Thursday, July 19, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas sheriff: 4-year-old emergency operations complex ‘looks like a dump’

When Hurricane Irma slammed Florida last year, hundreds of first responders worked inside Pinellas County's three-year-old Public Safety Complex.

But deputies had to worry about their own safety. As rain and wind pummeled the region, deputies used buckets to collect water as it poured through cracked walls across the rear of the second floor of the $81 million fortress.

Fingers are now being pointed over who is responsible for the cracks in a complex that was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The problems have already cost taxpayers at least $200,000.

"I'm extremely concerned by this," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times. "This was supposed to be done right. There are all kinds of problems with this building."

The complex — once hailed as a signature project of the Penny for Pinellas 1-cent sales tax — is at the center of a lawsuit over shoddy workmanship. The county is suing the building designer and three contractors who worked on the project.

Officials never expected an onslaught of deficiencies so soon after the building opened.

Cracks in walls have developed throughout the exterior walls of the 218,403-square-foot main building, energy plant and vehicle maintenance facility. Water leaks have deteriorated some exterior door and window frames and damaged interior fixtures.

Water leaks from rains have been an problem at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on Ulmerton Road. The $81 million complex was built in 2014 and is also home to the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center. The county is suing the designer and contractors who built the complex. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

The leaks also stopped electronic-locking devices from working on exterior doors. There is rust on some door and window frames. Paint is peeling and drywall is turning brown from water damage near 15 to 20 sets of windows.

Motorists on Ulmerton Road can see one of the biggest problems: Faded paint across the front of the main building. Nobody has been able to pinpoint the cause.

"It's an embarrassment," Gualtieri said. "The place looks like a dump."

The county accused St. Petersbug-based Harvard Jolly of negligently designing the building and failing to supervise the construction. Harvard Jolly blamed the problems on general contractor Lend Lease US Construction (formerly Bovis), PTAC Consulting Engineers and engineer William Lovell, Jr., according to a court filing.

The campus, conceived years ago following the 2004 hurricane season, opened in 2014. It houses the Sheriff's Office, the Emergency Operations Center, Emergency Medical Services and the 911 dispatch center. The command center's first real test came during Irma in September 2017.

The exterior paint is fading all around the Pinellas County Public Safety Complex on Ulmerton Road in Largo. Officials do not know what caused the paint to fade. The $81 million complex was built in 2014. The county is suing the designer and contractors who built the complex. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

The complex has a hardened parking garage with more than 600 spaces that can shelter the sheriff's fleet of ground vehicles, helicopters and boats. During major events, it can accommodate 700 workers from federal, state, county and city agencies.

Andrew W. Pupke, director of the Pinellas County Real Estate Management Department, said the county has spent the $200,000 to fix water leaks in the precast wall panels. The facility can withstand a storm, he said.

"The building is safe," he said. "The building integrity is not in question."
Pressed to explain that declaration since a Category 5 hurricane hasn't hit the building, Pupke said: "That's what it was built for."

Meanwhile, the cracks and faded paint cannot be fixed until officials and contractors determine what caused them to occur, Pupke said.

Exterior cracks have formed around the walls at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center on Ulmerton Road. Officials don’t know what is causing the cracks. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

That could take time. The court battle could drag on for years.

Harvard Jolly, the building designer, blamed the problems on the other contractors who it didn't manage, according to a court filing.

Ward Friszolowski, Harvard Jolly president, told the Tampa Bay Times last month that the firm is working alongside Pinellas County to help understand and resolve the concerns. Seeking a satisfactory outcome is the highest priority, he said.

Adrian Lovell, CEO of Pensacola-based PTAC Consulting Engineers, said he agrees with Harvard Jolly that another contractor is to blame, adding: "It's not my fault." He declined further comment. Engineer William Lovell, Jr. could not be reached for comment.

Lend Lease US Construction, a Chicago architectural firm and engineering company, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The company was embroiled in a lawsuit over the 36-story Signature Place, a St. Petersburg condominium tower. One of the accusations: Cracked and improperly applied stucco in large areas of the exterior walls, which allowed water to leak into the interior. The parties reached a confidential settlement in 2017.

The county's lawsuit has caught the attention of St. Petersburg officials.
The city is using part of its share of Penny for Pinellas money to build a 167,519-square-foot police headquarters, which was designed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane. Harvard Jolly is the designer on that $86 million project, which is also using precast structures and wall panels.

Raul Quintana, the city's architect, said he is monitoring the lawsuit and has talked with Harvard Jolly. The city is confident that it won't have any issues because it is using a local contractor with deep community ties to manage construction.

"Any water intrusion is a major concern," he said. "A lot of people are watching over this."

Last fall, county officials asked voters to renew the Penny tax for a fourth decade, which should raise an estimated $2 billion between 2020 and 2030. They pointed to the successful completion of the Public Safety Complex as a major justification for why the tax should be renewed.

In recent years, critics have accused county and city officials of using Penny money for ribbon-cutting projects like recreation centers, parks and trails to bolster election campaigns.

Commissioner Dave Eggers, who wasn't on the County Commission when it approved the construction of the Public Safety Complex, said a "flagship project" shouldn't have so many problems.

"You certainly expect an above average delivery of the project," he said. "Certainly, I'm very disappointed."

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.

Comments
Pinellas County Commission will interview four candidates for county administrator

Pinellas County Commission will interview four candidates for county administrator

Pinellas County commissioners have selected four candidates to interview next month to be the next county administrator.There is a good chance that Mark Woodard's successor could come from another state. Top-ranked pick Barry Burton is the county adm...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Buckhorn’s last budget: No frills, no tax increase

Buckhorn’s last budget: No frills, no tax increase

For much of his nearly 80-minute budget presentation on Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn strolled down memory lane.He talked about the long path the city has taken to climb out of the hole it was lodged in when he entered office during the depths o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Straz releases ads touting philanthropy in Tampa mayor’s race

Straz releases ads touting philanthropy in Tampa mayor’s race

The air campaign, expected to be the heaviest political bombardment in Tampa's colorful history of mayoral campaigns, is underway.David Straz's mayoral campaign announced Thursday that it will run three television ads in the Tampa market.Straz recent...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bob Buckhorn isn’t changing his mind on Bay to Bay Boulevard’s makeover

Bob Buckhorn isn’t changing his mind on Bay to Bay Boulevard’s makeover

  Mayor Bob Buckhorn has no plans to reconsider his decision to shut down the Complete Streets project on Bay to Bay Boulevard. And that has frustrated a coalition of transit activists, residents and business owners, who say they'll continue to pre...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Scott taps Redington Shores businessman to fill Pinellas County Commission vacancy

Scott taps Redington Shores businessman to fill Pinellas County Commission vacancy

Gov. Rick Scott appointed real estate investor and former Redington Shores Mayor Jay Beyrouti to the Pinellas County Commission on Friday, filling the vacancy opened when Commissioner John Morroni died of cancer in May.In a short news release, the Go...
Published: 07/13/18
Names of donors for proposed Echelman artwork released

Names of donors for proposed Echelman artwork released

A day after the City Council voted down a $1.5 million contract with world- famous artist Janet Echelman, Mayor Rick Kriseman is signaling he's not given up on snagging one of the artist's billowing net sculptures.A week after announcing that he had ...
Published: 07/13/18
All aboard! Bob Buckhorn will back the CrossBay Ferry

All aboard! Bob Buckhorn will back the CrossBay Ferry

What a difference a few days makes.On Monday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was still pondering whether to kick in $150,000 toward a return of the CrossBay ferry in November.Tampa is still finalizing a tight budget, made tighter by a $5 million deficit.Bu...
Published: 07/12/18
Straz rockets past $1 million mark in his run for Tampa mayor–using his own cash as fuel

Straz rockets past $1 million mark in his run for Tampa mayor–using his own cash as fuel

David Straz Jr. has said he'll spend whatever it takes to best a crowded field to become Tampa's next mayor.In his latest campaign filings this week, the retired banker and philanthropist placed a sizable down payment to back up that vow.In his June ...
Published: 07/12/18
Marco Rubio endorses Ross Spano for open congressional seat

Marco Rubio endorses Ross Spano for open congressional seat

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is endorsing state Rep. Ross Spano in the race for the District 15 congressional seat.Spano is one of five Republicans contending for the nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, who is retiring at the end of this term.In...
Published: 07/12/18
Much riding on Rays' Ybor City ballpark design

Much riding on Rays' Ybor City ballpark design

TAMPA – The more than decade-long stadium drama that surrounds the Tampa Bay Rays will enter a new phase today when Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg unveils the design of the ballpark the team wants built in Ybor City. The architect drawings...
Published: 07/10/18