BRADENTON -- Most agree that the $52.7 million flood control project on Ware's Creek, which flows through the Historic Ware's Creek neighborhood, has been a success in controlling water flow, significantly reducing flood risk and generally improving the looks and health of the creek.
But not everyone is happy.
Phase I is complete and Phase III is nearing conclusion, but Phase II, which runs between 17th and 21st avenues -- the smallest portion of the overall project -- has been stalled for months. Residents in that area are frustrated with the way the delay is affecting the creek.
Allen Huck lives next to the creek at the intersection of 16th Street West and 21st Avenue West. He said the creek looks like an open sewer with thick algae covering the surface. Water flow is minimal and mostly stagnant, an ideal situation for algae growth, he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the federal project and ran into problems several months ago with Phase II contractor Air Ideal, out of Winter Haven.
Issues with the contractor started almost immediately, but the Corps continued to try and work with the company to keep the project
moving. However, that effort was not successful and weeks after Air Ideal stopped work, it was fired from the project "for not meeting the terms of the contract," said Corps spokesman Amanda Parker.
Since early October, the Corps has been working to secure the company's bond to hire another contractor, but Huck said he and his neighbors have had to live with the results of Air Ideal's work and subsequent site abandonment for more than a year.
"We've watched this go on for over a year and it seems like they were digging up dirt and putting it right back in forever," he said. "It was like something in a circus act. At first it was all the constant dust of the work and now they've left this eyesore and we haven't seen anyone working in months."
Huck said with the algae getting thicker and thicker, "It's easy to see that it is attracting all kinds of insects, but it just looks like an open sewer in there."
Parker said residents can rest easy because work will begin anew at any time.
"We are working with the bond surety to secure a contractor and work should resume soon," said Parker. "We are taking measures to secure the site and residents should see someone at that site very soon."
In the meantime, the 17th Avenue Bridge remains closed. Replacing bridges over Ware's Creek has been the responsibility of the city, which has used a low-interest loan from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to pay for four bridge replacements at about $1.7 million apiece. The 17th Avenue Bridge is the final bridge to be replaced. with Ninth, 12th and 14th avenue bridges complete.
The bridges needed to be replaced to coincide with the overall project to improve water flow. The old bridges did not have wide-enough openings to accommodate water flow and would have become choke points in the creek, according to Jim McLellan, engineering section manager for the city of Bradenton.
McLellan said he was hopeful that traffic could resume by the end of October, but Public Works Director Claude Tankersley said, "It should definitely be open to traffic by Thanksgiving," which he noted is still on schedule. He said paving around the bridge is scheduled for the week of Nov. 17.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.