Ongoing lift station project may have to start over

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SARASOTA Fla. - The city of Sarasota just hired a new engineering company to finish the work on Lift Station 87 near Hudson Bayou.  But, while it appears the project is moving forward, it may have to start from scratch.

"The lift station was approved and planned before I even sat on the commission and it has had complete mis-management from the beginning. And, it has millions of dollars of cost overrides now,"  says Sarasota Mayor Shannon Snyder.

Lift Station 87 is supposed to replace the aging Sewer Station 7.  And, after 5 years of work on the project and more than $7 million spent, officials say they are not sure if what they've built will even work.

"We have to figure how we are going to cross the bayou and not rebuild the lift station we just built," said Sarasota Utilities Director Mitt Tidwell.

During the commission's August 19 meeting, Sarasota city officials were updated on the project and they found out the work left to complete the project is far more extensive than once thought.

"We have designed and built a lift station which is at an elevation relative to sea level.  But it's a gravely system which means that elevation has to be lower than the pipes that are coming into it.  However till this date we still do not know where the bottom of the bayou is," added Tidwell.

A problem officials say could result in extensive construction work, "make a lift station for the lift station," said Commissioner Paul Caragiulo.

Officials say the other alternative is to modify the current lift station by making it deeper. But both options would require millions of dollars.  This information is just coming to light now that commissioners approved hiring a new engineering company to complete the project.  But regardless of the cost the city has an obligation to get the job done.

"It's not a matter of worth its a matter that we are under an order by the Department of Environmental Protection to upgrade our sewer system," said Commissioner Susan Chapman.