Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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$15 Mil Bascom Norris Bypass Project – $2.25 Mil Settlement Proposal: Common Sense or Cover Up

The run-up to the overpass. They moved a lot of dirt.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  Tonight, Columbia County's county commission (County 5, The 5) will determine whether or not to accept what County Attorney Joel Foreman has framed as "the best deal the county will get," a mediated settlement between Columbia County and Anderson Columbia Construction, Inc., (ACCI), which built the Bascom Norris Bypass. If approved, the deal will cost county taxpayers $2.25 million.

Settlement Agreement (annotated)

The mediator, hand picked by Anderson Columbia, was retired County Circuit Court judge, Vernon Douglas. According to a confidential source, during the shade meetings there was very little discussion, if any, regarding the merits of the County's case; there was minimal, if any talk of discovery to determine the merits of the claims of ACCI against Columbia County. The eventual release of the transcripts will reveal what was said during the closed meetings.

Anderson Columbia: Its Claims

Looking south towards U.S. 90. The road was built through a "swamp."

On September 14, 2015, Anderson Columbia filed suit against Columbia County.

ACCI claimed that the County misrepresented the quality of fill material to construct the roadway embankments and that it was forced to import material to the site.

The complaint said, "The unanticipated need to import offsite material for the construction of the Project significantly reduced ACCI’s production and increased ACCI’s costs to complete the Project work."

ACCI claimed this "materially breached the Contract" it had with the County.

The County Counterclaim

On October 1, 2015, the County counterclaimed there were "defects and deficiencies in the workmanship and materials provided by ACCI in the area of the bridge embankment construction."

The County further claimed that Anderson Columbia: "was previously informed of slope failures and severe erosion following a heavy rainfall event in September 2014. Following the September 2014 slope failures, questions arose regarding the durability and stability of the embankment as constructed and whether the means and methods chosen by ACCI in the construction of Bascom Norris Road bridge embankment achieved the required 100% density completion requirements pursuant to the Contract, Contract Documents, and applicable FDOT Standards and Specifications for Roadway Construction."

View from the north road toward U.S. 90. Mr. Kirby admitted the roads connecting the overpass were off by 7 feet.

Additionally, the County claimed that in October of 2014, "8 samples taken in repair areas failed to meet specified 100% compaction requirements. Additionally, a Report received by the County from James Pittman, P.E., dated April 13, 2015, and a more recent geotechnical report from AREHNA Engineering confirms that ACCI’s work in the placement and compaction of bridge embankment, both as originally constructed and repaired, fail to meet required Contract and FDOT standards for density and compaction of in place embankment materials."

The County claimed that based on deficiencies, ACCI "failed to meet the obligations of the Contract, Contract Documents, Plans, Specifications and applicable FDOT standards for the Project."

The County claimed 4 specific "defects and deficiencies," but said that it was not limited to just those four:

1)  Embankment constructed on the West bridge embankment slopes contain poorly compacted fill across the west slope area, with a 200 foot area where poorly compacted fill extends to a depth of 12 feet.

2)  Density testing on the East and West bridge embankment slopes indicates that the embankment materials placed by ACCI fail to meet 100% compaction requirements.

3)  Measurement of As-Built Slope elevations indicate that the embankment slopes may have been constructed steeper than the 1:2 design criteria, and, as such, are not in conformance with Project design requirements.

4)  Poor quality embankment topsoil inhibits vegetative growth and allows rainfall infiltration into embankment.

Tumbling Into Turmoil: Kirby Takes Over

                                                Click to enlarge

During the construction of the bypass road between U.S. 90 and Lake Jeffery Road, long time County Engineer and former DOT Engineer, John Colson, was fired from the project. The County's design engineer, Steve Wilson, was also fired. Both were terminated with much controversy.

The supervision of the project was then taken over by the County's director of Public Works, Kevin Kirby, a former long time employee of ACCI, who is not an engineer, and whose claim on his application for employment with the County, that he graduated from Lake City Community College, is not true, based on documents the Observer received from the college.

More on the hiring of Kevin Kirby can be found here:
 • New Public Works Director Soon To Be Chosen The Interviews
 • One Candidate Stood Above the Rest - One Question Gave It All Away

During the construction and after the County took over the supervision of the project, your reporter repeatedly asked County Manager Dale Williams and Mr. Kirby if reports were true that two sides of the road going over the railroad tracks were off by 7 feet.

Mr. Kirby was finally admitted that this was true.

It has also been reported to the Observer that the overpass bridge structure had to be rebuilt more than once and that a crane had fallen over on the tracks, causing more construction delays for the contractor, ACCI.

The ERP: The Environmental Resource Permit

North side by the overpass.

On February 25, 2016, the County via Kevin Kirby, and engineer Gregory Bailey, self certified to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) that the County and the project was in "substantial conformance with the permitted plans and design."

The SRWMD signs off of on the permit.

On February 29th, your reporter spoke with the District.

Question:  "When the County sends in the forms, what is the procedure?"

Answer:  "When they send the forms in, once we receive the forms, we will go out and do a final inspection... Their engineer fills out section C; our engineer has to fill out section D, which says, 'I have gone out and inspected the site and it's built in substantial performance with the plans.' The last section that gets filled out is section D. That is filled out by our people."

View from the north side looking north.

Question:  "The sides of the road are falling off, are shedding down."

Answer:  "If this is occurring, they are not in compliance. They would not be in compliance if there was erosion occurring on the site."

Question:  "What do you guys do then?"

Answer:  "Normally, we won't sign unless it is fixed."

Kevin Kirby signed off on section A, which certifies that the "construction of the surface water management system is complete."

The filling in of the ponds on the site has not been mitigated and the falling off of the sides of the road have not been repaired.


Tonight, Columbia County's infamous County 5 will vote on whether to approve the agreement between Anderson Columbia and the County, which means the County's taxpayers, or head back to the table or to a courtroom to flush out the facts and earn the confidence of the people.

Columbia County's popularly elected County Attorney reportedly told the local newspaper that the deal Anderson Columbia was making "was the best deal the county will get."

Without seeing the transcripts of the shade meetings, or any of the documentation or hearing the testimony of engineers John Colson and Steve Wilson, ex-county manager, Dale Williams, and the then supervisor of the project, Kevin Kirby, it is difficult to determine how The 5 can make a decision.

With none of the facts before the public, it will be interesting to see what The 5 will do.

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