TREASURE ISLAND – The city of Treasure Island is moving closer to possible litigation involving cracks in the Central Beach Trail.
City Attorney Maura Kiefer said Dec. 3 that she would be sending a letter to all parties involved in the construction of the $1.2 million trail, setting a deadline for a response as to the reason the cracks took place.
“If it’s not a satisfactory response after the deadline, they will be declared in default of the contract,” Kiefer said. “After that point, we’ll submit a claim under the performance bond, we’ll notify the insurance companies and we’ll proceed accordingly.”
Two months ago, Phil Graham, president of Phil Graham Landscape Architecture, whose company provided design services for the trail, told city commissioners he wanted to complete a petrographic study of the trail before he submits an analysis on the possible cause of the cracks. Graham contends the cause of the cracks is cosmetic and not structural. City leaders believe otherwise.
Petrographic studies are generally done to get the mineral content and texture of a rock using a petrographic microscope. In this case, it will be administered to discover the makeup of the trail concrete and determine if the correct mix was used.
Last week, Kiefer said it was unlikely Graham would be ready to make a presentation to the City Commission on Dec. 17.
“I’ve been in contact with his attorney (Kent Whittemore of St. Petersburg) and they’ve sent us information in connection with the study,” she said. “I don’t know that they will have anything to present on the 17th.”
Commissioner Tim Ramsberger voiced concern that Graham is looking for a cause and the city should be more concerned with moving forward with repairs or reconstruction.
“My biggest concern is that we’re dealing with causation,” Ramsberger said. “When you have a car crash, those two cars don’t sit on the highway until both sides get an opportunity to investigate what caused the crash. You’ve got to move forward at some point and make the repairs. It’s really an evidential issue for them that they’re trying to preserve. At some point, we’ve got to make sure we’re doing right by our citizens and get the thing repaired.”
Kiefer said a Nov. 27 email from Whittemore said Graham retained an engineering firm for a petrographic study. She said Graham asked the engineer to expedite the work but it could take another three to four weeks.
Kiefer also suggested the city consider authorizing her office to conduct its own analysis and other testing.
“If we’re going to go the causation route, there seems to be a focus by Phil Graham and Associates on a petrographic analysis, which i.e. says there’s something wrong with the concrete,” said Mayor Bob Minning. “But that might not be doable and that is only one person’s opinion perhaps. If we’re going to go causation, we need to go the full thing. We do have a consultant (Ken Roush of Yulee) on board. My suggestion would be that Maura sit down with him to go over where he is at this point and inform us at the next meeting.”
“I’ve already talked with him,” Kiefer said. “My recommendation is we receive our own testing and analysis.”
Ramsberger said even if the cause is determined, the city needs a game plan for reconstructing the trail.
“So we come up with our report on causation and Phil’s going to contest that,” Ramsberger said. “So we’re into this contest over causation and it still sits unrepaired. I’m concerned about going there. Without understanding what the end game is. If we agree on causation, then what? If we disagree on causation, then what?”
The trail, which extends from the Bilmar Beach Resort north to the Residence Inn by Marriott, opened in March and within three weeks cracks appeared in the walkway and walls.
Slowly, the number began to increase. Graham said in October his team’s most recent count had the number at 265.
Working with Graham on the issue are Cliff Truett of Coastal Technology Corp., which provided structural engineering services for the trail; and Biltmore Construction Co. of Clearwater, which constructed the trail.