U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirms Ware's Creek project in Bradenton to resume in July

BRADENTON -- The $53 million Ware's Creek dredging and widening flood mitigation project will resume in July, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager Sirisha Rayaprolu.

Rayaprolu made the announcement at a Manatee County Commission meeting Tuesday, confirming an earlier report in the Bradenton Herald.

Rayaprolu apologized to Manatee County residents for the long delay that stalled a portion of the project due to issues with contractor Air Ideal of Winter Haven. The contractor was fired 13 months ago after failing to meet work standards, but work actually stopped late in 2013 when Air Ideal walked off the job. Air Ideal was responsible for the smallest part of the project, between 17th and 21st avenues west.

The Corps worked through a lengthy process to secure Air Ideal's construction bond and is using that funding to hire Pac Comm Inc., based out of Miami and with an office in Bradenton. The contract is worth more than $6 million and Corps officials have not responded to queries as to whether the bond is covering the entire cost or if the work is costing taxpayers additional money.

Pac specializes in marine construction while Air Ideal specializes in commercial air conditioning.

Rayaprolu said dredging

and cleaning the creek has been completed but bank widening and stabilization work has not.

"I'm happy we have awarded the new contract to a contractor we have an established rapport with," she said.

Pac was the contractor for the most expensive portion of the project south of Air Ideal's site, and has received praise for its work.

Rayaprolu said the Corps will meet June 24 with Pac for a kickoff construction meeting. Work is expected to begin by mid-July and will last approximately seven months.

Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac expressed relief, acknowledging the county has received many calls from residents complaining silt is beginning to refill areas of the creek. While it is a Corps project, Benac said it can be confusing to residents because it involves the county and city of Bradenton.

"But this is an opportunity for us all to work together," she said. "Everyone was pleased with the initial progress so I look forward to seeing that get back on track."

Concerns remain how the long delay will affect water flow, not only with the arrival of hurricane season but into the future. City officials have expressed concern about other areas of the creek outside the unfinished construction zone. Pac is to finish and repair work Air Ideal left behind.

As part of the overall agreement, the city agreed to take care of ongoing creek maintenance. Once Pac completes its work, the city will likely have to return to some areas of the creek downstream from the Air Ideal site to redredge because the banks were left destabilized for more than a year, allowing eroded soils to slide back into the creek and pile up downstream.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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