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Fire officials want building repaired fast

The bidding process is streamlined after a sinkhole develops under a building.

By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002


SPRING HILL -- Declaring the sinkhole under the district's vehicle maintenance building an emergency, Spring Hill Fire Rescue commissioners voted Wednesday to spend $75,000 on related construction and engineering costs and then hired a law firm to seek reimbursement from the district's insurance company.

Interim Chief J.J. Morrison asked the board to declare an emergency to streamline normal bidding procedures, which require three sealed bids. Morrison said he wanted to jump-start repairs, just in case the sinkhole grows faster than expected.

"Writing specs for sealed bid would be time consuming," he said. "With cracks showing up in the building, it wouldn't be prudent to do that."

Commissioners unanimously agreed.

"Action needs to be taken ASAP in order to prevent the loss of the building," Chairman Bob Kanner said Thursday. "I don't believe the building will fall in, but I don't want to lose the use of the building. . . . If it continues, there's no way that we can guarantee a week from now that the hole's not going to get much bigger."

Sensitive to the recent county government controversy regarding shortcuts in purchasing procedures, commissioners emphasized caution.

"Every step that's being taken is being taken with the county to make sure that they're informed," Commissioner Jeff Hollander said.

Morrison said that All Coast Engineering Inc., the Brooksville company hired to oversee the project, got proposals from three construction companies, and commissioners hired the lowest bidder, L.R.E. Ground Services Inc. of Brooksville.

Commissioners voted to use $75,000 from reserves -- a move that must be approved by county commissioners, who are scheduled to discuss the matter Tuesday.

Hoping to recover that expense, fire commissioners said they want to explore suing V.F.I.S., their Pennsylvania insurance company, which has so far refused to cover sinkhole repairs. Kanner said Marshall, LeValley and Napolitano, a legal firm in Palm Harbor that specializes in sinkholes, has agreed to take the case on a contingency basis.

In other business, commissioners:

Elected Kanner to serve a second consecutive one-year term as chairman of the five-member board and chose Hollander as vice chairman.

Approved spending $101,000 to replace firefighters' air packs, in line with new safety mandates.

-- Staff writer Jennifer Farrell covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to farrell@sptimes.com.

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