Contractor gets go-ahead on Chassahowitzka project

County commissioners okay starting work despite criticism of the company for delays at Halls River.

Published July 12, 2006

LECANTO - County commissioners sharply criticized a contractor for delays on the Halls River portion of the Homosassa water and sewer project Tuesday.

They said Danella Construction Corp. has inconvenienced residents and disrupted some local roads. The project is more than 180 days behind schedule.

But ultimately commissioners voted 3-2 to give the company the go-ahead to start work on a similar project in Chassahowitzka.

Commission Chairman Gary Bartell said the Halls River project, which was originally slated to be completed in January, had become "a real fiasco."

"In good conscience, knowing not only the lack of progress, but also the number of complaints ... I just don't feel comfortable at this point in time going forward on the Chassahowitzka project with this contractor," he said.

Commissioners Vicki Phillips and Joyce Valentino said they shared his apprehension.

"I have absolutely no interest in letting this company have another contract for another sewer project," Phillips said.

Nick Fiduccia, operations manager for Danella, told commissioners that the contractor's workers are doing everything they can to finish.

"If that was my neighborhood, I wouldn't have liked to have been impacted that long," he said. "I'm not making excuses ... we're doing everything humanly possible."

He said workers were struggling with unexpected difficulties removing water as they dig .

The project could be done by September, weather permitting, he said.

Fiduccia emphasized that the Chassahowitzka project, which Danella has agreed to construct for more than $11-million, would not pose the same construction problems.

His assurances were enough to convince three commissioners - Bartell, Dennis Damato and Jim Fowler - to approve a notice of commencement allowing the contractor to begin work on the Chassahowitzka project.

Bartell said the contractor's assurances on Tuesday were enough to persuade him to allow the company to move forward in Chassahowitzka.

Phillips and Valentino dissented.

"We need to have one project completed before we start another one," Phillips said.

In other news at Tuesday's County Commission meeting:

- Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration asking for flexibility in the design of a fence surrounding the Inverness airport.

The vote came after a presentation by Inverness Highlands residents Robert and Marge Masters, who said plans to build a 6-foot-high fence with three tiers of barbed wire would make their neighborhood look like a "ghetto in the woods."

- During the meeting's public comment period, William Fairchild of Crystal River asked the county to look into a private company's use of a county boat ramp in Hernando.

He said a landscaping company's trucks regularly tie up the boat ramp and pump water out of the lake.

Assistant County Administrator Tom Dick said county staffers would look into the situation.

- The commission meeting was held at the Lecanto Government Building because the commission chambers at the courthouse will be used during the John Couey trial.

The July 25 commission meeting, as well as the budget hearings on July 26 and 27, also will be at the Lecanto building, 3600 W Sovereign Path.

- Discussion of a proposed expansion at the Homosassa Riverside Resort happened after deadline. Please check Thursday's Citrus Times for a full report.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 860-7309.