision to award the contract to Ranger, further legal proceedings may occur in circuit court  and could result in delays of the project should the legal wrangling continue past the 60- to 90-day timeframe at which the county may be prepared to officially award the contract.

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