PAHOKEE — City commissioners voted unanimously at the close of their long regular meeting Tuesday night to sue the company they’d hired to design and build the Pahokee marina/campground improvements because it failed to return $125,000 the city claims it owes after commissioners fired the company on April 26.
City Attorney Gary Brandenburg reported that the city has received nothing from Technomarine Group of North Palm Beach, whose CEO reported to the commissioners last month that his firm had so far spent only $25,000 of the $150,000 it had been advanced. Two weeks later, when nothing further had been accomplished, the commission voted 5-0 to terminate its contract with Technomarine and demand a refund of the difference.
Previously during the meeting, the commissioners approved a series of resolutions to move ahead with individual projects for renovations and upgrades at the marina/campground and restaurant building at the Lake Okeechobee-fronting complex, which the city leases from the state. It has provided grants totaling $1.2 million for the work.
Approved Tuesday were:
• A resolution ratifying the approval of the $1.2 million grant agreement with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) dated July 13, 2017, and approving an amendment to the scope of work by deleting the planned fishing pier.
• A resolution authorizing a contract with Palm Beach Septic Systems of Boca Raton for repairs to the grease trap for the restaurant at a cost of $27,130, to be completed within 21 days.
• A resolution authorizing the campground and marina railing agreement with Climatrol Quality Aluminum Products, for the installation of guardrails on top of the marina structures, including sea walls, at a cost of $142,470.
About the latter item, Commissioner Benny Everett asked where exactly the railings would be installed. City Manager Chandler Williamson explained: “That is the sea wall railing that’s being installed around the entire sea wall of the marina. Many years ago, when that sea wall was built and they had renovations up there, what was supposed to be installed was a protective railing around the entire facility. Subsequently, that also has stopped the city from getting full insurance in that area because of the safety (issue) and liability it caused.”
“Would that railing impede or prevent citizens from fishing?” Mr. Everett asked. “I think to some degree it will disturb the ability to fish in some areas,” the manager replied. “That is a decision that we have to accept because of the liability that not having railing causes for this particular marina. And again, the reason why we can’t repair the docks right now is because we don’t have insurance on it.”
Mr. Everett replied, “That is a hard decision to make.”
Mr. Williamson asked the commissioners to keep in mind that “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says we have to install this; our insurance company that dropped our coverage says it must be installed to protect against the loss of life, and that supersedes any practice that is going on at the marina now. The reason why it was never installed was the city never had the money.”
He added that Climatrol will start the work as soon as pressure-washing of the area has been done, “so it’ll probably be another 10 to 15 days before that project starts,” adding that it is supposed to be complete by July 1 under the state’s grant timeline and actually will beautify the area. Also, the city has put out fliers to alert people who use the area that it will be closed for a time during construction.
Mayor Keith Babb jumped in to point out, “I see it as a detour. That’s not the only place that they can fish, and certainly we can designate or note other areas.” He said he wondered how long the area would be off limits to visitors.
Mr. Williamson said he wasn’t sure of the duration yet but that the marina walkway probably would be closed periodically during the renovations at various times.
An amendment to the resolution was later passed to limit the wall’s height to 42 inches total.