UNIVERSITY PARK -- As construction at Nathan Benderson Park continues in preparation for the 2017 World Rowing Championships, some work completed in 2012 has yet to be paid for, claims a Kansas City, Mo.-based dredging company.
Dredge America officials said dredging was completed at the park in 2012 but Benderson Development has not yet paid the $529,490.97 bill. A Dredge America invoice dated Nov. 18, 2013, stated the amount was more than "90 days past due."
As of Wednesday, more than a year after the invoice was sent, Benderson Development has still not paid Dredge America for the work, according to company attorney Bruce Moothart, a member in the firm of Seyferth Blumenthal & Harris LLC in Kansas City, Mo. Confidential mediation was unsuccessful, Moothard said, and now Dredge America willseek prejudgment interest on the unpaid amount.
"We obviously believe the claim is valid and should be paid," he said. "The claim remains unpaid and may have to be resolved through litigation."
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Todd Mathes, director of development at Benderson Development, said the claim is baseless.
"Dredge America has been paid for the work they completed," Mathes said Wednesday. "Regardless, Sarasota County will be held harmless by our company concerning Dredge America's claims.
"There is a disagreement over the $529,490.97 amount, but that is in excess of the work Dredge America did complete and which has been paid and accounted for," Mathes said.
Sarasota County spokesman Jason Bartolone said the county is aware of the dispute between a developer and a subcontractor.
"Our standard practice is to not get involved in disputes between a developer and a subcontractor and we deal directly with the developer of the project per the terms of our agreement," Bartolone said. "We will continue to monitor the situation."
A July 2012 news release from Sarasota County titled "Nathan Benderson Park boat ramp to close during dredging" said more than 500,000 cubic yards of materials will be used to begin creation of Regatta Island, home of park operations and Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates Inc., the nonprofit that runs the park.
The news release also said "dredging operations will begin on the north end of the lake and continue to the south end along the west shoreline. The dredging is expected to be completed in November (2012), and will provide an additional minimum of 250,000 cubic yards of material for the island. The dredging is necessary so that Nathan Benderson Park can meet the minimum standards for international rowing competitions."
In an email to Randy Benderson, president of Benderson Development, dated June 2, Moothart wrote: "Absent our ability to resolve this matter, our intent is to file suit against Sarasota County to recoup the unpaid amount. Based upon the extensive communication between Benderson and Dredge America that has already taken place, I am not optimistic that another sitdown between the parties will work to resolve the matter."
On Nov. 26, Dredge America representatives met with Benderson Development officials in Sarasota for a full day of mediation.
According to a letter dated April 22 to Benderson, Moothart wrote: "Benderson cannot expect that Dredge America is going to walk away from what it is owed. ... Since Sarasota County did not require that Benderson procure a payment-and-performance bond, Dredge America can proceed directly against Sarasota County to obtain the amount it is owed."
Sarasota County initially allocated $19.5 million in tourist-development tax revenue to help fund the first two phases of the rowing venue's construction coupled with additional state money.
In September, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved amending the agreement signed by SANCA, calling for additional reimbursement of expenses and also announced a new foundation aimed to raise funds for the rowing venue. In the first year, the foundation is aiming to raise $11 million.
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.