When the Palm Coast City Council voted to approve the reconstruction of culverts and the Belle Terre Parkway pathway near Buddy Taylor Middle School exactly a year ago–at its May 3, 2022 meeting–the project was to cost $1.89 million and to be done by last November, not including a $189,000 contingency.
That cost was already so over budget from what was initially planned there that the city had to shift $840,000 from a lower-priority project in the K Section to cover the difference. It was financing the project through a loan.
After a series of change orders, the project cost has now nearly doubled from last year’s price, to $3.4 million. A completion date has now been pushed back to July, mere months after the city–in February–projected a March completion date.
City Manager Denise Bevan is blaming it on “somewhat of a perfect storm–with storms,” a reference to last fall’s two hurricanes/tropical storms, which disrupted work, as well as “the compounding factor that was unveiled as we explored the project and as we looked at the culverts.”
When the council voted on the initial contract award a year ago, the item was rather lost at the end of a council meeting that by then had lasted three and a half hours, most of that time taken up by the council’s tug of war with the Green Lion over that restaurant’s lease at Palm Harbor Golf Club.
Carmelo Morales, a stormwater design and construction engineer, told the council that the project had been around for three years before coming to fruition even then. It had been sent out for bids, came in over budget. The city adjusted the bid package, sent it back out, and still returned bids that were overbudget. But “we need to move forward with the project,” Morales said, explaining how the city shifted dollars around from a K-Section drainage project to make it work.
The project entailed rehabilitating culverts at that location, under belle Terre Parkway, a job affecting three 84-inch pipes (replacing them would have required digging out Belle Terre Parkway, rehabilitating them does not), and rebuilding the walkway. The pipes were originally installed in 1980. The replacement of the bridge surface from wood to concrete would also be part of the project, ostensibly to lower the cost of maintenance.
There were two bids. Custom Built Marine Construction of Fort Pierce bid at $1.89 million. Kiewit Infrastructure South of Orlando bid at $2.6 million. Custom Built Marine got it, with a $189,000 contingency “for any unforeseen issues.” That figure proved wishful. The latest cost far exceeds that of the high bidder.
Then-Council member Eddie Branquinho had asked: “Is this project going to create havoc or some disruptions on Belle Terre, and if it does, for how long?”
“Yes and no,” Morales said. “It’s going to affect the pedestrian traffic on that bridge, that much is certain.” The contractor was responsible for maintaining pedestrian access “open at all times, whether it be routing bikers, joggers, kids, through the other side of the road, or providing some sort of in-between access so they can get pout safe. We still have to work that out with them. We obviously have to talk with the school as well, see what works out best.” Traffic impacts would be minimal, he said. As for the timing, he said the city was trying to have the project coincide with summer to reduce the effects on students. That timeline, too, proved wishful.
The administration has had to seek council approval for two major budget amendments since, in February and again in April. When the council took up the $1.4 million budget increase in February, it did so again at the tail end of another marathon meeting–more than four hours into a meeting that had mostly dealt with a the Harborside development at Palm Harbor. Morales again appeared before the commission, spoke of pipe failures and other significant issues that had to be addressed, such as a design for a wall that had taken a lot longer than expected: the length, the thickness, the rebar needed for that wall were all delaying issues as the city and the contractor negotiated. He had the “not to exceed” request of $1.4 million, but couldn’t be more precise.
Already worn out council members were not happy.
“How do we make sure entering into high-performance contracts and not continuously asking for more money?” Council member Theresa Pontieri asked Morales. “This is something I’ve been a steward of in other instances, and that’s a concern. I understand that there were some things that came up that hurt this project but at this point, how confident are you that we will not have more unexpected expenses with this project? And are we able to cut somewhere else because of unexpected expenses with this project?”
Morales said he was 95 percent confident there would be no more additional expenses. “We’re probably 60, 70 percent complete in this project. I can’t have that much bad luck,” he said.
“With supply chain and rising costs, they’re totally unpredictable at this point in time,” Mayor David Alfin said, hoping to put a more positive outlook on the expense: “This additional expense, which is at the expense of another project–so even if it doesn’t impact the budget directly, it’s costing us a different project or the timeline for a different project–is this buying us a future on this infrastructure that would have cost us more? One year, three years, five years from now, whenever it was?”
A relieved Morales, who had already spoken of his rare appearances before the council (his discomfort was apparent), whacked the softball: “Yeah, at the very least, 40 more years of life without having to go through old brick and mortar.”
Eight weeks later–on April 4–Morales was again before the council, asking for more money. Again, it was at the end of another very long meeting, this time taken up by the debate over whether to start meetings with a prayer (the council voted no.) “Last time I came here I was fairly confident I was not going to have to come back and talk about this project. But here I am,” Morales told the council. He described his appearance as a matter of precision, even though the document before the council was for a request for an additional $100,000″contingency.”
“I don’t envy you right now. I remember having this conversation,” Pontieri told him. “I remember very clearly being very unhappy that we were back here asking for more money. And so I’m sure you can anticipate my position at this point. My question is, you’re requesting an additional contingency, which I find to be somewhat odd as far as the semantics go. So why is it an extra contingency of $100,000? Are we just needing some extra cushion? is this money dedicated for something? Have we blown through the other contingency? What exactly is this?”
The project did, in fact, blow through the previous contingency of $189,000. And it wasn’t really an additional contingency that was being requested: “It’s not whether we may need $100,000 or not,” Morales said. “We’re going to need it to complete it per the latest proposals received from the contractor.” He said a previous change order had inadvertently not been processed.
In February, Morales said the project was “probably 60, 70 percent complete.” Now–eight weeks later–he was saying the project was “probably 50, 60 percent. I just met with them this morning.” He pledged it would be done by “summertime,” without being more precise.
The city noted that the project has created deficits that would be balanced through next year’s finances. The project was one of four originally approved with the same pot of money. But cost overruns have caused it to take money from two of the other four. The other two have been delayed. All of which got Pontieri wondering: what would happen if the council refused to fund more overruns?
“That’s a good question,” Morales said. “We need to get it done.”
Carl Cote, the engineering director, stepped in and said the original loan that was to finance the quartet of project could still cover the Belle Terre contract.
Twenty days later the city issued a video explanation of where the project stood, with the city’s Patrick Appolonia saying the project would be finished “by the end of summer.”
“It’s not anyone’s fault. I get the price increases,” Council member Ed Danko told Cote and Morales. “But you just can’t keep coming back asking for money over and over and over again. I know we got some buckets, and those buckets are going to run dry. So I’m just asking that we really find the way to step up our game. And I don’t know how to do that. You guys are the ones that are going to have to figure it out.”
Palm Coast government video:
I didn’t read the whole article but it makes me sick how Palm Coast lacks the ability to negotiate and manage contracts!! Get somebody with contract management expertise!!
Carol Caso says
The Council & Mayor put off repairing this wooden bridge and improvement project on Belle Terre for years, – but, they didn’t put off the huge raise they awarded themselves without voters negotiations or votes.. These 2×4 boards have been warped and sticking up for years and all they do is pound them back down instead of repairing the walk over bridge properly. Same for our roads. When Jon Nets was our Mayor, he resurfaced 50 roads every years in Palm coast out of the 1/2 penny tax on fuel. Since our new Mayor and council took over, there have been NO road improvements since Melissa Holland re-paved Belle Terre parkway. Since David Alfin has been there has been NO ROADS PAVES!!! Nothing has been done except filling in pot holes. Where is all the assessment fees going to??? It use to be used for our roads,but instead, our council & Mayor gave themselves a huge raise that is NOT WORTHY OF THEIR JOB PERFORMANCE!!!!!
there is never time to do things right but there is always time to do them again.
I guess I’m Old School, when we were doing jobs like that and we have done many, you did it for the price you quoted, you see what is coming and take that in consideration on your bid. I would venture to say that the contractor is at the bottom of the “food chain “.
Deborah Coffey says
When will Palm Coasters finally understand that Republicans do not know how to govern? Soon, I hope.
This comment is ridiculous.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
She’s pretty spot on.
Bill Nelson says
Why make it political. You should be asking why we pay Cote and Morales the “big bucks” for under qualified performance!
Why do the people that have nothing logical to say always blame the Republicans for what they don’t like that is happening in this city? If you think that if the entire council were Democrats, everything would be a whole lot better. If you believe that you are living in a Democratic fantasy world. This has nothing to do with being Republican, because there are plenty of Democrats that do stupid things as well, just look in the White House. This all boils down to people that don’t know how to negotiate a contract, Period!!!
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
Your comment alone goes into blaming the White House. She pretty much summed it up, this town is ran by Republicans who seem to waste money on every project. Hey let’s pay for a study of that since they always have to have a study.
Concerned Citizen says
Can Democrats promise to do better? And stick by it?
Everyone loves to slam the opposite party. But from what I’ve seen both need to step up and do a better job of representing their constituents.
You mean like the incompetence currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He and his party are responsible for all the out of control inflation and spending.
Celia Pugliese says
Correct and have you seeing on top of their idiocy they try to blame the current WH!
don miller says
bet they wouldn’t be so haphazard wit their own money.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Same ole Palm Coast!!!!!Im Surprised they didnt blame TRUMP!
End of summer of what year?
Good point, given the context: for now, 2023.
I love government! Budgets mean nothing. Schedules mean nothing. There are no repercussions to overrunning schedules and budgets. Just go get more money!
In private business, projects like this have to be prepared and managed to meet the budget forecast. You may slip budget and/or schedule but I never saw anyone come back to the well a third time for more money and not pay a price for it.
How did hurricanes impact this project by this much? No explanation for that either.
The city of Palm Coast is a black hole for tax dollars.
Proyect after proyect get outreageous high cost order changes in this city and the workmanship pityifull…otherwise look at the splash pad in Holland Park. Unprofessionalism runs away with our hard earned ever growing taxes. While council keep patting the administrators on their backs and thanking them for what? their 6 figures paid for goofing? Then mayors build castles to themselves to put their names on them and on our pockets! Meanwhile our roads are crumbling, traffic to a stand still commercial heavy equipment to satisfy the developers greed and the beach front restoration sand loaded tucks destroying our roads while the city officilas keep asking to raise our fees and or taxes for repaving and the additioanal expenses incurred by growth…Isin’t it to pay for it self Ms. Bevan, DeLorenzo, Tyner and Cote? Needless to say of the increasing city beaurocracy as now every City Departamental Administrator got also and assistant probably also at at six figures pay including the lastest Mr. Morales for Cote supposed to be an engineer as well. On top of that when a finger is to be moved they go to consultants! We will end up like in CA, but wait City of Compton only.n0 https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-compton-finances-20180315-story.html
jeffery c. seib says
This same old, same old, is really getting old. The city needs to know the price of a job up front through a process of information, negotiation, and contractual agreements. Anyone for the city working on contracts should take into consideration delays, supply chain issues, manpower needs, the whole nine yards. Suppliers should be locked into contracts to supply the goods necessary in a negotiated period of time and be held to it by inclusion of monetary penalties. Some places complete their projects by or before the required deadline and at or below budget. Why don’t we?
As someone who drives past Buddy Taylor at different times daily I find it interesting that days go by and not one worker is on the project. The money that was wasted replacing the wood deck is a joke, city engineers did not inspect what needed to be done. I guess it was COVID’s fault. I used to see kids walking on the path to and from school. How are supposed to get thru there now? I guess there safety is not important.
Skip Degan says
On Follow the money, right to the council…
These are very irresponsible people and deserve to be impeached …
Anticipation and foresight is very important, they help prevent the waste of time and money. Will P.C. learn that?
These projects get outrageous higher cost order changes in this city and the workmanship pittiful…otherwise look at the splash pad in Holland Park. Unprofessionalism runs away with our hard earned ever growing taxes. While council keep patting the administrators on their backs and thanking them for what? their 6 figures paid for goofing? Then mayors build castles to themselves to put their names on them and on our pockets! Meanwhile our roads are crumbling, traffic to a stand still commercial heavy equipment to satisfy the developers greed and the beach front restoration sand loaded tucks destroying our roads while the city officials keep asking to raise our fees and or taxes for repaving and the additional expenses incurred by growth…Isn’t it to pay for it self Ms. Bevan, DeLorenzo, Tyner and Cote? Needless to say of the increasing city bureaucracy as now every City Departmental Administrator got also and assistant probably also at at six figures pay including the latest Mr. Morales for Cote supposed to be an engineer as well. On top of that when a finger is to be moved they go to consultants! We will end up like in CA, but wait City of Compton only.n0 https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-compton-finances-20180315-story.html
That’s what happens when a circus act is running our town !!!!
David M says
I can’t believe we keep electing officials who have no idea how to hire the right people to manage this city. We need to replace the council and almost everyone at City Hall. Cost overruns, new vehicle budgets that are outrageous, sprinklers that water roadways, pedestrian bridges that get all the wood replaced and then ripped up two months later and not finished in a year. The problem is no one has a clue as to what it takes to complete a project. I would hate to see their personal budgets for their houses. Our taxes cannot continue to fund the ineptness of City Managers and City Council. Get the right people to do a proper job.
“There were two bids. Custom Built Marine Construction of Fort Pierce bid at $1.89 million. Kiewit Infrastructure South of Orlando bid at $2.6 million.” Sure does look like these contractors were bidding different projects. Or maybe, just maybe, Custom Marine ‘low-balled’ the project to get in the door knowing that the city was a soft touch for change orders and extra costs.
It does not appear that we have anyone on the city staff capable of managing the various construction projects. The Holland Park drama; the Splash Pad nightmare; This culvert fiasco and numerous other projects were the city has been ‘placed over the barrel’ by contractor after contractor. Where were the flaws? The selection of the designers? Poor construction documents? Low bidders who know how to take advantage of the city? City staff with little to no real world construction experience? Too many questions with only one real answer. Palm Coast staff is not qualified to conceive, design, or manage the construction of a dog house.
The initial bids with a difference of $700K on a $2M project never should have been accepted. 35% is way too big a spread on such a small job. Yet no one in the city or our hired design team saw a problem – or if they did, they gambled with our money.
They went for the lower bidder and found out that was an expensive mistake.
Mischa Gee says
When negotiating and writing a contract, timelines and costs should be firm and penalties for not sticking to either or both should cost the contractor money not the city.
I live off of Pritchard and I have passed this “project” frequently enough to know that weeks, not days, have gone by with not a single person working there, and often when there were people there, they were standing by their vehicles having a chat!
It appears Mr. Morales gave very vague explanations regarding the need for more funding, he didn’t require the contractor to make his plea before the board with a real explanation of what went wrong if anything, other than dilly dallying, and what would be required to fix it.
A barrel of monkeys overseeing the project and approval of additional funds might have done a better job. Maybe it’s time for Palm Coast to hire people with actual engineering degrees in positions where they can help make sound decisions. And, we should learn the power of penalties for shoddy or incomplete work, and timelines, and hold outside contractors to their contracts.
Didn’t read the whole article but to answer “how do we make sure he’s not going to need more money” you have an inspector go and assess the land and damage that he reports was necessary and if that was a him issue or a land/city issue.
Pretty sure there should be some sort of party responsible for routinely inspecting the work being done with government funds. Whoever this is person or people are they should be right there to deal with issues as the contractor is. He can get the supplies here for xyz you have an inspector inspect that price and copy/documents receipts of purchases along the way.
This is why projects take so long to complete around here.
“I’m 95 percent sure there aren’t going to be any more issues. I can’t have that much bad luck”. What? That’s not something you want to hear!
What was the initial delay? Why did that go on so long? Whose fault was that? How did the environment of the work site change over that time – did that contribute to more delays?
Maybe a new plan needs to be created instead of trying to fix the original plan.
I mean, what do I know. It seems like the city should have more answers to their own questions by this far in the game. Clearly not a priority to them so they have no idea what’s going on.
It’s upsetting to see moms walking on the grass along the shoulder to bring their kids to school… Or you know the **additional ** road work on the other side (which makes sense if it’s a structural/landscape issue but not if it was a separate issue that was times wrong.
Celia Pugliese says
Correct posts complaining about city administrators and elected ones are just spot on…they are destroying our city while increasing our fees and taxes to benefit developers greed…25 millions for expansion out west of Rte 1 of the Matanzas Pkwy on vacant lands to benefit their owners and developers and the widening needed of Old Kings Road north never completed! Three in the council and four administrators specially the one that used to be the executive officer of the Flagler -Palm Coast Builders Association that is the current master mind of booting our great restaurant the Green Lion, our excellent collection Waste Pro service and the approval of a WaWa gas station by bull dozing the professional offices Katz building half a block of the Shell station and across of the RaceTrack on Florida Park Drive increasing yet that residential road with even more traffic of the 8,000 cars a day today and adding more misery to crowded Palm Coast Parkway stuck traffic, those got to go! Look at the eyesore we have to endure as selective enforcement (not code enforcement fault) because the commands from chief of staff keeps the Katz building location landscape an eyesore for us all to enjoy!. That administrator and his boss got to be the first to go. They have only engineered our city demise over lies! Like the one’s that presented the rezoning of the approved 3 to 2 Harborside!. We begged and asked for a NO and the 3 voted yes! All about water under the bridge of greed!
Celia Pugliese says
By the way 25 millions for expansion out west Mr. Mayor but you and your 3 cheer leadrfs voted NO to $200,000 for the two traffic calming islands discussed pre approve, costly engineered and budgeted by the outgoing Holland administration and denied by the 3 of you better say 5 as Branquinho and Fanelli ? were still there!. Resident Mrs Mary Kay Hayward demanded you in her 3 minutes in person meeting attendance an answer to why you voted down the Florida Park Drive 2 traffic calming islands and with what were you replacing them given the madness traffic she endures on her road front FPD home after Forrest Grove was idiotically closed under Netts administration and traffic redirected to FPD. Mr. Mayor you have not answer her or Mr. Stven Carr and any of all the FPD front road they represent eb=ven when you invited us to meet with you. When these FPD road front residents bought there the traffic was not a problem until Netts administration and yours did and still do it with you unacceptable NO vote.!
Looks to me that Mr. Morales is just one more six figures pay stub on the hard earned taxes of Palmcoasters! like the other four bosses. With 3 current approvals on the council they will all takes us to a situation like Compton CA: https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-compton-finances-20180315-story.html , https://www.dailybreeze.com/2022/11/18/compton-sued-for-failing-to-reveal-how-much-it-pays-employees/