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M/PIFCD issues second letter of termination

October 2, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

At their scheduled meeting last week, the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District commissioners issued a second letter of termination to Vantage Construction Service and company president Trent Swartz. Vantage is more than 4 months past the completion deadline for Fire Station #4.

According to the department's attorney Bob Pritt, the board authorized the fire chief to issue the first "notice of termination" two weeks ago. This 14-day notice gave the contractor a period of time, and an opportunity to make major progress. If the contractor did not make satisfactory progress, the department has the option to terminate the contract.

Vantage started the construction of Station #4 in October 2018 and is under contract to complete the building and deliver a certificate of occupancy (CO) by May 13, 2019. Now, over four months after the deadline, the station has yet to receive a CO.

Article Photos

A drainage pipe along Pine Island Road was worked on last week.


Neither letter ends the contract, however, there are still unresolved CO issues that include drainage on Pine Island Road, Pompano Avenue and Scallop Drive. The drainage on Pompano and Scallop have been partially addressed. The major remaining drainage issue along the 250-foot frontage on Pine Island Road was being worked on last week.

There is also the location of a gas valve (for the kitchen hood) that was relocated from the original plans. The county needs to approve the new location so the department can sign off on the final fire inspection required for the CO.

"We provided Vantage Construction with a letter of termination on September 16, 2019," Chief Ben Mickuleit said. "Since then some progress has been made inside the station for the punch-out and Trent is getting closer to completing his fire final. We still have a few missing items that we are discussing regarding the site work and I'd like our consultant Mr. Stewart to provide comment about site work."

The fire board hired Bob Stewart as an independent contractor and construction consultant to help facilitate the CO and establish contacts with the county building department and development services. Stewart is a former Lee County director of codes and building for 25 years.

"Trent and I had a meeting with the county two weeks ago and we met with the people involved in development services in getting changes approved," Stewart said. "We were able to get some suggestions and came out with an understanding of the direction that we were going to head with regard to the site. Although there's work going on, it's not what was talked about at that meeting and there's been a change in direction."

"The most important thing we hoped for in these two weeks was having a CO so we can get the station operational and serve the district which we don't have yet," Mickuleit said. "I recommend we do the second letter of termination outlined in the contract to give an additional week. That doesn't mean termination, it just provides another week to get it done."

"From the day of that letter, not anything before, it's very subjective to me and I would like to know what is the definition of reasonable," Swartz said. "If I'm being told that I haven't reasonably made an effort to cure this, I don't agree with that."

The motion to deliver a second letter was approved 4-0.

In the second letter of termination the department stated, "The steps, if any, to commence to correct were unilaterally changed by you (Vantage Construction) after a major meeting with County staff in which you received staff's simple and clear recommendation as to how to correct. Therefore, these were not reasonable steps taken to commence to cure. Meanwhile, fire and first responder service to the eastern portion of the District remains impaired by the delay."

"What I would expect two weeks from now is the submission for the CO," Commissioner Elaine Chapman-Moore said. "We know you don't have any control when that CO comes back. I would think that you are so close that I would feel that is making the movement forward that we are looking for."

M/PIFCD commissioners Chapman-Moore, Tonya Player, John Cammick and Ken Cox were present for the meeting. Commissioner Michael Dreikorn was absent.



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