LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) — The City of Largo’s effort to improve a small part of its sewer system has turned into a bad case of construction constipation. The building of a lift station was supposed to take four months to finish but has now dragged on for more than four years. It is currently at a complete standstill.
The facility is designed to pump effluent uphill toward Largo’s wastewater treatment plant. The project was supposed to be a simple relocation of the facility from one side of the intersection at Ulmerton and Starkey to another.
Since construction started in April 2012 the cost of that simple project for Largo taxpayers has skyrocketed. Two contractors have quit, and at the moment, no one’s working on the job. “It’s not that the city can’t get it done. We need to get a contractor to complete it,” City Engineer Jerry Woloszynski said.
Woloszynski was working in Kodiak, Alaska when this project started, but as Largo’s new city engineer, he’s right in the middle of it now.
Largo’s original contractor on this job, R A M Excavating Inc., agreed to do the work for $299,441 back in 2012 but quit months later. Woloszynski won’t discuss the reasons why. That’s because Largo is now in litigation with the contractor after the company’s bonding company refused to accept any responsibility.
A second contractor, API Services Inc., came in a year later and promised the city it would finish the work for $475,500 — about a 60 percent increase in cost — that You Paid For.
But this July API went out of business and quit the project in mid-construction. “I can’t even begin to speculate why this last contractor closed its doors,” Woloszynski said.
The former owner of API, Michael Manley blames internal financial troubles, a lot of rain during the summer that stalled work, and much confusion within the city staff about the location of Largo’s sewer line hookups. “They didn’t know where any of the pipe was,” Manley said.
Whatever the reason, Largo taxpayers have now paid about $215,828 toward a future lift station that currently amounts to little more than a large, muddy hole in the ground with a few disconnected concrete structures sitting in standing water.
A project that was supposed to take four months to complete is now only half done more than four years after work began. There’s not another contractor insight to finish the work. “That is the factual matter at hand,” Woloszynski said. “Yes, that is correct.”
Woloszynski insists the project is now in the hands of a bonding company that assumed financial responsibility when API went out of business this summer. He says the bonding company is trying to recruit another contractor to finish the work without costing taxpayers any more than the City of Largo agreed to pay API in 2013.
But when that will happen is anyone’s guess. No one has raised shovel on the project since July, and Woloszynski’s best guess is that sometime next year the city will have an operational lift station that You Paid For four and a half years ago.
Woloszynski insists that whatever went wrong here, it wasn’t the city’s fault. “Because, everyone in the City of Largo has been working diligently with every situation that has come up with this project,” Woloszynski said.
Meanwhile, on the east side of Starkey Rd just north of Ulmerton, you might notice a very large muddy hole in the ground that taxpayers have already thrown a lot of money into— and there’s no end in sight.