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LCDA foots bill for Tradeport overage

$1.9M entrance project runs $80,000 over

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POSTED: March 6, 2009 10:28 a.m.
Members of the Liberty County Development Authority said they felt forced to foot a $77,946 cost overrun from project delays to landscaping, hardscape and irrigation in Tradeport East. It is a $1.9 million project.
Members Jeff Arnold and John McIver opposed the extra spending during Monday’s meeting. Carmen Cole, LCDA director of administration and finance, reported the delays were “beyond our control,” namely gaps in initial planning. There was also prodding from client, IDI.
LCDA was supposed to have the landscaping and work on the entrance completed by August 2007. However, the authority did not approve the bid until last April and did not give the contractor notice to proceed until July.
Cole said other construction at the time conflicted, including a right-turn lane on Islands Highway.
With the broken agreement, IDI urged the authority to get the project started, citing how the incomplete park interfered with how well it could market to prospective buyers.
The authority also discovered a phone panel needed to be relocated in order for contract work to go forward. Approval from CenturyTel added to the wait. 
Cole explained to board members problems should have been foreseen by the architect and the design could have been better.
Authority member Al Williams, participating by phone, asked why LCDA was taking the liability when they were shoved into starting the project.
Budgets are tight and LCDA is already under public scrutiny so nearly $78,000 was “nothing to sneeze at,” according to Williams.
“We’re not just going to swallow it and say ‘oh well’,” he said.
Williams wanted IDI to at least make a commitment so “we know what we’re dealing with.”
“In a partnership, everyone should be kept informed,” Williams said.
Cole said IDI is aware of the overrun, but has not been asked to contribute.
“They should be talking about when they’ll be willing to write a check,” Williams said.
Cole said substantial work has been completed on boulevard and hopes the project will be complete by the end of the March.
Under contract, IDI is supposed to share in the cost of infrastructure and landscaping.
Target, the Tire Rack and other businesses that eventually locate in Tradeport East only share in the overall maintenance of the property. 
IDI made its first purchase in January 2007 and will have purchased 300 acres by December.
Tradeport East has about 1,500 usable acres.
LCDA also unveiled a revamped logo, theme and overall public face with a presentation from Karl Strauch, president of Coastal Marketing Group.
LCDA CEO Ron Tolley said after a business trip to China in November, it was time to work on the LCDA’s public face to help develop business relationships and contacts.
“We felt, even though we’ve done some things, we can always do better,” Tolley said.
“Because it’s a fierce, fierce competitive market, as we know,” Strauch said the bottom line was for LCDA to effectively communicate the county’s assets to prospective businesses.
He called the county “very visible and very top of the line,” but said one of the issues with industry is Tradeport is about 10 miles from the heart of the community. 
“Lack of available executive housing is a bit of a drawback,” Strauch said. “There is a work ethic, but it is very laid back around here…and that’s a good thing.”
That could be attractive to certain businesses, he said, saying the relaxed quality of life is purposeful.
Authority member John McIver asked if industries had issues with the county’s employee retention.
“I think that’s due to the fact that there’s a little disconnect with business and the community itself,” Strauch said.
“The best we can do is try to filter and screen better as people come in,” Strauch said. “I didn’t get the sense that it was because of competency. I think it had more to do with goals of the employee base.”
LCDA Chairman Allen Brown said he thought people in general are changing jobs more than they used to.
Strauch explained it was important to keep “pad-ready sites,” and posture LCDA to grow globally.
 

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