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Treasure Island nears litigation on trail
City attorney says legal action is ‘imminent’ on Beach Trail issue
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TREASURE ISLAND – City Attorney Maura Kiefer told Treasure Island Commissioners June 3 that litigation involving cracks in the Central Beach Trail could be filed soon.

“We’re not in litigation but I think it’s fair to say litigation could be imminent,” Kiefer said. “There’s only so much time we have to file a claim and we are well within the statute of limitations, but that does not mean we want to wait until the last minute.”

The $1.2 million trail, which extends from the Bilmar Beach Resort north to the Residence Inn by Marriott, opened in March 2013. Within three weeks cracks appeared in the walkway and walls.

Slowly, the number increased. Phil Graham, president of Phil Graham Landscape Architecture, which provided design services for the trail, said in October that his team’s count had the number at 265.

Graham has contended the cause is cosmetic and city officials believe it could be structural.

Kent Whittemore, an attorney representing Graham, told commissioners he would present the results of a petrographic analysis of the trail on Jan. 21 and then postponed it to Feb. 18. The city has yet to see the results of the study, which Whittemore said would indicate a problem with materials used in the construction and the design.

“You’ve got issues with the materials, water content of the materials, questions about the design and questions about the construction itself,” Whittemore said Jan. 21.

Meantime, the city has hired its own concrete expert and consulting company.

“Our expert just finished his review of the documents and conducted a site inspection,” Kiefer said. “I have a conference with him to talk about possible solutions. I ask that you confer with me 1-on-1 to discuss proposed solutions for various reasons.”

Kiefer said she has asked for a cost estimate of the different remedies from Global Atkins, an international design, planning, project management and consulting services company based in the United Kingdom.

“They have to study it and determine a cause and they have to give you a remedy that addresses the likely cause of the cracking so you don’t repeat it,” said Kiefer. “They have preliminary ideas that I will go over and present to you and we’ll address this in a public setting as soon as we have that material.”

In the meantime, Kiefer said the attorneys from Biltmore Construction Co. of Clearwater, which built the trail, and Coastal Technology Corp., of Vero Beach, which provided structural engineering services, have all agreed to pre-suit mediation in August.

“I’m not really happy about that,” said Kiefer, “but right now that’s what it is. That does not mean the city has to wait (to file litigation).”

She said once the costs of possible solutions are determined, “that is when we would file litigation.”

At the request of Mayor Bob Minning, Kiefer agreed to update the City Commission on the issue at all of its upcoming meetings.
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