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Insurance attorney involved in trail issue
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TREASURE ISLAND – City leaders hope to meet soon with attorneys representing the insurance company of Phil Graham Landscape Architecture to begin a possible dialogue toward a settlement in the issue of cracks in Treasure Island's Beach Trail.

In a letter to City Attorney Maura Kiefer, Graham attorney Kent Whittemore of St. Petersburg said Graham has met with representatives of Biltmore Construction “and are attempting to put together a proposal to resolve the concerns of the city of Treasure Island with regard to the (cracks in the Beach Trail).”

In a letter from Graham to City Manager Reid Silverboard, Graham said “we believe the most effective use of the time for all involved would be a joint presentation, our office and city staff, to the city commission after potential options are downgraded with city staff.”

Meanwhile, Whittemore said Graham has retained the services of Tampa attorney Haley Maple to review the case in the event the case goes to litigation.

“Because Ms. Maple will be reviewing the project file to get up to speed we are not yet able to provide (the petrographic) testing results,” Graham said.

Graham, who served as a consultant on the Beach Trail project, has hired engineers to conduct a petrographic study to determine if the concrete used on the trail met design specifications. Biltmore built the trail.

City commissioners have been anxiously awaiting those results.

“I received an email from Ms. Maple and I asked her to confirm the testing has actually been done,” said Kiefer. “She asked for an extension of time to get up to speed.”

Kiefer said she has sent letters of construction defect claims to Graham and Biltmore, which is required under state law.

“Graham’s attorney said ‘we’d keep looking at it,’ or something to that effect,” Kiefer said. “Biltmore said ‘it’s not our problem. It’s a design defect.’”

Mayor Bob Minning asked if she had heard from counsel representing Biltmore as well.

“Yes,” she said. “They’ve responded and said they don’t intend to offer anything.”

Kiefer said Graham’s insurance company “has finally come forward. They have asked for a week or two before you (city commission) make a decision (on whether or not to pursue litigation).”

Kiefer said at some point the city needs to make a decision in order to get any results or satisfaction.

“If we come up with a joint solution, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” she said. “I know they (Graham) have been saying that all along. The difference now is the insurance companies are involved.”

Once the insurance companies get involved, the city hopes to make a claim against the construction performance bond. City leaders have said previously they would accept nothing less than a complete reconstruction of the trail.

“I think we need to stay proactive rather than just wait,” said Commissioner Carol Coward.

Minning asked where the city stood on a time perspective for litigation or making a claim against the bond.

“We’re well within the allotted time to file suit or put in a claim through the performance bond,” said Kiefer. “We have two years to sue under the bond and only a year has passed.”

“It’s obvious Graham and everyone else involved in this won’t accept any responsibility,” said Commissioner Phil Collins.
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