SEBRING — County commissioners have reluctantly agreed to pay $501,160 to hire an outside engineer to inspect Sebring Phase 2.

They voted 3-2 to hire CivilSurv Design Group Inc. to do the construction, engineering and inspection (CEI) services for Sebring Parkway Phase 2A and 2B projects, as required by

Commissioners Ron Handley and Arlene Tuck dissented. Commissioners Jim Brooks and Don Elwell said they voted yes, “reluctantly.”

James D. “J.D.” Langford Jr., project manager and assistant county engineer, said the Florida Department of Transportation, given that some of the project is to be done state right of way, requires a firm that is trained on doing CEI services. Langford had planned on doing all the inspection on the project before FDOT put in that requirement.

He said CivilSurv will work as a liaison between him and the contractor, Bergeron Land Development Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, with which commissioners signed a $13 million construction contract in May.

The engineering firm will hold progress meetings to provide daily reports “to make sure all is being done above board,” Langford said.

This will be paid with FDOT funds, at least in part. County Administrator Randy Vosburg said county officials have been in talks with the FDOT District 1 office about floating more funds to the project.

“We are thankful that they are trying to come up with additional dollars to offset this,” Vosburg said.

Handley took exception, saying “they changed the rules after we bid this.”

Langford said the changes came after the funding agreements were set, and Brooks added that the inspection costs weren’t budgeted for the project, originally, because the CEI-qualified inspection wasn’t required.

“This is a terrible amount of money for what’s involved,” Handley said.

“We are limited in resources right now, especially for a project of this magnitude,” Langford said. “We need someone to be out there 8-10 hours per day to inspect the project.”

In other business, county commissioners confirmed Community Services Director Leah Sauls as the new director of Development Services.

In addition, the county approved a Large Scale Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Amendment to remove site-specific conditions on 323 acres owned by Gapway Groves.

It sits south of Lake Little Redwater, east of Lake Sebring and north of Sebring Parkway, with Panther Parkway separating it into two parcels.

The commission also approved a construction agreement between the county and Excavation Point Inc. for construction of Thunderbird East and West Sidewalk Extension Projects for $541,523.

FDOT will pay approximately $64,000, with the remaining $477,746.45 already included in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget.

The county voted 3-2, with Handley and Commissioner Greg Harris to offer up to $25,000 for 13 acres at 170 Anderson Street, on the east side of Highway Park, where there is a boat ramp on Lake Huntley.

The owner had asked for $80,000, plus $2,000 for closing expenses.

County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. said the majority of the property is wetlands on the lake side. On the west side, it’s xeric scrub, an evergreen plant community dominated by shrubs and dwarf oaks that are adapted to hot and dry conditions.

Howerton said he wasn’t sure what the use might be for the entire parcel. County officials are mostly concerned with the ramp and pavilion by the lake.

Removing those would cost $15,000, according to Facilities Manager Rick Fleeger.

Tuck suggested offering the owner $50,000 over a five-year period at 2%-3% interest, based on her recollection that the owner had a previous asking price of $60,000

Vosburg said the county could probably pay that price outright, without financing.