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Team OKs $100,000 port feasibility contract

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Officials say county getting tremendous value

By Chris Van Ormer

Offering a wide scope of work, TranSystems on Monday secured an agreement for a contract to conduct and produce the Port Citrus feasibility study.

“I’ve put together a lot of scopes on both the consultant’s side and the county side and in my opinion, the county is getting a tremendous amount of value for its $100,000,” said Ken Frink, deputy county administrator and a member of the Citrus County Port Authority’s negotiating team. “There is a lot of work pushed into this and we’re getting, in my opinion, much more than our money’s worth out of it.”

Port legal counsel Richard Wesch concurred: 

“If you work with Citrus, we wring more out of agreements than you guys ever anticipated. This is probably the high point of the relationship,” he said jokingly.

The team, headed by Commissioner Rebecca Bays, included Port Director Brad Thorpe in addition to Frink and Wesch. They met with Rick Ferrin, vice president at TranSystems Corp.; Matt Gehman, TranSystems senior planner; and Frank Schiraldi, vice president at Hoyle, Tanner and Associates, a civil engineering company. Schiraldi, who served Citrus County as a commissioner from 1992-96, will assist TranSystems with the study as a subcontractor.

Ferrin presented an outlined approach to the study as a three-phase project. The first phase would determine if the establishment of Port Citrus at or near the former Cross Florida Barge Canal would be economically viable and was further divided into four major task areas. 

The first task was to identify cargos and cargo shippers, distribution centers and other types of boating potential: recreational, commercial fishing, ship construction and repair.

The second task was to determine the role of Port Citrus in trade lanes, how it could be competitive and what services it could offer.

The third task was to identify needed infrastructure, and the fourth task would be the determination of feasibility. If the first phase found Port Citrus not to be feasible, TranSystems proposed to suspend the study. This phase would be completed within 140 days and cost $20,000.

The second phase would identify funding sources and make preliminary applications for funding. This phase would be completed within 120 days and cost $30,000.

The third phase would refine market analysis to identify potential market opportunities and port customers. It also would prepare the preliminary port development plan to recommend the port’s location and the development of infrastructure. This phase would be completed within 270 to 360 days and cost $50,000.

The team members said they liked the phased approach to the scope of work, but asked Ferrin if the phases were intended to be completed sequentially, as it would indicate a long timeline. Ferrin responded that the first and second phases likely would be conducted concurrently.

The team also asked if Duke Energy could be considered within the study because the Crystal River Power Station uses a port, too. Ferrin was agreeable.

Bays raised a question involving the port authority recently having been the subject of a legal complaint involving the Sunshine Law. The complaint had been cured, but still had an outstanding issue regarding the legal fees. 

“If we were to proceed forward, I would first like to ask TranSystems if they would have any problems with moving forward based on any pending litigation,” Bays said. 

Ferrin responded: “No, we do not.”

Comments were taken from the public. Speakers included Lynn Dostal of Homosassa, Joe Chrietzberg of Crystal River, Theodora Rusnak of the Citrus County Council, Herbert Adams of Dunnellon and Bob Schweickert Jr. of Inverness.

After comments were heard, Wesch said Ferrin’s presentation could be an exhibit with a contract to go before the next port authority board meeting.

Thorpe offered the motion to accept TranSystems’ proposal. It was seconded by Frink and carried unanimously.

Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer can be reached at cvanormer@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2916.