NAPLES — A contract that has focused attention on how Collier County does business with its consultants is raising more concerns.
More than a month ago, county commissioners delayed a vote on whether to retroactively extend an expired contract to pay the final $42,000 owed to Atkins North America Inc., formerly known as PBS&J, for work to get a state permit for dredging Clam Pass in North Naples.
Collier Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock questioned the legality of paying an invoice for work done after the contract had expired, one of several instances of such payment requests, he said.
Beyond that issue, though, critics of the contract also have questioned change orders they say have exceeded the scope of the original 2007 contract and needlessly ballooned its cost from $25,000 to almost $195,000.
Last week, Brock said he has completed his review and determined he would pay the invoice, if the county extended the contract, as long as the county would take steps to stop the practice of issuing work orders under expired contracts.
"It was not all that clean," Brock said. "There was some give and take here."
Collier Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock said he has completed his review and determined he would pay the invoice, if the county extended the contract, as long as the county would take steps to stop the practice of issuing work orders under expired contracts.
County Manager Leo Ochs said he expects the contract extension to return for commissioners' vote Nov. 8. Talks between the clerk's office and county staff members over "final detail questions" kept the matter from getting a vote at this coming Tuesday's meeting, Ochs said.
"I think all that has been asked and answered at this point," Ochs said last week.
Commissioner Georgia Hiller, who aired concerns about the contract that led to the delay in the September vote, wasn't ready last week to say the matter is resolved to her satisfaction.
"I have not finalized my research yet," Hiller wrote in an email seeking comment on the contract issues.
Brock said questions about the change orders, the cost of the contract and the work done under it are beyond his purview.
"My job is to stop the payment of illegal bills, not stupid ones," Brock said, adding that is for others to decide.
Collier County's purchasing policy allows change orders to contracts. The County Commission must approve them if they amount to 10 percent of the contract or $10,000, whichever is greater.
In the case of the Atkins contract, commissioners approved three change orders to the original contract for $91,000, $10,000 and $69,000.
In a memo explaining the change orders, the county's Coastal Zone Management Director Gary McAlpin said they were needed as the county's request to renew a permit to dredge Clam Pass drew increasing scrutiny from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
A critic of the county's management of Clam Bay said she feared the change orders were aimed at getting a permit for a bigger dredge cut at Clam Pass, something she opposes on environmental grounds.
"It's a lot more complicated than one might believe," Pelican Bay resident and Sierra Club committee chairwoman Marcia Cravens said last week.
Dredging at Clam Pass has long been a contentious point between the county staff and the neighborhood of Pelican Bay, which has a beach that abuts the pass and has a history of fighting over navigation in Clam Bay.
The county wants to renew the 10-year permit, which has expired, to keep the pass from shoaling in and blocking a critical connection between Clam Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to keep a restored mangrove forest healthy, McAlpin said.
He said the county is seeking the same permit it had and isn't seeking permission to widen or deepen the dredge cut.
The growing cost of the Atkins contract also has gotten the attention of Commissioner Tom Henning, who couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
"It will be nice to get rid of this contract once and for all," Henning said at the September commission meeting.