The Central Beach Trail in Treasure Island has been plagued by cracks since it first opened in March 2013.
TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners are still waiting for the results of a petrographic analysis that will possibly shed some light on the cause for cracks in Treasure Island's Central Beach Trail.
Kent Whittemore, the attorney for landscape architect Phil Graham, previously promised the results at the Jan. 21 City Commission meeting but showed up without the results. He instead requested yet another extension to Feb. 18, which wore thin with commissioners.
“On Feb. 18 we will provide you with an interim written report that will contain one of two things,” said Whittemore. “It will be either the conclusion that we do not have a solution or the alternative, a commitment that you get a full-blown presentation at the next meeting (March 4).”
Whittemore said engineers notified him Jan. 17 that the study was complete but has not seen the final report. He said it was his understanding the conclusions would indicate a problem with materials used in the construction and the design.
“Did you say there’s a possibility that you’re going to have a report that says there’s no solution?” asked Commissioner Alan Bildz. “I’m hopeful that’s not the case. If you come to us with that response, you’re going to guarantee your client of a lawsuit.”
Graham, president of Phil Graham Landscape Architecture, provided design services for the trail. Coastal Technology Corp., of Vero Beach provided structural engineering services and Biltmore Construction Co., of Clearwater constructed the $1.2 million trail.
The trail, which extends from the Bilmar Beach Resort north to the Residence Inn by Marriott, opened last March. Within three weeks cracks appeared in the walkway and walls.
Slowly, the number increased. Graham said in October his team’s count had the number at 265.
Graham has contended the cause is cosmetic and city officials believe it could be structural.
Whittemore said a full-blown presentation on the petrographic study would include a proposal and an estimated cost to repair or replace the trail.
Commissioner Phil Collins asked if there is no feasible solution, what will Whittemore and Graham’s next step be.
“I’ll probably get a letter from (City Attorney Maura) Kiefer and I’ll respond,” Whittemore said.
“It seems like for the last 10 months you’ve continued to kick this can down the road,” said Collins. “But once again, I’d like to get something concrete. If there is no feasible solution on the 18th, your plan is to sit back and wait for a lawsuit?”
Whittemore did not answer directly but said it was his client’s desire to find a solution to the issue and go forward. But he stopped short of saying Graham would be strapped with the expense of a full replacement.
“We’re very open, working very hard and spending a lot of money trying to find a solution to the problem,” said Whittemore. “We hope we can do that. I’ve heard the city is not going to accept anything less of a full replacement. I’m telling you now that is not going to happen at the expense of my client because he can’t do it.
“If the estimate for the full replacement is well over $1 million, we don’t think that’s necessary,” Whittemore added. “If we come back and everybody says we’re not going to take anything less than a full replacement, I don’t know what the solution will be because we can’t do that. The expectation of the city may be that my client will be responsible for that. We don’t agree with that.”
Commissioner Tim Ramsberger asked Whittemore if Graham’s expectation of feasibility included the contribution of the taxpayers of Treasure Island. Whittemore said no.
Mayor Bob Minning chastised Whittemore for a lack of communication with city officials on the progress of the petrographic analysis and asked why he was asking again for more time to present the results.
“I don’t control the testing,” Whittemore said. “I have to go through two or three sets of engineers. The engineers I work with don’t do the testing. They contract for the testing to be done.”
Whittemore said the report would indicate a combination of factors for the trail cracks and there is disagreement about the cause.
“You’ve got issues with the materials, water content of the materials, questions about the design and questions about the construction itself,” Whittemore said.
“We’re faced with the dilemma of trying to put some type of closure to this and it’s endless,” said Ramsberger.
Whittemore said his job is to protect both Graham’s reputation as well as his financial interests.
Collins said he wants to see Graham’s reputation preserved but also wants to see the Beach Trail brought back to what city officials understood they were going to get.
“So based on that, I don’t think there’s anything else to say,” Collins said. “I think we might as well wait until (Feb. 18) and at that point the clock will have run out.”
“They’re either going to come up with a proposal or they’re going to stonewall us,” said Bildz.
Meanwhile, the city is moving forward with possible plans for litigation.
“We are doing that now,” said Minning. “Maura is riding herd and making sure the city’s legal interests are well covered.”
“The city is very frustrated,” said Kiefer. “Feb. 18 should be revealing. We’ve been waiting a long time for some answers.”
In other action, commissioners:
• Appointed Khedjia Nottingham to a vacancy as an alternate on the city’s code enforcement board.
• Voted to support the Greenlight Pinellas plan.
• Awarded a $62,018 contract to JTV Inc., to line eight storm drain pipes.